First gay novel in English?

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May 192024
Line drawing showing a young man (Roderick Random) with a stave fighting Captain Weazel with a sword, watched by horrified onlookers

Frontispiece by George Cruikshank for an 1831 edition

Tobias Smollett’s The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748) is regarded as one of the earliest, if not the first, English novel to depict openly homosexual characters. Smollett (1721-1771) was a Scottish doctor, naval surgeon and novelist who regularly spent winters in Bath from the 1740s-60s.

Partly set in Bath and drawing on people he met there, Roderick Random was Smollett’s first novel and includes several gay characters. Earl Strutwell, “notorious for a passion for his own sex”, takes advantage of the naive young Roderick in order to kiss and fondle him. Roderick writes: the Earl “pressed me to his breast with surprising emotion”.

At first Roderick does not understand Strutwell’s advances but later “his hugs, embraces, squeezes and eager looks were no longer a mystery” and Roderick realises he has been introduced to Strutwell, for his seduction, by Lord Straddle “a poor contemptible wretch who lived by borrowing and pimping to his fellow peers”. Roderick sees that Strutwell’s manservant is jealous of Roderick because previously this “valet de chamber …. had been the favourite pathic of his lord”, meaning a catamite, a youth who plays a submissive role in anal intercourse.

Although Roderick rejects Earl Strutwell’s advances, Smollett lets the Earl have a lengthy and eloquent defence of homosexual love, citing precedents of same-sex relationships in Ancient Greece and Rome. Strutwell was based on a real man. In his essay Offences Against One’s Self: Paederasty (circa 1785) philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) wrote:

“Much about the time when this novel was published a Scotch Earl was detected in the consummation of an amour after the manner of Tiberius* with two of his servants at the same time. The affair getting around, he found himself under the obligation of going off to the Continent where at the close of a long life he died not many years since.”
(* Tiberius: a reputedly “sexually perverse” Roman emperor).

This was John Tilney (or Tylney), 2nd Earl of Castlemaine (1712-1784) who in order to escape scandal lived in Italy for many years where he died the year before Bentham wrote Paederasty. Although not published until 1978, the essay is the first known argument for homosexual law reform in England, making Bentham an early advocate of the decriminalisation of homosexual acts.

While working as a naval surgeon’s mate on board ship Roderick meets Captain Whiffle, a wildly flamboyant gay man dressed as an effete dandy of the period in pink and gold. Tall, thin, with “meagre legs”, Whiffle fits the popular stereotype of the day of homosexual men. The surgeon, Simper, has the bedroom attached to Whiffle’s own and it is made clear no one should walk in on them unexpectedly. Simper is described as “a young man, gayly dressed, of a very delicate complexion, with a kind of languid smile on his face, which seemed to have been rendered habitual by a long course of affection”.

It could be argued therefore that Whiffle and Simper are the first gay couple in English literature. Roderick informs the reader:

“These singular regulations did not prepossess the ship’s company in his [Whiffle’s] favour but on the contrary gave scandal an opportunity to be very busy with his character, and accuse him of maintaining a correspondence with his surgeon not fit to be named”.

“Correspondence” in this context means a sexual relationship. “A crime not fit to be named” was a common euphemism for male same-sex intercourse used in the 18th and 19th centuries. Captain Whiffle is said to have been inspired by Admiral Lord Harry Powlett, 6th Duke of Bolton (1720-1794).

Smollett was obviously aware of gay men and, although he uses them for comic effect, he expected his readers to be aware as well. By reading Roderick Random gay men would have seen they were not alone and that homosexuality was widespread, even to the point that it featured in popular novels.

Smollett lived in Gay Street, Bath, from 1765-66 and also visited the then fashionable Hotwells Spa in Bristol. He travelled to Italy for his health in 1768 where he died in Monte Nero, near Livorno, Tuscany, in 1771 aged 50.

Jonathan Rowe 2024

Rictor Norton (Ed.), “Lord Strutwell, 1748”, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 22 February 2003

Help create a gender exhibition in Bristol?

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May 122024

The 'Progress' pride flag comprising the six colours of the original plus white/pink/light blue representing trans people and brown and black for people of colour.Would you like to contribute to a gender exhibition in Bristol next year?

