LGBT Heritage Trail

On Thursday 16 June, the Never Going Underground Community Curators were taken on Paul Fairweather’s Manchester LGBT Heritage Trail. Keep an eye out for rainbow tiles on the streets of Manchester that mark significant places in the city’s LGBT history.  You can find out more about the trail on the OUT! Manchester website. In this blog, Community Curator John Browne shares his notes and photos from the trail.  It’s important to note, that we ran out of time to complete the whole trail, as the group were so engaged – sharing their stories and picking Paul’s (incredibly knowledgeable!) brain!

1 Manchester Magistrates Court

Manchester Magistrate’s Court

Paul Fairweather started the walk outside the Magistrate’s Court  where many thousands of gay men had been prosecuted for consensual sex between males in public. A guilty verdict often resulted in loss of jobs, problems with family and friends, and rejection by many faith based organisations. Paul noted that many people committed suicide or had to leave their neighbourhoods  because of press coverage. Paul spoke about many campaigns mounted by the LGBT+ community to reform the criminal justice system by highlighting  unfair and unjust laws. He cited an example by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality to try and get the conviction of Bill Walker overturned in 1976.

2 Alan Turning

Alan Turing statue, Sackville Park

Here Paul explained the work of Alan Turing who is credited with the invention of the first digital computer, as well as playing a major role in World War II, by breaking the Enigma Code that German submarines used when attacking food and armament shipments heading to the UK.  The life of Turing has been portrayed in a play and more recently in The Imitation Game 2014. Turing was subject to ‘hormonal treatment’ to try and ‘cure’ his gayness. After being arrested for admitting he was gay he committed suicide.

3 Beacon of hope

Beacon of Hope, Sackville Park

Manchester was one of the first UK cities to have a community help line providing information about AIDS. Set up in 1984 the service went on to become George House Trust. Paul spoke about early days,  including the fight the local community won over the interment  of Rodger Youd. Rodger wanted to leave hospital to go home to die. There was no treatment in 1984.  Detained against his will a judge ruled he could go home. He died in hospital three weeks after his call to AIDS line, too weak to move any more. As a result the whole relationship between medical professionals and the LGBT+ community changed.  People demanded that they should have a major say in the method and direction of treatment. Over the years Manchester individuals and groups pioneered many novel and innovative ways to make the world a better place for people with HIV and developed mass public education on prevention and risk reduction. The beacon of hope salutes past struggles and lights the way to a brighter future.

4 Transgender Memorial

Transgender Memorial, Sackville Park

We visited the Transgender Memorial which contains the names of trans* persons who have died due to oppression and harassment. Each year Manchester hosts Sparkle

Community fight back

Whilst taking a break from the walk Paul gave numerous examples of the  way the community had fought back against police harassment  in Manchester 

6 Albert Kennedey

Albert Kennedy

This tile marked the spot where Albert Kennedy fell to his death. Driven to suicide whilst in the care of Salford City Council . This entirely preventable tragedy  prompted the establishment of the Albert Kennedy Trust. Over the years AKT has provided support and fostering  to LGBT+ youth so they could go on to lead full and fulfilling lives.

7 Manchester Gay Centre

Bloom Street Gay Centre

Paul worked at 61A Bloom Street the home of Manchester Gay Centre. A UK first funded by an urban aid grant, the centre become the heart of LGBT+ support and activism in the 1980s. The  LBGT+ world is not immune to fall outs rows and splits. Bloom Street was the stage where huge battles about issue such as PIE, separatism, the inclusion of  bisexuals, gender and identity politics took place. Members of the centre were key to offering a vision of the type of society we wanted to build. Inevitably ongoing  tensions resulted in a split between Gay Men and Lesbians in the city.

