Queer Objects: Workshops for young people – special Exeter Pride event!

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11,000 year old sculpture from the British Museum

Saturday 13th May 2017 – part of Exeter Pride!

13.30: Workshop for 14-15 year olds

15.45: Workshop for 16-18 year olds 
All workshops at Exeter Phoenix (Gandy Street, EX4 3LS), 1st floor Art Studio, (not Studio 74 as advertised). 

How can objects from the past help us in our understanding of LGBT+ identities today? We invite people aged 14-18 to join us to discover queer objects from across thousands of years of history. Help us explore the connections between past and present and rethink questions of gender and sexual identity. Come and give your opinion and tell us which historical objects you would pick to get other young people talking about what it means to be LGBT+ today! 

Academics at the University of Exeter together with sexual health charities are trying to work out how we can use fascinating artefacts from throughout world history in Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in Devon schools and colleges.

Organised with Brook and the Sex & History project, University of Exeter.

The festival follow up post!

Throughout the month of February events across Exeter explored the unique and diverse LGBTQ+ histories of the South West of England and beyond. The City of Exeter was also an official hub for The National Festival of LGBT History, presented by Schools OUT UK.C4dpuRlWcAAv3C7

Festival Launch

Our civic launch was hosted by the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) and our packed out audience represented the great diversity of LGBTQ+ people and allies in the Exeter and Devon area. Feedback from the attendees told us that they found the event really inspiring and uplifting. Before we heard some speeches our guests mingled and enjoyed refreshments from Barefoot Wine & Bubbly.

Image by TJ Zawadzki

The Lord Mayor of Exeter, Cllr Cynthia Thompson officially opened the festival, and the first openly gay man to have been elected to the UK Parliament, Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter spoke about the successes but also forthcoming challenges of LGBTQ+ equality locally and nationally.

Image by Ina Linge.

Dr Michael Halls presented a moving history of the South West’s biggest LGBTQ+ support organisation, Intercom Trust, of which he is director – showing us how far things have come in 20 years of work in this area.

Image by Ina Linge.

Our other speakers included Nate Burnikell of the University of Exeter LGBTQ+ Student Society, Simon Bowkett representing Exeter Pride, and Nooralann Shahid, NUS LGBT+ officer. We also heard from Cheryl Morgan, co-chair of OutStories and director of The Diversity Trust, on how to bring together research into the history of gender identities with trans activism today.

Finally, Dr Alan Butler of Pride In Plymouth’s award-winning LGBT Archive and Natalie McGrath of Dreadnought South West told us about their collaboration on the In Other Words project, a series of plays by LGBTQ+ writers responding to amazing stories from the archive.

Image by Ina Linge.

Twilight People exhibition

During February, a pop-up version of the exhibition from the Twilight People project was displayed in the Exeter Forum and the Exeter Central Library. Twilight People is a landmark project discovering and revealing histories of trans and non-binary people of faith in the UK.

The University of Exeter LGBTQ+ Student Society organised stalls in the Forum to engage people with the exhibition and encourage discussion about the relationship between gender, sexuality and faith.

Image by University of Exeter LGBTQ+ Society.

Image by University of Exeter LGBTQ+ Society.


Image by University of Exeter LGBTQ+ Society.

As part of the Twilight People exhibition, founder and project manager, Surat-Shaan Knan gave a talk for Exeter staff and students on campus, which inspired further debate. Shaan was in conversation with Cheryl Morgan and there was a special screening of the Twilight People short film.

Image by Ina Linge.

The National Festival of LGBT History: Exeter Hub

Our main festival event on the Sunday was a full day of free talks on LGBT History which also formed the regional hub of The National Festival of LGBT History.

It took place at the Exeter Phoenix and organisations like Exeter Pride, Sexpression and Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) arranged stalls to talk to audience members about their work regarding LGBTQ+ history, heritage and politics, and sexual health.

Image by Ina Linge.

