Both individually and as a couple Geoff and Peter have been tirelessly fighting for equal rights and against injustices. Their activism first brought them together on a bus in London in 1978. Peter was travelling to an Anti-Nazi League meeting and was wearing a ‘Gays Against Fascism’ badge. Geoff, a teacher, was travelling to a parents’ meeting. Geoff went up to Peter and said, ‘I like your badge and I like you!’. Serendipitously, they met again during a march against the National Front, but again lost contact. In 1980, Geoff and Peter finally reunited when they met at The Castle, a gay pub in Lewisham. They have been together ever since, and in 2005, they were the first couple in Shropshire to obtain a Civil Partnership.
Peter and Geoff’s activism continued in their professional lives as well. As a teacher, Geoff was active in the Gay Teachers Group and helped with the first publication of the Schools Out book. Peter worked as a Social Worker at a gay counselling organisation and went on to practise law. The couple have also worked on numerous committees such as the London Lesbian and Gay Centre and Gay Rights Working Party. Together Peter and Geoff helped establish the Shropshire Rainbow Film Festival, now in its 11th year.
In honour of our current changing exhibition Never Going Underground: The Fight for LGBT+ Rights exhibition, the couple has generously shared a few items from their involvement in past campaigns. The items document the decades of activism and involvement in the LGBT+ movement. Examples include badges from previous campaigns such as for Gay Liberation Front, Campaign for Homosexual Equality, Safe Aging No Discrimination, and Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners.
Today Peter and Geoff continue their political involvement. They are retired and involved with ‘Back in Time’: The National Festival of LGBT History/Shrewsbury Hub, Shropshire Rainbow Film Festival, and FRESh (Fairness, Respect, Equality Shropshire). They celebrated their 37th anniversary on 23 March 2017.
This film was created on mobile phones by beginner filmmakers at the People’s History Museum, Manchester as part of a MobDoc LGBT Mobile Filmmaking Workshop hosted by Queer Media and Life’s a Drag.
It celebrates the lives of LGBT+ people and their supportive allies who were alive in 1967 using their own words to commemorate fifty years since the Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales.
I recently had the pleasure of treating a set of Six Spanish Civil War banners in the Textile Conservation Studio the project was undertaken for the Marx Memorial Library in order for the banners to go on display at an exhibition at Islington Museum and was funded by the Textile Society and GFTU educational trust Most of the banners were made from cotton canvas with a ground layer and water based paint, they were used by the Communist Party Hammersmith to raise funds to help civilians fleeing the conflict. I spent between 5 and 15 hours on each banner depending on what each one required. Two of the more complicated banners are featured in this post and demonstrate quite different conservation problems.
Arms & Justice for Spain banner during conservation
The first banner I want to highlight is entitled Arms and Justice for Spain it is very striking image featuring the recognisable symbol of unity in a handshake between three men in this case. The style is reminiscent of Picasso with the expressive figures drawn in profile. Water-based paint has been used and it was well bonded to the canvas ground in most places apart from the area of upper text which had become cracked along fold lines from previous storage. This required a stabilisation treatment to ensure that no more paint was lost using an adhesive which had a matt appearance to match the quality of the paint. I undertook a series of tests to find a suitable adhesive using samples to experiment with before treating the object. Isinglass (fish glue) was found to be the best choice in this instance because the bond strength was good and it did not appear shiny when applied to the paint.
Arms & Justice for Spain banner after conservation
The second banner is different to the rest of the group as it was made with oil paint it is entitled International Brigade and features the single figure of a Republican solider against a background of swirling flames. The image is a little difficult to read because a lot of the paint is loose and in some areas it has been lost completely. It was also clear on first inspection that there was a ghost image of text underneath the top layer of paint. Further investigation revealed that the banner had been once used as a book shop sign and then recycled as a banner and it is likely that a weak bond between the old and new paint is what caused much of the current damage.
International Brigade banner highlighting the underlying text
Due to the extent of the damage most areas on the banner required treatment to prevent further loss occurring. This time I used an adhesive called Beva which is safe for oil paints and provides a strong bond to secure the loose paint. We aim to preserve what remains of the original material rather than trying re-touch/re-paint areas of loss, so the banner does not look like new but the paint is much more stable, it is able to hang safely and is more accessible for visitors and researchers.
International Brigade banner during conservation
Each banner was also fitted with a white cotton sleeve for display which provides even weight distribution when suspended from a pole. The banners will be on display from the 5th of May to the 8th of July 2017. Spanish Civil War Exhibition A5 leaflet
International Brigade banner after conservation
To help celebrate Manchester Pride 2017 the People’s History Museum would like to invite you to hold an event or events at the museum during the week of Monday 21 August – Monday 28 August. This is a great opportunity to use the museum’s iconic spaces to celebrate the diverse culture of LGBT+ communities. Your event would coincide with Pride celebrations and run alongside the museum’s three LGBT+ focussed exhibitions which will be on show at the time. Never Going Underground: The Fight for LGBT+ Rights explores the past, present and future of LGBT+ activism; Continuum: Framing Trans Lives in 21st Century Britain will showcase a diverse range of art by trans individuals; and Queer Noise: The History of LGBT+ Music & Club Culture in Manchester is a community exhibition focussed on how the LGBT+ Manchester music scene helped shape attitudes towards sexuality.
- Coal Store – capacity 60 lecture style/40 workshop style – suitable for talks, discussions, drama workshops, etc.
- Learning Studio – capacity 25 – suitable for workshops and messy craft sessions
The spaces are free to use but events must be free and open to the public. In addition, we would require that all events are set up and cleared away within the Museum’s opening hours of 10.00am-5.00pm, therefore we would suggest that events start no earlier than 11.00am and finish no later than 4.00pm. Any materials would be provided by you. The museum has a small budget available to cover artist fees for groups with limited resources. Please indicate on your proposal form if you wish to apply for this funding.
If you are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity, please can you return the Proposal Form to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. Spaces will be allocated on a first come first served basis.
If you have any questions, please contact Catherine O’Donnell on 0161 838 9190.