Bristol Museums in partnership with National Museums Liverpool and Brighton & Hove Museums are working on an exhibition about gender. The exhibition will open in Bristol in Spring 2025, and then tour to the other cities.

They want to work with groups of people to select objects for the exhibition and provide responses based on their own lived experience of gender, which could be included in the show. In Bristol, they would like to focus on working with LGBTQ+ people for these sessions.

During the sessions, participants will look at objects from Bristol Museums’ collections, and discuss and make recommendations on which ones should be featured in the exhibition. They will discuss their responses to the objects, and any reflections or questions the objects might prompt, based on participants’ own lived experience of gender. Some of these responses will also be included in the show, with participants’ consent.

These sessions will be led by a professional facilitator with expertise in LGBTQ+ topics, and participants will be paid for their time. The sessions are expected to take place in June and July this year, probably at M Shed or Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, and take about half a day of an individual’s time.

If you are interested or want more information, contact Steven Bradley, Exhibitions & Displays Manager, Bristol Museums.

Words "M shed" in black text

10 years ago – the first same-sex marriage in Bristol

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Mar 312024

Two happy smiling men under a rainbow banner with text "just married"It is ten years since the introduction of same-sex marriage in the UK.

The first same-sex marriage in Bristol took place in the Lantern Room of the Old Council House on Saturday 29 March 2014. Michael McBeth married Matthew Symonds, their dog Zoly carried their wedding rings in a bag attached to his collar.

The rainbow banner behind Mike and Matthew carried the message ‘just married’. It was donated to the Bristol’s M Shed Museum after the wedding.

Jun 202023
Large pink and blue billboard advertising Bristol Pride with bottom right corner charred by fire.

© Bristol Pride

With just days to go to the start of Bristol’s 2023 Pride fortnight, two incidents show that homophobia still lurks.

An attacker damaged a billboard advertising Bristol Pride within 24 hours of the poster being displayed. The fire service were called just after midnight 19/6/2023 after reports that the billboard in Station Road, Montpelier, had been deliberately set ablaze. Police investigated the incident as a ‘hate crime’. Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees condemned the attack saying there was ‘no room for senseless vandalism or hate’ in Bristol.

The incident was the second attack on the LGBTQ+ community in less than a week.

Colour striped doormat blacked out with spray paint.

© Bristol Post

Susie Day and her partner put a £6 Dunelm ‘Pride’ doormat outside their Bedminster home. The doormat was soon stolen so they went out and bought a new one, this time glueing it down so it couldn’t be taken. Later they found the rainbow-coloured doormat had been blacked out with spray paint.

But this story had a positive ending. When their neighbours learnt what had happened, many responded by going out and buying their own Pride doormats. Now the street is gradually filling with the colourful doormats and the couple say they have been overwhelmed by the support.

Bristol Methodist church votes to allow gay marriage

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Jul 042022
Entrance foyer with glazed timber doors each side of a bronze statue of Charles Wesley

Photo: Betty Woolerton

Bristol church The New Room, the world’s oldest Methodist building, has voted unanimously to permit same-sex marriage ceremonies.

The New Room was founded in 1739 as a space for Methodists to meet by evangelist and founder of the Methodist movement, John Wesley. For nearly 300 years, John Wesley’s New Room has served as a multi-purpose building for the local community – including housing a museum.

Now, the chapel in Broadmead has announced it will begin officiating same-sex weddings to coincide with the 2022 Bristol Pride.

In 2021, the Methodist church became the second largest religious denomination in the UK to allow same-sex marriages after voting in its favour. The motion required a change to the definition of marriage to be “a lifelong union in body, mind and spirit of two people who freely enter it”. Now ministers will be able to conduct weddings for LGBTQ+ couples living in Bristol in the New Room’s buildings. The move was voted for unanimously.

Same-sex marriages are not currently allowed by the Church of England.

Two smiling women outside the New Room

Rev. Mandy Briggs (left) and Rev. Josette Crane (right) with the application to the General Register Office (Image: John Wesley’s New Room)

Reverend Mandy Briggs, the chapel’s education officer and responsible authorised person said:

“This decision to register John Wesley’s New Room as a venue for same-sex marriages is the latest step in our journey of allyship with the LGBTQIA+ community.”

