Maggie Dawkins: Full Interview
Sage and LGBT History Month
Interviewed by Hannah Pugh
16th October 2018
MD: OK, Maggie Dawkins, she/her. 7th November 1955, I live in, on [name] Road in Hyde Park, Leeds Six, um, and I'm a lesbian.
HP: Interviewer is Hannah Pugh on 16th of October, for West Yorkshire Queer Stories. So, let's start by talking to you about Sage. How did Sage come about and what was your role?
MD: Um, I came to an event, there was an event that my ex-partner and myself came to here in the Civic Hall a few years ago, and it was called ‘Ageing Without Children’. It was this new, and I don’t know where we heard about it, but it was this thing about [unclear]…
OK, it was called ‘Ageing Without Children’, right, and like, what’s, you know, socially, not just like socially but like, both of us had parents, you know, who had spent long times in hospital and all the rest of it. And we’d often said, who’s going to fight our corner when the going gets tough, and like, you know, there’s someone making decisions for you and everything. And so this came up, so we came to the, we came to this event, or this meeting in, here in the Civic Hall. And as we were coming into, down the corridor, this person was coming in our direction and she was kind of, clearly like – well I say clearly! [laughs] She was like, this lesbian. And, um, and she was like looking at us in a certain kind of way, like, certain kind of way that you do… And she had all these papers with her. She was hurrying past, and she said, ‘oh blah blah, you won’t be interested, I’ve left some brochures there but there’s this, there’s this new group that’s coming and starting up. I’ve left some things out and my name’s Jude, etc. etc.’ So she, I think, I think she even handed something over or gave us something, because you know, it was clearly about LGBT… um, group.
So, we took this paperwork off of her, and then we went to that meeting. And then, and then I followed it up and I actually went to the first meeting that they had, and that’s how it started, like this Sage thing. And it was for LGBT older people. It was for, um, 80, well, 50-plus, which is not that old. And it was, um, it was… The funding was with Time To Shine, which is about social interaction, which kind of links into the ageing without children thing. And, um, so these things were obviously, they’re obviously like in the, out in the world, and like they’re issues that have got to be kind of looked at and so on.
So, um, like, you know, I’ve done a lot in the third sector, and I sort of see the value of contributing to it, but you know, and also, you know, I don’t feel like vulnerable or anything myself at this point in time and everything. But it’s good to know that those things are there, and I, and I do have, and I do want to influence sort of old, older people’s care myself… Just from the point of view of, um, I just don’t, you know. It’s kind of the, the way you get talked at all the, you know, all through the ages. I mean the way, the way people kind of, you know, ‘You alright fear, Ooh I bet you’ve been, have you been eating the biscuits? Ooh I – ‘, like, you know, I find that stuff really offensive. I find this kind of patronising, sort of ways. And, and the way people like talk down to, there’s a, what’s that trigger that brings people to call you, to call you ‘dearie’? Or like, I just kind of, I find that stuff really offensive.
But also, I think it’s part of, it’s part of our culture, and I think, um… I think the sort of health, there’s health services, adult social care that needs to know that we’re an age group that, we were the, we were, you know, sort of the children of the 60s and 70s and so on. There’s like, OK, not saying I did loads of activism because I didn’t, um, bit we were living in like a different [unclear]. The late 60s and 70s, we were, were a kind of much more sort of self-aware, or moving into sort of a new world and, er, creating a new world and so on. And it, and, and, those kind of things are just anachronistic and like, you know, I don’t want to be a part of it and I think I’m going to be really a crabby old lady. If people treat me like that I’m going to be kind of quite, you know, people won’t like me when I’m an old lady, probably even, probably put a cushion over my face! Um… But anyway, basically I wanted to kind of, you know, I’ve got, there’s a part of me that I still want to kind of influence older people’s care and attitudes towards elder people, be they LGBT or not. You know, I mean sure, I think, I think just being aware of the fact that it’s out there in the world and like, don’t make any, don’t make any assumptions…
I feel like we’re at a real advantage being in Leeds. Leeds is quite, you know, I’ve lived all over the place, Somerset, or Somerset West Country, Somerset Cornwall, different places around there, and, um, and I feel like Leeds is kind of really pretty switched on actually… Um, you know, I can sort of, I never thought I was going to work for a statutory organisation, and I do work for a statutory organisation, but I think Leeds City Council is pretty amazing in, um, I don't sort of feel that they pay just lip service towards stuff, they actually do kind of adopt it. I mean, I don't think you can necessarily make thousands of staff take things on board simply because they're told to by the same token um, you know what I mean. The fact that it's kind of this, is you know, being aware of um, of other groups, LGBT groups, or black and minority, black and Asian minority ethnic groups, or... And I think ageism's the next one that's got to be kind of, that's got to be kind of looked at. But um, I just think we've got kind of quite positive attitudes in Leeds and like in a sort of, er, social, sort of social sensitive awareness, of being aware of our differences but not necessarily, not like labelling or um, treating people according to our prejudices, you know?
So, that's er, yes, so that's the long story about how I came across Sage and that's what my thing, that's what my involvement is. I go to the, um, I volunteer, I'm the steering group, and, and I was playing quite, was playing in the role of the, with the promotions group, which was like the communications group because that's what I do here [the City Council]... Um, it didn't really get off the ground. Jude's not working there now but Richard is new, the new community development worker. And he's kind of managing, he's changed the whole system and I need to, I want to sort of pick that up actually because I just think there's some ways forward that we do in the council that we can, I can kind of bring in to the way the communications are put out by Sage, that's going to make it a little bit more, just to improve the communications, hopefully kind of grow the, you know, the kind of customer base, you know.
HP: So what was Sage like in the beginning, in the early days?
