The legacy of London 2012

It was with a groan of despair when I found out that the new minister for Culture, women and equality was this woman:

It is she that is responsible for the legacy of London 2012, which no doubt she will do a dreadful job of. However, the preservation of this summer of sporting activity perhaps will manage without her, as it has provided its own glorious legacy that will outlive Maria Miller and the dreadful coalition government.

I am surprised that I’ve taken to the London 2012 games so much, I am quite emphatically not a sporting fan, I get really uneasy about the notion of ‘patriotism’ (which is often only one step removed from racism), and the fact that the London transport system comes to a screeching halt if there are leaves on the track was leading me to expect a summer of pure misery.

The thing I wasn’t expecting is that the Olympics and Paralympics aren’t really about sport, and aren’t really about borders and flags, they’re about people; individuals and collectively. They’re about people from all over the world cheering for the winners and losers, regardless of which colours they were wearing, they’re about celebrating human spirit and endeavour, and most importantly they were about having a bloody good time.

I worried that my enthusiasm for the Paralympics wouldn’t be as great as for the Olympics, because of the gap between them, but if anything I have enjoyed them more. Channel 4’s coverage has been brilliant (aside from the incessant adverts), and has focused on human spirit in a non-sentimental and non-patronising way. I love that so many of the presenters have disabilities, and really hope that this will continue post-Paralympics.

The Olympics and Paralympics have also been a great platform for women, a huge reason why I find sport so difficult to digest normally is because women’s sport is so often considered secondary. Women such as Jessica Ennis, Ellie Simmonds and Nicola Adams have been some of the most celebrated athletes in the games, with no inference that their achievements are any less than those of their male team-mates.

I also love how many holes in our government the games have exposed. The Tories’ loathing of our immigration rates have made their support of our GB athletes such as Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis look laughably hypocritical, and George Osborne being booed when giving medals at a Paralympic event was surely a highlight of the London 2012, it’s disgraceful to expect that the response would have been any different given the Tories’ lack of compassion for people with disabilities.

Perhaps the sour point is that even in something as all-embracing as London 2012, the number of ‘out’ LGBT athletes is tiny, while the opening Olympic ceremony gave a brief nod to the richness of the LGBT community in the UK, the measly proportion of out athletes simply confirms the inherent homophobia in sport. By my calculations only 0.16% of the near 14,000 athletes competing outwardly identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This is not enough! Although I will use this opportunity to include a picture of the lovely diver Matthew Mitcham, who embraces his sexuality and is a real stand out in terms of how freely he speaks about it. (the picture is from his facebook fan page)

I have always been annoyed by how much of our newspapers are dominated by sport, but the London 2012 games have shown me that Sport has what I’ve always believed the Arts to have, which is the potential to empower, inspire and bridge gaps between people. That’s not to say my enthusiasm for sport will continue post London 2012- as our football culture in the UK is an embarrassing display of bravado, machismo, misogyny, racism and homophobia.

The games have been a triumph, and I look forward to seeing my home city of London continue to bask in that triumph for many years to come. For all of my initial cynicism, I stand corrected.

Iris Murdoch letters at Kingston University

This is my first attempt at blogging from my iPhone- so apologies if the formatting goes wrong.

The Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies at Kingston University has just acquired 250 letters from Murdoch to Philippa Foot thanks to £107,000 of Heritage Lottery money.

Philippa Foot was one of Murdoch’s closest friends. The pair met as students at Oxford. Theirs was a tempestuous relationship, and they were lovers. The collection is a great acquisition for the Centre, thought to be the most extensive authority on Iris Murdoch in the world, and aside from providing an interesting social history of Ireland, holds great significance for researchers looking at same-sex relationships.

My friend Alex is studying literature at Kingston Uni and is a massive Iris Murdoch fan, and queer, so I know she will be eager to get her paws on these letters!

More can be read about it here

and more about the Iris Murdoch collections here

The sixth annual Iris Murdoch conference takes place on the 14-15th September.

Upcoming LGBT History Club events at LMA

LGBT HISTORY CLUB
FREE DROP IN SESSIONS
6pm-7.30pm
London Metropolitan Archives, 40, Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB (except for 7 November – see below)

Moral Maze
Wednesday 5 September

Documents reflecting moral values and attitudes to behaviour will be available to explore with discussion to follow. From blackmailers and the scrutiny of the Public Morality Council to a recent work on ‘Friendship between Gay Men and Heterosexual Women’.

