Working with Surrey’s LGBTQ+ community
Surrey Heritage is committed to preserving the often untold stories of Surrey’s LGBTQ+ community through a variety of activities, including projects, displays and LGBT+ History Month. Here are a few highlights.
In 2010, Surrey Heritage attended the annual IDAHO (International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia) event promoted by the charity Gay Surrey, with a ‘Surrey’s LGBTQ+ Icons’ display which featured both the famous and not-so-famous from Surrey’s LGBTQ+ past, including Noel Coward, Dirk Bogarde, Dame Ethel Smyth and Alan Turing. The evening was especially important for Surrey Heritage as Di Stiff, Collections Development Archivist, was presented with the Gay Surrey Heart of Equalities Award for her work to secure Gay Surrey’s archive for the History Centre and their first 2010 LGBTQ+ History Month campaign.
In 2012, IDAHO was hosted by Surrey County Council at County Hall, Kingston. Surrey Heritage’s Di Stiff was asked to speak at the event, alongside Cllrs Lavinia Sealy and Kay Hammond. Cassie, Sian and Lucy, from the LGBT youth group Out, Loud & Proud, presented their heritage project, exploring the impact of World War II and the holocaust on the LGBTQ+ community, to a 70-strong audience and were among the winners of the 2011 Heart of Equality award for their amazing efforts. Cassie commented ‘I think it was really nice for us to receive an award in recognition for all our hard work. It shows that people outside of our project are now actually aware of and value and appreciate what we are doing.’ The group had also previously held their own Holocaust Memorial Day event. Sian from the group commented ‘I feel now that people have taken notice of our work and are taking us seriously’.
IDAHO 2014 was organised by Outline, who run Surrey’s only LGBTQ+ helpline. Surrey Heritage joined forces with Surrey Libraries, with a stand in Peacock Walk, Woking Town Centre. The aim was to raise awareness of the new Libraries OutLit Virtual Book Collection (click here to read more) and the ever-growing LGBTQ+ History resources at Surrey History Centre and diverse range of online LGBTQ+ history stories now on www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk. We featured Hitler’s Black Book and the Gay Holocaust as part of the display.
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In 2015 Surrey Heritage supported both LGBT+ History Month and IDAHOT events.
LGBT+ History Month celebrated its 10th anniversary and Surrey Heritage teamed up with Surrey Libraries and the University of Surrey to offer a range of themed events. The campaign was also supported by Outline, Gay Surrey and GIRES.
Surrey History Centre held a display featuring some of Surrey’s LGBTQ+ icons and their roles during the First World War, namely JR Ackerley, Noel Coward, Dame Ethel Smyth and EM Forster. This research now forms part of Surrey Heritage’s Centenary commemoration project ‘Surrey in the Great War’ which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Surrey Heritage hosted their first LGBTQ+ Coffee Morning with Outline, which was a resounding success. Attendees enjoyed displays, coffee, cake and chat, and a behind the scenes tour of the Centre. Virtually all attendees had not visited the archives before and some may get the bug to come back and do family history research! SCC and UCA employees also attended and SCC chairman, David Munro, who married his long-term partner last year, came to give his support.
Outline were thrilled with the event, including the three pages of positive feedback in Surrey Heritage’s comments book! The group fed back Trans dates to go into Surrey Heritage’s LGBTQ+ timeline, which Outline can also use an electronic version for their outreach work.
Surrey Heritage’s display ‘Alan Turing: A short but brilliant life’ to the University of Surrey for the month, to tie in with their lecture ‘Queening a pawn: Alan Turing and the Trouble with Gay Genius’ by Peter Hegarty. Over 1300 people accessed the display during its display period.
IDAHOT 2015 saw a number of stalls and organisations in Peacock Walk, Woking Town Centre, organised by Outline. Other Surrey County Council services present were Surrey Libraries, Fostering, Youth Services Twister group (Tandridge), and Surrey Adult Learning. South East Coast Ambulance representatives were there, along with the Surrey Police LAGLOs (Lesbian & Gay Liaison Officers). There was a steady flow of visitors to the Heritage stand and the LGBTQ+ heritage display. Everyone was really enthused, it was great to chat to people, and there was a lovely ‘buzzy’ atmosphere. There was a lot of interest in the Exploring Surrey’s Past website and some visitors were inspired to volunteers for the ‘Surrey in the Great War ‘project. Local celebrity and Trans Big Brother winner, Nadia Almada, who is also a Woking resident and Outline committee member, endorsed the day and chatted with the team. For a full write-up on Surrey Heritage at IDAHOT 2015 click here ( pdf document).
In 2016 Surrey Heritage helped map Surrey LGBTQ+ history, culture and memories
In 2016, the focus of LGBT+ History Month coffee morning event, co-hosted with Outline, was mapping Surrey LGBTQ+ history, culture and memories with the Historic England ‘Pride of Place’ project and their interactive map. Read more about this event here ( pdf document).
In 2017 Surrey Heritage and Outline hosted a community coffee evening with community support stands, behind the scene tours, and talks on Surrey’s LGBTQ+ history. A display charting Surrey’s road ‘From Punishment to Pride’ commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act. Read more about this event. Download a copy of the event poster ( pdf).
In 2018 Surrey Heritage and Outline hosted a third LGBTQ+ coffee evening with community support stands, and a talk on lesbian cabaret revue stars Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney and their Surrey connections. We also had our first display of LGBTQ+ archives and attendees voted for their favourite item, to be included in our Surrey Heritage 70th anniversary booklet.