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.

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.

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 Kim2.Renfrew@live.uwe.ac.uk  – 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 jack@jacklettis.com 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 012021
Street art on 18m wide black wall with slogans demanding better healthcare for trans people

Photo: CJ / Bristol 24/7

This mural was painted for the duration of October 2020 on a 18m long wall in Jamaica Street, Bristol. The wall is used by the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft community group as a continually changing canvas for street art.

The mural’s intention was to shine a light on the shocking state of healthcare for transgender and non-binary people.

CJ, the person behind the mural said “Everyone who helped to paint the mural has so much love for the National Health Service as an institution but feel that as a community we have been roundly disregarded for many years as the waiting lists have spiralled to the current appalling state”.

“The NHS aims for an 18 week wait for referrals, a sharp contrast the current five year wait for trans and non-binary people. After referral, patients will wait up to three years to begin hormonal treatment and up to five years for gender affirming surgeries. This is an overall wait of up to a decade for some trans people to receive the help they need.”

“These failures of the system are causing very real harm to a vulnerable population,” says CJ. “The letters along the bottom are months represent the five years that trans people have to wait for our first appointment”.

The rest of the piece is an attempt to explain a little about the realities of living as a transgender person in what can feel like a very hostile world.

With thanks to Bristol 24/7.

‘Everything Is Music’ project

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Nov 302020

Magazine cover with head and shoulders image of KylieWere you in the Bristol music scene in the 1970s to 1990s?

Jack Lettis is working on an exciting project called Everything Is Music that is being developed by the team behind Bristol based Crack Magazine. Everything Is Music will bring together the most important people and stories in Bristol’s musical cultural history through an interactive map that will launch in April next year. Audiences will go the relevant locations to find stories and music that link to that place, a musical and cultural historic digital treasure hunt! Of course it’s important to include Bristol’s incredible Queer scene history.

Jack wants to talk to people present in Bristol’s queer scene circa 1970-1995: artists/venue owners/promoters/punters/bar staff/entertainers/club workers to present their memories from historic queer moments in time such as the Moulin Rouge, the Scarlet Coat, the Oasis ClubClub Leo and Chantelle’s, to explain their story of the location and if at all possible provide any visual content (photos, flyers, video footage) and/or audio content (could be a favourite track from the club, or he would conduct an audio interview if willing). The user of the app would then experience and listen to that content at the location on their smartphone.

They are currently looking at placing over a 150 pins across the city in order to make the hunt as rich and varied as possible. These pins will form the jigsaw of Bristol’s musical history. This project is going to be a huge cultural event for the city and will be the first of its kind in the UK, we’re also hoping it will provide some much-needed musical adventure in the absence of live events.

If you can help, contact Jack at jack@jacklettis.com.

Daryn Carter awarded an MBE

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Nov 012020
Young man with quiff of bright blue hair looks at a pencil portrait of himself

Daryn Carter, director of Pride Bristol, with his portrait by Malcolm Ashman

Director of Bristol Pride Daryn Carter was awarded a MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to the LGBTQ+ community in Bristol.

As well as being a principal organiser of Bristol Pride, Daryn has campaigned tirelessly for equality in the LGBTQ+ community. He does lots of schools engagement work talking about being LGBTQ+, works with local businesses across the region to support diversity and inclusion and sits on a number of diversity advisory panels.

You can read more about Daryn on this UWE Bristol blog page.

Your group’s story wanted

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Oct 172020

An assortment of flyers and posters on a tableBristol Archives holds almost two million documents which record the history of the City of Bristol and the surrounding area from the 12th century to the present day. These include minutes, accounts, letters, diaries, maps, photographs and films created by many types of organisations and people.

They have an online catalogue of their collections. Click on ‘Browse Collections’ and you will see an LGBT collection.  Many local organisations have already donated records including Gay West, Freedom Youth and the University of the West of England LGBT+ Society.

Are you involved with a local group?  Bristol Archives want your records to preserve the diverse story of the city and its people. You can donate directly – contact them at archives@bristol.gov.uk. Alternatively give them to us and we will pass them on. Most of the LGBT Collection were collated by us. Click here to send a message to OutStories Bristol.

Oct 072020

It’s Black History Month and we’re starting with a home-grown contribution.

Performance artist and poet Travis Alabanza was born and grew up in Bristol and returns to talk to Sharifa Whitney James and writer and historian Edson Burton, co-founders of Kiki – Bristol’s first visible community for QTIPOC (Queer, Transgender and Intersex People of Colour).

Examining blackness and gender non-conformity in the context of growing up in Bristol, Travis discusses the importance of oppressed people archiving their own communities so that they are recorded in history in all their complexity.

Director, DOP: Shivani Hassard
Producer, Researcher: Joanna Boateng
gal-dem magazine

Aisha Sanyang-Meek wrote this interview with Travis for Rife Magazine, an online platform for Bristol’s young people.

