October 2011 saw the publication of a remarkable book ‘Gay West: Civil Society, Community and LGBT History in Bristol and Bath 1970 to 2010’ written by Robert Howes, a member of OutStories Bristol.
The LGBT movement has been active in the Bristol and Bath area since 1970. This book analyses the development of the local movement, focusing on the history of Gay West, a social and support group which, together with its predecessors, the Campaign for Homosexual Equality Bristol Group and Bath Gay Awareness Group, is one of the longest-lasting LGBT organisations in the country.
The book sets Gay West in its local and national context, describing the early commercial gay scene in Bristol and Bath as well as the other LGBT organisations which were set up in the mid-1970s. These included Bristol Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, Bristol Gay Women’s Group,, the Bristol Gay Centre and the Gay Festivals which were the forerunners of today’s Pride celebrations. The story continues through the 1980s, with the battles against HIV/AIDS and Section 28, and then into the 1990s and 2000s, as the modern gay scene developed with its many commercial facilities and specialised LGBT institutions.
Gay West shows how a voluntary group organised itself and interacted with the wider LGBT movement and with political and social developments at the national level. It traces the group’s struggles to establish an identity and create a community for LGBT people, Using examples ranging from discos to police liaison, the author develops his central argument that the tension between political activism and social activities has been instrumental in helping LGBT people find a place in civil society.
Gay West: Civil Society, Community and LGBT History in Bristol and Bath 1970 to 2010
Published by SilverWood Books, ISBN 978-1-906236-75-5, price £12.99.
Available online from SilverWood Books, Gay’s the Word bookstore in London and from good bookshops elsewhere.