MD: Um... You see I didn't, I never used to go to the sort of drop-ins particularly... And the drop-ins didn't start straight away. I mean I just used to, I was quite interested that it's just this sort of, group of people aged over 50. I mean look, I was one of the younger ones, I was in my late 50s, I think... I think I was 60, no, maybe late, 58, 59, so um... And I was one of the younger ones... We were just kind of forming really, and I, and, but there were some like really sort of sound opinions and the people who were members of it were all from kind of, from different places. They weren't all, they weren't all you know, Leeds, not that I've got any issue with that. But I mean there was, there was um, there was sort of some ideas to share about how, how, what they'd experienced elsewhere in the country, and what they could kind of bring to it now and where they wanted older people LGBT services to be and, and you know, so it wasn't, you know, we had, we were coming from different places if you know what I mean. So the sort of, er, can I say expectations, um... Hopes and desires, um, were sort of fashioned from quite different backgrounds, if you know what I mean. And there was quite a good mix of men and women, I think... Yeah, I think there was about four or five women, which was kind of quite, quite a lot actually, when you get a group of LGBT it's usually like, you know, one in four or one in five is a woman, so it was kind of quite a good mix.
And um, Jude was leading it, so it was kind of good having her there because she was quite clear, she used to keep pulling things into perspective and sort of saying, ‘look I know we've got a few people here who were in this age group but it would be good to hear from them what they think because I mean they've got a bit more to be going with’. So, so she was a very good group worker, and um, and it was so, I felt that we kind of, it made us sort of move the discussion round a lot more, and it, um, pulled people's sort of ideas and experiences out... She's very good at, um... Well she's just a very good group worker in that she didn't let the, just didn't let the baton stay with one person if you ask me, and um, and we knew what the, I mean, you know, all of us I think, I'm sure all of us had been part of groups and committees before and we had some kind of interest in styling what was going to happen. Tt wasn't just like coming to the group and like, ‘hey, entertain us’, we were on the steering group so it was like, ‘what're the kind of things we want to do’. We kind of, you know, broke it down. I don't know if, um, I'm sure it's been written up somewhere, so, what the aims and objectives of the funders are, and then what our aims and objectives were, um, I'm sure… I know they were kind of written down because we used to refer to them, and I know that like at some point they're going to be written up as, er, not necessarily a mission statement, but sort of a sort of some kind of document anyway. I don't think it's quite there at the moment but there's been a lot of going on so a lot of changes...
HP: Where did you originally meet?
MD: Oh yeah. Um... At Age UK, at St Mark's Square, the arch, yeah. Not in the cafe bit but in the, in the meeting room. That's where we had the first meetings, and I think there's a, and I think the, er, out in the, there is a link up. Out in Leeds was a sort of branch of Age UK, of an older people's group, and Out in Leeds was a sort of… There were some women, er, social workers or whatever, who, who had this sort of like bolt-on group of LGBT people... And when they, when they were, sort of I don't know, finishing, when they were ending, their jobs were ending or they wanted to leave or whatever it was, there was no one to pick it up so I think there was some kind of takeover there or something. But it means we, I think we kind of, tied in fairly tightly with Age UK. I think actually yeah, yeah, but I don't, I… We use their logos on stuff, we use Time to Shine and the Age UK Leeds logos, so yeah, there is some tie in there. But now, now we meet in Mesmac, um, Jude was working for Mesmac so it was um... You know they're more sort of, you know it was a sort of umbrella organisation if, you know, that kind of just sort of handled it and sort of looked after the budget or whatever, sort of, whatever all those kind of organisational and sort of governance things are, and now we, so now we meet down at, at, down at Mesmac.
HP: Great. What kind of services does Sage provide, what kind of activities, and have they changed over the years?
MD: Er, I think we're just into… I think we're just moving into the... Into the second, third year. I think there, er, oh God, I ca-. I don’t know if there was like a six month or something, sort of, finding-our-feet kind of thing, and then it kind of, the funding came into place, and we're into the second year of the funding now, so I think we've been going for two and a half, two and a half years or something.
Um, the activities they do, OK, so there's the, the drop-ins, and the drop-ins are on Thursdays and every other Saturday I think. I think it's every Thursday and every other Saturday. But the, um, on the Thursdays is during the daytime. I don’t go to it because I work full time... And Saturdays there's a drop-in as well, I don't, I mean I don't go to it because I've got stuff, I just do other stuff if you know what I mean. Um... and then there's, more recently there's the Women's Group has started, that's on the Monday I think for two hours in the afternoon, and I think there's about half, about four, five, six, seven, maybe eight older lesbians go there which is kinda quite nice - I don’t know, maybe not all older lesbians, might be transsexual as well, I'm not sure. Um... and they go, they do go on outings now and again, they arrange outings... There's a bunch of, oh what do they do, um... Trying to think. Oh yes, there's a kind of, as part of the organisation there's volunteer community speakers and trainers, um... OK there's the community speakers, there's the, I think that's a voluntary role, and just going out to different organisations and the private sector and, and, and the [unclear] sector, explaining and talking about some of the, some of the certain issues, I mean, that affect older people perhaps, I don't know. I'm not sure exactly what the subjects are that are spoken on. Oh God this is bad, sorry!
