Change of Speaker

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Feb 132019

Unfortunately Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman has been taken ill and will be unable to speak at M Shed on Saturday. However, Dr Edson Burton has kindly volunteered to step in at the last minute and will be giving a talk on Decolonising Sexuality. Our thanks to Edson, who will be brilliant as always, and our best wishes to Nathaniel for a speedy recovery.

There are no changes to the timings of the talks. The full programme can be found here.

Forthcoming #LGBTHM Events

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Feb 122019

We are by no means the only people putting on LGBT History Month events in Bristol. Here are a few things you might want to attend.

Saturday Feb. 23rd: An afternoon of events at The Chocolate Quarter in Keynsham, including films, a short play and discussions. Places are limited so please contact St. Monica Trust to register. This event is a collaboration of the St. Monica Trust, The Chocolate Quarter, GayWest and the Bristol Ageing Better LGBT+ Group.

Thursday Feb. 21st: An evening Proud Bristol event featuring our Robert Howes.

Wednesday Feb. 27th: A Noon Reception at the Lord Mayor’s Chapel, courtesy of the City Council LGBT+ Employees Group.

Thursday Feb. 28th: An evening event staged by Unite the Union, featuring Tom Marshman.

Meet Silence – Non-Binary Knight

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Feb 112019

There was a great deal of excitment earlier this month when a previously unknown Arthurian manuscript was discovered in Bristol Library. These things do turn up from time to time. In 1911 a box of letters written by Henry VIII was found at Woolaton Hall in Nottinghamshire, and in 1927 something much older was noticed in amongst them. It was a manuscript of a 13th Century story called The Romance of Silence clearly set in Arthurian Britain and featuring the enchanter, Merlin. It turned out to be a very unusual story indeed.

The main character of the story, Silence, is assigned female at birth, but raised as a boy by their parents. Silence grows up to be a famous knight. Even the queen is enamoured of “him”, but of course Silence must remain mysteriously, and infuriatingly from the point of view of the ladies, chaste.

Performance storyteller, Rachel Rose Reid, will be in coversation with transgender literary critic, Cheryl Morgan, at our LGBT History Month event. Rachel and Cheryl will discuss the character of Silence, and how a 12th Century author produced a tale that is a sophisticated examination of themes of gender, and of nature v nurture.

In the evening Rachel will be performing part of the story just over the harbour at the Arnolfini. You can by tickets here.

For full details of the line-up for this year’s LGBT History Month event, click here.

A Film & The Schedule

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Feb 072019

We are now able to announce the running order for our LGBT History Day at M Shed on the 16th. See below for details.

As usual we plan to have a half hour break at 13:30 for people to get lunch. However, we are delighted to be able to use that time to show the Talking LGBT+ Bristol film produced last year by Bristol 24/7 and Tusko Films. Charlie, Robert and Cheryl all feature in that film.

That gives us a full running order as follows:

  • 12:00 — Gemma Brace, Wake Up & Dream
  • 12:30 — Elissa O’Connell, LGBT history in feminist activism
  • 13:00 — Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman, Maud Sulter
  • 13:30 — Lunch break & Talking LGBT+ Bristol
  • 14:00 — Rachel Rose Reid, The Romance of Silence
  • 14:30 — Max Carocci, Native American Two-Spirits
  • 15:00 — Lisa Power, Founding Stonewall
  • 15:30 — Stephen Wlliams, in conversation with James Higgins

Additional information about all of the talks is available on the main event page.

Lisa Power – Founding Stonewall

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Jan 282019

In the 1980s a flourishing, noisy, confident lesbian & gay movement clashed with a right-wing homophobic UK Government — and lost. In disarray after Westminster passed the first major anti-gay legislation in a century, many of us wondered what to do next. Taking lessons from what went wrong, the Stonewall Group emerged with a very different style of activism and grew into the most successful LGB — and now T — lobby organisation in the world. One of the founders, Lisa Power, had been active in the movement since the 70s and looks back on how and why Stonewall came about and what made it different.

Come and listen to Lisa at our LGBT History Month event at M Shed on Saturday, February 16th. Full details here.

Native American Two-Spirits: Alternative Histories of Gender and Sexuality

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Jan 212019

In this second post about our 2019 LGBT History Festival we are delighted to introduce Dr. Max Carocci. Max is the former curator of Native American artifacts at the British Museum and now works at their Anthropology Library and Research Centre. He has written a number of works on Native American culture, including contributing to Professor Richard B. Parkinson’s legendary A Little Gay History.

