Gaby Charing

We sadly heard recently of the passing of Gaby Charing. Gaby was one of the founders of Southwark LGBT Network in 2002 and she and her partner Liz have been instrumental in the success of the Network as well as the Southwark LGBT Forum ever since, and have supported the local LGBTQ+ community in so many ways. When I first found out about the Southwark LGBT Network, its history and the work of Gaby and Liz, I immediately wanted to take part. Gaby provided me with support in ways I didn’t expect, for which I will always be grateful. As many others will describe, she was warm, empathetic and committed to the needs of her community. The amount of work she did for the Network is staggering. My thoughts are with Liz at this time. I hope that we’re able to continue to do work that reflects their legacy. Many people have sent their thoughts to remember Gaby and her wonderful life, which we put below as a tribute. 

Nathan Lewis – Chair, Southwark LGBT Network

Gaby worked very hard for the health, wellbeing and equality of local people, even when unwell herself. Her 2018 Southwark Stars award, ‘Outstanding Contribution to Southwark’, was testament to the impact she had in many spheres. Gaby provided wise, kind support to the Healthwatch team in her role on our Advisory Group.  We enjoyed her company and thought-provoking reflections, and strongly admired her commitment to justice and speaking out for what is right. Our condolences and thoughts are with her partner Liz, and all her family and friends. – From the Healthwatch Southwark and Community Southwark teams.

Gaby was chair of the LGBT Network at the time when there was a Southwark version of Queer Question Time; about ten years ago, and which made the atrium of the council building in Tooley Street into a BBC studio, but far better, for one evening a year. One year there was a terrible mix up of dates. Gaby stepped forward, talked to everyone, unwove the knotted and confusing way that the mistake had become baked in, and she took the time to understand the precise details of who said what, when and how to whom, and then explained it to everyone so that we could calmly and happily get back to work. Lots of words are written about “leadership”. Gently unweaving problems and explaining them in careful detail, that is what leaders do. Gaby was always kind and clever and a leader and I will miss talking to her too; she was always a friend.” – Kevin Dykes (Communities Division, Southwark Council)

I was very grateful on two counts that she set up the fund to enable people to put on events for LGBT History Month. As the co-founder of the month it was great to see the spirit of the month which was enabling grass-roots events being supported and what’s more that volunteers got paid for the work they were doing. It was especially meaningful to me as I was a Southwark resident when I launched the month and the first launch was in Southwark at the Tate Modern so Southwark was a crucial place for LGBT History Month which is now a national and international event. In solidarity, sue. – Sue Sanders (Professor Emeritus Harvey Milk Institute, Chair of Schools Out UK, founder of LGBT History Month, and former Chair of Southwark LGBT Forum)

I remember fondly the regular meetings that Gaby and myself had with various organisations when we were attempting to find a possible home for the Southwark LGBT work outside of the local authority. Gaby was incredibly supportive to the LGBT Community Development role and myself personally. – Dax Ashworth (LGBT Community Development Worker, Southwark Council 2004-2012)

My condolences to you Liz. I knew and worked with Gaby through Southwark’s LGBT Forum and Network. She was a strong passionate voice for equality and social justice. Her memory will live on  – Cllr David Noakes

So sorry to hear this sad news Liz. Gaby was a stalwart champion of all that we were trying to do in Southwark, and I was always grateful for her love and support. Thoughts with you today and always. – Peter John (Leader of Southwark Council)

Oh Liz – I know this wasn’t unexpected but my thoughts are with you. Have been thinking about you both a lot & will really miss Gaby’s kindness, insight & lust for life. And, of course, her Twitter rants! – David Cheesman

The world has become more monochrome with the loss of our wonderfully feisty Gaby. She was an inspiration. Take care Liz and be gentle with yourself. x – Rosalind Luff

Heartbroken to read of the passing of one of my dearest friends @GCharing wishing you safe travels in your travels across the cosmos  – Diana Taylor

Very very sorry to hear this. She was a fantastic contributor to our patient group in SEL. Fiercely independent and intelligent. My condolences. – Mark Easton

Such sad news. Gaby was a wonderful woman, a force of nature. I had the pleasure of meeting her through work Kings College NHS  where she was a patient and also gave a moving and impactful patient story at our Board of Directors. Sorely missed already St Christopher’s Hospice – Jessica Bush

RIP Gaby. She was a brilliant patient and public rep when I worked for the NHS in South East London. Smart, empathetic and a great campaigner. Very sorry to hear this news. – Rory Hegarty

I’m so very sorry for your profound loss Liz – and I know all from METRO Charity are sending their love to you right now. – Dr Greg Ussher, METRO Charity

So sorry to hear this. She was such a kind woman x – Veronica McKenzie

Oh dear I am very sorry to hear this and sending Liz much warmth, strengthen and love Xx – Pearl Henry