8 CHE

CHE

Paul moved to Manchester to become a worker for the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. The tile is located near the now defunct Manchester office. In conversation the group learnt  about the role of activists  in Burnley who had taken a huge stride  to establish a LGBT+ movement and use LGBT+ visibility to show we really are everywhere. Throughout  the walk Paul shared examples of  his extensive archive of historical leaflets, magazines and notes from the 1970s & ‘80s many of which we hope to copy and get into the PHM archive. For more  wonderful detail about the part Burnley played in our liberation and the courageous  Mary Winters tale, sacked from the omnibus company  for wearing a Lesbian Lib badge visit http://www.lGBThiddenhistory.co.uk

9 Manchester Town Hall

Manchester Town Hall

The final stop was Manchester Town Hall. Paul reeled off list of Manchester firsts that emanated from this building:

  • Lesbians & Gay men’s committees
  • Full time officers working on LGBT+ issues
  • The first Lesbian Lord Mayor in the UK
  • Support to LGBT+ community groups by way of grants
  • Political support to get legal reform and changes in employment and education that supported LGBT+ lifestyles
  • The Mardi  Gras /Pride parades
  • A purpose built LGBT+ centre
  • The fightback against  section 28

After answering many questions Paul concluded the walk and reflected on how amazing Manchester and its people have been, taking what were radical ideas and concepts  and making them everyday for LGBT+ people in the city. We know that activism has to adopt and change to deal with new challenges ‘somewhere’ in the future a new chapter for the LGBT+ heritage trail is being laid down right now.

10 Tile

Who are your LGBT+ activist heroes and heroines?

A guest blog by Community Curator, Jenny White

Picture blog post 1

I’m one of 11 volunteer Community Curators helping to create a fabulous new exhibition at People’s History Museum exploring the fight for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* people. Never Going Underground will run from February to August 2017 alongside a programme of workshops, talks and family friendly events.

  • What is ‘LGBT+ activism’?
  • Who are your LGBT+ activist heroes and heroines?
  • Who are the people and organisations which have helped shaped LGBT+ equality?
  • What are the events which marked a turning point in the fight for LGBT+ rights?
  • What are the current issues still to fight for – how far do we still have to go?

We’ve been pondering these questions and more as we start planning for the exhibition. We’d love your input and ideas and we’ll be delivering a number of community workshops over the next few months to help shape the exhibition contents.

The scope of the Never Going Underground exhibition is huge, and it’s great to be involved in this project to tell this remarkable story.

LGBT+ rights have come a long way in a relatively short time. We’ve gone from Radclyffe Hall’s plea for acceptance of ‘inverts’ in her 1928 novel The Well of Loneliness, to Prince William offering a royal seal of approval to LGBT people on the cover of this month’s Attitude magazine; from lesbians denied custody of their children to full adoption rights; from police arrests for cottaging and raids on gay book stores to two policemen proposing to their partners during the 2016 London Pride parade.

The fight for LGBT+ rights has included political goals – changing laws and policies – as well as cultural goals – challenging society’s views on LGBT+ people and gaining wider community acceptance. Activism has taken many forms: from the direct action of the Gay Liberation Front and Outrage!, to the lobbying tactics of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and Stonewall, to Boy George’s No Clause 28 single and Gay Sweatshop Theatre Company shows.

There’s also inter-LGBT+ community activism – there are issues with racism, transphobia, different approaches to what Pride events should be about.

Then there are so many issues still to be tackled: marriage equality in Northern Ireland; recognition of non-binary people; self-declaration of gender; and the 75+ countries which currently outlaw homosexuality to name but a few.

Picture 2 blog post 1

We’d love to hear any suggestions on what we should include in the exhibition. Also if you have banners, badges, papers stories relating to the fight for LGBT+ equality that you would be willing to share, then please do get in touch by emailing nevergoingunderground@phm.org.uk For twitter users our project hashtag is #NGU2017

Cultural spaces are safe spaces: Why inclusion is everything

A guest blog by placement student Kath Fox

I currently have the pleasure of working alongside the brilliant team at the People’s History Museum, which most recently involved a day of events celebrating the National Festival of LGBT History.

