Manchester's bisexual social-support group BiPhoria is fifteen this month. We'll have a bash this weekend to celebrate and to help reach out to more new people.
That makes us the longest running bi group in the UK that is still going - I'm not sure whether to be proud or sad about that. The "original" UK bi groups were in London and Edinburgh, in the mid 1980s. London's LBG fell by the wayside about five years ago and EBG in Edinburgh nearly a decade ago, though there's a new EBG which was set up a few years later. BiPhoria itself came out of a move toward joint working by a men's bi group and a women's bi group, both of which closed down in the 1990s.
Overall the network of bi support and social organisations is flourishing in a way it has not done for some time: new groups springing up in Swansea and Cardiff; Sheffield blossoming and more. But there's still no-one employed to work in or with the bi community specifically at any level, so the momentum may fade as quickly as it grows. Local groups that are sustained over time seem to depend on core committed activists who get something worthwhile out of carrying on.
So Manchester's fifteenth birthday reflects that a decade and a half ago I decided to set down some roots in the city, and that I had a personal investment in wanting there to be a strong bi scene so people who didn't fit the binaries well had a space to find friends and acceptance.
That's not all you need though: in helping get things like the Cardiff LGB youth group going, I'd made mistakes and learned basic skills in doing publicity and running group space.
That leads me to one of the areas where I think we often fail in getting bi groups up, running and then sustained. Someone will pop up and say "I want to run a bi group in Bloggstown" and we will simply encourage them to do so, maybe help with some flyers and websites or advice on how to find a suitable venue. If you happen to have the right skills for group work that's great, but if not it might be best to first find a local LGBT organisation and volunteer there for a few months: building your personal contacts in the community along the way but also getting peer support and advice first-hand. Until we organise bi group runners away weekends, of course!