A total of 15 speakers delivered a range of papers, which led to vibrant debate and discussion throughout the day. This included Laura Rowe of the University of Exeter History department who spoke on “Sex at Sea: Homosexuality and the Royal Navy in the Great War”.

Image by Ina Linge.

Tony Fenwick, co-chair of Schools OUT UK presented a history of this unique organisation that has instigated many vital projects enabling LGBTQ+ people in all their diversity to be visible and safe. He described its journey from a group of ‘gay teachers’ to organising both LGBT History Month and The National Festival of LGBT History which we were celebrating.

Image by Ina Linge.

John Vincent, coordinator of The Network, spoke on the recent history of the important role that public libraries, increasingly under threat, have played in supporting LGBTQ+ people, especially in their coming out.

Image by Ina Linge.

Dominic Janes, Professor of Modern History at Keele University spoke to us on cartoons of effeminate men and other queer characters from the eighteenth to the late nineteenth century – research from his forthcoming book “Oscar Wilde Prefigured: Queer Fashioning and British Caricature, 1750–1900”.

Image by TJ Zawadzki

Cheryl Morgan of OutStories Bristol and The Diversity Trust spoke on “Chosen of the Goddess: Trans Women in the Ancient World”, telling us how, in the ancient world, living outside of the gender binary was often closely associated with religion as certain goddesses took an interest in gender and made space for those assigned male at birth to become priestesses and live as women, and how this sometimes involved early forms of gender surgery.

Image by Ina Linge.

Jack Sargent at the University of Exeter’s talk was on Oscar Wilde’s Grindr Profile – he asked us “What Can Digital Dating Offer a Nineteenth-century Decadent?”.


Image by TJ Zawadzki

We were also very pleased to welcome to Exeter Caroline Paige, the first officer to transition gender in the British Armed Forces. Caroline told us about her new book which tells this incredible story, “True Colours” which is now on sale.

Image by Ina Linge.

To finish off the day of talks, award-winning author and biographer Diana Souhami delivered a keynote lecture on women’s and lesbian history to a packed out hall. Diana’s talk focused specifically on the British painter, Gluck, as well Radclyffe Hall, Violet Trefusis and other “Notable Lesbians”.

Lots of other events took place across the city as part of LGBT History Month 2017 including a special screening and discussion of GIRLS LOST (POJKARNA, 2015), directed by Alexandra-Therese Keining at Exeter Phoenix, and the launch of Loud and Queer, a regular LGBTQ+ open mic and poetry night.

Image by Niamh Harrison for The University of Exeter LGBTQ+ Society.

2017 is the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales and so the theme for LGBT History Month 2017 was ‘Law, Citizenship and PSHE’. During the month academics at University of Exeter together with South West PSHE teachers and sexual health charity Brook began to develop new online resources using artefacts from across UK museums to discuss gender and sexual diversity in the classroom.

The Exeter LGBT History Festival 2017 was supported by Schools OutLGBT History MonthThe National Festival of LGBT History, University of ExeterExeter PhoenixRAMM, Exeter LibraryExeter City CouncilIntercom TrustBarefoot Wine & Bubbly and University of Exeter LGBTQ+ Student Society.

It was organised by Dr Jana Funke & Dr Jen Grove at the University of Exeter with volunteer assistance from Lucy Corley, Freya Hutchings, Charis Martin and Ollie Neale.

For more details explore this website! 

Robert Howes – Opening the public sphere to LGBT issues in the Bristol region, 1980-2000

Robert Howes Pride MarchRobert Howes will speak to us on Sunday about LGBT issues in Bristol.

was born and brought up in Bristol.  He has been a committee member of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) Westminster group, a volunteer with London Friend and a member of Gay West since 1983.  As a historian, he has published a book on the LGBT+ history of Bristol and Bath and a number of articles on the LGBT+ press and literature of Brazil and Portugal, as well as articles on Brazilian and Portuguese history.