As part of the Festival, I ran a stall promoting the Museum’s new community-led LGBT+ project entitled Never Going Underground, taking place in 2017 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexual acts; in partnership with Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus, LGBT Foundation, Proud 2b Parents and The Proud Trust. Throughout the day, thoughts and feelings about past, present and future LGBT campaigns were gathered and captured from the festival attendees and much conversation was had.

Then all of a sudden, around mid –morning, a woman arrived at the Museum with a sense of urgency, keen to know where one of the talks about gender was due to take place. She seemed anxious, looked at me and said: “My son has come out as transgender”, then paused and waited for me to respond to those words which were still unfamiliar to her. I greeted the news with a big smile and replied, “How wonderful!” She looked relieved: “I need to talk to somebody about it. Can you help?”. “Of course”, I said. Within the hour, in between talks and events, Kate Hardy (LGBT Foundation’s Health and Wellbeing Officer) and the woman were busy arranging to meet.

The woman had come across the Festival online and thought she may find help there. Which is exactly what she did. Her son’s life is already better. At that moment she too became part of an entirely new LGBT+ family, and it was just as important to welcome her within an inclusive space, as it was to ensure she had the right support for her son.

Inclusion is such a powerful thing. As an LGBT+ person, to be part of an environment that includes you, respects you and positively celebrates you is something perhaps others take for granted. Being part of a Festival that achieves these things is particularly special.

Cultural spaces are as much about belonging as they are about storytelling and the People’s History Museum do it brilliantly.

 

 

 

Redisplaying equality

Over the past few months during our Play Your Part project we have been working on growing our collection of material relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and other gender and sexuality minority groups and refreshing the objects we have on display. Previously labelled ‘Gay rights’, our new ‘LGBT+ rights’ section in Main Gallery Two is now more representative and up to date.

Original equality case

Original equality case

One of the key findings from our initial consultation was that the ‘Gay Rights’ panel in contained incorrect detail. Whilst it was installed in 2010, the 2013 Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act had rendered it out of date. We therefore wanted to update the information and use the opportunity to refresh the objects in our Equality Case with new material collected during PYP Year One.

It's OK to be GAY! leaflet

It’s OK to be GAY! leaflet

We began with visitor consultation during our Work in Progress exhibition. We displayed objects from our collection and asked visitors to vote for objects they would like us to include and to suggest objects we were missing. The most popular objects were our badges, followed by the It’s OK to be Gay! leaflet, which is now included in the updated display.

We also ran five consultation workshops with LGBT+ groups to help us with the project and trial the LGBT History Tour we were also developing. We particularly wanted to work with trans* groups as we had identified this as an area that was not represented at all in our collections, display or tour. The feedback from the workshops was invaluable in developing the tour and ensuring that our display and collections represents a range of LGBT+ voices.

We asked each group their opinions on the current display, what they would like to see, what objects from our collection we should include, what gaps are there in our collection, what we need to acquire to fill these gaps and if they are willing to help by donating objects.

The key responses were:

  • Current display case is not representative and needs improvement
  • Make clear the difference between sexual orientation and gender diversity
  • Include more examples of L, B & T
  • Include examples of non-binary gender
  • Include references to contemporary campaigns
  • Include legislation such as the 2004 Gender Recognition Act and 2010 Equalities Act
  • Liked structure of tour and how it contextualised history
  • Define language used
  • All groups wanted the case to be bigger (sadly impossible!)
  • Use flags to explain definitions of different groups
  • During the tours the groups contributed specific examples of LGBT History they thought we should include, which have now been incorporated into the tour.

The main challenge was to acquire objects representing bisexual and trans* experiences as these were absent from both our collections and displays. I made a short film about our LGBT collections to encourage donations, however the main source of objects was via the consultation workshops. One woman very generously donated her Gender Recognition Certificate and Action for Trans* Health suggested a list of objects that we could purchase cheaply via Etsy. I also attended a meeting of bisexual support group BiPhoria who also donated material.