Sep 152020
Dale Wakefield, founder of Bristol Gay Switchboard

Dale Wakefield

OutStories have received the following message:

I am a Humanist Funeral Celebrant and will be leading the funeral of Dale (Billie) Wakefield next week. I know she started the Gay Switchboard from her Hill Street Totterdown home in !975, was a founder of Bristol Pride in 1977, and that her work is represented at M-Shed (which re-opens this week, and I hope to visit). She was clearly a legend! Is there anything you more you can tell me? I would of course check with her family, with whom I am working to create her ceremony.
Many thanks,
Chrissie Hackett

Please respond direct to Chrissie at chrissiehackett@gmail.com.

Sep 112020

Dale Wakefield, founder of Bristol Gay SwitchboardIt is with great sadness we learn that Dale Wakefield died in Bristol Royal Infirmary on Saturday 5th September 2020. Her family were at her side. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s she was a prominent figure in lesbian and women’s rights in Bristol.

Dale was born in Bristol in 1941, started her working life in insurance firms and subsequently worked as a teacher, a nurse and in later years in accounts. She married and had two children but the marriage broke up when the youngest was only months old. Dale went to London to work as a prison officer at Holloway women’s prison and it was there she first fell in love with a woman although no relationship ensued.

She returned to Bristol in the early 1970s and came out first on the gay scene. Soon she was active in the second-wave Women’s Movement and with Monica Sjöö and two others started the Gay Women’s Group and a collective that produced ‘Move’ magazine for about three years.

Attending a Gay Women’s Group meeting in Clifton, the constant phone calls received at the premises (from gay men and lesbians alike) alerted her to the enormous need for information and a friendly ear. Bristol Lesbian & Gay Switchboard was founded at Dale’s home in Hill Street, Totterdown on 1st February 1975, using her private phone line.

For over three years it ran from her house, with volunteers taking phone calls during the advertised hours and Dale answering at all other times, often during the night. In 1978 Switchboard moved to new premises at Bristol Gay Centre, however Dale remained involved until the early 1980s. She later helped organise Bristol Lesbian Line, and was active in Women’s Aid providing refuge provision for women fleeing domestic violence.

Dale remained a resolute advocate of women and men working together at a time when there was a lesbian-separatist trend within the movement in Bristol.  A believer in collective approaches to action, she was critical of the hierarchies that characterised orthodox and male-oriented ways of organising. Her quiet authority, clear focus and belief in the power of collective action made her one of the most significant figures in the story of LGBT rights in Bristol.

In the words of Tim Manning, a fellow founder of Bristol Gay Switchboard: “Because of her, lives were saved, closets opened, and she helped us change our world for the better”.

We send our thoughts to her son Shaun, daughter Teraza, and four grandchildren.


Dale in 2013 beside her portrait by Malcolm Ashman; now displayed in Bristol’s M Shed Museum. Copyright: Matt Seow.

Aug 282020

Text 'Lost Spaces' in a blue rectangle overlaying an inverted pink triangleJamie Jamal, the Bristol-based lead singer of electronic pick n mix duo This Human Condition remembers Bristol nightclub Just in this delightful and amusing podcast from Lost Spaces, a queer podcast about lost gay venues. He also talks about gay club music, growing up gay, coming out and ‘guncles’ (gay uncles).

Listen to Jamie 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.

Meet St Wilgefortis

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Aug 212020
Wooden statue of a bearded lady with a floral dress being crucified

St Wilgefortis statue in the Church of Saint Nicholas in Pas-de-Calais, near Wissant, France (Wikimedia Commons)

Saint who, you may well ask? She was the patron saint of Unhappily Married Women and the ruined St Mary le Port church in Bristol’s Castle Park had a chapel dedicated to her.

The legend is that her father arranged for her to marry someone she did not like, so she prayed that she might be made repulsive so that he would reject her. When she woke up the next morning she had a full beard. That put paid to the marriage, but her angry father had her crucified as a punishment.

Our Cheryl Morgan has written a delightful article on her Cheryl’s Mewsings blog and refers to speculation that Wilgefortis may have been intersex.

‘Bristol Magazine’ article on Michael Dillon

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Jul 272020

The Bristol Magazine has published an excellent article on Michael Dillon, the world’s first person known to have successfully transitioned both hormonally and surgically from female to male.

Whilst living in Bristol in 1939, Michael was given hormone treatment by Dr George Lush Foss, a doctor who had encountered the masculinising side-effects of hormone treatments in several diseases. Dr Foss’s father had practised as a GP from Cloud’s Hill House in St George. Whilst attending the Bristol Royal Infirmary in 1942 Michael met a surgeon who subsequently performed a double mastectomy.

The article is on pages 42 to 44.



Film celebrating 25 years of Freedom Youth

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May 242020

‘Freedom 25’ is a film made by members of Bristol’s Freedom Youth and local film-makers Black Bark Films
to mark 25 years of Freedom Youth, one of the longest running LGBTQ+ spaces for young people in the UK.

The film celebrates and recognises 25 reasons why @FreedomLGBTQ is as important in 2020 as it was in 1995, creating community and crafting friendships.

Watch and share Freedom 25.

#iWill   #powerofyouth   #youthvoice