LGBTQ History takes centre stage

Joe Meek. Alan Turing. Denis Wirth-Miller & Richard Chopping. Gilbert Bradley & George. This year, Heritage Open Days will tell four extraordinary stories.

The belief that history belongs to all of us has always been at the heart of Heritage Open Days, England’s biggest festival of history. This year, thanks to additional funding by players’ of People’s Postcode Lottery, the festival is focusing on LGBTQ heritage, with a series of newly-commissioned, community-focused arts events, collectively known as Unsung Stories. In Oswestry (Shropshire), Knutsford (Cheshire), Holloway (north London) and Wivenhoe (Essex), visitors will be able to watch, listen, learn and even take part in live theatrical events, that tell four very different stories of bravery, creativity, defiance and love.

“These four stories are the type of under-explored and hidden histories that make Heritage Open Days such a unique festival,” says HODs manager, Annie Reilly. “We’re proud to be working with a diverse range of skilled and sensitive artists, who will connect communities across the country with compelling, vital stories from their local LGBTQ history. Sharing stories, all our stories, is at the core of Heritage Open Days and these events extend the range and scope of our work in exciting and innovative ways.”

Gilbert & Gordon: Then All The World Could See How in Love We Are, Olivia Winteringham  in collaboration with Oswestry Town Museum with support from the Shrewsbury LGBT History Festival
Performance collective KILN will commemorate the remarkable and romantic story of World War II soldier Gilbert Bradley and his secret lover, Gordon, whose affair was revealed in a series of love letters, discovered after Bradley’s death. Locals and visitors to Oswestry will be invited to write love letters in a series of workshops with KILN, which will feed a memorial fire over the Heritage Open Days weekend. After the closing ceremony, the ashes will be transformed into a commemorative diamond, which will be exhibited at the Oswestry Town Museum.

The Turing Trial: Regina v Turing and Murray, Re-Dock in collaboration with SHIFT (Cheshire East Council) & The Courthouse Hotel. Supported by the Knutsford Promenade Association

2017 marks the 65th anniversary of the trial of Alan Turing, mathematician, code breaker and pioneer in computer science. Found guilty of gross indecency in 1952, this new 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 town 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 Turing’s work.

From Wivenhoe, With Love - The life and times of Richard Chopping + Denis Wirth-Miller, Scottee + Radical Essex

2017 marks the 50th year since the partial decriminalisation of sex between men in England and Wales - Essex based artist Scottee is using this anniversary to focus on the lives of two trailblazers who set the then sleepy fishing village of Wivenhoe alight. Artists Nando Messias, La John Joseph and Mem Morrison recollect the lives of the notorious couple in a performance made up entirely of local gossip, hearsay, speculation and distant memory. Come listen to the factually incorrect, unrecorded histories of two of Essex’s finest queers.

Joe Meek: 304 Holloway Road, Julie Rose Bower
The story of sixties songwriter and producing maestro Joe Meek is one of spectacular, albeit short-lived, success. The horrifying downward trajectory following his conviction for ‘importuning for immoral purposes’ ended in the murder of his landlady and his suicide. Live artist Julie Rose Bower will create a trail around the area of North London where Meek was based, which will include multimedia installations. The route will end outside Meek’s home studio, where digital projections and a live performance created with the community over the summer plays out to his early electronic classic 'I Hear A New World'.

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