Um... the, the training is done by qualified and experienced trainers, and that's more about, I think that's more about... Er, sort of sensitivity, asking the right questions, working with older LGBT people, and in a, in a sort of care settings and, er, sort of public health and medical services, NHS services and so on. Maybe housing as well, I don't know, but all the, you know what I mean, the more [unclear] sector things I think. Um, what else? Er, there is... I think through the link ups, I know, I know not necessarily this. Oh yeah, this year there was one of the guys from, from Sage was on, came on to the, was in the Pride parade on the open double decker bus. The council, their double decker bus, yeah the council has two disability buses as well in the parade. Um, and like last year there were a couple of, couple of members of Sage on a open double decker bus as well. So, so, I suppose it's, I suppose there's kind of some, just like looking after people's interests you know, in a kind of more ad-hoc sort of way as well. Um, I mean things are just developing, I mean I think we've got like targets to kind of, there are targets to hit for, you know all sorts of things about, you know, about increasing the numbers, the mix we're in, how many hours spent, the work we're doing, certain types of things, and how we spend the time. We do, we have a space for Pride, we've this, er certain sort of, because it's the third year we've had um, our reserved space, so yeah must have been going three years, crikey. Um, we've had a reserved space for Sage members and older LGBT people and friends and family, for er, on the Sunday, on the same day as the parade, the main day, yeah.
HP: How do you think it's changed the older LGBT community in Leeds?
MD: It's getting a little, I think it's increasing the profile of older LGBT people. It's adding to the LGBT community, and I think for, I think it's just, um, a place where, I think it's stating that there older LGBT people in Leeds. And there's another group Friends of Dorothy started some time ago, um, Craig runs that in The Wardrobe, um, and I don't know if there's another group. But I think because of consultations, the government will get asked to do, or the organisations, loads of people will get asked to do, will they consult on this, will they consult on that and so on. And Mick Ward is a senior officer in Adults and Health, who has been sort of like a social activist for a long long time, and used to, um, he sort of champions, I understand he champions Sage now. Which is kind of quite nice, I mean in so much as there was a little bit of discussion about why do, you know, we're just kind of sick and tired of being asked to fill in surveys and questionnaires and everything, you know, and like what's going to happen with them and what's this all about and like, everyone, you know. People do get sick of filling in surveys and especially when, especially when, is it just like, ‘oh let's get some old LGBT people to kind of fill some things in, you know, fill it in so we kind of tick our boxes.’ Well, because he's sort of part of that, because he's part of the Adults and Health whole thing, I think it's kind of, he does actually kind of put it back in again insomuch as he... I mean I heard this completely externally, and outside of Sage even, that Mick Ward's really, you know, he sort of speaks very highly of Sage, so I think that's kind, there is some kind of, um... I don't know what I… Some kind of foundation’s coming into place a bit more about, you know, just being there basically. And I just hope that like, over the next you, know, as the years, as time goes on, that there's going to be - OK, Sage is for people aged 50 plus, and I mean, I know that no one's like, ‘oh God I don't want to belong to an old people's group’, but, it's not just being an old people's group. I mean if we had 70 members and we had a different, we had a whole range of age groups, you know what I mean, we did stuff according to what we liked doing, I mean then that would be, that would be the best of all. But it’s still kind of quite new and it needs a bit of, a little bit of boosting up really. Because actually when you get, you know at some do's and everything you see like, at the, at some the Gay Abandon do's and what have you, you see like loads of, especially like lesbians, but you see more women out than you ever see, and like, certainly over 50, loads of people over, loads of gay people over 50 and like, there's certainly, you know what I mean, they're not really part of Sage. So there needs to be maybe, some, some kind of a, some kind of a, something that makes, makes it more attractive, say... I don't know. Yeah.
H: What do you think that would look like?
M: I, I just think if there was... I don't know, I just kind of think there should be more kind of sustainable business in it, you know there should be more social enterprising. I mean, you know, I've got... I've got a burgeoning, I've got an idea for a social enterprise that didn't get going for complete - something else, completely different story - but um, you know, there’s enough expertise and experience amongst people over 50 in the LGBT community to maybe give time to and put together a sort of, you know, why aren't we getting funding together, maybe buying a pub, buying an old thing or kind of banging on the door of certain people maybe in the council, maybe in the business sector and saying, ‘blah blah blah, we want to try this out for three years, you know, back us up, and help us do this’. There's enough like, you know, like activism stuff and expertise to sort of say, ‘here's our plan, here's how we're going to go about it, here's the people and this is how we're going to’ - we've got enough expertise and ex, you know, to be able to do that. So I'd like to be able to see a little bit more of that kind of stuff, a bit more of, of that say sort of social enterprise and social, what's that other expression, social enterprise and social... Where it's not just like, where you're not just doing it for profit, there's another expression isn't there?
HP: Hmm... I can't think what it is!
MD: OK, doesn't matter! Um, anyway that's what, so that's what I think would be, that’s where I think that would sort of start to weave together the various say, social groups that there already are out there, and um, just, maybe get just bit more of a mix for socialising generally. I mean I know there are some people that all they would do would maybe come to - when they used to do the Victor/Victoria balls, at the town hall, there used to be a group that organised those every year, they were amazing! They were amazing. And um, they were proper balls, you know, and there was like, really fabulous, really sort of fabulous thing, fire, there well, they would theme them differently every year. And they used to get like hundreds of people, there used to be like a real night out, you know, it used to be really exciting. And it would be nice for that sort of, for something to kind of come together again like that really. But I think we, think we need to start looking at being more sustainable, I think, I think that's quite the same for semi-third sector or semi... care? Not care sector, but you know what I mean? I think that's something that we have to sort of just be thinking about is like, OK, how can we be, how can we have like social workplaces and social things that are actually sustainable and, you know, and self-sustaining as well, not just like, ‘give us your money’ and I'm like, yeah, you know, but be given [unclear]. Just being wise about getting, about fundraising and, and writing funding bids but also being able to like fund it, and having enough interest there and having that, all that kind of social stuff that goes into - yeah and people, just people who are retired and actually just got like loads of perfectly, you know what I mean, loads of, if not energy, then loads of expertise to share to kind of put it out, and then not too hung up about sharing their ideas and someone stealing their ideas, you know what I mean? So that's what I would like to see, and that's what I sort of see as the, hopefully for the future. [laughs]
HP: Who does fund Sage at the moment? You mentioned Age UK.