Gaby’s encouragement and enthusiasm a decade ago played a hugely important role in me establishing Lgbtq radio show Out in South London on Resonance FM. In 2016, this became Radio Diva and was so popular it almost broke Resonance’s audience monitoring software. Gaby came along to several of my live comedy and theatre shows, some of which were supported with small grants from the Network. She and Liz were always a lovely presence in the audience. Their support was instrumental in me continuing to follow my dreams. I also visited their house on a couple of occasions and received a wonderful welcome there. Gaby will be sorely missed by the lgbtq community in Southwark who loved her, and by many beyond. – Rosie Wilby

At the Gay Liberation Front in December 1971 I was asked to greet a ‘new sister’ I talked to Gaby and we ended up going to the pub with Michael Brown.  She lived in Tuffnell Park and I in Highgate so I offered her a lift home. Near there we talked about school. Suddenly she said ‘you’re little Nettie Pollard’. She was in 6th form I in first. She invited me to dinner twice.  On the second occasion she gave me lots of Teacher’s whisky and asked me to stay the night.  I said ‘but I hardly know you’. She replied ‘nonsense we were at school together’. I stayed. – Nettie Pollard

I met Gaby first a very long time ago in the heady days of early ‘Gay’ Liberation. In June 1972 a group of ‘Radical Femmes’ – all involved with the GLF office collective moved into a house in Athlone Road, next door to the school (Tulse Hill Comprehensive) that I was attending as a 16 year old. Knowing them from the GLF office I was a constant visitor. They got hassle from the schoolkids, the school itself, local residents and the local police school. After bricks through windows, and attacks on the street, we handed out leaflets, had demos outside, and inside the school. Under siege in that little house many others from GLF came to spend time at the house and support the ‘beleaguered’ queens. Gaby was one of the (very few) Lesbians who came and stood with us. I remember her standing outside the house remonstrating with the police, and others, that they were not doing their job (protecting us), and asserting that we had a perfect right to be there – impassioned, but polite, assertive and acerbic toward our tormentors. She left a lasting impression on me then. Fast forward many years and I got to know her again through Liz … occasional but delightful parties at their house. And then for over a decade firm Facebook friends – delightful exchanges laced with her wit and general smartness; she always had something useful and pertinent to say – and said it so well. We last met as part of  her ‘farewell tour’ when her and Liz came to Amsterdam (where I live mostly) in 2018; a delightful ‘high tea’ and stroll through the nether regions of the city. All in all I feel so enriched by knowing her, on and off, for nearly 50 years – am saddened by her passing – and will be thinking of her often I am sure in years to come, wondering ‘what would have Gaby said about this or that’ – and does my reaction have the same ‘fearlessness’ tempered by intelligent analysis and refusal to settle for ‘second- best’ . Goodbye Gaby and  thanks for the inspiration. – Julian Hows 

Gaby was one of the most nicest people I knew, and hearing of her passing truly saddened me.  I first got to know Gaby through the LGBT forum, which Dax chaired. From then on I would frequently see her at different events, along with Peter Vittles and Justin Varney. She would always come and say hi and chat. It was always lovely to see her, and spend time chatting to her. She loved what she did and was constantly busy with different projects and events. I fondly remember being invited to dinner at her flat along with her Partner Liz. She truly loved her very much, as did she.  My thoughts are with her and all of the family. She has made a lasting mark on everybody that knew her. She put so much into the LGBT and the help to move it forward. We all owe her so much. May she rest in eternal peace, in the arms of God with the Angels in Heaven.  – Carol Vincent 

In the 1990s I was instrumental in setting up the multi-agency forum in Southwark which, at that time, specifically addressed homophobic crime in our borough. A few years later I was thrilled when Gaby and Liz took over the forum which by then had evolved into Southwark’s LGBT Network and widened its remit. I always found Gaby to be a warm, friendly and supportive member of the community. The demands of my other voluntary commitments in the borough eventually took me away from the Network but with Gaby at the helm I knew it was in safe hands. I am only sorry that our paths did not cross more often. – Stephen Bourne (Founder of Southwark LGBT Forum)

I have just heard the sad news about Gaby and wanted to pass on my condolences.   I knew Gaby in a number of roles:  Healthwatch rep, sitting on CCG groups and as chair of the LGBT Forum.   One of the things that struck me about Gaby was her integrity, her way of saying it as it was, her strength of character and her sense of humour. – Rosemary Watts (Head of Membership, Engagement and Equalities, NHS South East London CCG)

“In the end, it’s people who make a difference to one’s life.” Murmurations Journal remember a paper written by Gaby and Liz on living with dying and bereavement. And Gaby did make a difference – Karen Partridge

I’m saddened to hear this. A warrior of substance has departed. Please accept my sincerest heartfelt condolences. – Emi Kayserilioglu

I have known Gaby and Liz over the last few years and their kind advice and support has been invaluable in helping us to continue the Network based on their powerful legacy in the local community. I learned a lot from Gaby during our conversations, which I will not forget. She and Liz have also enabled us to create an archive for the local LGBTQ+ community of their work, which will become a key community resource for the future. Rest in power Gaby, and thank you. – Chris Scales (Secretary, Southwark LGBT Network)