A pioneering project seeks to bring LGBTQ+ heritage in England to light in a way never seen before – Jonathan Boniface takes a look at ‘Pride of Place’ in the run-up to the project’s upcoming digital seminar.
High-profile campaigns involving sites of special interest to the queer community have hit headlines in recent years, with the cases of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and the Black Cap in Camden immediately springing to mind. That said, for each high-profile venue of this nature, there are undoubtedly any number of smaller, less well-known but equally as important LGBTQ+ spaces that are either unknown, at risk of being lost, or both.
Last year, Historic England teamed up with Leeds Beckett University and several local community groups based in England to make a bold attempt to map some of these locations. The project intends to explore and celebrate the relationship between LGBTQ+ community and some of the country’s historic buildings and spaces, with the aim of highlighting that LGBTQ+ heritage is a fundamental part of our diverse history.
One of the refreshing aspects of this project is that the term ‘historic buildings’ doesn’t have to mean Hampton Court or the Tower of London, (although it would be fascinating to discover if such high profile historical sites had an LGBTQ+ aspect to their history); neither does it mean the obvious nightclubs, bars or social spaces frequented by queer people. Just as important to the people running the project are the quiet but no less powerful places where LGBTQ+ history has been made, such as the houses and meeting places of activists past and present.
‘What do you want to see added to the map? Which histories do you think we should find out more about? Which little-known stories deserve wider recognition? Which well-known places have a secret LGBTQ+ history?’
As such, the scope of this endeavour is potentially huge, with the results likely to be of interest to social historians for decades to come. The project will conclude this summer, culminating in an interactive map, online exhibition, guidance packs for heritage and community groups, and resources for local schools.
One of the most positive aspects of the project is that the research is not being done ‘from above’; rather than a group of academic scholars deciding which spaces should be deemed important to LGBTQ+ heritage, the project aims to be inclusive and driven by the community on which it has its focus. Indeed, the term ‘spaces’ has been carefully chosen to ensure that the scope is as wide as possible, and could include anything from national historical sites, through to domestic locations, commercial locations, or other internal and external spaces.
There’s still time to add your voice to this project and make your contribution to this study of LGBTQ+ heritage. You can get involved with the interactive map right now using the login details below:
The organisers of the project will be co-hosting an online seminar with the Public History and Digital Seminars on 19th February, which can be streamed here.
You’ll find more details about the project here on The Queerness after the seminar.
In the meantime, check out the project page for further details and a series of links that give you a glimpse into some of the results so far.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter (@gaes_elskhugi)