Editor

Jun 162022
 
Imposing mid-1700s building with a collonaded stone facade and pediment roof.

Theatre Royal, Bristol
Image: Bristol Post

The Killing of Sister George was the first English play to deal with lesbianism and was written by German Jewish playwright Frank Marcus (1928-1996) who had escaped with his family from Nazi Germany in 1938. Premiered by the Bristol Old Vic at the Theatre Royal on 20 April 1965, the original stage play is more implied whereas the 1968 film version has the lesbian elements darker and more explicit.

“Sister George” is a much loved character, June Buckridge, in a popular radio soap opera (changed to TV in the film). In real life she is a gin guzzling, cigar smoking, slightly sadistic butch lesbian who lives with Alice “Childie” McNaught, a childlike girl obsessed with playing with dolls. June dominates feminine Childie, mentally and physically, and the couple perpetuate the classic butch/femme lesbian couple stereotype. When June discovers her soap character is to be killed off she becomes impossible to live and work with. Matters are made worse by the intervention of a third woman, radio/TV executive, Mrs Mercy Croft, herself a predatory lesbian.

The title character in both the original stage production and the film was played by Beryl Reid, primarily known for her comedy roles beginning on radio in the 1950s. In the original Bristol Old Vic production Childie was played by Eileen Atkins with Lally Bowers as Mrs Croft. The play was directed by Bath born Val May who was artistic director with the company 1961-1975.

From the run at Bristol the play went on tour. It opened in London on 17 June 1965 at the Duke of York’s Theatre, and transferred to the Belasco Theatre, New York, in October 1966, still with the original cast. Beryl Reid won the 1966 Tony Award for Best Performance by a leading actress for the Broadway production. The play caused a sensation in the West End and on Broadway. The actresses were sometimes refused admission to shops because of the plays lesbian content.

The Stage review of 24 June 1965 was headlined ‘A Triumph for All’ and said “A comedy as brilliant in its wit and humour as in serious comment and pathos”. It was the first stage play for Beryl Reid who was hailed as “An actress of enormous talent … previously known for her film and radio comedy roles, her performance was arresting, haunting and memorable”. The review noted Val May directed “with sensitivity and panache”.

Beryl Reid remembered the pre West End tour:

”The tour was a disaster. We were pathfinders. In the British theatre nobody before had spoken about lesbianism, and this really destroyed the people we were playing to. In Bath we were deafened by old chaps in their bathchairs being wheeled out by their nannies, their urine bottles rattling as they went, saying ‘Disgusting, disgusting’…. Hull was the biggest disaster of all. The people of Hull would barely serve us in the shops they were so horrified”. Beryl played the part for two years but found it impossible to use one word to describe it. ”Some people call it a comedy. It has a lot of laughs but to me it isn’t a comedy. It is funny, but it is also very harrowing and sad. It’s ‘life with the lid left off’ … the story of people’s relationships to one another”.

In 2014 Eileen Atkins, the only member of the original cast still alive remembered opening night in Bristol when she heard the banging of seats in the auditorium. She spoke to Beryl Reid about it in the interval who said ”My dear, you haven’t done standup. That was everyone leaving”. Reviews were not good and the play was thought to be a flop until it opened in London where it was a huge success, both critically and commercially, with Eileen Atkins receiving the Evening Standard Best Actress award.

Poster with an image of the three main characters in the film

The film version was made in 1968 with only Beryl Reid from the original Bristol production in the title role. Childie was played by Susannah York and Mercy Croft by Coral Browne. The film was promoted as ”a shocking drama” and the lesbian element was made much more explicit; the sex scene between Childie and Mrs Croft not appearing in the original stage play.

Some location filming was done at the Gateway Club in London. ‘The Gate’ was one of the few places in the UK where lesbians could meet openly in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and club regulars featured as extras in the film.

In 1965, the same year The Killing of Sister George was premiered at the Theatre Royal in Bristol, ITV broadcast a documentary about lesbians in the This Week series. On the day of its transmission the Daily Express pleaded with its readers to “stop this filth entering your living room”.