“The chapel has been a venue for services organised by Christians at Bristol Pride since 2018 and so this registration feels like the natural next step.”

Marking 2022’s celebrations, the church is also holding a rainbow service for LGBTQ+ Christians to allow them to “celebrate Pride through their faith”. Following the service on July 9, attendees are invited to wear purple, bring placards and join the Pride march from Castle Park.

This article was written by Betty Woolerton and first published by Bristol 24/7, 30 June 2022.

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”.


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

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’.

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

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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

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.

Apr 142021
Large mid-Victorian 2-floor semi-detached house built of stone with imposing bay windows

2 Hughenden Road

Born Eileen Mary Challans in London in 1905, the author Mary Renault was educated at Clifton High School for Girls in Bristol from 1919, then in 1925 went to St Hugh’s College, Oxford to study English. From 1926-1932 her family lived at 2 Hughenden Road, Clifton. On leaving Oxford in 1928 Mary joined her parents and sister in Bristol and rented a basement flat in Charlotte Street and spent four years here working in several mundane jobs. In 1931 she contracted rheumatic fever and because of this lived at Hughenden Road for a year.

Mary Renault 1905-1983 novelistIn 1933 Mary returned to Oxford to train as a nurse at the Radcliffe Infirmary. Here she met another trainee nurse, Julie Mullard, who was to become her lifelong partner. In 1939 she published her first novel Purposes of Love under the pseudonym Mary Renault.  Mary and Julie spent the war years living in Clifton and working as nurses in the Bristol Royal Infirmary and the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) hospital at Winford. From 1948 they lived in South Africa.

Mary went on to write numerous novels, some with veiled gay and lesbian characters. One, The Charioteer is set in a fictionalised Bristol (‘Bridstow’). The following is an extract from an excellent article Mary Renault’s Bristol by local historian Jonathan Rowe.

The story revolves around Laurie Odell, a young soldier who is being treated at an EMS hospital outside ‘Bridstow’ for serious leg injuries after being rescued from the sea after Dunkirk. Here he meets and falls in love with Andrew Raynes, a nineteen year old Quaker and conscientious objector working as a hospital orderly. Here Mary Renault drew on her wartime experiences of the conscientious objectors working at Winford, some of whom were Quakers and the problems that arose with ‘war heroes’ being cared for by ‘conchies’. Like pacifists in wartime, homosexuals were outcasts in ‘straight’ society, struggling to adjust to a sexuality seen as ‘deviant’ – a struggle symbolised by the charioteer in Plato’s Phaedrus: one horse heaven bent, the other plunging to earth, from where Renault took her title. This theme is underlined by Laurie’s feelings for the naïve and innocent Andrew, and Ralph Lanyon who Laurie once hero worshipped and is now a confident and sophisticated naval officer who he meets again after they were at public school together when Ralph was expelled for ‘sexual misconduct’ with another boy. Torn between his feelings for both Andrew and Ralph, by the end of the book Laurie has made his choice.

Renault describes a war torn Bristol – ‘the burgher solidarity of the city was interrupted by large irrelevant open spaces, in some of which bulldozers were flattening the rubble‘. There are ‘the Home Guard trenches‘ and the ‘Cathedral green air raid shelter‘ which is the public underground air raid shelter on College Green where my own parents, before they were married, spent a night after being stopped by an air raid warden after a date at The Whiteladies Cinema. A pub near College Green is described as ‘nastily modernised at large expense, chromium stools, the plastic leather, the sham parquet floor and florescent lighting’. This may well be The Mauretania in Park Street. Originally built in 1871 it was extended in 1936-1938 by Bristol architect W H Watkins. The Mauretania was fitted out with mahogany panelling and other items from the interior of Cunard liner RMS Mauretania, which was decommissioned in 1934.