Robert’s talk will be based mainly on the history of the Gay West group (1982 to present) and its two predecessors, CHE Bristol (1970-1983) and Bath Gay Awareness Group (1971-1982), which form one of Britain’s longest running LGBT+ institutions.  It discusses the varying activities of the groups and their members, ranging from political campaigns to social activities and personal support for members, showing how these activities have varied over time.  It is structured around the concepts of civil society and the public sphere, arguing that the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in 1967 gave more freedom for activists to explore different ways of getting LGBT+ issues onto the agenda of public political debate.

The way in which this aided greater recognition of the human rights of LGBT+ people can be better understood by comparing the position of LGBT+ people in Britain before 1967 with the situation in authoritarian dictatorships such as Brazil in the 1970s.  By drawing parallels with the role of social movements in facilitating the transition from dictatorship to democracy, I aim to show how the varied activities of LGBT+ organisations helped promote greater acceptance of sexual diversity in the UK after 1967.

Cheryl Morgan – Chosen of the Goddess

At out main event Cheryl Morgan will talk about trans women in the ancient world. Cheryl Morgan

Media coverage of trans people often states that we are a recent invention, perhaps dating only from 1930s Germany. The reality is much more complicated. People have been living lives outside of the gender binary for all of human history. Indeed, in the past societies were often more open to different genders than they are now.

In the ancient world, living outside of the gender binary was often closely associated with religion. Certain goddesses took an interest in gender and made space for those assigned male at birth to become priestesses and live as women, or at least not as men. Sometimes this involved early forms of gender surgery.

Cheryl Morgan 2In this talk Cheryl Morgan will look at evidence for gender variance in Goddess worship from Sumer through Assyria and Babylon to Rome. The talk will include the world’s first known author, non-binary people from Sumerian mythology, a tavern owner who became a queen and perhaps a goddess, an emperor who identified as female, the earliest known trans woman in Britain, and some early examples of legal discrimination against trans people.

What role did Claudius play in trans emancipation in Rome, and why did Hadrian sabotage this? We may never know what their motivations were, but it is clear from the laws they passed that LGBT+ rights were an issue for Romans just as they are today.

Cheryl Morgan is a science fiction critic and publisher. She is a Co-Chair of OutStories Bristol and lectures regularly on both trans history and science fiction and fantasy literature. Some of her work can be found on Academia.edu. Cheryl is a regular presenter of the Women’s Outlook show on Ujima Radio in Bristol. She is a Director of The Diversity Trust for whom she run trans awareness courses. You can find her online at www.cheryl-morgan.com or follow her on Twitter @CherylMorgan.

John Vincent (The Network) – Flicking back the pages…

John Vincent

John Vincent is one of our speakers at our day of talks on LGBTQ+ history. John has worked in the public sector since the 1960s, primarily for Hertfordshire, Lambeth and Enfield library services. In 1997, he was invited to become part of the team that produced the UK’s first review of public libraries and social exclusion (from which The Network that he currently coordinates originated).

John runs courses and lectures, writes, produces regular newsletters and ebulletins, and lobbies for greater awareness of the role that libraries, archives, museums, and the cultural & heritage sector play in contributing to social justice.

He is particularly interested in supporting the work that the cultural sector does with LGBTQ people, with young people in care, and with ‘new arrivals’ to the UK.

In September 2010, the book he co-authored with John Pateman, Public libraries and social justice, was published by Ashgate (now Routledge); and, in January 2014, he published LGBT people and the UK cultural sector … (also published by Ashgate, and now Routledge).

In February 2014, John was given a CILIP CDEG Special Diversity Award, and, in September, he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of CILIP.

John’s Talk:

“Through using my personal ‘story’, this presentation will outline how libraries can support LGBTQ people, especially in their coming out, and will emphasize their positive role in people’s lives.”