In January 2015 I visited the April Ashley: Portrait of a Lady exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool and The Gang: Photographs by Catherine Opie at the Walker Art Gallery to investigate how other museums have displayed trans* experiences. Both were excellent examples of best practice, and I found the timeline of trans* history in the April Ashley exhibition particularly useful.

New LGBT+ rights section in Main Gallery Two

New LGBT+ rights section in Main Gallery Two

The final objects selected for display include badges representing the pride flags of bisexual, pansexual, asexual, intersex and trans* people, a non-binary gender patch and pronoun badges alongside leaflets, photographs and other objects from our collection displaying a broad range of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and other gender and sexuality issues. We hope that people will continue to donate their material, and that we continue to build on our LGBT+ collections.

New equality case

New equality case

A note on terminology

One of the most challenging decisions was our use of terminology, specifically the language we would use on the permanent text panel. From consultation and research we found that some people didn’t think that ‘LGBT’ was inclusive and we had alternative suggestions including ‘LGBTQ+ rights’ and ‘Gender and Sexuality rights’. We wanted to use a term that is simple for visitors to understand (including visitors who do not have English as a first language) and a term that will have longevity (because it’s unlikely we can replace the panel easily). I contacted representatives from the groups we had consulted with and organisations and individuals we had worked with on this part of the project. As expected, they offered a range of conflicting opinions, however it generated a very interesting debate. After considering all the responses, we decided on ‘LGBT+ Rights’ for the following reasons:

  • Throughout the development of the project we’ve referred to ‘LGBT’. This has mainly been because it’s the term that’s in common usage (eg LGBT History Month).
  • We want to be consistent with the terminology we’ve previously used, but also take into account that this term does not reflect all Gender and Sexual Minorities
  • We don’t want to exclude anyone, yet we didn’t want to confuse visitors with a long acronym
  • We’ve used the objects on display to explain different terms, and include a broad range of issues (in a very limited amount of space!).  It’s easier for us to change an object (or object label) than the permanent text panel, so it’s the term on there that needs to be the most ‘futureproof’.
  • Therefore ‘LGBT+’ seems to be the best compromise of inclusivity and understandability.

Whilst we understand that not everyone will be happy with this decision, we have clear reasons for it and have been honest and open about the process.

We’d like to thank University of Manchester LGBTQ Society, Action for Trans* Health, LGBT Youth North West, Transforum and Lancashire LGBT for their invaluable feedback, object suggestions and support.

Play Your Part – a festive update

Before I leave the office to eat, drink and be merry (well I’ve still got a week to go, but you get the gist!) I thought I’d share a bit of an ‘end of term’ update on what Play Your Part has been upto since the summer excitement of Work in Progress and share my plans for the last 3 months of the project.

Welcome Wall

We’re working with the lovely team at Fuzzy Duck to create three test designs for our ‘Welcome Wall’.  We call it our Welcome Wall because it used to have a big ‘welcome’ written across it, but we felt the design wasn’t working well within our foyer space so we want to give it a refresh.  We’re taking a very experimental ‘PYP’ approach, by trying out three designs in situ, and observing how our visitors interact with them and asking them what they think.  We’ll then crunch the numbers and feed all the responses into creating the finished design. Test Design 1 is currently installed until just after Christmas – watch this space for future designs.

The original design

The original design

 

Test Design 1

Test Design 1

Events

14 November 2014, Democratic Dialogue @ People's History Museum (10)The big event of the autumn season was POLLfest, our politics festival for Parliament Week 2014.  You can find out more about what we got up to here.  In the pipeline for spring is a protest music event. I’m at the very early planning stages, but I’m hoping that we can explore the past, present and future of protest music through talks, performances and other surprises.

Our current Equality Case

Our current Equality Case

LGBT

I’m delighted that the PHM is going to play a major role in the First National Festival of LGBT History by hosting the Sunday Festival Hub.  The festival team have programmed some brilliant speakers and performances and there’s going to be lots to do.  We’re going to be launching our LGBT History Tour at the festival, and I’m currently doing consultation with LGBT groups in Manchester to perfect the tour and to refresh our Equality Case in Main Gallery Two.