MD: Time to Shine - Time to Shine is Lottery funded. I think it's, I think the Lottery pays a load of money to Time to Shine, and they fulfil their objectives by having all of, this is what I think, I'm not sure exactly. I think it's Lottery funded, and it's, I know we have Lottery funding, Time to Shine, and Age UK on our, on our um... Our logos you know, so I don't know what the sort of mix is, but... If they're knitted together, if it's like you know what I mean two, two of them rather than [unclear] are funded together but yeah, I think it's...
HP: Do you do any independent fundraising outside of that?
MD: I don't think so, no... We haven't had, or not at this point. Richard took over a few months ago... When was it, it was like early this year. I don't, I don't know, I can't remember when. Um... He's getting his feet under the table and like, picking things up and putting it, you know, getting stuff together basically. And the project's got to be sustainable within six years, I think, I think that's what we were saying. And, um... But that wouldn't be about getting other funding, and or, or being, or it being held and maintained by another sort of third sector organisation maybe. Because the other thing Mesmac will out of charity, you know what I mean, they won't sort of fund it themselves, they've got to kind of pay, I think you know, basically sort of be able to pay their workers' wages or whatever and have sort of expenses so, there will have to be something... But...
HP: OK. So moving on from Sage, do you want to tell me about your involvement with LGBT History Month and when that started?
MD: OK, um... OK, when... I went to... OK, because I belong to Sage, I'd heard that um, I'd heard that the following year, I'd heard that the following year was going to be um, the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation, the decriminalisation of homosexuality. And as a... Sort of as a thing for sort of, as a thing associated with Sage, because like some of the old guys in it, so obviously had all like that horribleness in their lives when they had to kind of keep it secret and there was all this kind of stuff about it, all these sort of hang ups. I mean the thing is, I mean a lot of them could tell hugely funny stories as well, and I mean you know, you did have to dance around and I mean, the point is you could, you know... OK, on one level, there's no point in being offended by it, like becoming a victim about it, I mean it was how it was, so you'd enjoy your life anyway, and actually it was far more thrilling than like what straight people lives were, you know what I mean, actually. And so, it was kind of, you know, it was a double-edged sword, you could say, is that the right thing to say? I don't know, a double-edged sword, hm. Um, it had, there was, there was, every silver lining had a black cloud and vice versa. And by the same token some of the ways you know like, locally or wherever, in certain pub or a certain area of the city or, or an environs, the way you got treated by police or whoever felt they had the divine right to treat you badly could and would. And so a lot of that stuff was kind of pretty unpleasant, a lot of that stuff was quite unpleasant.
Anyway, around, because of you know with that, I, I thought like, um... I started, I don't know why or how, I think it was the Leeds Queer Film Festival. I can't remember what kind of brought it to my attention really, what, what made me think about getting some films, showing some films. So I started to kind of look into like planning some screenings. And um... It's difficult to remember how it came, how I came across it really. I think I had done some, through something else I'd talk to someone from the Leeds International Film Festival who has, who, with some kind of promotional stuff they were doing and I'd done some, I can't remember where the ideas came from. Anyway, so I looked into getting some, show some films. And, um... So I had the idea and I, and then I shortlisted a load of... Oh hang on, no I didn't... I started to kind of look up films from the sort of 60s, you know, LGBT films, and I asked people that I knew in the film industry and asked some of the old guys from the, from Sage and everything, about some of the films and everything and like, noted them all down and like tried to find out as much about the content of it as I could, what the stories were about, and find out what was interesting, what it was that was so interesting about it, because I mean it wasn’t like necessarily historical. The content, the content was historical if you know what I mean but it wasn't, hang on it... The, the stories were kind of, were just like what rang bells for you kind of thing, and some of the, there was um... and there were, all the stuff emerged about how Dirk Bogarde, how he, how he, was he gay or not and like, how he'd, he didn't apologise for doing it and how he lost his, a lot of fanbase over it and, anyway. It was all kind of quite, there's quite a lot of intrigue there, you know what I mean, you could sort of, you could just not do anything else but study it for a while, but it was, so. I did some kind of background looking into, into that and sort of putting a plan together. So that was around about sort of, that was around about sort of September, no October... October 2016, OK? And then... October 2016... And then in December there was a… That's right, in December 2016 there was an LGBT staff meeting, blah blah blah for LGBT History Month, and I thought well, ‘what's LGBT History Month?’, and I thought I’d come along and wanted to get some events going in Leeds, and I thought OK yeah, well I'll have a look at this. And it was all a bit vague about what to do, and someone said ‘well last year we got Everyman cinema to put on a film’ and, and so on, and I said ‘ah, so well, you know, I'm, I'm planning some films for, for next September’ or whenever it was, or August or whenever, I can't remember when the anniversary was. But I'd started to kind of look into it, I'd spoken to Hyde Park Picture House, I'd been in touch with um, I'd been in touch with Howard Assembly Rooms, I'd spoken to people from Leeds International Film Festival, I'd spoken to someone from Leeds Queer Film Festival, about it vaguely because I'd wanted to like maybe for other people to do things, can we do a whole load of things for you know, all together for you know, for the decriminalisation thing. So, I'd made some contacts and I'd also sort of learned about what I'd need to do to kind of get licensing and, you know, just the rooms and all of it basically. And, um... And so I said I'd organised some screenings, and there was a £500 budget so I think I had maybe like £300 of it or best part, maybe best part of maybe £400, I can't remember. And so we had a, so we had a, we paid for the, the screening or we paid for the license for Orlando at Seven Arts and for - I've forgotten, there was this, I've forgotten which one we showed at Heart, but the actress in it, the actor in it is the, is the one that's in that film, that series that's showing with Michelle Peake now, um, Bisexual [Channel 4 TV series The Bisexual]? The new one?