Surat-Shaan Knan (Liberal Judaism) – Twilight People: Stories of Faith and Gender Beyond the Binary – Pop Up Exhibition


On Sunday Surat-Shaan Knan will talk to us about the Twilight People projectBritain’s first and only source of trans & faith history and heritage. This hidden history explores the intersection of trans and faith identity via oral history, photography and film. The collection is now at the London Metropolitan Archives; its legacy is still growing and developing, e.g. book publication.

The Twilight People pop-up exhibition will be on display (free) at Exeter Central Library, Castle Street, EX4 3PQ on:

Saturday 11th February, 09.00 – 17.00

Sunday 12th February, 12.00 – 16.00

The Multi-faith initiative Twilight People was supported by the Lottery Heritage Fund from 2014 to 2016 and proudly hosted by Liberal Judaism. For more, please go to: www.twilightpeople.com

Find out more about Surat-Shaan Knan’s new project, Rainbow Pilgrims: The Rites and Passages of LGBTQI Migrants in Britain.

Surat-Shaan Knan works for the Liberal Jewish movement UK and is a campaigner for faith related LGBTQI+ issues. Shaan is the founder and manager of the landmark Heritage Lottery Fund supported projects Rainbow Jews , Twilight People and most recently Rainbow Pilgrims. Shaan is a proud member of the Stonewall Trans Advisory Group, and actively involved in the Global Interfaith Network GIN SSOGIEs. Shaan is a non-binary trans activist from a mixed heritage. He blogs on LGBTQI+ and faith issues for Jewish News UK.

History of Exeter Pride – an interview with trustee Alan Quick

Exeter Pride 2016 Photo Alan Quick  IMG_1654The first Exeter Pride was held on February 28, 2009, and the event has been held annually in Exeter ever since. With plans currently being made for the ninth Exeter Pride on Saturday, May 13, 2017, we asked the longest-serving Exeter Pride Trustee, Alan Quick, a few questions.

How did you first get involved in Exeter Pride?

“Some years ago I was becoming increasingly concerned about some of the decisions and opinions of the then Bishop of Exeter who was not being very supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans (LGBT) people’s rights. After discussion with friends at Intercom, the South West LGBT support forum and charity, we all made the decision that a Pride event for Exeter would be a good idea. Intercom ran it for the first two years and I chaired the organising committee for the following three years. I have been involved in every one and today I remain as one of the trustees which help to organise it.”

When was it started – and why?

“Collectively we believed that an annual Pride event would show that there are LGBT people in the community and that it would be a chance to celebrate the contributions LGBT people make to society and also put on some fun events as well offer a chance for serious debate about issues. After a lot of planning and work by just a very small group of people, the first Exeter Pride was held at Exeter Phoenix and Exeter Central Library as Exeter LGBT History Pride on February 28, 2009.”

What is its aim?

“Exeter Pride is now an annual event and held as a celebration of the LGBT communities and diversity within Exeter and the surrounding regions.”

You’re now preparing for the ninth Pride – what is the secret of its success?

“The success is down to the hard work of many trustees, volunteers and support received in previous years and now the small band of trustees who all take on different roles, a committee of supporters and more than 50 volunteers. It would not happen without all these people who offer time and commitment free-of-charge. It is just great that people want to help and we cannot thank them enough. We all contribute in different ways and it all comes together to help put on a fantastic event.”

How long does Pride take to organise and how many people are involved?

“It really does take a lot of planning and organisation. Committee meetings are held monthly all year round but there are also many sub groups and committees for various aspects such as the parade, workshops, entertainment, fundraising, volunteers, etc. Fundraising events are held throughout the year and there is a great social side which helps bring people together. Currently there are just nine trustees. The main committee sees about 12-15 people attend each month, some people just help with sub groups and committees and the 50+ volunteers may just help on the day or be committee members.”

What is the best thing about it?