In his talk Max will address the existence of non-binary genders among Historical North American Indians through their own art, visual representations, and imagery. It is an attempt at weaving together new gendered histories starting from scattered and fragmentary lines of visual and material evidence. The talk will conclude with the ways in which contemporary Two-spirits (Native American non-binary genders) are slowly recovering traditions on the basis of this material, oral histories and the recovery of indigenous languages.

A Gay Historical Novel

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Jan 182019

With LGBT History Month coming up, we have news of an historical novel with a very gay theme. The Prince of Mirrors by Alan Robert Clark is a tale of two young men with expectations. One is predicted to succeed, the other to fail. Here is some blurb:

Prince Albert Victor is heir presumptive to the British throne at its late Victorian zenith. Handsome and good-hearted, he is regarded as disastrously inadequate to be the king. By contrast, Jem Stephen is a golden boy worshipped by all – a renowned intellectual and the Keeper and outstanding player of the famous Eton Wall Game. He is appointed as Prince Albert’s tutor at Cambridge — the relationship that will change both of their lives.

Set mostly in London and Norfolk from the 1860s to the 1890s, The Prince Of Mirrors is, behind its splendid royal facade, a story about the sense of duty and selflessness of love, that have a power to show someone who they really are. Blending historical facts with plausible imagination, it is a moving portrait of Britain’s lost king, the great-uncle of Queen Elizabeth II.

Hardcover and ebook editions are already available. A paperback should be out in June.

Wake Up and Dream – Oliver Messel: Theatre Art and Society

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Jan 172019

This is the first of our feature posts on the talks we will be offering at our LGBT History Month events at M Shed in February. For more details on the event, click here.

Wake Up and Dream is an introduction to the life of Oliver Messel, through the Oliver Messel Archive at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection, presented by Gemma Brace

Designer, artist, maker, magician… Oliver Messel’s (1904-1978) career embraced a multitude of guises and, like his papier-mâché masks, allowed him to inhabit numerous social worlds and stages, moving between backstage and high society with ease. Often regarded as one of the twentieth century’s brightest theatrical stars, his imaginative and illusory design skills were in high demand. He appeared to implicitly understand the all-encompassing attention to detail required to transport audiences from modern life back to Ancient Egypt or Renaissance Italy, considering each element, from costume to staging.

However, his Personal Archive has many more stories to tell beyond the world of theatre, documenting his life as a gay man, a social campaigner and a member of the society set. These aspects of Messel’s life are illustrated through intimate photographs of family and friends capturing the cast of London’s ‘Bright Young Things’ alongside handwritten letters from Hollywood stars and touching notes between Messel and his longstanding partner Vagn-Riis-Hansen. These sit side-by-side with ethereal costumes and designs from fêted stage and screen productions, architectural drawings of Caribbean villas, advertising props, fabric swatches and illustrations, each object shining a light on Messel’s ability to turn his hand to all manner of artistic practice.

These objects weave together theatre, art and society, providing a glimpse into numerous worlds – both real and imagined. By revisiting these memories and searching out stories, the magic and mastery of an artist whose creative vision can be seen throughout all aspects of his making is revealed. Whether creating fleeting fantasies in papier-mâché and tulle or making them concrete in paint and stone, the Archive encourages us to both look back and reflect and to ‘wake up and dream’.

LGBTHM 2019 – The Line-Up

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Jan 142019

We have our full list of speakers and topics available now. Here’s what we will have for you at M Shed on Saturday, February 16th.

Stephen Williams – The former MP for Bristol West will be in conversation with James Higgins of Bristol 24/7, talking about what it was like being an openly gay MP.

Lisa PowerFounding Stonewall – what happened? A personal memory of the late 80s from Section 28 to the start of Stonewall’s rise.

Max CarocciNative American Two-Spirits: Alternative Histories of Gender and Sexuality.

Performance story teller, Rachel Rose Reid, will be in conversation with Cheryl Morgan, talking about The Romance of Silence, a French Mediaeval story with a non-binary person as the main character.

Dr Edson Burton Decolonising sexuality (LGBTQ+ in Black History).

Elissa O’Connell of Feminist Archive South will talk about Reclaiming Queer Feminist Liberation: using feminist and LGBT+ history to explore solidarity and inclusivity in activism then and now.

