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LGBT50 at Bishopsgate Institute

LGBT50 at Bishopsgate Institute

LGBT50 at Bishopsgate Institute

To celebrate LGBT50 this July, Bishopsgate Institute has programmed new Archive Tours of our extensive LGBTQ Collections, a talk by Matt Cook about 'queer London' plus a new panel display highlighting our LGBTQ collections and materials.  

Archive Tours - LGBTQ Collections

27 July

Why was John Gielgud told to see a doctor and how many lesbian pulp fiction novels could one library hold? Bishopsgate Institute is a treasure trove of LGBTQ history with archives, cuttings, badges and banners, even a wizard’s costume, and by the end of this tour, you’ll know all about them.

There are three Archive Tour slots this day at the following times:

11:00, 14:00 or 18:30.  

Book now onto your chosen time slot to guarantee your place.

Pop-up LGBTQ display 

27 July

As part of its celebrations for the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967, the Special Collections and Archives at Bishopsgate Institute will be hosting a free ‘drop-in’ display of treasures from its extensive LGBTQ collections in the Rear Library. Come and view the first ever issue of Gay News, see the original handwritten demands of the Gay Liberation Front, view banners from various campaigns and read press stories that document LGBTQ life in Britain prior to partial decriminalisation in 1967. 

The display will be open to all from 10am to 5.30pm and no appointment or booking is necessary.


Limited Edition Badges

Pride badge

To celebrate 27 July being the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales, we have produced 50 x Limited Edition Bishopsgate Institute pride badges for the first fifty people who book onto our 27th July LGBT50 Archive Tours. 



LGBTQ Panels 

In July 1967 the Sexual Offences Act decriminalised private homosexual acts between men over 21 in England and Wales. The partial decriminalisation of homosexuality fifty years ago was a transformative moment in social history that is being celebrated by cultural and heritage organisations across Britain in 2017.  

Bishopsgate Institute is home to one of the most comprehensive and accessible special collections and archives documenting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) histories in Britain. We started collecting LGBTQ materials in 2011, as part of our commitment to recording hidden histories and to preserving and sharing the history of protest and radicalism. To mark fifty years since the passing of the Sexual Offences Act, we have created a display highlighting some of our LGBTQ collections and materials. You are invited to discover more about these collections by visiting our researchers’ area during library opening hours.


From ‘Evil Men’ to ‘Disco Divas’- remapping queer London 

with Matt Cook

19 July


‘London Talks’ is a new series at Bishopsgate Institute, sharing the stories of the people who have lived and worked in the city, bringing alive the distinct characteristics and areas of the capital, and demonstrating the vibrancy and diversity of the many histories of London.

In this talk, Matt Cook surveys queer London from the 1950s to the early 1980s, complicating the perhaps familiar story of a journey  from persecution to liberation, from dank basement clubs  to the hedonism of Heaven. 

Matt Cook is professor of modern history at Birkbeck University of London. He is author of London and the Culture of Homosexuality (2003) and Queer Domesticities (2014), and  the editor of A Gay History of Britain (2007), Queer 1950s (2012) and Queer Cities, Queer Cultures: Europe since 1945 (2014). He is currently working on an AHRC funded project on queer life outside the capital.

Book tickets HERE.

beyond July....

As well as the continuation of our LGBTQ Collections Archives tours and other related activity, August will also see the re-introduction of our popular Polari course:

Polari - The Lost Language of Gay Men

Saturday 19 August 

14:30 - 16:30

Professor Paul Baker

This 2 hour class covers the origins, development and decline of Polari, a secret form of language used mostly by gay men in the 20th century. In the first half you will learn about where Polari came from, why and how it was used and what made it fall into disuse, while the second half is a more traditional language-learning class where you will acquire the basics of speaking in Polari.  

Paul Baker is Professor of English Language at Lancaster University where he specialises in language, gender and sexuality. He carried out his PhD research on Polari, conducting interviews with existing speakers, and has written several books on the subject, including: Polari: The Lost Language of Gay Men; Fantabulosa: A Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang; and Hello Sailor: The Hidden History of Gay Life at Sea. He has widely lectured on Polari to academic and non-academic audiences.

Book yourself onto the course HERE.