Radio 3 ‘Queer Histories’

 Blog  Comments Off on Radio 3 ‘Queer Histories’
Feb 232020

BBC Radio 3’s ‘Free Thinking’ podcast Queer Histories discusses how we apply modern LGBT+ language and identities to historical figures both real and fictional and what it means to have to “prove” your identity in today’s legal world.

Presented by Shahidha Bari, the participants are Jana Funke who teaches Medical Humanities at the University of Exeter, Senthorum Raj who teaches at Keele University School of Law, and Morgan M Page – writer, performance artist, and trans historian whose podcast is called One From The Vaults.

Other LGBT+ related podcasts from the BBC include:
Writing Love: Jonathan Dollimore, Sappho;
Queer Icons: Plato’s Symposium in which Shahidha Bari discusses the LGBTQ movement in the history of philosophy;
Censorship and Sex: Naomi Wolf on John Addington Symonds and Sarah Parker on Michael Field;
Comrades in Arms in which Tom Smith explores the East German Military’s fascination with its soldiers’ sexuality;
and a vast library of programmes in the Gay Britannia season that marked the 50th anniversary of 1967 Sexual Offences Act.

Avon Pride and the earliest known LGBT postmark in the UK

 Blog  Comments Off on Avon Pride and the earliest known LGBT postmark in the UK
Feb 182020
15 party balloons floating out of an inverted triangle.

The earliest known LGBT postmark in the UK

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the first Avon Pride, the 1991 organising collective led by convenor and philatelist Rob Brettle sponsored a special postmark. It is the earliest known LGBT postmark in the UK and was only available by post from the Wales & West Special Handstamp Centre based in Cardiff.

The postmark comprised 15 balloons, representing the 15 years, floating out of a triangle. Gay men incarcerated in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s were forced to wear an inverted pink triangle on their prison clothes as an identifying symbol intended to be a badge of shame. In the 1970s the pink triangle was reclaimed as a symbol of LGBT pride and against homophobia.

Postal envelope with artwork showing 12 exuberant smiling people crammed in a small boat.

Special cover

A special cover (envelope) was available and used artwork from the 1991 Avon Pride programme. It was designed by Kate Charlesworth, a British cartoonist and artist who has produced comics and illustrations since the 1970s. Her work has appeared in LGBT publications including The Pink Paper and Gay News, as well as national newspapers The Guardian, and The Independent.

Today Pride is seen as a festival with big-name singers and bars selling alcohol. Pride ‘back then’ was about the community getting together and sharing in activities: picnics, boat trips, films at the Watershed, singers at the Arnolfini, guided walks, coffee mornings, and an annual garden party at the Oasis Club which raised money for Bristol Lesbian & Gay Switchboard.

Chris Leigh, with thanks to Rob Brettle for information.
Last edited 18/2/2020

Short Back and Sides – Bristol LGBT+ stories

 Blog  Comments Off on Short Back and Sides – Bristol LGBT+ stories
Nov 192019

Bristol-based sculptor Alec Stevens and illustrator & creative technologist Nicola Hogg are creating a city-wide ‘experience’ using mobile phone technology, storytelling and sculpture to reveal stories as the user makes their way through the city.

Called Short Back and Sides, the first instalment focusses on the city’s rich LGBT+ history and used OutStories Bristol’s ‘LGBT+ Life’ map as its source of information. Hear Alec and Nicola talk about the project.

The pair worked from Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio which supports the development of creative technology projects.

We are delighted to see our map and research being used to inspire others to engage with Bristol’s rich LGBT+ heritage in new and novel ways.

Rainbow Revolutions: new book documents LGBTQ+ history of the 20th century

 Blog  Comments Off on Rainbow Revolutions: new book documents LGBTQ+ history of the 20th century
Oct 112019

On June 28 1969, around one o’clock in the morning, New York City Police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village, New York …

Front cover of a book with a rainbow and text "Rainbow Revolutions - Power, Pride and Protest in the Fight for Queer Rights"Rainbow Revolutions is a new book for older children and teenagers that charts the rise of the LGBTQ+ rights movement during the 20th century and celebrates the individuals who stood up and demanded recognition. It is written by University of Bristol anthropologist and OutStories Bristol trustee Jamie Lawson.

The book covers the Stonewall Riots in 1969, the impassioned speeches of activists Karl Ulrichs and Audre Lorde, the birth of Pride, and the fabulous New York ballroom scene of the 70s and 80s made famous by Ryan Murphy’s smash hit TV series Pose.

Jamie Lawson says:

“As an anthropologist working with queer communities, I take seriously and am passionate about the roles of history and politics in modern LGBTQ+ identities.

“The opportunity to explain to a young audience the historical origins not only of oppression against queer people, but also queer radical activism itself was extremely exciting, and seeing it published is quite remarkable.

“While the book is written for everyone, I thought a lot during its writing about my young, queer readers: The mainstream, cis-het world often tries to pretend that LGBTQ+ identities sprung up, recently and out of nowhere – being able to connect young queer people to their own history is an important and deeply humbling experience.”