HP: Is it Appropriate Behaviour?
MD: Oh yes it was, Appropriate Behaviour! She's really good, she's really, that was really, it was really quite funny, it was really good fun. But she’s in this, yes in this new film, this new series on Sunday and I don't, I think it's only three parts but it's a good story. Um, and then, we did, we paid for bloody Everyman to run one. I mean they're a cinema for God's sakes, and they're really hard work, they were really hard work, for God's sakes what a bloody carry on, how many hours' work you have to spend to kind of, to show a couple of films? Anyway, that's their business. Because they've got lesbians that run it in London, Everyman in London, so it was all like, getting all precious and sort of like, we know what we're doing here but like, anyway, um, some, some places are much more hard to work with than others.
I don't know, so we ran maybe, Hyde Park Picture House did a whole programme, and we made this, we got this programme together kind of thing, and we, I got all these sort of photographs and, and synopsis, and laid it all out like and tried to do, tried to do sort of like films type posters, without, without, without doing any, breaking any laws or anything, and... And it was OK, it was OK, they weren't all, you know, it wasn't all well you know, hugely well... But it, it, kind of that started things rolling. And for example there's Hyde Park, er... Howard Assembly Rooms couldn't do anything, they said ‘oh well we have to start booking things, oh that's it’. When I got in touch with them about, can you do something for um, for er, decriminalisation of homosexuality, she said they've already, ‘we're already like booked up, we, we, we'll be looking at booking up in July for like the following year, that's when we start putting it together’. So, they couldn't do anything for LGBT History Month filming that year, or for, or for the decriminalisation. But the following year, we got in touch and we discussed it, they did put on All About Our Mother [All About My Mother]. That's like a really nice venue and I mean, we've got some, like a little bit of association going there where it's in their calendar that they do something for LGBT History Month. Um, so out of that first year, there was, there was a little kind of group of us who were sort of, you know, there was Alex Rossetti, who was a, who works in Libraries and she'd taught, she'd been looking things up about, in Philedelphia they have these drag queens doing these story times for kids, thinking oh God. So she said, so she thought, ‘oh I'm gonna start looking into this’, and then she kind of, cause she's a sort of kind of quite um, junior sort of staff member really, and there was kind of getting all this, and this sort of, looking into these things and putting these, um, I don't know, emailing quite senior managers with, saying 'this is our idea and we just thought we'd do this', and they were all going 'ahh what's going on here?!' You know this has all come out of the blue because of course, you go through the stages in a council of like, you go to your manager and your manager puts this, and then the idea goes there, you know what I mean, it goes through a lot of different steps to bring a new idea in. But it was all, it was OK, nothing was blown or there was no, but it was, there was quite a lot of controversy about it and they were looking into it, and some of the staff at the library were kind of quite interested about stuff and what they did do. We did have some stuff going on in the library, um, maybe a, I don’t know if there's, I don't know if there was a story time but there was stuff in Room 700. And um, and then there was, some of, some of the young people, some, three of them did like a sort of a timeline, did a very basic history of a timeline, of LGBT history, and of a certain period. And then we did a timeline of how, what was going on in Leeds at the same time and the Pink Picnics and the um, and the, some of the lesbian stuff and the trans, trans conference up at the university for example. And then we did like, there was a little bit about when was, who was the first out LGBT um, who was the first out member, and, and how many, how, how many staff have, how many staff have sort of, say disclosed, how many p- er staff are um, have told us, are, are out if you know what I mean. So there's, there was like maybe sort of a three part kind of timeline thing. They did it on these huge boards and everything and, and we had, we had those and we took those to the um, to some of the screenings.
So there was like, some little activities but I was working quite closely with those people, if you know what I mean and, and I wasn’t really getting a great deal of input or, you know what I mean, it was all kind of, once you'd decided what you were doing you were kind of on your own really, and no one wants, you didn't feed back to anybody and have any nice discussions about it, it was like well you're on your own, it was like we'd been very busy doing other things. Um, so, so and the planning and the organisation, it wasn’t very good really, so I, so I, so I said in about April-May last year... I'd, I'll, maybe last year, was it last year? Yes. I'll, you know, I think I'll put myself, I'm going to put myself, I'll put myself, I suppose I said to Rob and Jeff, I'm thinking of doing LGBT History Month. I used to work in project work, and it really just needed, I just knew it needed some kind of, some templates, and I couldn't go and sort of tell them what they were doing wrong and say, ‘you shouldn't be doing this, you shouldn't be doing that.’ I thought like, just like do it. So I'll, I'll plan it and then do it, basically. So I volunteered to do it, and um... So we said, I said I'll put a call out for people to work on it with me, because I wanted to kind of try to get like a little body of, project team who might, perhaps might carry it on for example. And um, so I wanted to kind of show good practice about it, and also just kind of, I didn't want to just do it on my bloody own, you know.
So um, so we started that off with three aims, three aims to consolidate and kind of develop sort of awareness in the city within and without the council, outside of just generally in the city, and like to get some, some project, project templates together if you know what I mean, or some kind of planning documentation because it was, there was no, you know what I mean, there was loads of files with bits of paper in it and everything but the guy that did it previously, he just said 'oh I just jot things on bits of paper' which was evident in the sort of, you know, hubbub of what was going on and like how disorganised it was, you know what I mean, it was very... [whispers] Poor quality. And, um...