Ajamu Presents…(title TBC)
Wednesday 3 October

As part of Black History Month, photographer and artist Ajamu will present on his work recording Black LGBT people, discuss his forthcoming exhibition, Fierce, at Guildhall Art Gallery and recount his adventures on his 19 day walk from London to Huddersfield to raise funds for the artwork.

The Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive at Bishopsgate Institute
Wednesday 7 November

London Metropolitan Archives is closed for stocktaking and LGBT History Club is on a trip to the Bishopsgate to find out more about LAGNA and its work.
NB MEET AT Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate City of London, EC2M 4QH

Launch of Gateway to Heaven
Wednesday 5 December

Clare Summerskill has gathered memories form older lesbians and gay men and brought them together as a collection of personal histories. Join us for the celebration launch of the book, a chance to talk about the value of personal histories and maybe a pre-holiday visit to the pub afterwards!

Can’t wait for these events, a really great range. The LMA LGBT History Club is really kicking off now with a consistent turn out and great content and discussions!

MA finished!

My MA is finished!

My dissertation is entitled ‘A feminine touch: seeking an understanding of the potential for using women’s archive collections for outreach’. I also submitted a placement report for my time in the IOE Archives working with the NUWT collection. I made a small online exhibition about part of the collection here.

It’s been such a great MA (Museums and Galleries in Education at the IOE) and has opened many doors for me (including the PhD). My PhD starts on the 29th September, but before then I have the GEM conference, and a journal article to write- no rest for the wicked.

Brave New World? LMA conference

CALL FOR PAPERS / CONTRIBUTIONS

BRAVE NEW WORLD?

The Tenth Anniversary London Metropolitan Archives LGBT History and Archives Conference
Saturday February 16th 2013 at Guildhall in the City of London

The LMA are currently planning the Tenth Anniversary LGBT History and Archives Conference which is going to be on February 16th 2013 at Guildhall in the City of London. This is to coincide with Ajamu’s photographic portrait exhibition of young black LGBT artists, trend setters and people of influence called ‘Fierce’ which will be in Guildhall Art Gallery from 1 February to April 14th.

The title, ‘Brave New World?’ provides the opportunity to look at LGBT history / stories and culture in a variety of ways, identifying genuine progress made and considering retrograde steps. There is room for looking to the future and how heritage and cultural activity generated by formal institutions, community groups and individuals might continue to influence and bring about change.

If you would like to contribute to the day in any way through a:
TALK / PRESENTATION – e.g. on a topic, project work, professional practice
DISPLAY OR STALL – promoting / celebrating LGBT history / cultural activity
WORKSHOP/BREAKOUT SESSION – focused on the overarching theme of Brave New World?
Anything else you can think of…

Please email jan.pimblett@cityoflondon.gov.uk

Deadline for submissions 30 September 2012

The exhibition and the conference should be great, really looking forward to attending this!

500 Years of Lesbian and Gay Related Material in the British Library

I thought it would be useful (for me) to put some retrospective posts from my personal blog on here, just so that all of my LGBT stuff is in one place, but hopefully they might be of interest to others as well. I’ll start with my rather peeved critique of an event held at the British Library on 9th February 2010 called ‘500 Years of Lesbian and Gay Related Material in the British Library’, a talk by Dr Bart Smith hosted by Amy Lame.

Since 2005, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) History Month has been celebrated each February, and has hosted a modest scatter of events in cultural institutions to mark the occasion. Often these events seem more like a tick-box exercise than a thoughtfully considered celebration.

The British Library held a talk which was advertised as an introduction to and showcase of the wealth of LGBT materials held in its collections. The evening was hosted by well known radio and TV personality and out lesbian Amy Lamé and the presentation was conducted by reference librarian Bart Smith, a minor celebrity in his own right having appeared on University Challenge and Mastermind. He had been given a three month research break to develop a way of making 500 years worth of LGBT material at the library more accessible. His research had clearly been intense and thorough, but the parts of it he decided to share were indulgent and just-for-laughs, resulting in an uncomfortable and offensive camp “show-and-tell”, that was thin on substance but high on innuendos and enforced stereotypes.