Gemma Brace: Wake Up and Dream, an introduction to the life of theatre designer, Oliver Messel, illustrated with items from the University of Bristol Theatre Collection.

In addition we will be showing the film, Talking LGBT+ Bristol, made in 2018 by Bristol 24/7 and Tusko Films.

The talks will be in the Studio rooms. The running order is as follows:

  • 12:00 — Gemma Brace
  • 12:30 — Elissa O’Connell
  • 13:00 — Dr Edson Burton
  • 13:30 — Lunch break & Talking LGBT+ Bristol
  • 14:00 — Rachel Rose Reid
  • 14:30 — Max Carocci
  • 15:00 — Lisa Power
  • 15:30 — Stephen Wlliams

As usual, there will be a variety of community stalls in the M Shed first floor foyer. Confirmed bookings include:

  • OutStories Bristol
  • Bristol Pride
  • LGBT Bristol
  • Off the Record
  • Historic England
  • Exeter University, Rethinking Sexology Project
  • Action for Children

Keep an eye open for in-depth posts about each of these talks. Everything is free, so we look forward to seeing you at M Shed on February 16th.

LGBT History Month 2019

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Jan 082019

The New Year has barely started, and already February is not far away. As usual, we will be collaborating with the M Shed to put on a day of talks and discussion about LGBT History. The date you need to put in your diaries is Saturday, February 16th. Talks will take place from 12:00 to 16:00, and as usual there will be an array of stalls run by local community organisations. Everything is free to attend.

This year our speakers will include Stephen Williams talking about his time as an openly gay MP. We will also have Lisa Power talking about the founding of Stonewall. Other talk topics include the life of the theatre designer, Oliver Messel, and sexuality/gender in Native American society.

More information about all of our talks and speakers will appear here over the coming weeks.

You may also be interested in similar events taking place in Taunton on February 2nd, and in Cardiff on February 9th.

Jul 212018

Bristol’s listings and features magazine Bristol24/7 and Tusko Films have produced a wonderful documentary Talking LGBT+ Bristol. This Heritage Lottery funded video shares the rich heritage of LGBT+ life in Bristol over the last century, with contributors coming from all backgrounds and ages from across the city.

The documentary gives a platform to the LGBT+ community in Bristol, and aims to increase visibility and raise awareness of the love, struggle and change that the community has faced.

Talking LGBT+ Bristol was first shown at previews at the Arnolfini and Watershed, and there were two public screenings on the big screen on Millennium Square as part of Bristol Pride Day, 14th July 2018.

Bristol24/7 are giving the documentary to Bristol Archives as a free resource, and as a teaching resource to local schools, colleges and universities.

Bristol24/7 Managing Director Ben Wright said:

“The real value of this project will be its lasting legacy, and we hope that Talking LGBT+ Bristol will encourage open discussions surrounding LGBT+ issues and gender. It is in the hands of the next generation to continue the fight prejudice wherever it exists.

“At the heart of our social impact agenda are our core values of investment, inspiration and inclusion. Talking LGBT+ Bristol encapsulates these values and hopes to inspire communities and celebrate Bristol’s diversity through storytelling, giving a voice for all.”

If you’d like to hear more about Bristol24/7’s social impact work, their projects and how you can get involved, contact


Logo with bold white text "B24/7" in bright red rectangleLogo comprising bold black text "Tusko"   

AGM Talk on Classical Erotica

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Nov 082017

Embossed Roman cup showing two naked men, the young man being anally penetrated by the older.

Detail of Warren Cup

The audio from our AGM lecture, “EP Warren’s Classical Erotica: LGBT+ activism and objects from the past” by Dr. Jen Grove of Exeter University, is now available below. If you would like to see the accompanying slides they can be downloaded here.

EP Warren was an early 20th Century Classicist who developed a passion for collecting evidence of same-sex relations in the ancient world. Most famously he gave his name to the Warren Cup, now in the British Museum.

The talk was sponsored by the Institute of Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition at the University of Bristol in honor of the birthday of John Addington Symonds, 19th Century Bristol-born writer, art historian and pioneer of homosexual rights.