Laurie notices ‘shops which looked as if they hadn’t changed hands in centuries’ and ‘the steep streets of flaking Adam houses that leaned over the Wells’ (presumably Hotwells). In one chapter he goes to an all male party in a Clifton flat – ‘a massive late Palladian terrace of Bath stone’. Other Bristol sites described include Durdham Downs and the Avon Gorge – ‘Ralph … took a half turn round the Downs and pulled off the road at the spot where cars stop to admire the Gorge … the steep side of the gorge with it’s sheer faces … wooded slopes and a scoop of quarry. The ebb tide flowed sluggishly at the bottom, a muddy thread between two long slopes of slime’. The Suspension Bridge is also featured as Renault writes ‘The bridge gave gently on it’s chains in the wind that swept along the gorge, there was only the darkling sense of loneliness and height’.

Mary Renault’s ground breaking novel paved the way for today’s more tolerant society and attitudes. Few could have known it was the work of a former Clifton High School girl who spent her formative years in Bristol and whose wartime nursing experiences in the city led her to write such a passionate, haunting and moving book which still resonates with readers today.

Jonathan Rowe, 2015

This is an extract from an article Mary Renault’s Bristol with further details of her life in Bristol and writing.

Mar 232021

'Mapping LGBT+ Bristol' logo superimposed on a old street map of central BristolBristol’s Know Your Place is a fantastic website containing thousands of pieces of information telling the story of Bristol through historic maps and and images, much of it uploaded to the site by volunteers and members of the public.

The places on our map in this website also appear as the ‘LGBT Life’ community layer on Know Your Place (the purple dots). This sharing of data was facilitated in 2016 by an Arts & Humanities Research Council funded project in conjunction with the University of Bristol.

Know Your Place recently celebrated its 10th birthday. Its originator and driving force, Pete Insole, created a thematic story map of his ten favourite KYP things and I’m delighted that third on his list is the collaboration with OutStories Bristol.

Pete describes it as “a model example of community created content where Know Your Place provides the platform”. Our thanks to Pete for first suggesting the collaboration and then helping to make it happen.

Happy birthday KYP!


University of BristolAHRC logo

Mar 212021

Text 'Lost Spaces' in a blue rectangle overlaying an inverted pink triangleDid you go to Horseplay club nights?

k Anderson has published another entertaining interview on Lost Spaces in which he chats to Bernie Hodges, a voice artist, actor, and co-host of the What, That Old Queen?! podcast.

Moving to Bristol in the early 90s with a few mates when he was just 21 years old, Bernie quickly built a life for himself but struggled to find his tribe and that sense of belonging that comes with that.

But that all changed when he started to go to Horseplay, a club night that started in 2011 and billed itself as an ‘underground homo disco’. Listen to Bernie talk about pleather harnesses, what it really means to be an A-Gay, and death by dildo …

Listen on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts or Anchor (episode 68).

Lost Spaces explores queer experiences as told through now-closed bars and clubs. Every episode singer/songwriter k Anderson interviews a different member of the community to find out about a venue from their past, the memories they created there and the people that they knew.

Feb 132021

Covid from the point of a cross-dresser/transgender/gender fluid/non-binary/gender-queer (still trying to work out who I am !).

Covid has been a double edged sword for me, with both good and bad points.

I am very lucky in a lot of ways. I’m able to work from home, our children have grown up and live locally but independently, so no need for home schooling, and our parents are no longer here to see this (I know that doesn’t sound like a plus, but caring for my mum through cancer to her death in 2019 was bad enough, but Covid would have made it a thousand times worse, we were there at the end and we were able to have a proper funeral).

On the negative side, I’ve not been able to attend our regular meetings at Crossroads, the transgender support group in Bristol. I’ve also not been able to go to clubs.

But on the plus side I have been working from home since March 2020, so I can dress en femme every day (normally I would be on customer sites or in the office where I am still cis male). I tell people I can’t video conference because my laptop is closed under my desk due to space limitations, and if they would like to see my knees then that’s fine, funny, no takers yet.

Luckily I don’t know anyone who has been ill or died from Covid, or even tested positive. We’ve had to self isolate once for 5 days when the NHS app told us to.

So, on the whole, apart from life being very dull, I count my blessings every day and look forward to being vaccinated and to the end of this.

Take care all and stay safe, we will get through this and life will get better.