The other part of it was to kind of move towards becoming a hub city for LGBT History Month which is sort of part of a national organisation, OK. LGBT History Month had been running since 2005, and it, that year was only the third year the council had been involved in it, and considering what a kind of cultural a city, considering what the background, what like huge stuff had been going on at the universities through all the, all the sort of activism that's been going on. We, we were like linked with Manchester and York maybe less so but they were all very, there was like loads of lesbian stuff going on, and there was loads of gay liberation stuff going on and there was um, so , so... I, you know what I mean I, having come to Leeds like late in life and everything I sort of thought, there's really like a lot to kind of work with here, and I was becoming more aware of the younger transgender stuff, and the, and the young people who are sort of feeling, feeling that they weren’t like that, they weren't part of say, 'the scene' and you know, they're just finding their feet anyway and like, what fourteen year old wants to go and knock round with a thirty-five year old bloke, gay guy for example, if they’re, you know what I mean, people want to be with their peer groups, so... You know, we know enough about how youth groups work, and how peer groups work and everything to move things round and make things interesting and involve people, but not by saying, 'we're doing this, you come do this with us' kind of thing. It's about, how do you keep it all nice and buoyant and fluid and... So, so anyway we did it, so we had our team together and, and we wanted to become part of LGBT, one of LGBT hub, and, and so we did like loads of, loads of getting in touch with organisations and groups and sending reminders and speaking to people and all the rest of it. And I mean not all of them, not many came back and sort of were going to get involved or, or, would contribute. I was going to be away for, I'd already planned I was going away to Australia for a month in January, so and I, I'd already paid for it and everything so, I knew I had to get everything ready before I went on the 5th of January so, and I was going to come back into the beginning of February. So I was really kind of, really on tight deadlines about getting all of the promotional stuff out and like talked, talking to all the, having these kind of whole spreadsheets of people. So there was all the, you know all the universities and colleges and the societies and trying to speak to them early before they broke up and trying to kind of, not just speak to them and say 'oh this is happening', but like really trying to kind of get to the people and sort of stir up some enthusiasm and tell them what we were trying to do and all the rest of it. But there was a lot of stuff coming back about their dissatisfactions or what their issues they had with the council or like, is this is a council thing. Well you know, I work in the council, and we work in the council but like, we'll let, you know, this is really trying to, we're trying to kind of expand and become part of the, you know a hub city, and it's going to be, we're going to try and work much more with other businesses and all the rest of it. So people, and people had been saying things about, just saying like, oh when, we do all the work and then the council turns round and says 'oh you know, look what we’ve done', you know, the council takes all the kind of credit for it and they don't give credit where it's due. And I wasn’t really sure about, I'd heard a few bits and pieces like that, but I'd thought, you know I mean? But, there was a bit of coldness, so I know I mean that definitely goes with part of the thing, like people don't like the council.
However saying that, we had like we, there was over, or there was 30 pubs, up to 30 pubs, we sent out a, we put together a load of LGBT question, LGBTQ questions, and asked them to include them in their February, um, quiz nights, all the ones that did quizzes, and to choose some of them and it made it a bit of a deal, like if you're going to do it then tweet us and we'll tweet you, blah blah blah, some of our social media plans. So there was quite a lot of just, kind of getting some, kind of building up some motivation and everything, and I mean it was, it was, and, and the people… OK, it was decided, it was decided by the people who hold, the person who holds the budget for LGBT History Month, that they wanted a printed programme, you know, because that’s the thing people hold in their hand and say, ‘look what we've done’, you know? Which is a huge job because basically we had to have all of the information in by... Well, before Christmas, you know even from November really, so it was kind of chasing people up, I don't know if you've, how much you've done it yourself but like it's really hard, there's loads, you have lists of phone calls and trying to find the right people and trying to encourage them and this, and keeping the motivation yourself, and, but literally just having lists of people and chasing them up an kind of recording where you’re up to with every single one of them and like trying to tuck things in to make it easier for them to participate and... And putting all the comms out generally, and getting them to put things on Leeds Inspire and all the rest of it, anyway. Blah blah blah, it all um, it all moved on and it was really good for Leeds, you know what I mean? We had over 100 events happening, and there were lots of pubs who said they'd never heard of it and they would love to be part of it and, you know, some of the businesses we got in touch with who, who didn't really know about it and said that they would do, I mean I think that I spoke to some of the people, um, through City Development. I found that some of the people who run the, God, some of the, it's not the big, we did supposedly, I asked if we could send something out through bid but I don't know actually if it went out, we never heard back from it, we were trying to just... There were loads of directions that we pushed in kind of thing, and there was lots of things that we, that we, some contacts that we made that like are on the list you could say. So, so that was that year, you know what I mean?
And this year, we were, we were approached by the organisation, um, School's Out to participate, and we're not a hub city but to participate in the hub events in, for next year, for February 2019. And it's sort of because it's based in education or what have you, so it's been picked up by the Museums Committee, um, Leeds City Museum so we're, there's basically a conference running, and then we're doing, we've just got the funding from Leeds Inspired to do an art project as well, and the art project is recreating old like banners and placards from hopefully as much as possible Leeds LGBT History, so some of the groups and some of the campaigns and demonstrations and so on. And then on the day of the, on the day of the conference we're going to be, say, recreate a kind of performance of um, of like a march or demonstration and all the rest of it with all placards and people dressing up in the sort of 70s-ish clothing. And just basically just, it's really just to showcase the, showcase the, the conference. And then the banners and placards will be held by the museums and libraries and displayed, um, exhibited over the month of, over the, over February, and then just go into, into the Discovery centre to be used or whenever possible because I mean, some banners and that exists still but they're in archives an you can't reall y use them. So I don’t know, there might be, there might be some interest to use them in other kind of, other reasons, you know what I mean? But any kind of groups really, I don't know. But they’ll exist and they'll be there for display purposes, yeah.