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Today attitudes have greatly changed and The Killing of Sister George in its own way helped to pave the way for more open and tolerant feelings towards lesbianism.

Jonathan Rowe 2021

9 July 2022 – OutStories at Bristol Pride

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May 102022
 

Logo with words "Bristol Pride" on a red backgroundAfter welcoming an incredible 40,000 people to The Downs in 2019, Bristol Pride Day is back!

OutStories will be there with a stall in the Community AreaCome and say hello!

Saturday 9th July 2022,  11am on
The Downs, Westbury Park, Bristol
Map

Not only is Bristol Pride one of the largest UK Pride events, it’s one of Bristol’s largest festivals, and named in the Top50 World Pride events in 2018 & 2019.

Buy your Pride Day Supporter Wristband now! Bristol Pride is a not for profit charity and every penny from supporter wristbands goes to make Pride happen.

See you there!

Table with OutStories posters and leaflets

25 Jun 2022 – Bristol Pride harbour boat tour

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May 102022
 

Small bright yellow and blue ferry boat sailing along Bristol harbour with multi-coloured terraced houses in the backgroundCome cruising with Pride!

To mark the 50th Anniversary of the first Pride marches in the UK join Bristol Pride and Outstories Bristol for Bristol’s first ever LGBT+ History tour on water!

Taking you across the historical harbourside of Bristol, tour guides from Outstories Bristol will share insights into Bristol’s LGBT+ history drawing on the surrounding areas and sights you will see during this one hour tour aboard a Bristol Ferry boat.

Saturday 25 June 2022. 1pm to 2pm
Tour starts from Cascade Steps, Narrow Quay
Map

£10 + £1.29 booking fee. Booking is essential and spaces are limited. Book via Bristol Pride. SORRY – SOLD OUT

5 April 2022 – work group meeting

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Mar 312022
 

Two people looking at documentsOur next work group meeting to develop our ideas and activities is:

Tuesday 5th April 2022, 6:30pm

Like to get involved?

  • Research LGBTQ+ sub-groups and the stories of local organisations.
  • Explore Bristol Archives and other local resources.
  • Collect peoples’ memories using oral history.
  • Make our audio recordings more accessible.
  • Add these stories to the OutStories website and ‘LGBT+ Life’ map.
  • Develop our social media.

This is an in-person meeting in Bedminster.

Contact us via this webform or email contact@outstoriesbristol.org.uk and we’ll let you know the location. Everyone welcome.

1st Tuesday each month – activity meeting

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Feb 232022
 

Two people looking at documentsWe hold monthly meetings in Bristol to develop ideas and activities, e.g.:

  • Research LGBTQ+ sub-groups and the stories of local organisations.
  • Explore Bristol Archives and other local resources.
  • Collect peoples’ memories using oral history; train new interviewers.
  • Make our audio recordings more accessible.
  • Add these stories to the OutStories website and ‘LGBT+ Life’ map.
  • Develop our social media.

Like to get involved? Contact us via this webform or email contact@outstoriesbristol.org.uk.
We will let you know the time and place of the next meeting. Everyone welcome.

An Anglo-American love story: the gay couple who founded the American Museum in Bath

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Feb 192022
 

Andrew Foyle tells the story of a remarkable gay couple and the museum they founded – the American Museum & Gardens at Claverton Manor, near Bath.

Dallas Pratt was the grandson of a US oil magnate with a thirst for learning and access to a vast fortune. John Judkyn was a middle-class Midlander, furniture restorer and antique dealer with impeccable taste. From their chance meeting in 1937 until John’s tragic early death their love and lives embodied a passion for collecting which inspired them to create the museum.

Andrew Foyle is a historian specialising in Bristol’s history, and a member of OutStories Bristol. Andrew co-curated Revealing Stories, Bristol’s first exhibition of LGBTQ history at Bristol’s M Shed Museum in 2013.

This talk was a collaboration between M Shed, the American Museum and Gardens, and OutStories Bristol.

