Sexualities and Localities, c.1965 - 2013

Lead Research Organisation: Birkbeck College
Department Name: History Classics and Archaeology

Abstract

This research examines the complex changes in sexual identities and communities in the contrasting cities of Leeds, Plymouth, Brighton and Manchester since c.1965. It explores the difference locality makes to the ways sexuality is understood and experienced, and so develops an account of particular 'queer' social, radical, and commercial networks. The research will look at how continuities and disjunctions in these local lives and networks articulated with, but also functioned at a distance from, broader currents and accounts of gay and lesbian life in Britain. It considers the local impact and relative significance of famous LGBT landmarks such as the Sexual Offences Act of 1967, the inception of the Gay Liberation Front in 1970, the AIDS crisis from 1981, the activism around Clause 28 in 1988, and the successive pieces of equalities legislation culminating in the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act of 2013. At a detailed and local level, we explore the intersection of sexual, religious, ethnic, class and gender identities and identifications. We will investigate how patterns of local socio-economic growth or decline, of gentrification, of dissent and radicalism, and of migration affected people who identified as gay and lesbian and others who did not but whose sexual, social and community networks overlapped or intersected. In this way we will, firstly, fracture (or 'queer') homogenising general accounts, and, secondly, complicate local community research where identity categories are often the starting point.

This will be the first sustained, contextualised and comparative historical investigation of the local impact of changing cultural attitudes and official policies concerning sexuality, and the first to look at the particularities of lesbian, gay or other queer lives in cities with different subcultural associations and reputations. The project reveals the factors which have modulated queer lives and cultures of rejection, toleration or acceptance in these places and elsewhere. It will contribute to debates about the intersection of sexual and other categories of identity and identification, and about conceptions of community, belonging and cultural change. Crucially it will also feed a broader appetite for accounts of the lesbian, gay and queer past and interrogate the individual, community and political implications of that appetite. The project will bridge a gap between 'popular' and 'academic' LGBT or queer histories, and draw attention to local and national resources, archives, community projects and on-line resources - including at least six HLF-funded LGBT community history projects. It will also garner new testimonies relating in particular to the local impact of those projects on ideas of identity and community.

The research will be undertaken by two leading academics in the field, together with an experienced postdoctoral researcher. The immediate academic outputs will be: 3 journal articles; a co-authored book, 'Queer North, Queer South', by the PI and Co-I providing comparative analysis of the four core themes (see obj.5) in specific relation to the four cities; a companion volume, 'Out of the Archives' - a contextualized selection of extracts from each of the community history projects, co-edited by the PI, Co-I and PDR; an international conference, 'Provincial Queer Lives'; and papers and panels given by all three researchers at 2 international and 3 UK conferences. Impact activities will include a community archive workshop and witness seminar in each of the case study cities, a comparative History and Archive day, and a History and Policy forum with representatives from community groups, the HLF and linked professionals. A series of special blog dispatches, the project web and Facebook presence, and a Twitter feed will foster further engagement in the research.

Planned Impact

This project proposes an interweaving of academic research with the public histories already collected by community groups, including those funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). It will develop the interface between academics, public history professionals and third sector groups through partnership work and events while at the same time deepening the critical analysis of this relationship. The PI, Co-I and PDR each have extensive experience of this kind of impact activity (see CVs); the project administrator has a strong track record in organising it.

Who will benefit from this research?
A key aim of this research project is to work together with participating organisations in the public and third sectors, while informing policy making and funding bodies in public history. Specific beneficiaries will include:
1. Professionals working in public history including museum curators, archivists, librarians and heritage managers, and their networks.
2. Third sector/ voluntary groups - including the community groups that have initiated specific projects in the past decade such as Queer in Brighton, Brighton Trans*formed, Pride in Our Past (Plymouth), and the Lesbian and Gay Foundation (Manchester). Other groups and networks will also benefit from the knowledge exchange elements of the project. These include Age Concern UK's Opening Doors network, Brighton's Allsorts youth group, and LGBT History Month (of which Dr Cook is a patron).
3. National and local funding bodies including the HLF, and local authority leisure and heritage services.

