The lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer history of the South West will be celebrated at a new festival.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer history of South West proudly celebrated at new festival

Oscar Wilde, Grindr, Chinese underground queer cinema, and the experiences of homosexual sailors in the Royal Navy during World War I will feature as part of Exeter’s first LGBT history festival.

Film screenings, talks, exhibitions and performances will be used to tell the unique stories of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer communities of the South West and beyond.

Exeter has been selected as an official hub for The National Festival of LGBT History. Events across Exeter in February 2017 will showcase the diverse histories of LGBTQ+ people.

The main festival event will be a free, one-day programme of talks on Sunday 12 February 2017 at the Exeter Phoenix Arts Centre. Activists, academics, historians, campaigners, authors and curators will discuss diverse topics, including how lives of LGBTQ+ people in Exeter have been transformed by community action and the changing LGBTQ+ history of Bristol. They will also share research on trans women in the ancient world, ask whether Oscar Wilde would have used the gay dating app, Grindr, and reveal a personal account of being the first officer to transition gender in the British Armed Forces.

The keynote speaker will be award-winning author and biographer Diana Souhami, who will talk about her work on women’s and lesbian history, focusing specifically on the British painter, Gluck.

The festival is held as the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalization of male homosexuality in England and Wales is marked across the country, and to coincide with LGBT History Month. It is the first time Exeter has been a hub for The National Festival of LGBT History.

Organiser Dr Jen Grove, from the Centre for Medical History at the University of Exeter, said: “We are delighted Exeter has been chosen as the location to celebrate the LGBT history in the South West. We’ve worked with the LGBT community around the region, as well as academics, campaigners and authors, to put together a really exciting programme of talks and events.”

Organiser Dr Jana Funke, from the English Department at the University of Exeter, said: “The festival is a wonderful opportunity to bring different people together, learn more about LGBT history, engage in dialogue and celebrate diversity within our communities. We would like to invite everyone to come and join us!”

The official festival launch will take place on Saturday 11 February at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. The Lord Mayor of Exeter and Ben Bradshaw MP will formally open the Festival, and there will be discussion about LGBTQ+ history, community, art and research in the South West from speakers including Dr Michael Halls, director of the Intercom Trust, the largest support organisation for LGBT people in the South West, Cheryl Morgan, co-chair of Outstories Bristol and director of The Diversity Trust, Dr Alan Butler, founder of the Plymouth LGBT Archive, and Natalie McGrath of Dreadnought South West, who make theatre based on the experiences of women across history.

As part of the festival, visitors will also be able to explore the often hidden histories of transgender and gender-variant Christian, Muslim and Jewish people across the UK. The Twilight People project has collected together images, film and photography to reveal personal stories of gender and faith. An exhibition will be on display at Exeter Central Library and the Forum at the University of Exeter at various dates from 6 to 12 February, with a special talk from Surat-Shaan Knan, founder of the Twilight People project.

The Swedish film Girls Lost (2015) will be shown at the Exeter Phoenix, as part of their Scandifilm Season, in conjunction with the University of Exeter’s LGBTQ+ Student Society. A discussion will follow, led by Dr Felicity Gee, Lecturer in English and Film at the University. The film tells the story of three teenage girls, who find themselves in a dark world of teenage angst, confusion and bullying. They are temporarily transformed into boys when they find a curious magical plant, an experience that allows them to gain a new perspective on gender.

The history of the LGBT community in Kings Cross, London in the 1980s will be told in the play Kings Cross (Remix), performed at the Bike Shed Theatre. The show is a one-hour solo show performed by Tom Marshman with projection, and audio recordings.

For more events around Exeter celebrating diversity in February, including a Football vs Homophobia match at St James Park, see: the Festival website, Twitter and FaceBook.

Date: 20 January 2017

Read more University News