Our thanks to the American Museum & Gardens for access to their archives and photographs, and to M Shed who hosted this online talk on 16th February 2022.

16 Feb 2022 – An Anglo-American love story

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Jan 152022
 
Two men in open-necked shirts walking along a street and laughing

Courtesy: American Museum in Britain

In this online talk, Bristol historian Andrew Foyle tells the story of a remarkable gay couple and the museum they founded – the American Museum & Gardens in Bath.

Dallas Pratt was the grandson of a US oil magnate with a thirst for learning and access to a vast fortune. John Judkyn was a middle-class Midlander, furniture restorer and antique dealer with impeccable taste.

From their chance meeting in 1937 until John’s tragic early death, their love and lives embodied a passion for collecting which inspired them to create the American Museum in Britain at Claverton Manor near Bath.

Wednesday 16th February 2022, 7pm to 8pm

This free online talk is hosted by Bristol’s M Shed Museum in partnership with the American Museum & Gardens and OutStories Bristol.

Pre-booking is essential. For full details and to book your ticket click this link to M Shed’s website.

Although it is free, M Shed would be grateful if you make a donation when booking.

Words "M shed" in black text Logo comprising a star and four stripes and text "American Museum & Gardens"

February 2022 – LGBT History Month in the West

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Jan 072022
 
Hand painting a rainbow and text "LGBT+ 2022"February is LGBT History Month!

Bristol’s M Shed Museum in conjunction with OutStories Bristol are presenting a series of exciting online talks to celebrate our achievements and stories. These free talks will be held over Zoom. Pre-booking is essential.

 

A smiling young woman (Qiuyan Chen) with face cupped in hands and elbows resting on a flower bed painted with trans and LGB coloursSaturday 12th February 2022, 11am to 12 noon
Free online talk: From China to UK, Qiuyan Chen’s journey as a LGBTQ+ activist
What’s the situation for LGBTQ+ people in China? How do queer Chinese rethink their intersectional identities? How can the community mobilise to promote cross-cultural connections?

Two men in open-necked shirts walking along a street and laughing

Wednesday 16th February 2022, 7pm to 8pm
Free online talk: An Anglo-American love story
Bristol historian Andrew Foyle tells the story of a remarkable gay couple, Dallas Pratt and John Judkyn, and the museum they founded – the American Museum & Gardens in Bath.

Thursday 17th February 2022, 1pm to 2pm
Pen drawing of Allan Gordon aged 15 wearing male trousers and jacketFree online talk: Allan Gordon, a ship’s boy
Norena Shopland tells the extraordinary story from 1902 of a 15-year-old sailor, Allan Gordon, who was arrested in Bristol when it was discovered they were female.

But what was the real reason for his arrest? The press were determined to find out just who Allan was and why they had gone to sea.

Woodblock print of male actor in flowing gown performing a female character in kabuki theatreThursday 24th February 2022, 7pm to 8pm
Free online talk: Girls on stage
Cheryl Morgan takes us on a tour of some of the queerest moments of theatre with men taking female parts in plays from Classical Greece through to Shakespeare and beyond.

What did this cross-dressing mean to those who performed these roles – and to those who watched them. Has the theatre always been gay? Or trans?

Words "M shed" in black textLogo comprising a star and four stripes and text "American Museum & Gardens"


Other events in the region for LGBTQ+ History Month:

Thursday 3rd to Saturday 5th February 2022,  2:30pm/7:30pm     Northcott Theatre, Exeter
Theatre:  The Beat of Our Hearts
A tender and poignant exploration of loneliness and belonging as experienced by LGBTQIA+ people.

Saturday 19th February 2022,  2pm-3pm     Online
Talk:  Same Sex Love, 1700–1957: History and Research Sources for Family Historians
Gill Rossini discusses the challenges of researching same sex relationships in family history.