Some Bristol Trans and Intersex History

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Oct 032017

In 1997 a Bristol City Councillor caused a media sensation when she announced that she would be transitioning gender from male to female. Her name is Rosalind Mitchell and she represented Redland for Labour. Sadly, in those days, life for trans people was not easy. Mitchell was not always treated well, both by the local media and by some of her colleagues in the Labour Party. She ended up leaving Bristol.

At OutStories Bristol we have kept this story under wraps to avoid any unwanted media attention for Mitchell and her family. However, times changes, and Mitchell is back in the public eye. She now lives in Scotland and is involved in politics once again with the SNP.

Last Thursday, Mitchell appeared on the BBC 2 Scotland programme, Timeline, to tell her story. That broadcast is currently available on the iPlayer. Mitchell tells us that some material has been recorded for Points West and, provided there are no big local news stories, will be broadcast this Wednesday (Oct. 4th).

We will be bringing you more of the Rosalind Mitchell story in the coming weeks.

New LGBT+ History Schools Resources!

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Feb 012017


Rainbow circles surround text reading 'Mapping LGBT+ Bristol' superimposed on a black and white map of bristol

Out today for the start of LGBT History Month 2017 is our new LGBT+ History Schools resource pack. The resources draw on our map and app (search ‘OutStories’ in your app store) and were developed in partnership with local LGBTQ+ youth group, Freedom Youth and the University of Bristol as part of our most recent big project, Mapping LGBT+ Bristol.

The new curriculum resources draw on the material collected through the course of Mapping LGBT+ Bristol and make use of the map and mobile app as an innovative and exciting method of engaging secondary school students in local LGBT+ history and its geographies.

Through engagement with this rich and locally relevant source material, the resources aim to cultivate in students, a connection to place and elicit profound reflection on social and philosophical questions around gender, sexuality, social norms, freedom, crime and punishment.

The resources also raise methodological questions around what it is that different kinds of source material – like historic newspaper articles or oral history recordings – can tell us about the past as well as the difficulties that are encountered when trying to understand historic practices using contemporary concepts.

While the resources are free to download and a limited run of printed materials are available on request (contact: N.eisenstadt[at] schools may also buy-in delivery of the sessions. Delivery will be carried out by peer facilitators from Freedom Youth trained as part of the wider Mapping LGBT+ Bristol project.

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Beyond The Well of Loneliness – The AGM Lecture

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Oct 102016

We are delighted to be able to bring you a recording of the keynote lecture from the 2016 OutStories Bristol Annual General Meeting. The lecture is titled “Beyond The Well of Loneliness: Reassessing Radclyffe Hall’s Place in LGBTQ History” and is given by Dr. Jana Funke of Exeter University. Unfortunately we can’t make the slides available as some of the images are subject to copyright.

In addition to being part of our AGM, the lecture was given to celebrate the birthday in 1840 of John Addington Symonds, Bristol-born writer, art historian and pioneer of homosexual rights. Mr. Symonds birthday is celebrated annually by the Institute of Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition at the University of Bristol who also provided the venue and refreshments. Our thanks to both Dr. Funke for a fascinating lecture, and to Dr. Nico Momigliano for the arrangements.

New map and mobile app exploring Bristol’s LGBT+ past launched

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Jul 072016
Would you like to know more about Bristol’s LGBT+ history, or do you have a story that you’d like to share?

'Mapping LGBT+ Bristol' logo superimposed on a old street map of central BristolAn online map and mobile app exploring Bristol’s LGBT+ past was launched at Bristol Pride Saturday 9th July.

The map uses pictures, oral history recordings, archival documents and personal stories to bring hidden histories to light. The team was brought together by local LGBT+ history group OutStories Bristol, working together with the University of Bristol, Bristol City Council and Bristol Record Office, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The app allows users to explore this history on the move and in the very places referred to on the map. The map can be accessed on OutStories Bristol’s own website where visitors can contribute their own stories.

The map also appears on Bristol City Council’s website Know Your Place which brings together multiple layers of Bristol’s diverse history.

See the map:

Get the app: search “Mapping LGBT+ Bristol” on Google Play (Android) or the Apple App (iTunes) store.

Middle-aged woman in knee-length skirt standing in the entrance door of a small 2-storey building with fully-glazed windows onto the street.

Joan Weegenaar and the Radnor Hotel, early 1960s. Copyright: Anna Henderson.