Participants sought for research into lesbian dress and clothing

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Feb 082021

Kim Renfrew is looking for research participants interested in talking about what they wear and why, or why not! She’s working on a PhD at the University of the West of England (UWE) on creating, negotiating and maintaining lesbian identity through dress practices and the dressed and adorned body.

Her aim is to look at:

  • Dress and beauty/grooming practices among participants of all backgrounds over the age of 18, who identify as women, and are primarily attracted to other women.
  • What we wear now and what we have worn across our lives
  • How we make sense of dress/adornment/beauty/grooming in a culture that views lesbians as not caring about appearance or style
  • The impact Covid-era lockdowns have had on the way we dress and express our identity.

Participation will involve some or all the following:

  • Taking part in oral history audio or video interviews – including looking at clothes and grooming items
  • Keeping a clothing diary
  • Reflecting on photographs and sharing wardrobe content

How these will be conducted will of course depend on coronavirus and some activities will take place online, while others may happen further down the line when restrictions are eased and contact with others feel safe.

If you’re interested in getting involved, contact Kim at  – she’ll be happy to share detailed information about what’s involved.

Feb 052021

Bright purple football shirt with rainbow stripes on sleeves and logo "Bristol Pride"The National Football Museum recently named a special-edition Bristol Rovers Women’s away shirt as their object of the week.

Known as the ‘Gas Girls’, the team partnered with Bristol Pride to produce a shirt that aims to address the issues of homophobia, biphobia & transphobia, and promote equality and diversity. The purple strip has rainbow stripes on sleeves and a matching rainbow number on the back.

The special-edition shirt is now in the permanent collection of the Manchester museum.





Do you remember Club Leo or the Oasis?

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Jan 292021

Magazine cover with head and shoulders image of KylieWere you a regular or part of the team at Club Leo in the 90’s or the Oasis Club in the 80’s?

Jack Lettis continues to work on the Crack Magazine project we previously posted about last year named Everything Is Music. He is tasked with researching Bristol’s gay venues of the past.

Jack is keen to talk to anyone that remembers the Oasis Club (on Park Row at the time) and Club Leo (which was on St Nicholas Street), hoping to collect any pictures and flyers people might have and talk to anyone who remembers the clubs and their memoirs of the aspects that made them great – the atmosphere, the crowds they attracted, the venues themselves and the music that defined their time.

If this is you, please do get in touch with him at for a short friendly chat and be part of this great project for Bristol.

Jan 152021

Text 'Lost Spaces' in a blue rectangle overlaying an inverted pink triangleWill Warren is the co-host of Track by Track, a podcast that reviews pop albums from the past – think Girls Aloud, Pet Shop Boys and Kylie Minogue. In this podcast from Lost Spaces, a queer podcast about lost gay venues, he recalls alcopops, pre-drinks, and all the alcohol you can drink for £20 at Flamingos, a bar in Bristol that billed itself as THE South West Gay superclub. Will recalls his time living near Old Market and also briefly mentions monthly club night Wonky in Frogmore Street.

Listen to Will Warren on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts or Anchor.

Lost Spaces explores queer experiences as told through now-closed bars and clubs. Every episode singer/songwriter K Anderson interviews a different member of the community to find out about a venue from their past, the memories they created there and the people that they used to know.

Do you have memories of Flamingos?

Flamingos was in the building that is now the Old Market Assembly; previously it had been Winns nightclub. We want your stories about your nights out, photos (inside or out), dates they operated, the people who ran the clubs and regulars. Please leave comments on our pages about Winn’s or Flamingos.

Jan 142021

There is something I should get off my chest
I don’t know what it is yet but it is beautiful
Delicate as a paper bird, soul warming as hot soup
A baby’s laugh, the cats we share our lives with to bring us joy
I feel i should make a statement, place my mark
Look upon this unknown new world and turn it on its head
10 lines of text or so to change the world
This isn’t usual, yet it’s become habit, and it’s hard and it’s fearful
but it is so joyful to sit at home with tea and cats
Learn our neighbour’s little quirks, spend too much on food, less on clothes
Grow new routines around each other’s supporting pole

My cat stops to watch the children on the street, the postman calls, my wife mocks my many parcels
This is not a good life, and it is harder for others
But we have made it as soft as we can manage

J Carter-Syme