Politics

40 Key LGBTQ+ Moments From London’s History – In This Free Barbican Exhibition



40 Key LGBTQ+ Moments From London’s History – In This Free Barbican Exhibition

In April 1992, OutRage! members dropped their trousers in their “Bend Over For Your Member” demonstration outside Parliament. ⁠⁠They were protesting over the age of consent as, in 1992, UK laws treated consensual sex between gay men under 21 as a criminal offence. The age was then lowered to 18 in 1994 before finally being lowered to 16 as part of the Sexual Offences Act of 2000.⁠ Photo: Gordon Rainsford Archive, Bishopsgate Institute.

Placards, police truncheons and a, er, penis fly trap puppet feature in an LGBTQ+ exhibition coming to Barbican’s gallery, The Curve, this February.

Lesbian Strength March, 19 June 1982 – held in the weekend before the annual Lesbian and Gay Pride march. Photo: Robert Workman Archive, Bishopsgate Institute.

Out and About!: Archiving LGBTQ+ History at Bishopsgate Institute highlights 40 key moments in queer history — with a focus on the theme of protest.

LGBTQ+ badges dating from 1982 onwards from protests and campaigns. Photo: LGBTQ+ Archives, Bishopsgate Institute

Among the objects and ephemera are protest banners, used in the campaign against Section 28; a truncheon seized at a demo by Mark Ashton, founder of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners; a poster promoting the UK’s first national conference of black gay men; and a wealth of badges bearing slogans and movements from ‘Gays Against Nazis’ to ‘Lesbians Ignite’.

Penis puppet (penis fly trap) Puppet used in a performance of The Puppetry of the Phalloplasty by Transfabulous, a performance group who created events and performance opportunities for the transgender community between 2006 and 2012. Photo: Transfabulous Archive, Bishopsgate Institute

Photos include those of young queer people relishing the LGBTQ+ London scene, in spite of a Tory government that was brazenly homophobic. (Then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher said that teaching children about gay culture ‘cheated them of a sound start in life’ — yikes.)

Then there’s the magnificent image of OutRage! members dropping their kecks for a ‘Bend Over For Your Member’ demo outside the Houses of Parliament.

On 31 October 1987, the UK saw its first ever national conference of black gay men. Under the title In This Our Lives, the event focused on black lesbian and gay history, fears and prejudice within the black community, spirituality, bisexuality and health issues. Organised by the London Black Lesbian and Gay Centre, it was held at Hampden Community Centre in north London and was attended by men from across the UK including Manchester, Leeds, Leicester and Bristol. Photo: LGBTQ+ Archives, Bishopsgate Institute

Talks, conversations and films accompany the exhibits, including a screening of the landmark gay sex ed documentary, The Gay Man’s Guide to Safer Sex, followed by a discussion with producer Tony Carne and film curator Selina Robinson (1 March).

Attendee at club night ‘Sex’, Cafe De Paris, 15 January 1993. Photo: Gordon Rainsford Archive, Bishopsgate Institute

Everything on show here is curated by Bishopsgate Institute; and it’s just been announced that Queer Britain’s archive of LGBTQ+ material at Bishopsgate Institute will be relocated to a permanent museum in King’s Cross, later in 2022.

Volunteers from the London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard dress as the Village People for a fundraiser event held at Heaven nightclub, 27 May, 1982. Photo: Robert Workman Archive, Bishopsgate Institute.

The exhibition is free to visit — but it’s only on for three weeks, starting 28 February, so you’ll need to be quick!

A Marc Almond concert at Heaven nightclub, 7 October, 1982. Photo: Robert Workman Archive, Bishopsgate Institute

Flyers from LGBTQ+ club nights dating from the 1980s onwards including GAY, Popstarza and Heaven. Photo: Square Peg/Brian Robertson Archive, Bishopsgate Institute

Switchboard smock Mobile phone outfit used by London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard staff and volunteers for events and other promotional activities. Photo: Switchboard Archive, Bishopsgate Institute

The truncheon pictured was seized by Mark Ashton of LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) on the picket line of the News International dispute (1986/7) Photo: Chris and Betty Birch Archive, Bishopsgate Institute

Knitted doll presented to the ex-chairman of the London Gay Men’s Chorus (LGMC) Photo: London Gay Men’s Chorus Archive, Bishopsgate Institute

Hyde Park Gays and Sapphics banner, circa 1980s Photo: LGBTQ+ Archives, Bishopsgate Institute

Kissing at London Pride 1988, 25 June 1988. Photo: Gordon Rainsford Archive, Bishopsgate Institute

Attendee at HIV Roadshow outside Hackney Town Hall, 30 November 1990. Photo: Gordon Rainsford Archive, Bishopsgate Institute

Out and About!: Archiving LGBTQ+ history at Bishopsgate Institute, The Curve, Barbican Centre, 28 February- 21 March 2022, free

Last Updated 27 January 2022

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