Rainbow Revolutions by Jamie Lawson and illustrated by Eve Lloyd Knight is published by Wren & Rook / Hachette Children’s Group.

Oliver Messel Archive at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection

 Blog  Comments Off on Oliver Messel Archive at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection
Jul 232019

Young smiling man wearing open-necked shirt and holding firework sparklers in each hand.Oliver Messel was Britain’s leading theatre designer from the 1930s to the mid 1950s. A gay man, he spent part of the war years in North Somerset.  The University of Bristol Theatre Collection now holds the archives of Messel and have created a number of online resources allowing you to explore his life and work in more detail.

The online Oliver Messel Archive includes a 360-degree virtual tour of their 2018/2019 exhibition Wake Up and Dream: Oliver Messel – Theatre, Art and Society, an illustrated bibliography, online Schools’ Resources, and access to the complete online catalogue for the Archive.

You can also view a performance of ‘I went to a marvellous party’, commissioned and co-produced by the Theatre Collection and written and performed by Tom Marshman. The work, part installation/part performance, was based on Oliver’s Archive and shown at various locations around Bristol in February and March 2019.

University of Bristol

Reclaiming Queer Feminist Liberation

 Blog, LGBT History Festival  Comments Off on Reclaiming Queer Feminist Liberation
Feb 132019

Ellie O’Connell, Education Co-ordinator, Feminist Archive South will kick off our day of talks at M Shed on Saturday with this great presentation:

This talk will share how exploring feminist and queer archives with LGBTQ young people can stimulate vital discussion around intersectionality, inclusivity and solidarity in activism then and now. Drawing on the Feminist Archive’s educational workshops funded by the Government Equalities Office and delivered in partnership with T.I.G.E.R, teacher Ellie O’Connell will share how creative methods can bring archives to life and mobilise activism.

Reclaiming queer feminist liberation politics works to provide spaces for learning about the connections between the Gay and Women’s Liberation Movements and facilitate intergenerational exchange within LGBTQ communities. The realisation of shared systems of oppression under what bell hooks termed the ‘imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy’ is a key point of learning around the foundations for solidarity; this is illustrated by a variety of compelling archive sources from the gay and women’s liberation movements included in our resource.

In developing an archival handling collection that highlights these key questions, we’ve sought to represent a range of voices at the intersection of the gay and women’s liberation movements, including queer people of colour, disabled and trans feminists. Through collectively mapping the major achievements of LGBT+ and feminist movements, we start to see what they have in common. For example, the way in which trans rights, free abortion and contraception, making marital rape illegal and decriminalising gay sex represent victories of bodily autonomy for those who do not conform to the heterosexual reproductive matrix. In seeking to understand what others face, we must first identify correlations between oppressions. As Shon Fay has articulated, ‘Misogyny, homophobia and transphobia share much of the same DNA.’ Considering the continuing multiple struggles faced by young LGBTQ people today, forming inclusive multiple alliances must be the way forward.

Central to the Feminist Futures educational workshops is the creative transformation of archival materials through DIY counter-cultural methods including badge, poster and zine making. How can we take inspiration from feminist archive materials and reconfigure them to envision queer feminist futures? This presentation will share some of the amazing work about LGBT+ feminism made by young people in workshops as well as showcasing work from the Feminist Everywhere, a project by UWE students using FAS to create Bristol site-specific artworks, including ‘Gay Disco History Parking Ticket’, a subversive work of activist performance art. In addition, we’ll share how including LGBTQ herstories in our A Level Art, Sociology, History and English workshops and resources not only creates spaces to stray from the heteronormative curriculum but also reclaims the presence of LGBTQ people and culture in all areas of feminist herstory.

You can download a free copy of the LGBT+ Feminist Movements resource and find out more about FAS workshops here.

Change of Speaker

 Blog, LGBT History Festival  Comments Off on Change of Speaker
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

 Blog  Comments Off on Forthcoming #LGBTHM Events
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

 Blog, LGBT History Festival  Comments Off on Meet Silence – Non-Binary Knight
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

 Blog, LGBT History Festival  Comments Off on A Film & The Schedule
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

 Blog, LGBT History Festival  Comments Off on Lisa Power – Founding Stonewall
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

 Blog, LGBT History Festival  Comments Off on Native American Two-Spirits: Alternative Histories of Gender and Sexuality
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

 Blog  Comments Off on A Gay Historical Novel
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

 Blog, LGBT History Festival  Comments Off on Wake Up and Dream – Oliver Messel: Theatre Art and Society
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

 Blog, LGBT History Festival, Old events posts  Comments Off on LGBTHM 2019 – The Line-Up
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

 Blog, LGBT History Festival  Comments Off on LGBT History Month 2019
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

 Blog  Comments Off on AGM Talk on Classical Erotica
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

 Blog  Comments Off on Some Bristol Trans and Intersex History
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!

 Blog  Comments Off on New LGBT+ History Schools Resources!
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.

 Posted by at 08:00