Words and photo by Tristan Ovington.
MAYOR of Salisbury – Cllr Caroline Corbin – who is also director of Salisbury Pride CIC opened the inclusive Progress Bar on November 18.
Caroline established the bar after listening to the needs of residents of the LGBTQ+ and other communities in Salisbury. She describes the events leading up to the opening.
“We have had two festivals in Lizzie Gardens in the summer,” says Caroline. “Then we had a shop that didn’t serve people’s needs as it wasn’t a good place to socialise.
“I work at Salisbury District Hospital on the switchboard, and in that role, I learnt how important it is to listen to people. I have listened and concluded that what people need is a safe place, but also somewhere they can go to socialise, have a drink, have something to eat, and feel safe and comfortable. That’s why we now have Progress Bar.
“A lot of the organisations for people in Salisbury are church-led, which doesn’t suit everyone. That’s why I have been working hard on the bar for a month with 10 volunteers to establish the bar.
“One of the members of Socialise Salisbury came in to do the tabletops, sanding and finishing them. And we will have an artist paint a mural on the blank wall near the pool table. It’s been a fantastic team effort. We wanted to be open for Christmas and we succeeded!
“We want to integrate with other community groups and use our sizable upstairs space to allow them to do events.
“It is not ready yet, but I have applied for £250,000 funding to enhance the space and facilitate events.
“This money will also allow us to do outreach to support people in the community and let them know what we offer.
“Outside right now, we have a volunteer painting the external back door. He has been so helpful in setting the place up.
“Last night he was in the bar, and everyone came in and interacted with him perfectly normally.
“Afterward, he was moved to tears and said, ‘This is exactly what I wanted to achieve. I feel like this is my home.’
“He very much needed this place, and we are excited to offer this environment that anyone can come to and call home.”
The opening has met with some controversy after Wiltshire Council recommended it not open on November 18 as planned due to an issue with changing its status from restaurant to bar premises. The Gazette was not able to establish whether the issue was resolved prior to opening.