It will complete the 'nation's family photo album'
It seems both surprising and unsurprising that there isn't yet a museum in the UK exclusively dedicated to LGBT+ history. Although LGBT+ visibility has been on the increase, just a few weeks ago Bermuda, a British Island territory, became the first country in the world to repeal gay marriage. LGBT+ people are still battling for acceptance.
Queer Britain, a newly-announced museum set to open in London in 2021, seems likely to be a step in the right direction. A response to momentum from the celebration of the 50-year anniversary of homosexual acts being decriminalised in England in 2017, if everything goes to plan, it will be the largest LGBT+ museum in the world.
The team behind Queer Britain are planning a tour of the country to uncover and collate further material and artefacts from the LGBT+ community and eventually create a social, oral recording of queer history, alongside immersive experiences designed to encourage empathy.
“It is a necessary and long overdue resource,” Joe Galliano, a former editor of Gay Times and leader of the Queer Britain campaign, told the Guardian. “We don’t underestimate the challenge, but artefacts and people’s stories are being lost every day and we need to save them. Already many of the people – inevitably mainly men – who directly experienced the situation before the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967, are no longer with us.”
Galliano is keen for the museums focus to go beyond gay men. “If you think about BAME (black, Asian and ethnic minority) people, women, and trans people’s stories, which were prioritised even less than the men’s stories, than that’s a wealth of untold material,” he told Buzzfeed. On a practical, albeit emotional level, he's keen for the museum to be a place where someone who has just come out to their parent can visit “so they can both understand a bit more about each other”.
The launch night of the museum campaign, which fittingly took place in the Oscar Wilde Room at the Hotel Café Royal on Wednesday, was attended by Olympian Tom Daley, journalist Owen Jones, and musician Nakhane.
Guy Pewsey wrote in the Evening Standard that refreshingly, the dress code was “come as yourself”, adding that while “Queer Britain, when finished, may just be bricks and mortar (...) it will be much more: it will stand as a vital monument to the historic struggles that have been undertaken by so many champions, sung and unsung, recognising and celebrating the cultural, political and sociological movements of the past while striding defiantly into the future.”
It has also been supported by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who said in a statement: “I look forward to the opening of the new museum and the role it will play in shining a light on LGBTQ+ history.”