11 & 18 February 2015, Hands on History @ People's History MuseumObject Handling

I’m working closely with our Learning Manager Kirsty Mairs, Curatorial Assistant (Collections) Harriet Beeforth and Front of House Co-ordinator Mark Wilson to develop Hands on History object handling sessions.  We’re initially focussing on building up our World War I handling collection to link to the First World War Centenary and our Baddies Living History performance. Our brilliant volunteers are going to deliver the sessions and you’ll have a chance to get your hands on some real objects. We’ll be testing out the sessions in the new year, and you can get involved on 11 February 2015 and 18 February 2015.

Other bits and bobs

I shared learning from the project at the Museum Ideas Conference (speaking to over 200 delegates from 22 countries). I’ve also written up my paper for Museum-iD magazine.

I attended the very inspirational Forum for Radical Sharing organised by the Edge Fund and found out more about some brilliant grassroots activist groups.

I designed our PHM Christmas e-card, which made me very happy 🙂 PHM Christmas Card 2014 copy

Merry Christmas!

Work in Progress – Week 7

Oliver Bliss's Microresidency StudioBy far the highlight of the week has been Oliver Bliss’s Microresidency (mainly because of the fab music he’s been blasting out of his iPad all week, including the top 30 Gay Anthems).  Oly has been crafting messages of hope to the MPs who voted ‘no’ to the Same Sex Marriage Bill.  He invited visitors to make their own hexagons, which will be gathered together to form the Equality Quilt later in the year.  Oly has blogged about his residency here and I’d urge you to read his thoughts, and look at all the fantastic photographs of inspirational artworks made by Oly and our visitors. A personal highlight was helping out on Saturday afternoon and chatting to the lovely group from LGBT Youth North West.

We had a great meeting with Sue Sanders, Jeff Evans and Sylvia Kölling on Thursday about LGBT History Month and plans for the LGBT History Festival in February.  We’re very excited to be hosting the Sunday hub of the festival and there’s lots of great events in the pipeline.

I also met with artist Phoebe Myers about her plans for the Free For Arts Festival.  Phoebe is going to be making a Freedom Banner and is inviting visitors to contribute their freedoms, both big and small, which are important to them.  The workshop will be held on Saturday 4 October as part of our PHM Fun Palace, and the banner will be displayed at the museum until Friday 10 October.

We’ve made some progress with the object handling strand of the project.  We (myself, Kirsty our Learning Manager, Harriet our Curatorial Assistant and Mark our Front of House Co-ordinator) are setting up an object handling programme of events, which will be led by volunteers.  Two of our new volunteers John and Genevive let us pick their brains about the object handling training they received at Manchester Museum, which objects draw in visitors and what objects we should include in our World War I object handling box. We’re sourcing some more 3D objects and will start trialling object handling sessions in November.

work in progressI think I’ve discovered why some people have been reluctant to come into the exhibition. I was chatting to a visitor who thought that the big ‘Work in Progress’ sign meant that they couldn’t come in because it wasn’t ready yet.  Oops!

I can’t believe that we’ve only got two weeks of the exhibition left now!  Coming up this week we’ve got two workshops: Re-Telling: Scapegoats, Media & Politics on Thursday and Protest Photography on Sunday. Do come along!

Work in Progress – Week 6

Week 6 of Work in Progress was exceptionally busy, with pretty much an event every day.  We kicked things off on Saturday with a very inspiring talk from Alex Jones of the English Disco Lovers.  He talked about how it all started in a field in Somerset, his influences as a Quaker and an artist, spreading the disco love across the country and his top tips for campaigning (including harnessing the power of social media and making sure you give yourself a break every now and again!).

