West Yorkshire Queer Stories grew out of an arts project I worked on during my time at Leeds Art Gallery (2013 -15). During 2014 I initiated a project which ran alongside the exhibition of the work by Marlowe Moss and Claude Cahun in the summer of 2014. The project included the Queer Eye Group, a weekly open drop in session focused on exploring queer culture and the collection in the lead up to the exhibition and then two cultural festivals known as PoMoGaze (2014 and 2015). It was launched in LGBT History Month 2014 with a discussion event.
The project ran from autumn 2013 until autumn 2015 and built significant new audiences including many from marginalised communities, it was shortlisted for a National Diversity Award in 2015. Integrated intersectional methodology was central to the successful participation generated during the project.
The Queer Eye group was one consistent feature of the project and content developed in these sessions was fed into the festival activities. This group was co-facilitated with Nina Kane from Cast Off Drama who made a significant contribution to the success of the project.
The AGender conference, which explored Female and Trans Masculinities, during the Marlowe Moss and Claude Cahun exhibition led to a book (Reflections on Female and Trans* Masculinities and other Queer Crossings, Cambridge Scholars (2017) Ed: Jude Woods and Nina Kane).
After the success of the engagement with LGBTQ+ communities at Leeds Art Gallery I used similar methods to start a social history project based at Leeds City Museum. The first open meeting on 3/11/14 was well attended and this led to a smaller core group of volunteers who started learning about oral history and building the collection. The project, named by the group, Queer Stories presented a display at the museum in 2015 which contained many loans and donations from the local community. We commissioned a film, Queer as in Queer, made by a local film maker Jamie Fletcher, and ran events and activities alongside the display and from 2015 a LGBT History Month event, which has now become an annual event integrated into the programme at Leeds City Museum.
From 2016 I continued working in partnership with Leeds Museums and Galleries as the Community Development Worker on the Sage project (reducing social isolation amongst older LGBT people) to develop the work using a Heritage Lottery Fund application to extend the project across the region. We were successful and received funding to start West Yorkshire Queer Stories in 2018.
- Read about the Queer Stories exhibition at Leeds City Museum in Issue 76 of the Social History Curators Group newsletter.