H: Fantastic. How would you describe the public reception that LGBT History Month's received?
M: I think, I think Leeds is like very open-armed about it all really. I mean, I mean um, there was only, there was one pub that came back and said, ‘no we won’t be doing this’, and I thought OK, well I wonder what the discussions were to kind of come back with a very bald, you know, I mean why'd they have to tell me they're not doing, why didn't they just not do it? Anyway, you know, look, I think it's all a numbers game, isn't it? You know, there are people who actually, ‘if we’re gonna have, if we're gonna be anti-something, let's bloody anti-LGBT, oh God, they’re in the papers all the time, argh,’ you know? I don’t think anybody kind of has any, you know what I mean? They beep their horns at people and they like, hate people who drive in big sort of cars, or they, they hate people that drive little cars or ride bikes you know what I mean? I mean, I think there'll always be that kind of segregation, but um, how did the public perceive it? I think people are very open-armed about it. I think there's still people who don't understand, don’t know that we’ve got LGBT History Month, but it is a kind of a cultural event. It's much more about, I mean if you look at the, what's taking part in previous, in previous conferences, so, so.
So the conference is part of Outing the Past, and that’s something that’s been running since 2015, and it’s a, and it’s, it's a, lots of cities, hub cities, do these conferences but where they have these presentations and talks, they’re always 20 minutes, well totalling half an hour, 20 minutes presentation, 10 minute question time, on whatever subject, and it's popular history OK? So there's, there's, all a whole range of stories, you know, and we’ve just had this sort of gazette come through with all of these, this choice which, what are we going to do, and I mean really it's, there's probably thirty there that, and they're all really really interesting, these are 30 people from all over the place who want to do a talk at Leeds. And we've got some people who contributed from Leeds, and, you know, there's sort of just some amazing stories, and it's people telling their own stories about LGBT history, and it's actually it's- [to colleague] No it's alright I'll look after my own! [colleague replies – cut out] OK. Um, lost my head. Um... yeah, so there's so, all of these, because it's like popular history, it's um, there's, there's... I'm sorry, sorry Hannah, bear with me.
HP: It's OK.
MD: Um... Um... I've dried up! [laughs!] [pause in recording]
HP: I'll press play. [cut out]
MD: OK. OK, so the conference is actually the Outing the Past, OK? And it's the, so School's Out is the original organisation, they've been running since 2005, and they grew out of the 1974, 76 Gay Teachers’ Association, and School's Out was much more about educating about in education basically, like gay parents, LGBT parents, teachers, staff, students, pupils, the whole things. And it was all about like, we really kind of need to look after this whole thing. And then, so School's Out then started up in 2005... Sorry no, 1980, oh for God's sake... School's Out started in 1985 on the back of Clause 28, and then 2005 they started doing LGBT History Month because there was a kind of quite a push, there was a push for it, and like we should actually be celebrating LGBT history, and like, there’s a lot of information out there, there's loads of things going on we, we should actually like weave it into our culture much more. And then in 2015 they started Out in the Past, and that was again on the movement, you know, that LGBT History Month was, whereas actually people have got stories to tell, and we need to kind of formalise this arrangement for telling these stories. So, the hub cities then put in a, you know, say put the adverts out to say, 'do you want to contribute to our LGBT History Month? Here's the application form, that comes from the organisation School's Out organisation, and then, and then as I say we’ve got like, there's about 30 people who want to talk in Leeds who are happy to do their presentation in Leeds. And we’ve got to kind of reduce it to six, and it's going to be really hard. And then we’re going to have this conference. But some of the topics are just like really fascinating you know, so there's the, there’s one about um, you know, AIDS activism, and there’s one about like lesbian um, lesbian mothers, or how there was no facility to become a mother as a lesbian back in the 80s, and there was a little initiative in Leeds that just kind of got it together and just, you know, found some donors, and, you know, it was all completely, it was all completely er... What's the word? Private, you know, it all, it was all kind of confidential and everything. There's no paperwork and everything. And um, and, and in that ten years that's run in Leeds, there were 60 babies born, and like really, and you know, so, and I’m told that like um, there's not necessarily a high number of gay, gay and lesbian and trans kids out of that but they're all kind of quite right-on, kind of quite feminist, like a lot of really strong feminist principles. And a lot of the lads are kind of say, kind of quite, I don't know but sort, sort of really OK about being quite camp and everything. But they’re mostly say, heterosexual, but that's like if you have to label and I think this what the like, this is like a really lovely thing, I just find that like... I think that's a great story. Um, but there's you know, there's one about an Auschwitz child from, survived Auschwitz, who became a cabaret singer in Germany, you know what I mean, a trans cabaret singer. Because it was all, there was no trans history really before then, when they say the 90s? Anyway, it's all kind of...