“Pride day, which is free-of-charge and family-friendly, consists of many events and activities including a parade, workshops, ceilidh, drumming circle, family events, youth events, talks, a panel debate and a health zone. There is also a marketplace of stalls with lots of information, rounded off with an evening of entertainment. On May 13, 2017 the parade will start at noon at the St Sidwell Centre and make its way down Exeter High Street and into Queen Street ending at Northernhay Gardens and Rougemont Gardens, where many events will take place, many also taking place in Exeter Phoenix and Exeter Library.

“I think the best thing is that it brings the community together and is helpful to so many people, either by providing them with information or enabling them to meet like-minded people.”

How has the day changed over the years, and how would you like to see it develop?

“Exeter Pride has grown incredibly since the very first one. It now attracts about 2,000 people in the parade and will this year include roller skaters, a fire engine, Samba band, Morris dancers, representatives of groups and organisations from across the county and not forgetting, our infamous 50m rainbow flag, which takes lots of people to carry! It would be great to see Exeter Pride grow to the size of other larger city pride events where there is an outdoor main stage with acts and more people attending. Saying this, Exeter Pride is growing year-on-year and it is one of very few pride events which is free. It brings a huge economic benefit to the city and really puts the city on the map.”

How is it financed?

“It costs more than £14,000 a year to put on and it would not be possible with our partners and sponsors and those who support it. Principal supporters last year included Devon County Council, The University of Exeter, The University of Exeter Students’ Guild, Exeter City Council, Bill’s Restaurant of Exeter, Devon and Cornwall Police, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Services, EDF Energy, Somerset College, Nandos, Patronus Security and Vaults Bar and Club. Support has also come from many other businesses and organisations. Exeter Pride is a registered charity.”

Why should people support it?

“As I said, Exeter Pride is a celebration of the LGBT communities and diversity within Exeter and the surrounding regions. It is about raising awareness, education, having fun and getting together but also about discussing some serious issues in the panel debate or finding out information in the health zone. It is a constant battle fighting homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and events like Exeter Pride help to do their bit. I think the constant battle for equality and diversity is one you cannot give up on and I would say to all, come along to Exeter Pride to find out for yourself.”

What are you most proud of about the day?

“I am surprised and really pleased how it has grown into such a huge event. I am proud of how everyone has pulled together to make it happen and proud to have played a small part. A few years ago the police said the day gave one LGBT person the confidence to speak up about some issues and said if nothing else, Exeter Pride helped that young person to speak out and resolve those issues. Exeter is such a great city and it is tremendous that Exeter Pride is an integral part of it, firmly on the map of events that take place each year.”

Find out more about this year’s Pride event on the Exeter Pride website.

Alan is also organising the Exeter F.C. Football v Homophobia match on 18 February – read more here.

Equality and diversity campaigner Alan Quick was recognised by Intercom Lynx South West in 2006 for his work in opposing homophobia in the South West of England. He was involved, from the beginning with Intercom and other volunteers in establishing Exeter Pride. It has become the county’s biggest and free annual LGBT Pride event.

In recent years Alan has contributed to or helped write some national equality documents and educational material. He has been a DJ, including on the gay scene, for more than 35 years and is currently a resident DJ at Vaults in Exeter and Soho in Torquay. Formerly he promoted the South West’s biggest gay club night, Boxes on Tuesday, in Exeter, which supported a number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) charities and organisations.

Alan is actively involved in campaigns against inequalities in football nationally and, locally, is a member of Exeter City Football Club’s One Game One Community Group. He is a supporter of Devon Lions Football Club, Kick It Out and he has contributed to two books about his late footballer friend, Justin Fashanu. He is South West of England Co-ordinator for Football v Homophobia and is also a member of Devon FA Inclusion Advisory Group. Alan is a trustee with both Devon Communities Together and Local Heroes, an anti-bullying and anti-discrimination charity. He is also the editor of a Devon weekly newspaper.


Caroline Paige – Trailblazing Transgender Service in the Military



Caroline will present at our full day of talks about LGBT
 on True Colours: Trailblazing Transgender Service in the Military.”