Saturday 19th February 2022, 4pm-5:30pm    Arnolfini, Bristol
Documentary film: Rebel Dykes (certificate 18)
A rabble-rousing documentary set in 1980s post-punk London. The unheard story of a community of dykes who met doing art, music, politics and sex, and how they went on to change their world.


See the LGBT+ History Month website for more events around the country.

12 Feb 2022 – From China to UK, Qiuyan Chen’s journey as a LGBTQ+ activist

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Dec 242021
 
A smiling young woman (Qiuyan Chen) with face cupped in hands and elbows resting on a flower bed painted with trans and LGB colours

Qiuyan Chen

What’s the situation for LGBTQ+ people in China? How do queer Chinese rethink their intersectional identities, especially during the pandemic in the UK? How can the community mobilise to promote cross-cultural connections?

Qiuyan Chen is a passionate LGBTQ+ activist and artist. Born and raised in Mainland China, Qiuyan came to UK in 2018 and is now a London School of Economics (LSE) Gender Alumni and co-curated the 2021 Queer Chinese Community Art Festival. She initiated campaigns in China which called for equality: ‘Say No to Homophobic Textbooks’ and ‘All Teachers out for LGBTQ+’.

Saturday 12th February 2022, 11am to 12 noon

This free online talk is hosted by Bristol’s M Shed Museum in partnership with OutStories Bristol.

Pre-booking is essential. For full details and to book your ticket click this link to M Shed’s website.

Although it is free, M Shed would be grateful if you make a donation when booking.

Words "M shed" in black text

17 Feb 2022 – Allan Gordon, a ship’s boy

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Dec 242021
 
Pen drawing of Allan Gordon aged 15 wearing male trousers and jacket

Allan Gordon

In 1902 a 15-year-old sailor, Allan Gordon, was arrested in Bristol on a charge of ‘wandering about without visible means of subsistence’.

This was odd because Allan’s ship had only just docked and he was collecting his wages at the Board of Trade offices so was neither wandering about nor without subsistence. So, what was the real reason for his arrest?

When the ship’s crew had to undergo a compulsory medical check, Allan had refused and was then ‘compelled to admit her sex’. Once the press got hold of the story, they were determined to find out just who Allan Gordon was and why they had gone to sea.

Speaker: Norena Shopland, an author/historian who specialises in LGBT+ history and Welsh heritage.

Thursday 17th February 2022, 1pm to 2pm

This free online talk is hosted by Bristol’s M Shed museum in partnership with OutStories Bristol.

Pre-booking is essential. For full details and to book your ticket click this link to M Shed’s website.

Although it is free, M Shed would be grateful if you make a donation when booking.

Words "M shed" in black text

24 Feb 2022 – Girls on stage

 LGBT History Festival, Old events posts  Comments Off on 24 Feb 2022 – Girls on stage
Dec 242021
 
Woodblock print of male actor in flowing gown performing a female character in kabuki theatre

Bristol Museums

From Classical Greece through to Shakespeare and beyond, restrictions on women appearing in the theatre have resulted in men taking female parts in plays.

What did this cross-dressing mean to those who performed these roles, and to those who watched them. Has the theatre always been gay? Or trans?

Cheryl Morgan takes us on a tour of some of the queerest moments of theatre, including some of the latest research about the people who played female roles for Shakespeare.

Thursday 24th February 2022, 7pm to 8pm

Speaker: Cheryl Morgan, formerly co-chair of OutStories Bristol and a regular speaker on the LGBTQ+ History Month circuit.

This free online talk is hosted by Bristol’s M Shed museum in partnership with OutStories Bristol.

Pre-booking is essential. For full details and to book your ticket click this link to M Shed’s website.

Although it is free, M Shed would be grateful if you make a donation when booking.

Image: Actor Segawa Kikunojo III as Fox Okiku, 1782 by Katsukawa Shunsho (1726-1793).
Japanese woodblock print, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

Words "M shed" in black text

Nov 292021
 

Strip of red ribbon folded across itselfWorld AIDS Day takes place on 1st December each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.