So it's all just pulling it out and just saying, let's not be sort of shocked by it, it's sort, it's part of human nature and like how people kind of carry on so I think it's like... So LGBT History Month is a really, I think it's a really important thing for us to kind of weave together. It's not Pride, it's not Pride it's not about, you know, it's not about, you know what Pride is a bit about, you know what I mean? It's a bit more kind of, it's very social, it's... Certainly in Leeds it's a bit, there's more straight people than lesbian/gay down there now these days I find. And um, and I'd like to get back to a Pink Picnic where all the different groups and the whoever can have stands and tents and music tents, and people can bring a picnic, and have a really nice time and people can come and have a look at other peoples' displays and find out who the organisations are and actually make it a celebration of LGBT, I think we've got the, you know, that’s what I would like to see happening in Leeds, you know. When we start going to Roundhay Park and have the whole park taken up with all these, just like, wonderful stuff where it's just, where it's not commercial but it's a real celebration of the, of LGBT part of society, you know what I mean? And um, but yeah, but I think it's about getting LGBT history month together in and, and sort of the essence, you know, getting that kind of running through and becoming a constant so people are already ready to be doing something for January. I mean Leeds University are, they're sort of getting things in planning, I mean, their equality and diversity people, have got the disabled stuff and then there's sort of the Black History Month and black history stuff and then... So and then there's all those kind of things that come under equality and diversity but I think it's about, for the LGBT its LGBT and let's plus, and then, it's, it's being organised like. And part of it's like, everybody gets ready for Christmas, they don't say ‘oh there’s loads going on, I'm far too busy to do Christmas this year’. So like, it would be nice for it to get woven in, just because there's some really good stories to tell, there's some really good stuff on the telly, there’s really good image stuff about it, and there's also just things that pull apart all of the myths and the questions about it and actually make, just like, in terms of integrating, we need to really pull it apart and just like know that it's all out there, and there's no mystery to it really. Well I mean, there is mystery to it for goodness's sake, um, but there's loads of like not known and unknown stuff and, and we should, we should like rejoice in it really and just, and like then, and then just know this is all part of our, you know, we're human beings on this planet and aren't we all amazing. Isn't there amazing stuff, you know. So yeah.
HP: Fantastic! [MD laughs] [pause in recording] So did you want to say a few words about Blayds Bar and the lesbian scene when you first came to Leeds?
M: OK, when I first came to Leeds I only came visiting for about 18 months. Um, my partner at the time, who was from Leeds, and I was commuting up from Cornwall fairly regularly. And we, but we were doing, there was loads of stuff going on. There was like, there was, there were women's things going on and lesbian things going on. There was a fair over at Saltaire, I think it was, and there was a, there was loads of entertainment parties, people's parties, and like Millen's which I, which I think was run by and old Polish guy or something, was a, was an old venue and had been a venue for about, I think since the 70s or something? Um, and I went there I think, I think we went there but... I know of it.
But one of the, the, in terms of like, you know, 'on the scene', we used to go to Blayds Bar, and it was mo- it was a lesbian bar, that was, that's where the lesbians went, and it was, it was just like tucked away down a little alley, and er... You know, I was just, it was just, it was just like a really nice little bar really. I mean... It was, it was kind of say a bit mixed and everything, but I think a lesbian run it, I don't know but it was more that these new, all these new people I was meeting, they were, they were sort of, you know, people I'd met once. The second time I met them and they were in there and it was like, 'oh hello, oh hello', and I was sort of, I was kind of just kind of finding my feet with the whole scene really. And, and whenever I go on [inaudible] I spend my time in Blayds Bar really, that's my favourite place. It's not a lesbian place now particularly, well not particularly, not a lesbian place, it's run by two gay guys who are actually really very nice and all-embracing and um, and I think it's probably the place where lesbians would be the most, are the most comfortable if you know what I mean, you know? But it's kind of quite mixed and they're really quite good with mixed age groups and the mix and the, and I've always found the clientele, the other customers just to be really friendly when I go in there, and it's quite quiet, maybe half a dozen lads, men you know, and maybe older men, and they're kind of, they're really sweet you know, everyone's kind of, everyone, everyone chats and all the rest of it, and they run some really good gigs and, and they're for really, I don't know, I think it's got- it feels like a nice pub, basically, which I think is a kind of quite nice as a pub on the gay scene. But um, yeah, I'd say that's where we need to go, girls! [Laughter]
HP: What year was this again, sorry?
MD: Um, that was ‘97 when I first came to Leeds, when I visited, and I moved up here at the end of 98, so yeah. But then when I was living with- we didn't really go out quite, we really didn't go out pubbing a lot. But there was, you know, there were parties and get-togethers and y'know, some... Yeah, yeah, moderately sociable.
HP: How did it compare to where you'd lived previously? Was it better or worse in Leeds?
MD: Oh much, much better. Well, I was living in Cornwall, [laughs] I mean in a small town in Cornwall where um, I'd been running a club and like I was nearly bankrupted when the AIDS scandal, when the, when the AIDS hit, the AIDS scandal. We were scandalised, my brother's gay and I'm a lesbian, and, so it was like, 'oh there's, there's, there's AIDS in the Cabin Club', you know what I mean? So I nearly went bankrupt over that actually. So I mean, um, in terms of tolerance and, and open-armed kind of love and affection of the human race, it wasn't in small towns in Cornwall. Um, and I mean there were sixteen pubs and clubs within walking distance of where I was, where our club was.
And it, it wasn't a gay club, it was just a club. It was, had a club licence. So I mean there were plenty of places to drink but it was one of those kind of, you know, sort of small town um, small town things that happen where, where when the word on the street is, then you just get bad... People would come in, the darts teams would come in with their own glasses, ‘cos like the word is 'you're going to catch AIDS if you drink from their glasses'. And, and so I used to sort of, you know. I'd say, 'I can guarantee my glasses are clean but I can't guarantee yours is so, I'll serve it in my glass, if you want to pour it into your own that's fine, but I know you're not going to get a stomach ache off of mine but you might off your own, you know? Looks a bit grubby, you've been somewhere else with it haven't you?' So I mean… But it was, it was a really bad old time, we lost a lot of, we lost, lost, er, over a particular Christmas, it was like, really, really bad. So, um, coming to Leeds was like, just like a real breath of fresh air. It was just like, I loved it you know? I like, I like the active scene and I certainly did then, I was like in my, I was in my, still in my forties then. So it was kind of quite, I still, you know, still kind of really exciting and fun and, and liberated and right out there you know? But there's so, so yeah.