18 Aug - 9 Sept, SELFIE_SHOW-OFF by Karol Kochanowski @ People's History Museum (34)On Sunday we peeled back the boards for the Private View of #SELFIE_SHOW-OFF by Karol Kochanowski.  Karol’s abstract paintings focus on the artist’s personality as an intrinsic part of his artwork.  The exhibition is part of the Manchester Pride Fringe and will be displayed alongside Work in Progress until 9 September.

 

The museum’s events team gathered on Monday morning to brainstorm ideas for our Winter Events Programme.  Traditionally the winter season is usually our quietest, but we’ve got some exciting events in the pipeline, including the LGBT History Festival in February.  Bob Bonner from Friends of London Road Fire Station popped in in the afternoon to do a talk about the history of the building.  Bob gave us a great insight into the design, use and life of the building, especially how much it means to people and how many memories people have of the place.

Bethan Foulkes Live ResearchResearcher Bethan Foulkes was in residence from Tuesday to Thursday, looking at historical experiences of unemployment in our collections and chatting to visitors about their contemporary experiences.  She rounded off her Live Research with an event on Thursday afternoon, encouraging visitors to get hands on with some archive material.

On Tuesday a group of us met to discuss our plans for Hands on History, our new object handling programme that will be delivered by volunteers. We’re going to be trialling the session next year, and we’re currently planning what objects we should include.  The theme will be World War I to link in with our current exhibition A Land Fit For Heroes, our Living History performance Baddies, and of course the First World War Centenary. We’ll keep you updated with how the project develops.

Two young people from the Trailblazers project visited on Wednesday.  They’re working on developing an interactive map of cultural venues in Manchester for teenagers, and came to pick my brains about the PHM.  After chatting about interesting facts including cheese and Peterloo, I seized the opportunity to talk about our events programming, how we can make it more accessible for young people and what they thought of our Welcome Wall.  Whilst they were here they also met artists Kate and Chloe for a workshop for their People’s Guide project.

I also met with artist Rebecca Davies to discuss her practice, Play Your Part and potential collaborations. Rebecca works within a participatory practice through illustration, performance and event and really connects with communities using quirky methods such as bingo and a travelling ice cream van. We even managed to fit in a bit of a rant about the London-centricity of politics!

LGBT case redisplay consultationThe end of the week focused on all things Pride!  Since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act was passed in 2013, we’ve been very conscious that our Gay Rights case in our Main Galleries is out of date.  We’ve also recently acquired some new LGBT material, so we’d like to give the case and text panel a refresh.  With this in mind, I’ve set up a display case in Work in Progress with some key objects.  We’re asking visitors to vote on which objects we should include and if there’s anything we’re missing.  Come along and have your say!

We’ve been working with historian Jeff Evans to develop our LGBT history tour, which I delivered for the first time on Friday. The tour focused on contextualising the history of gender and sexuality within the social and political framework of the museum.  It was impossible to cover everything within a 45 minute tour, but the feedback was generally positive, with some really constructive comments on how we can improve the tour and things we’ve missed.  I’ll definitely be tweaking the tour ready for its official launch in February as part of the LGBT History Festival.

LGSM displayWe were very lucky to get a sneak peek of the film Pride on Thursday night.  The film tells the story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, a support group that was set up to raise funds during the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike. The film is inspiring, emotional and definitely the film of the year! If you want to find out more about LGSM ahead of the film’s release in September, then come along to Work in Progress and see some of the original archive material on display.  23 August 2014, Q&A with the cast of the film Pride @ People's History Museum (1)Pathe films used this display as a backdrop for press interviews on Friday and screenwriter Stephen Beresford, actor Joseph Gilgun and LGSM member Mike Jackson were on hand to promote the film.  Stephen, Joe and Mike returned to the museum on Saturday for a public Q&A about the film and gave the audience insights into the history of the group, the making of the film and their ideas worth fighting for.

We continue the LGBT theme this week, with Oliver Bliss’s Microresidency.  Come along and sew your messages of hope to the MPs who voted ‘no’ to equal marriage.