Head and shoulders photo of man, mid 30s, balding, and wearomg a b;ack and blue striped sweatshirt

Bill Ayres

One of the first people in the South West to have AIDS was Bill Ayres, owner of the Underground nightclub in Bath. In 1985 Bill appeared on Thames Television programme ‘TV Eye’ and spoke candidly about living with HIV and facing society’s suspicion, fear and misconceptions. He refused to conceal his identity or display any shame at being an out gay man despite virulent homophobia in the British media at that time.

The programme also featured Dr Stuart Glover who led the treatment of HIV patients at a specialist unit at Ham Green Hospital near Bristol.

The TV programme is available for free on the British Film Institute BFI Player.

Note: The BFI player does not support playback on the Linux operating system or Firefox browser on Android devices. For information on devices and operating systems, see BFI help ‘How do I watch films’.

15 to 21 Nov 2021 – Trans Pride South West

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Nov 042021
 

Logo with pink white and blue stripes forming a heart on a purple backgroundTrans Pride South West have a week-long programme of events in Bristol celebrating gender diversity including:

  • spoken and written word evening at the Watershed,
  • comedy night at Zed Alley,
  • fashion show,
  • remembrance vigil.

The week culminates on Saturday 20th with a protest march against gender-based abuse and violence, a Community Day at The Station (Silver Street) and an Afterparty.

OutStories Bristol will have a stall at the Community Day. Come and say ‘hello’.

Website: https://tpsw.co.uk/tpsw-2021/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/985474265517639/

Group of happy brightly-clothed young people on a Pride Parade with a 'Trans Pride' banner

How it feels to try for a baby as a trans guy

 Blog  Comments Off on How it feels to try for a baby as a trans guy
Nov 042021
 

Trans man in his 20s with 2-year old hugging his back

Holding my first child in my arms in spring 2019 wasn’t as much of a relief as I had thought it would be. I’d always wanted children, even as a transmasculine person – it just felt like the best use of my body. From a young age I’d dreamed of what it would feel like to hold them, but this was most definitely not it.

So begins Jacob Bouyer of OutStories in an article penned for Metro online about his experience as a trans dad of 2-year old Merle and wanting to carry and give birth to a second child.

His fascinating article challenges traditional assumptions about gender expectations of parenthood. A must-read.

Oct 082021
 

Selina Julien of ITN is seeking help for an ITV documentary on HIV/AIDS and the parallels/contrasts with the current Covid pandemic.

She says:
“We’re looking for someone who sadly lost a partner to HIV/AIDS and another one more recently to Covid. It’s a huge ask but we’re hoping a personal story will help to illustrate the parallels as well as the differences between the two pandemics.”

If you can help, contact Selina at Selina.Julien@itn.co.uk.

18 Nov 2021 – “Beloved friends”: Researching LGBTQ history at Bristol Archives

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Oct 032021
 
Street parade with two men carrying a banner with wording "Lesbian and gay Pride West '94 festival".

Pride West Festival c.1994.
Credit: Bristol Archives 45120/Ph/1

Join Mark Small from Bristol Archives as he examines documents and collections that help us understand the lives of LGBTQ people in the city over several centuries.

Thursday 18 November 2021,  2pm-3pm

This free, online talk will be held over Zoom. See more details and book your place on this Bristol Museums webpage.

Graphic of a historic warehouse and words "Bristol Archives"

October is Black History Month

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Oct 032021
 

Two black women cuddling, one with her head in the other's lap.Black History Month is an opportunity to highlight the work and contributions of Black LGBTQ+ people and acknowledge their achievements in both the political and cultural spheres.

We learn about the civil rights movements of women, the Black community and the LGBTQ+ community, however these social movements are not individual threads but intertwined.

Bustle magazine has compiled a list of 13 Black British LGBTQ+ heroes that deserve to be recognised. Stonewall too have published this list of heroes.

If you love books, PinkNews have compiled a list of 17 great books by Black LGBTQ+ authors.

Locally, Kiki Bristol is a space for QTIPOC (queer, transgender, intersex, people of colour) to meet, greet, eat, discuss and dance.

