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‘Queerstory’ Remembers Southwark’s LGBTQ+ History

Southwark Council recovers stories of its LGBTQ+ community.

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Southwark Council celebrates LGBT History Month with Southwark Queerstory, an exhibition tracing the history of local LGBTQ+ people and communities. The display draws on material from the Southwark Archives to celebrate queer culture and untold stories.

Southwark Queerstory looks back to the 18th and 19th century, sharing narratives such as those of ‘female husbands’, like James Allen, who was born a woman but lived as a man with his wife in Bermondsey. The 1930s photographs of Ralph Hall, Tooley Street local, give viewers a window into the domestic bliss he shared with his partner Monty. The love letters that the two exchanged when Ralph was posted in the war shed light on a kind of war-time love story often eclipsed by the toll that war took on straight couples.

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Archival material from the 1960s reveals dazzling, pub drag culture, which preceded the gay disco scene. Paving the way for those disco divas of all genders were DJ Tricky Dicky in 1970s Camberwell, as well as all manner hi jinx and many a minx at the Ship & Whale.

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The exhibition revives the forgotten efforts of local groups in the 80’s such as the Southwark Sappho Sisters, Peckham Black Women’s Centre Lesbians, Gay Men In Southwark and the Black Gay & Lesbian Centre. These organisations demonstrate ways in which Southwark’s LGBTQ+ presence was a fighting one, confronting contemporary issues, campaigning against Section 28 and fighting for rights finally realised in the 1990s and 2000s.

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Chris Scales (Heritage Officer, Southwark Council) curated the exhibition with production support from Rina Mushonga.

Free, 1am to 11 pm, Peckham Levels, Peckham Town Centre Carpark, 95A Rye Lane, London SE15 4TG

Where else to take yourself this week? Consult the Town Culture Diary.