How will they benefit?
Our platform for user engagement and co-production will consist of the project web-pages, four local day events (including an archive workshop and witness seminar in each of the case study cities), a comparative History and Archive day (at the London Metropolitan Archives [LMA]), a History and Policy forum, and virtual networking via the LGBT History Month platform, Twitter and the project Facebook presence. More specifically:
1. Archivists and curators, library managers and related professionals will gain access to a wider pool of potential service users. The project will also deepen their professional knowledge of equality and diversity issues, and trial new ways of working with materials. Local archives and collections will be directly enhanced through the depositing of additional interviews in an under-represented area of social history. Their collections will also be networked with those of three other cities, and the LMA in London.
2. Third sector/ community groups. The comparative focus of the project will enable these groups to see their own work in public history in the wider context of the history of sexuality and other facets of local history as well as in comparison to other parts of the country. This will offer new ways of articulating their place-specific experience.
3. LGBT community groups will gain contact with a network of other LGBT projects across the country and with other community history groups.
4. National and local funding bodies such as the HLF and local authority stakeholders will gain by seeing projects in comparative perspective. The research will inform them by:
i. Showing what local communities have gained through these funded projects;
ii. Indicating what methods are especially productive in heritage and public history work;
iii. Understanding how they can effectively meet their obligations under the 2010 Equality and Diversity Act (and similar local government directives);
iv. Showing what networking between projects can yield;
v. Suggesting additional directions for funding policy and practice which go beyond 'identity'.

These activities will contribute in the longer term to the dissemination and preservation of local histories of sexuality in archives, libraries and museums, contributing to the 'care for the future' of sexuality and gender history.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description SUMMARY
Through our work with a wide range of evidence - including extensive oral history holdings - we have shown the complex ways in which the local, national and international intersect in LGBTQ lives. We have discovered resonances and dissonances between our four case study cities, and demonstrated the impact of local demographics, geography, topography, economy, reputation, and history. We have shown that locality matters to queer identifications and communities.

We have addressed our research questions effectively and are on track to meet (and exceed) our objectives in terms of outputs. We held project workshops in each city, an international conference at Birkbeck College, and a history and policy debate at the British Library. We have presented our research at conferences (nationally and internationally) and have three books and four articles forthcoming.

IN DETAIL:

CONFERENCES AND PRESENTATIONS
* We have presented the results of our research in a range of local, national and international forums, in academic and community settings -
including at the Social History Conference, London 2017; Creating the City Conference, Malmo, 2017; Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders and Sexualities, New York, 2017; and Queering the Museums Conference, Bergen, 2018. Workshops and witness seminars in London, Leeds, Brighton, Plymouth and Manchester, all 2017. Seminar papers and lectures at the University of Southampton, University of Gloucester, and London School of Economics
* Queer Localities: the project's conference took place in December 2017 with 150 participants. Enlarged papers from the conference will appear in a forthcoming edited collection (see below)
* We launched our project in Nov. 2018 at the British Library before an audience of c.200 people. The event including a presentation of core findings and a panel discussion on their significance to queer history and heritage policy and practice

PUBLICATIONS (forthcoming)
Books:
* Matt Cook and Alison Oram, Queer Beyond London. Manchester University Press for publication in 2020
* Justin Bengry, Matt Cook and Alison Oram, eds, Queer lives across Britain: Histories, Cultures, Communities. Contract pending with Bloomsbury Press for publication in 2020
* Justin Bengry, Matt Cook and Alison Oram, eds, A Queer Scrapbook of Britain. Proposal under review with Zed books; prospective publication in 2021

Journal articles:
* Matt Cook, 'AIDS, Clause 28 and shifting co-ordinates of community in 'the San Francisco of the UK'. History Compass, accepted subject to revision. Publication: 2019.
* Matt Cook, 'Local matters: queer scenes in 1960s Manchester, Plymouth and Brighton'. Under review with The Journal of British Studies.
*Alison Oram, 'Making Place and Community Over Time: LGBT and Queer Oral History in Brighton and Leeds'. Under review with Oral History.
* Justin Bengry, 'Queer and Far: Methodologies for Local LGBT Histories'. In preparation for submission to History Workshop Journal in April 2019.

Book Chapters
* Alison Oram, 'The Portable Lesbian Party', ed. Chris Brickell, Queer Objects (forthcoming with Otago University Press, Rutgers University Press and Manchester University Press in 2019).
* Matt Cook, "The Rotary Dial Telephone', in ed. Chris Brickell, Queer Objects (forthcoming with Otago University Press, Rutgers University Press and Manchester University Press in 2019).

COMMUNITY
* We have been instrumental in bringing local archives and LGBT community projects into conversation and have provided support for successful LGBTQ community HLF funding bids in Leeds and Plymouth
* We have worked with archives in Brighton and Leeds to expand and make accessible LGBTQ materials
* We have conducted witness seminars and workshops in each of our case study cities and also in London, drawing large audiences in discussions of their queer local history

DATA
We have amassed a database of primary sources relating to each of the four case study cities. These sources have been tagged - enabling effective cross referencing.
Exploitation Route Project publications presenting our findings and some of our source materials will appear between 2019 and 2021. We hope they will be taken forward from there by academic and community historians - and be of wider interest too; two of the three books are aimed at a general audience.