The song that played as paying guests entered the lecture theatre was ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man after Midnight)’ by Abba, and among the items highlighted was a great deal of pornographic material, same-sex erotica in fiction and a map of cottaging spots in London. There was no mention of AIDs, little mention of the legalisation of homosexuality or gay rights movements like Stonewall , and not even a reference to Section 28.

If you didn’t go, you didn’t miss much apart from seeing a manuscript where the word “pooff” first appeared and some fairly bland newspaper articles (which are available online anyway and can be accessed through most good universities) the talk should have been about promoting the massive wealth of unique material, giving an overview of the breadth of it and explaining how it can be accessed and used to educate. Instead it was a flamboyant pantomime of cocks and innuendoes.

It was followed by a question and answer session, but me and my friend Jess left during it, as we had already found the evening sufficiently offensive.

While it is difficult to begrudge the British Library’s attempt to highlight the LGBT related items in its collections in the context of LGBT History week, their attempt could hardly be applauded.

WE EXIST! new LGF publication

The Lesbian and Gay Foundation has launched a new publication, which is available online as a PDF entitled WE EXIST! which aims to inform LGBT people how they can get involved in their local community, whether at work, in education, sport, faith, health & wellbeing, housing, policing and politics, and be an ‘LGB Community Champion’.
In their e-newsletter, they say: ‘Often the issues that directly affect the lesbian, gay and bisexual community may go unheard or un-addressed, unless there is an active voice around the table that is championing the needs of our community.’
I think this is really interesting, as in order for any community to be heard, it needs champions at the forefront. There really should be an LGBT presence in all of the issues mentioned above, and unless there is, often matters relating specifically to LGBT people become overlooked.

As I’m currently thinking about my presentation at the GEM conference, which looks at ‘making the case’ my argument is going to move beyond that, and say that the people pushing for LGBT and queer histories to be included in museums and other cultural and heritage sites are more often than not LGBT people, in order for these approaches to be fully adopted in earnest, we need straight allies and champions who believe in a more genuine form of inclusion as well, no community can break barriers in isolation, it needs people from outside of those communities to show an interest and actively support the cause.
It’s a great publication, so do check it out. More information about the project can be found here.

Group for Education in Museums Conference 2012

GEM Conference 2012
Making the Case: the value of heritage education
4-6 September 2012, Exeter

‘This year’s GEM conference focuses on making a compelling case for heritage education in these challenging times – one that stands up to rigorous scrutiny – by helping heritage management and education professionals explore, identify and articulate the unique value of heritage education, and the positive impacts it has on a wide variety of audiences.’

On Thursday 6th September, I will be running a breakout session. The theme of the day is ‘How to make the case’ and my session is called ‘Making our cultural practice more genuinely inclusive: queer and feminist approaches‘.

You can see the full programme here. UPDATED 17th August 2012
Booking forms and more information can be found here.

LGBTI ALMS Conference 2012, Amsterdam

From 1-3 August, the fourth LGBTI Archives, Libraries, Museums and Special Collections conference took place at the Amsterdam Public Library, home to IHLIA (international gay/lesbian library, archive, information and documentation centre about homosexuality and sexual diversity).




This was my first ever visit to Amsterdam, and I was bowled over by how queer-friendly it is, the Central Station walls were adorned with huge posters about Pride and almost every canal bridge was lined with Pride flags. London could learn an awful lot from Amsterdam.



The conference took place in the most beautiful public library I have ever seen. Perhaps the difference between Amsterdam and the UK was most stark because of this, public libraries here are often quite grim, and certainly don’t have the money to do anything about it, but this library was huge, clean, stylish, modern and the restaurant on the 7th floor resembled the food hall in Selfridges- but nicer. There was a piano on the ground floor, which seasoned pianists were encouraged to play (with light fingers) and the result was surprisingly unintrusive and only added to the ambience. Jan Pimblett (from London Metropolitan Archives) described the library as ‘John Lewis for the brain’ which I thought was quite apt.

A great feature was on the sixth floor, home of IHLIA, these pink shelves, or ‘Rose Kast’ represent a project by IHLIA to advocate for a pink collection (LGBT books and films) in every Public Library in the Netherlands.