Caroline Paige is a transgender woman who retired from the RAF in November 2014, after a 35-year flying career that took her to wars and conflicts in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. In 1999 she became the first Officer in the British Armed Forces to transition gender, a year before the bar on LGB service was lifted.

For the next sixteen years, she trailblazed transgender military service, earning awards for exceptional work in Iraq and Afghanistan, and securing the precedent for transgender people to serve on the frontline. She also helped to shape and evolve Armed Forces Policy, regarding the retention and recruitment of transgender personnel, and worked as a mentor, trainer and adviser, helping to make today’s military the open and supportive organisation it has become for LGBT personnel.

Caroline now has her own business, helping teach battlefield skills to European military helicopter aircrews. She also volunteers as a Stonewall School Role Model, talks publicly to raise awareness of transgender lives, and her autobiography True Colours is being released on 23rd Feb 2017 (Visit the Biteback Publishing website for more information.)

Caroline’s talk

In the latter half of the 20th Century the British military barred LGBT service, on the grounds of ‘inappropriate behaviour’, ‘morale’and ‘susceptibility to blackmail.’ In 1999, Caroline Paige became the first officer in the British Armed Forces to transition gender whilst still serving, a year before the bar on LGB personnel was repealed. For the first time, LGBT personnel could serve their country openly, without the fear of harassment or dismissal.

True Colours is Caroline’s first-hand account of being transgender in the British Armed Forces throughout this remarkable period of LGBT History, in peacetime and in war. During her talk, Caroline reveals many of the consequences of being LGBT in the military before permissive service was granted, but the years following her transition weren’t easy. Opinions within and outside the military were divided, but the negative outshouted the positive. It presented complicated challenges, and a need to prove that being transgender wasn’t reason to be withheld from frontline operations.

Years later, in Iraq and then Afghanistan, the legacy of a hostile past still revealed itself. But change always takes time, and using her success to inspire acceptance and support, to educate and advise, Caroline was at the heart of change; helping trailblaze a pathway to the open and inclusive service enjoyed by today’s LGBT personnel. True Colours is a unique account that spans the dark days of LGBT military history in the 20th Century, and the enlightened and permissive environment of today.

Jack Sargent – Oscar Wilde’s Grindr Profile

Jack will present at our full day of talks about LGBT JackHistory on “Oscar Wilde’s Grindr Profile: What Can Digital Dating Offer a Nineteenth-century Decadent?”.

Jack Sargent is currently researching for a PhD in English, based on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus. His thesis considers the emotional and stylistic relationship between time and emotion in late-Victorian and twentieth century homosexual literature. Jack considers how who people who were attracted to the same sex in a period when homosexuality was illegal, illicit and considered as a momentary transgression, expressed their emotions as an aesthetic of enduring feeling, shaping their memories of past relationships and dreams of future connections.


Image: Charis Martin

If he had been able to, would Oscar Wilde have downloaded the digital gay “hook-up”/”dating” app Grindr? Most probably. Wilde desired and enjoyed talking to beautiful men. Until his trial and conviction for “gross indecency” with other men in 1895, he was a ready and even reckless participant in late-Victorian homoerotic parties and clubs. His novels and plays also eulogised the importance of sensual connection and experience between individuals. However, would Wilde have liked Grindr? Grindr is becoming known as a space that is often void of emotional connection. Digital dating apps, arguably, encourage a twenty-first-century “no-strings-attached” culture in which individuals are, ironically, increasingly isolated in front of unresponsive screens.

This talk will consider how Wilde writes about meetings between men, asking whether these meetings are comparable with the twenty-first century experience of digital hook-up apps. Asking this question will help understand the differences between Wilde’s moment in time and our own. Jack will consider whether twenty-first century dating-app users feel the exciting, sensuous connections so important to Wilde. Is Grindr a gateway to exciting, sensuous opportunities, or does it disconnect us from the people around us?. Would Oscar Wilde has liked Grindr, or would he have despised it?