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! 

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?

Peter Scott Presland – Punting with Pride

Peter will speak at our full day of talks about LGBT History on “(The Campaign for Homosexual Equality) – Punting with Pride”. 

PeterPeter Scott Presland has been a gay journalist, playwright, cabaret performer and songwriter since 1971.  As a writer he has won a double Fringe First and been twice nominated for Best Musical, once in Britain and once in Canada.  His plays include ‘Latecomer’, ‘Leather’, and ‘Teatrolley – or a Midsummer Night’s Scream’.  His short stories have appeared in several anthologies, and he was a regular columnist for ‘Capital Gay’ and ‘Axiom’ magazine. Since 2010 he has been working on the ‘official’ history of the doyen of LGBT campaigning organisations, the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, and its times.  Conceived as a trilogy, ‘Amiable Warriors’ is encyclopaedic in its scope but no hagiography.  The first volume, A Space to Breathe, was published in 2015 and covers the period of 1954 – 1973; it draws heavily on the CHE Archives at the LSE, and on interviews with over 20 people who were around at the time. “History should be living, inspirational, partisan, gossipy and scurrilous,” he says.  “And to hell with Queer Studies!”

Peter will  tell the untold story of the Oxford Gay Action Group (1972-74), which straddled CHE and GLF, Town and Gown, and was pioneering in producing gay theatre and founding the first gay switchboard in the country.  Colourful characters and lots of good stories from one who was there!

Darienne Flemington and Mark Kelly – Out and Proud in Trade Unions

Darienne Flemington and Mark Kelly (UNISON)

Darienne and Mark (both of UNISON) will speak at our full day of talks about LGBT History on “Out and Proud in Trade Unions”. 


Inspired by her personal experiences of border agencies, alien courts and deportation, Darienne Flemington has worked as an international activist for LGBT rights for over 25 years and was recently elected to sit on the ILGA Europe’s executive board. As a committed trade unionist she is also the Co-Chair of UNISON’s National LGBT Committee, and hasrepresented LGBT workers interests on UNISON’s National Women’s Committee. She works in local government where she is committed to fighting discrimination in all of its forms, as well as negotiating and organising for equality at work.

Mark Kelly runs a company which provides specialist support for University students who experience mental health issues. Previously he worked for 10 years at a Further Education College where he managed innovative and groundbreaking projects which engaged with socially excluded groups of young people and adults and won national praise from the Learning & Skills Council and NIACE. Mark’s role in the college also involved him managing a curriculum area, developing and delivering specialist staff training and facilitating an LGBT youth support group. Mark has been an active trade unionist with UNISON for over 20 years and works at a local, regional and national level. He is a previous co-chair of UNISON’s National LGBT Committee and is a senior activist in UNISON’s South West Region. Mark also works with Devon & Cornwall Police as an independent LGBT / Diversity advisor and is a trained Critical Incident Advisor.

Their talk with discuss the way in which Trade Unions have been at the forefront of campaigns to change equality law, contractual rights and workplace practices on  LGBT equality – a role that is not always acknowledged, with the media quick to portray unions as concerned with narrow self-interest. Following the Brexit vote and other political upheavals, many feel as though we are in uncharted waters, with  prejudice and hate crime on the increase.  This presentation will consider the lessons we can learn from the past to guide us through the next months and years. UNISON is clear about the importance of maintaining a strong value base and  how we can continue to play a significant  role in promoting LGBT equality at work, in the community and in public services in the future.

UNISON is also sponsoring the Festival at a national level.

Dominic Janes – Cartooning queers

Dominic will be speaking to us as part of our full day of talks about LGBT History on “Cartooning queers from the Georgian dandies to Oscar Wilde”. 

KeeleJanespicbig-200x228 (1)Dominic Janes is Professor of Modern History at Keele University. Dominic is a cultural historian who studies texts and visual images relating to Britain in its local and international contexts since the eighteenth century. Within this sphere he focuses on the histories of gender, sexuality and religion. His most recent books are Picturing the Closet (Oxford University Press),Visions of Queer Martyrdom (University of Chicago Press) and Oscar Wilde Prefigured (University of Chicago Press).


Jon Evans & Ting Guo – Underground Queer Cinema

Jonathan and Ting will start our day of talks with their joint presentation on: “Translating for Change: Underground Queer Cinema and LGBT activist translators in China”. 

evansjDr Jonathan Evans is Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies at the University of Portsmouth. He is the author of The Many Voices of Lydia Davis (EUP, 2016) and co-editor of the Routledge Handbook of Translation and Politics (forthcoming 2018).

guoDr Ting Guo is Lecturer in the Department of Modern Languages, University of Exeter. She is the author of Surviving Violent Conflict: Chinese Interpreters in the Second-Sino Japanese War (1931-45) (2016). She has published in journals such as Literature CompassTranslation Studies and Translation Quarterly.

