We had a shaky start to history month: winds and weather (and – if UKIP is to be believed – gay marriage and the gods) conspired against the first OutStories talk of 2014, which should have been Polari Mission. On 8 February, Jez Dolan’s journey from Manchester was thwarted by a landslide and a broken-down freight train on his journey to Bristol, and had to turn around and head home. We’re currently working on rescheduling his whirlwind tour of the secret language of gay men – it will probably be in May so watch this space.
Behind the Green Door…
Our inaugural event was therefore Jill Gardiner, on 15 February, who gave an overview of the Gateways club in Chelsea, and the important place it occupies in UK lesbian history. Jill took us back to the club’s origins as a basement haunt for bohemians (where customers included Dylan Thomas and Augustus John), onto its transfer to the hands of Ted Warr (who won it in a bet) and its heyday under the glorious reign of Ted’s wife Gina and Smithy, climaxing with the club’s starring role in the Killing of Sister George. Jill gave a sharp and funny overview of the development of lesbian identity through the club’s history, and brought the story alive with the views of club regulars, such as Big Lesley. Jill has written a brilliant book about the Gateways.
The following weekend, Andrew Foyle took over 20 walkers on his ever-popular Mystery History of central Bristol on 22 February, telling the stories of LGBT people in the city from multiple perspectives and sources: from crime records to oral history. Walkers learned about suffragettes concealed in organs, the Tea Set at the Radnor pub and Bristol’s pioneering place in trans surgery.
On Sunday 23 February, Cheryl Morgan flipped open the comic books in To The Bat Bed, Robin! Her illustrated talk looked at the exceedingly camp early years of US comic books, charting their history and the sometimes shocking – though sadly not surprising – homophobia. Cheryl explored how trans characters are portrayed with varying degrees of success and brought us bang up to date with the gay superheroes of Martin Eden’s Spandex comic.
The final event – and farewell party – for LGBT History Month was What’s the Time, Mr Wolfenden? We aimed for the feel of a pre-decriminalisation gay bar of the 1960s. Helping create the mood were DJs Tamsin and Ruth, better known as Unskinny Bop, who played a strictly 60s playlist. Everyone dressed in 60s threads, everyone danced and the Showgirl Academy did some brilliant go-go routines. We were also given some wonderful prizes by Diva Magazine and Gay Times and as a result raised over £200 for future OutStories events.