We hope the project will:
* inspire more comparative regional, urban and rural studies.
* encourage dialogue between local practitioners, community-based historians, and heritage bodies to re-imagine queer local histories
* encourage local and community historians to do more than tell their history against national benchmarks
* validate counter-narrative and incite more confident expressions of local and community history
Sectors Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://queerbeyondlondon.com
 
Description * Worked with archivists of the East Sussex Records Office at The Keep, Brighton to secure permission to open up previously closed LGBTQ community archive collections including: Brighton Switchboard (open to bona fide researchers); Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive (open); Before Stonewall oral history papers (open) * Deposited hundreds of previously unavailable local LGBTQ newspaper clippings in digital format to the local and family history library of Leeds Central Library. * Deposited several hundred pages of digital copies of LGBTQ-related materials from Leeds Other Paper at the local and family history library of the Leeds Central Library. * Advised Leeds Council and supplied historical documents relating to the history of The New Penny as part of its LGBTQ heritage significance being publicly recognized with a blue plaque. * Provided support to successful HLF bids byLGBTQ community groups in Plymouth and Leeds * The project team compiled a crowdsourced map of LGBTQ Oral Histories (in collaboration with Oral History Society LGBTQ Special interest group) February 2017 https://www.historypin.org/en/lgbtq-oral-history
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Title Oral history interviews 
Description I undertook c.20 oral history interviews with older gay men. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The interviews provided fresh insights into the home lives of gay men between 1950 and the present. They are due for deposit with the LSE's Hall-Carpenter collection in2015. 
 
Description Brighton and Hove Museums 
Organisation Brighton Museum and Art Gallery
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We led a witness seminar and workshop at Brighton Museum - contributing to the profile of their LGBTQ work
Collaborator Contribution They provided space and some planning support for the witness seminar and workshop
Impact These events provided us with testimonial data which we have used in our written outputs
Start Year 2017
 
Description Leeds Art Gallery 
Organisation Leeds Museums and Galleries
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We convened a witness seminar and workshop which contributed to the LGBTQ work of the gallery
Collaborator Contribution Leeds Museum and Art Gallery provided a room and support for the workshop and witness seminar.
Impact The witness seminar and workshop produced testimonies which have helped with the written outputs of our research
Start Year 2017
 
Description London Metropolitan Archive 
Organisation London Metropolitan Archives
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We contributed half a day of workshops and presentations to their annual LGBT open day event/conference
Collaborator Contribution The LMA provided space for us to do the above and provided organisational support
Impact We made key contacts at this event which allowed us to pursue various unexpected avenues of research
Start Year 2016
 
Description People's History Museum Manchester 
Organisation People's History Museum
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We ran a witness seminar and workshop at the museum which raised the profile of the museums LGBTQ focus further
Collaborator Contribution They provided a room and support for the above events
Impact The events provided us with testimonial evidence which has been important to our written outputs
Start Year 2017
 
Description Brighton Witness Seminar and Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We ran a witness seminar with c.10 people who contributed their memories and experiences in response to primary historical materials we presented to them]

This was followed by a larger workshop with c. 35 people in which we presented our findings to date to prompt discussions and debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description City networing workshop at the London Metropolitan Archive 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We held a carousel of workshops on the LGBT life of our four case studies cities as part of the LGBT archive conference at the London Metropolitan Archive. Following the workshop sessions we had a panel 'summary' session and open discussion. Tis session was both data gathering and dissemination
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Leeds Witness Seminar and Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We ran a witness seminar with c. 15 participants reflecting a range of primary source material we presented to them and sharing their memories of LGBTQ life in Leeds over the past 50 years.

A larger workshop followed with c. 40 participants in which we presented our project findings thus far and invited discussion and insights.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Manchester witness seminar and workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We ran a witness seminar with 4 people who contributed their memories and experiences in response to primary historical materials we presented to them]

This was followed by a larger workshop with c. 45 people in which we presented our findings to date to prompt discussions and debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Plymouth Witness seminar and workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Witness seminar involving c. 10 people discussing Plymouth LGBT 'scene' since 1964 followed by an open panel event and debate on the same topic. This was both a data gathering exercise and a dissemination event for for the project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017