National Festival of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans History – London Hub

Furniture, Textiles & Fashion
January 26, 2016

Things may have seemed a little quiet on the blog recently, since we roamed about the Museum on Bird’s Armchair Tour, but behind the scenes the LGBTQ Group here at the V&A have been plotting and planning …

As we make our way into the New Year, our attention is (as always) very much initially focused on February a.k.a. LGBT History Month. Since 2008, each year we have marked LGBT History Month with a day of free talks, performances and activities in the Museum. Varied, busy and increasingly popular, we always enjoy being able to share, discuss and debate LGBTQ histories with such enthusiastic and varied visitors. NB: To either to prompt memories or make you realise what you’ve been missing out on(!), you can now download previous years’ programmes here.

We will still be having our usual LGBT History Month event at the end of the month on Saturday 27th (more on this later!) but this year we have a special additional offering to help kick-start the month!

Logo designed by Gareth Marshall, University of Bedfordshire
Logo designed by Gareth Marshall, University of Bedfordshire

To celebrate the Festival of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans History, we have ‘joined hands’ with LGBT History Month and Wise Thoughts (organiser of GFEST – Gaywise FESTival) to present a day full of presentations and events exploring a range of exciting LGBT history topics at the V&A on Saturday 6th February.


Together with events at the Museum of London and Islington Town Hall, this day will form part of the LGBT History Month ‘London Hub’ weekend.

We will be ‘taking over’ the Museum’s Learning Centre for the day, with two concurrent series of talks, screenings and performances taking place in Seminar Rooms 1 & 3, from 11am to 5:30pm. The current line-up for the day can be downloaded here.

I daren’t call the following ‘highlights’ as everything on the programme looks like a gem to me, so perhaps consider these more as prompts to whet your appetite …

Pride of Place – ‘Gay Buildings’ and England’s LGBTQ Heritage                                            11.00 – 11.30 Seminar Room 1

‘The Gallery at Strawberry Hill’, the “queer gothic” home of Horace Walpole. Watercolour by T Sandby, and probably P Sandby and E Edwards, England, 1781. V&A D.1837-1904
‘The Gallery at Strawberry Hill’, the “queer gothic” home of Horace Walpole. V&A D.1837-1904

Rosie Sherrington (Historic England) will be discussing Historic England’s recent LGBTQ Heritage Project – a project exploring the relationship between historic buildings and landscapes and LGBTQ history, drawing on archival records and photographs from Historic England as well as crowd sourced testimony from the public and community groups.


Travis Alabanza-Behard


LGBTQ History: Is it all one shade?               11.40 – 12.10 Seminar Room 1

Identifying as a queer, Black, gender queer young person, Travis Alabanza-Behard’s aims for this presentation to ‘shine light on the issues present in our intersecting community’.




Making Drama from LGBTQ History: A Very Victorian Drama (film screening and Q&A) and Devils in Human Shape by Tom Marsham (40 mins)                                                         13.40 – 14.20 Seminar Room 3

‘The Devils in Human Shape’, devised and performed by Tom Marshman, Danny Prosser and Rachael Clerk
‘The Devils in Human Shape’, Tom Marshman, Danny Prosser and Rachael Clerk

Three gossipers operate amongst us. They are the malignant voice of society: intolerant and judgmental.

‘The Devils in Human Shape’ is a performance that brings to life eighteenth-century documents detailing sodomy cases in Bristol. Through playful and sinister modes of speech, three gossipers speak of the sins committed by the ‘Devils in human shape’. This experimental encounter is an inventive way of bringing history to life.  The piece is devised and performed by Tom Marshman, Danny Prosser and Rachael Clerk.


Writing Lesbian Lives into Irish Famine and California Gold Rush                                       13.40 – 14.10 Seminar Room 1

Hilary McCollum - Writing Lesbian Lives into Irish Famine and California Gold Rush
Hilary McCollum

Hilary McCollum’s presentation will look at how we reclaim unrecorded lesbian and gay histories. It will draw on Hilary’s work researching the Irish Famine and California gold rush for their novel, Golddigger. With an almost a complete absence of information about lesbian lives in either setting, Hilary will look at the challenges of using historical sources to create authentic settings into which we can imagine lesbian lives and the role of historical fiction and drama in reclaiming LGBT history.


Michael Dillon: Trans Pioneer                                                                                                            14.25 – 14.55 Seminar Room 3

Cheryl Morgan - Michael Dillon: Trans Pioneer
Cheryl Morgan


Cheryl Morgan will introduce the life and achievements of Michael Dillon, the first person in the world to have undergone phalloplasty. Dillon wrote a book on the treatment of trans people that is in many ways ahead of its time (and in which he cites the character of Stephen Gordon from Radclyffe Halls’The Well of Loneliness as an example). Dillon also assisted with the UK’s first male-to-female gender surgery.



The History of the Pink Triangle and its Importance for Today’s LGBTQ Movement     15.40 – 16.10 Seminar Room 3

Poster issued by the Tyneside Gay Teenagers Group, with support from the National Association of Youth Clubs (NAYC). V&A E.785-2004
Poster issued by the Tyneside Gay Teenagers Group. V&A E.785-2004


Rainer SchulzeIt will be exploring how the pink triangle links generations, from the persecution of gay men under the Nazis through to the “AIDS crisis” of the 1980s and 1990s to the present day, creating an awareness of past struggles which cast a long shadow.





The Impact of Religion on Sexuality and Gender in the Black British Community         15.40 – 16.10 Seminar Room 1

Black Lesbian. Screenprint poster designed and made by Ingrid Pollard, The Greenwich Mural Workshop, 1984. V&A E.525-2013
Black Lesbian. Poster by Ingrid Pollard, The Greenwich Mural Workshop, 1984. V&A E.525-2013


Adebisi Ademola Alimi’s presentation will look at the impact of religion with the black community on the acceptance or rejection of expression of sexuality and gender.




Film screening – Private Life (UK, 15 mins) followed by Q&A and panel discussion      16.20 – 17.30 Seminar Room 3

Private Life: One Woman. One Man. Two Secret Lives… Yorkshire, England 1952

Still from Private Life by Abbe Robinson

Bringing us together at the end of the day will be a screening of Abbe Robinson’s multi-award winning short film Private Life. Ruth Ackroyd leaves the monotony of her work at her father’s textile mill on a Friday evening and secretly takes the train to Manchester. There, she meets a man on the platform, but all is not what it seems…


With such a full line-up, we are experimenting with, what will be for us, a new event format. Visitors will be encouraged to move between the two seminar rooms throughout the day, selecting which ‘modules’ they’d most like to be part of (admittedly, I don’t envy having to do this as they all sound very compelling!). We’re hoping that the Learning Centre foyer will also become a useful and comfortable space for visitors to meet, relax and continue discussions with each other.

We look forward to seeing you there!

About the author

Furniture, Textiles & Fashion
January 26, 2016

I am an Assistant Curator working on the development of the new Europe 1600-1800 Galleries. My interests are wide-ranging but subjects I have particularly enjoyed exploring for this project include:...

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