Their presentation extends the understanding of LGBT history as an international history, highlighting how success in some countries can be used as inspiration in other countries. The presentation focuses on the way in which volunteers have subtitled LGBT cinema for underground/unofficial distribution in China, a country where LGBT rights are still limited. By using non-Chinese source (e.g. British queer films and gay/lesbian soap), these translators hope to circumvent Chinese censorship of LGBT topics in the media and make space for more discussion of LGBT rights. The presentation will look at specific strategies the translators use to evade censorship as well as which films they choose to use, in order to give greater understanding of how Chinese LGBT activists use and appropriate Western LGBT cinema for their own ends.



Day of talks programme

Photography by Roy Riley 2014Exeter LibraryExeter Pride parade 2015 photo by Alan Quick IMG_6423phoenix

Provisional programme for the free day of talks on LGBT History on Sunday 12th February 2017 at Exeter Phoenix – see more details here. 

We are asking people to book for the (FREE) keynote talk only – please book here. All other talks on Sunday 12th are not ticketed – please just drop in!

Event opens 11am for visiting stalls by local organisations and groups in the foyer.

VENUE Dance Studio Drama Studio
11.30-12.00 Jon Evans (University of Portsmouth)
 & Ting Guo (University of Exeter) – Translating for Change: Underground Queer Cinema and LGBT activist translators in China Michael Halls (Intercom Trust) – How the grassroots shaped the landscape
12.00-12.30 Dominic Janes (Keele University) – Cartooning queers from the Georgian dandies to Oscar Wilde John Vincent (The Network) – Flicking back the pages …
12.30-13.00 Jack Sargent (University of Exeter) – Oscar Wilde’s Grindr Profile: What Can Digital Dating Offer a Nineteenth-century Decadent? Surat-Shaan Knan (Liberal Judaism) – Twilight People: Stories of Faith and Gender Beyond the Binary
13.00-14.00 LUNCH BREAK (self-funded)

Please remember to visit the Twilight People exhibition at the Central Library!

14:00 -14.30 Tony Fenwick (Schools OUT) – From Gay Teachers to OUTing the Past: a Brief History of Schools OUT UK.
14.30-15.00 Robert Howes – Opening the public sphere to LGBT issues in the Bristol region, 1980-2000 Laura Rowe (University of Exeter) – Sex at Sea: Homosexuality and the Royal Navy in the Great War
15.00-15.30 Peter Scott-Presland (The Campaign for Homosexual Equality) – Punting with Pride Caroline Paige – True Colours: Trailblazing Transgender Service in the Military
15.30-16.00 Darienne Flemington and Mark Kelly (UNISON) – Out and Proud in Trade Unions Cheryl Morgan (OutStories Bristol) – Chosen of the Goddess: Trans Women in the Ancient World
16.00-16.30 SHORT BREAK
VENUE Studio 74 (Cinema)
16.30-17.30 KEYNOTE: Diana Souhami – Gluck, Radclyffe Hall, Violet Trefusis and other Notable Lesbians


Talk on Twilight People by Surat-Shaan Knan

As part of the Twilight People exhibition, we will have a special talk and discussion on the project from founder and project manager, Surat-Shaan Knan

Thursday 9th February, 18:00-19:30

The Forum Exploration Lab 2, The Forum, University of Exeter.

Free, no booking required.

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 and Twilight People. Shaan is a proud member of the Stonewall Trans Advisory Group. Shaan is a non-binary trans activist from a mixed heritage (passionate about #trans #nonbinary #faith #BAME #TPOC #intersections #intersex #heritage). Shaan’s new project is Rainbow Pilgrims: The Rites and Passages of LGBTQI Migrants in Britain. More about Surat-Shaan here

For more on the Twilight People project visit the Twilight People website.

Twilight People exhibition and talk

We are very pleased to be bringing Twilight People to Exeter!

‘Twilight People’ is a landmark project that discovers and celebrates the hidden history of transgender and gender-variant people of faith in the UK past and present. This collection is the first source of faith and transgender history in Britain. The project explores the narratives around ‘body and ritual’, documenting the interconnection between faith and gender journeys beyond the binary categories of male and female. The images and stories of over 40 members of the various Abrahamic faith communities – Christian, Muslim and Jewish – are documented by means of oral history, film and photography. Supported by the Lottery Heritage Fund and proudly hosted by Liberal Judaism. 

Throughout The Exeter LGBT History Festival a ‘pop-up’ Twilight People exhibition will be displayed across Exeter:

The Forum, University of ExeterStocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4SZ

Monday 6th – Thursday 9th February, 08:00 – 20:00 daily (free, no booking required)

With talk and discussion from founder Surat-Shaan Knan on Thursday 9th February, 18:00-20:00 (free, no booking required)

Exeter Central LibraryCastle Street, Exeter EX4 3PQ

Saturday 11th February, 09:00 – 17:00 (free, no booking required)
Sunday 12th February, 12:00 – 16:00 (free, no booking required)

Sign up to the Facebook event here! 

For more on the Twilight People project please visit the Twilight People website.