Four new ‘Unsung Stories’ to celebrate LGBTQ Heritage & History

Here at Heritage Open Days we champion the fact that history belongs to all of us.  Whatever age, race, religion or sexuality, heritage both helps define and create who we are, and what we want to be. This year – thanks to new funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery – we’re able to shine a light on four tragic, beautiful and fascinating personal histories from the LGBTQ community.

It wasn’t an easy choice to pick these four stories; so much of LGBTQ heritage is still waiting to be explored.  And it was equally difficult to choose from the wealth of innovative artists, performers and arts collectives who gave us such a diverse range of ideas for how these stories should be told.

But, finally, we have our four.  Each will bring something truly unique to this year’s Heritage Open Days, offering visitors the chance to learn about, engage with and experience these extraordinary personal histories and the communities that framed them.

This year, more than ever before, Heritage Open Days is telling #allourstories.

Gilbert & Gordon: If All The World Could See How in Love We Are

Theatre performance collective KILN will tell the story of Gilbert Bradley and his secret lover, Gordon, both soldiers who fought in World War II.  Their affair was only revealed after Bradley’s death, when a series of love letters between the two men were discovered.  In the run-up to, and during, Heritage Open Days, locals and visitors will be able to write their own love letters in a series of workshops with KILN.  Over the festival weekend these letters will feed a memorial flame and after the closing ceremony the ashes gathered and converted into a special commemorative diamond, which will take pride of place at the Oswestry Museum.

Olivia Winteringham (KILN) in collaboration with the Oswestry Town Museum. With support from the Shewsbury LGBT History Festival.

The Turing Trial: Regina v Turing & Murray

Sixty-five years ago this spring, Alan Turing was found guilty of gross indecency and handed down a sentence of chemical castration.  This newly commissioned theatrical and immersive work from RE-DOCK (working with the local community and LGBTQ artists across Greater Manchester) will offer visitors the chance to experience the trial in the very courtroom in Knutsford where it originally took place. The play will combine a traditional theatrical setting with virtual reality opportunities, enabling visitors to explore different viewpoints of the trial and of Turing’s work.

RE-DOCK in collaboration with SHIFT. Supported by Knutsford Promenade Association & The Courthouse Hotel (Knutsford) 

From Wivenhoe with Love, Essex

The love affair between renowned landscape painter Denis Wirth-Miller, and his partner Richard Chopping - famous for his cover illustrations of James Bond novels – lasted for an extraordinary 71 years.  Over fifty of them were spent in Wivenhoe, Essex; together they bought a frisson of bohemian life to a small, provincial town, along with five decades of British Art.  Renowned queer artist Scottee, along with Miller and Chopping’s official biographer, Jon Lys Turner, will celebrate their lives and love for each other in a weekend festival of new performance work, talks and workshops.

Scottee. Supported by Radical Essex 

Joe Meek: 304 Holloway Road

The story of sixties songwriter and producing maestro Joe Meek is one of spectacular, albeit short-lived, success, and the horrifying downward trajectory that followed, ending in the murder of his landlady, before he turned the gun on himself.  Live artist Julie Rose Bower will take visitors on a walk around the area of North London where Meek was based, taking in installations created over the summer with local communities.  The route will end at Meek’s house, with live performance and digital projections onto his former residence.

Julie Rose Bower

Do you have a story to tell?

Alongside these special arts commissions there will be a wealth of other events across the country over Heritage Open Days (7-10 September) and we 'd love to shine a light on more LGBTQ stories. There's still time to register an event for the festival so if you have a story to tell, a place to share then we would love to hear from you. Find out more about getting involved on our organising pages.