 

The format of the conference was quite intense, with four keynotes each of the three days and then several ten minute papers followed by breakout sessions to discuss issues raised further. This was a very democratic way of allowing as many speakers to present as possible, and also to allow everyone to hear all of the speakers.
I’m not going to report on all of the papers, as most of them are available on the conference blog , but I will highlight a few of them that stood out for me.

IHLIA, as a collection, was reconstructed following world war two, the original was half self-destroyed and the rest was seized by the Germans. The collection now recieves 300,000 Euros subsidy per year by the Dutch government, and aims to give a face to the emancipation of gay people.

E. G. Crichton, Artist-in-Residence at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco shared with us some of the work she had done with the archive collection, and looking at ways art practice and creativity can play a role in archives, how memories can be made tangible. She spoke of a particularly interesting project where she paired living LGBT people with people whose collections lived at the GLBT Historical society and asked them to interpret the material, she also produced portraits where images of the living and the dead were seen together. See more about her work here.

Pawel Leszkowicz spoke of his work curating Ars Homoerotica at the National Museum of Poland, I have heard him speak before at the Tate Modern, I won’t say much now, I will dedicate a future  blog post to his work, but you can read his paper here.

James Miller and David DeAngelis spoke about their work with the Pride Library, and the Closet Library collection. Based in Western University in Canada, the Pride Library occupies a dedicated space in the main library. The Closet Library is a collection of gay pulp fiction, found in the basement of a collector whose family did not want his identity to be known, hence the name of the collection. The Library students at the University help with scanning covers and cataloguing the material, more can be found here. PhD student Danielle Cooper has done some really interesting research about the Pride Library as Place for queer people, her full thesis can be found here.

Independent scholar Agnieszka Weseli, who specialises in the history of sexuality, women and queer history, spoke of archives as a tool of social change, and where non-heteronormatives fit into history. She said that history gives the possibility of rebellion, and that famous people are often outed as part of the discourse of patriotism, “deviants” who don’t fit squarely with general impressions of sexuality and gender, might be overlooked in this. She is working with a grassroots organisation in Poland, and I look forward to the prospect of collaborating with her in the future.

Angela Brinskele and Jamey Fitzpatrick are doing great work with the Mazer Lesbian Archives at UCLA, they are both so positive and full of innovative ideas for sharing the work they do, by engaging with social networking/media, oral histories and by creating their own merchandise to promote the archives. Their papers are here and here, I hope to get the chance to visit the Mazer archives some time.

Gabriel Khan from GALA in South Africa, presented a fascinating talk about the role of the archive as a vessel for memory, I was particularly interested in this as there were many echoes with my own research for my MA dissertation about women’s archive collections. He said that a community archive should be necessarily politicised, and that the archive is a place for unpacking and repackaging memory, where the archivist must be facilitator for this. He also said that memories can’t always be captured and instead are experiential, memories and stories can be (and should be) channeled into something positive that helps a community.

Topher Campbell spoke about Rukus! which I was already aware of, he spoke with great passion about an incredibly radical collection, that benefited from being run by himself as an entertainer, and Ajamu X a photographer. I hope to be able to engage with this great collection during my research.

Richard Parkinson from the British Museum was another highlight, but I will write a dedicated blog post about his phenomenal work in the future. It was a real pleasure to meet Richard, and to share ideas in our joint break-out session.

Jan Pimblett, an archives outreach pioneer (and friend) from London Metropolitan Archives spoke passionately about the LGBT History Club at the LMA, I will be posting more about upcoming events on this blog soon.

Suzie Day, a Library school student from Western Australia gave some tips about making school and public libraries more inviting to the LGBTI community even when there is no extra funding available. Many of her ideas were very simple, but would never have occurred to me, she stressed that libraries can provide a service that others can’t and used her personal experiences to demonstrate this. Things as simple as having LGBTI related posters and community publications in the library, taking part in Pride and engaging with social networks, would make these environments safer, and more inclusive spaces for queer youngsters. The paper can be found here.

My paper was well recieved, and it was a pleasure to present it to so many experts in the field. It will be available online shortly, I will post on the blog when it is available to be read. As thanks to all of the speakers, IHLIA gave us a pair of same-sex porceline figurines, it’s a contemporary twist on the classic Delft blue kissing boy and girl doll, such a great souvenir to take home with me!