Andrew Foyle, co-Chair, OutStories Bristol said:

“We’re really excited about the new map and the possibilities it will bring for engagement within LGBT+ communities and beyond. Bristol has never had the resources for an LGBT+ community project on this scale and we’re really grateful for the fantastic work put in by the University of Bristol and the Arts and Humanities Research Council who funded it all. This is all about reclaiming a sense of our past which, on the local stage, has never been written down before. LGBT+ people have been around throughout history, we didn’t just appear in the 1960s. In the current political and social climate establishing these facts will be hugely significant.”

Dr. Nate Eisenstadt, Co-Investigator, University of Bristol:

“We knew about OutStories from the impressive LGBT history work they’d done as part of their Heritage Lottery funded project and exhibition Revealing Stories at Bristol’s M Shed museum. They knew about us from the community historical mapping we have been doing with Know Your Bristol. When Outstories got in contact and suggested an LGBT+ history mapping project, it seemed like a perfect match. We can’t wait for people to see the results!”

Mark Small, Bristol Record Office:

“We wanted to put Bristol’s LGBT+ history in the mainstream – that’s why putting a layer on the Know Your Place website and depositing the archives that have been collected at Bristol Record Office was so important”.


University of Bristol acquires archives of theatre designer Oliver Messel

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May 102016

Photo of Oliver Messel

Oliver Messel

The University of Bristol Theatre Collection recently acquired the personal archive of Oliver Messel, one of the 20th Century’s foremost designers for stage and screen 1904-1978. The archive celebrates Oliver’s life as an openly gay man in high society during that period and some of the challenges he faced, including service in the second world war. It also features arts benefactor Peter Watson.

Neither men had significant connections with the Bristol/Bath region, however the university would welcome collaboration with anyone interested in Messel and wishes to be involved with workshops, exhibitions, etc, regarding his life and work.

If you are interested, contact Katie McKeogh of the University of Bristol Development and Alumni Relations Office.

Mapping LGBT+ Bristol

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Oct 032015

8380389-old-book-with-copy-space-and-inkstand-isolated-on-whiteMapping LGBT+ Bristol is a major project to create a permanent digital archive and online map of the LGBT+ history of Bristol and the surrounding areas: Bath, South Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire.

The project is a collaboration between OutStories Bristol, the Know Your Bristol project at the University of Bristol, and Know Your Place, an interactive mapping website run by Bristol City Council. The project is being funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, a government-sponsored body that finances research and post-graduate projects.

Know your place imageMapping LGBT+ Bristol will:

  • Support OutStories volunteers in researching and mapping the LGBT+ history of the Bristol region.
  • Add a dedicated LGBT+ community ‘layer’ to the Know Your Place website Know Your Place provides a series of map bases from 1750 to the present that allows you to explore your neighbourhood through historic maps, images and linked information.
  • Create a new user-friendly interface embedded in the OutStories Bristol website that will directly access the LGBT+ layer on Know Your Place and facilitate crowd-sourced contributions.
  • Create a custom-made mobile app for smart phones and tablet PCs that will interface with the LGBT+ layer on Know Your Place. This will feature walking tours, push notifications and connections to social media.
  • Produce a series of ‘story-maps’ – geo-coded digital stories – on different facets of LGBT+ history.
  • Collaborate with Bristol’s LGBT+ youth group Freedom Youth in producing curriculum materials to be used in local schools to combat the stigmatization of gender diversity and homosexuality.
  • Add new material to the LGBT+ archives at the Bristol Record Office and other museums and archives.

Radnor Hotel, St Nicholas Street, Bristol

 Copyright: Anna Henderson

Mapping LGBT+ Bristol will be a series of explorations of LGBT+ lives, both historic and present. The project will draw teams of people together to research and record histories of the diverse individuals and communities that make up the region’s LGBT+ life.

Pride Bristol 2011 - main stagePlaces of significance may range from common places where people meet (now or in the past), the shifting map of the LGBT scene, sites of memory or life events significant to one individual or small groups, places of religious toleration, dissent and diversity, and sites relevant to public, political and civic oppression and acceptance.

The project will last for one year and will culminate with a public roll-out to coincide with the Bristol Pride festival in July 2016.


Everyone is welcome to get involved. We seek people to do research, conduct oral history interviews, produce video/audio, and create digital material for uploading to Know Your Place and our own website. Get in touch via our contact form.

University of Bristol AHRC logo   BristolCityCouncil_logo   Bristol museums logo

Mapping LGBT+ Bristol is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council