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Out and About!: Archiving LGBTQ+ history at Bishopsgate Institute

The Curve, Barbican Centre
28 February – 21 March 2022
Free Admission

Bishopsgate Institute will be staging a take-over of The Curve at the Barbican with an installation of objects, ephemera and media highlighting 40 moments and stories in London’s LGBTQ+ history. From placards carried at demonstrations to never-seen-before photographs documenting London’s gay scene over the past 40 years, the items drawn from Bishopsgate Institute’s extensive Special Collections and Archives present the stories of individuals, collectives and organisations who fought for social, political and cultural change.

The free exhibition, open for a limited three-week run, will feature a focus on protest including original OutRage! protest banners used in their campaign against Section 28 and a truncheon seized at a demonstration by Mark Ashton, the founder of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. This will be complemented by personal diaries, photographs, and treasured objects, many of which will be seen for the first time on public display, helping tell the story of LGBTQ+ life in London from 1982 to the present day.

The take-over of The Curve forms part of the Barbican’s 40th birthday celebrations and launches the Barbican Archive’s new public programme strand, The Edge of the Centre exploring the deep histories, collections, places, people and practices neighbouring the Barbican Estate. More information about this new events series will be released soon.

Will Gompertz, Artistic Director, Barbican, says: ‘We’re thrilled to be welcoming Bishopsgate Institute into the Barbican for this take-over of The Curve. As the Barbican marks 40 years it is important to reflect on how London has changed and bring some of the missing stories and narratives to the centre. This is just the start of a new stream of work exploring the cultural histories and perspectives of organisations and individuals connected to the Barbican Centre and its neighbourhood.’

Stef Dickers, Special Collections & Archives Manager at Bishopsgate Institute, says: ‘The past 40 years have seen such monumental changes for the LGBTQ+ communities. This exhibition aims to explore some of those moments and celebrate the voices and stories of the people who were there to witness it. Of course, we can never tell every story – so we would also like to use this exhibition as an opportunity for everyone to consider donating their own memorabilia, documents, and photos to empower, inspire and educate future generations.’

The exhibition celebrates items, photographs, artefacts, media and artwork from individuals and organisations including the Switchboard, Terrence Higgins Trust, GMFA: the Gay Men's Health Charity, the London Lesbian and Gay Centre, Ivan Cartwright, Duckie, OutRage!, Stonewall FC, Transfabulous, the London Gay Men's Chorus, photographers Robert Workman and Gordon Rainsford, and many more.

To complement the exhibition in The Curve, Barbican Cinema will present a rare screening of the landmark gay sex ed documentary, The Gay Man’s Guide to Safer Sex (UK, 1992, dir David Lewis) on 1 March followed by a ScreenTalk with producer Tony Carne and film curator Selina Robinson, who will discuss the film’s legacy. Made in association with the Terrence Higgins Trust, when the age of consent for gay and bi men was 21, The Gay Man’s Guide to Safer Sex was a vital sex educational doc that offered safe sex advice in an artistic and unashamedly erotic piece of cinema. Its graphic sex scenes, shot with an aesthetic that situates it firmly in the early 1990s, made it a unique sex ed film that blends clear medical advice (which had been absent from information communicated by Margaret Thatcher’s government) with eroticism. More information about the screening can be found here.

The installation will also be accompanied by a programme of informal talks and conversations hosted inside the gallery by the individuals and organisations whose stories are on display. Participants will include E-J Scott of the Museum of Transology; Tash Walker of LGBT+ phone helpline Switchboard; Sue Sanders of the international Festival of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans History Outing the Past; and LGBTQ+ activists Dan Glass and Faizan of Imaan.

Moreover, the Barbican’s Creative Learning team will organise The Archive is Permanently Under Construction, a free programme running from 22 February – 22 March and open to Young Creatives between the ages of 18 and 25 interested in critically engaging with archives, collections and LGBTQ+ themes. The project will culminate with a Young Barbican Night on 17 March 2022, with the group creating a series of original creative responses to the exhibition in The Curve.