OutStories want to hear the stories of local Black LGBTQ+ people, a community that has been historically invisible. We want to hear about your lives, experiences, struggles and triumphs.  Get in touch and tell us about yourself.

4 Oct 2021 – talk by Tom Sapsford and OutStories AGM

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Sep 082021
 

OutStories Bristol in collaboration with the University of Bristol Institute of Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition (IGRCT) present the 8th John Addington Symonds Annual Lecture (online event).

Monday 4th October 2021, 7pm to 8pm

Unfortunately our original guest speaker, Nancy Rabinowitz, is unable to present her lecture “Classics and Social Justice: A contradiction in terms?”. Instead we are delighted to welcome Tom Sapsford.

Tom Sapsford  –  The Song of the Cinaedus: Deviant Performers in Ancient Rome

Rear view of bronze statue of naked young man, arms curled above head and posturing his buttocksSide view of bronze statue of naked young man, arms curled above head and posturing his buttocks
The cinaedus is a man noted in classical literature for his effeminacy and voracious (homo)sexual appetites. Often used as a slur in invective Latin poetry and graffiti to lambast the masculinity of named individuals, this talk explores how an array of ancient Mediterranean sources presents the cinaedus as a specific type of performer, whose signature song and dance appear to be as racy and challenging as the social behaviours so often ascribed to him.

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Casually dressed man, perhaps mid 30s, seated in a book library

Tom Sapsford

Tom Sapsford is Assistant Professor in the Department of Classical Studies, Boston College. His research focuses on ancient Greek and Roman performance cultures, classics and the history of sexuality, dance in classical antiquity and its receptions.

This is an online event and prior registration via this Zoom link is required.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with a link enabling you to join the meeting.

OutStories Bristol AGM

The talk will be preceded by the AGM of OutStories Bristol (very brief!). Members of OutStories will receive a separate email with reports.


The talk is an annual celebration of the life of John Addington Symonds (1840-1893), Bristol-based writer, art historian and pioneer of homosexual rights.

This event is held by OutStories Bristol in collaboration with the University of Bristol Institute of Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition (IGRCT). Our thanks to the IGRCT for hosting this event.

Find out more about the IGRCT on their website; you can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

UnivOfBristol_logo_colourOutStories Bristol logoAncient sculpted head on black background with text "Institute of Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition"

16 Sep 2021 – From Avon to Nile: The adventurous life of Amelia Edwards

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Sep 032021
 
Facade of building with huge stone columns with faces supporting an ornately painted stone roof.

Painting of the Temple of Hathor, Dendera

As a best-selling novelist, and a bold and witty travel writer, Amelia Edwards was a household name.

At age 50, inspired by a Nile journey from Cairo to Upper Egypt, she embarked on a new career to promote archaeology and conservation. She co-founded the Egypt Exploration Fund and packed lecture halls on both sides of the Atlantic. She brought to vivid life the bygone world of Ancient Egypt; often using her talks to subtly promote women’s rights.

Facade of building with huge stone columns with faces supporting an ornately painted stone roof.

Amelia Edwards in 1890
(Wikimedia)

Edwards lived for 27 years in Westbury-on-Trym, with her friend Ellen Braysher. A committed feminist, she was vice-president of the Bristol and West of England Society for Women’s Suffrage. At some time in the 1860s, she secretly married her lover Ellen Byrne in Horfield church, with the blessing – literally – of Ellen’s clergyman husband, who conducted the marriage ceremony.

A free online talk will be held over Zoom. The talk will be given by Dr Margaret Jones. Margaret’s new book about Amelia Edwards, Lady of the Nile, has recently been accepted for publication by Bloomsbury.

Thursday 16 September 2021,  6pm to 7:30pm

Registration is required – book your place through Bristol Museums. Bookings close at 2pm on Thursday 16 September.

This is a UWE Regional History Centre talk in partnership with M Shed seminar series.

Read this article by Jonathan Rowe about Amelia Edwards and her life in Bristol.