New exhibition to tell hidden stories of Suffolk's LGBTQ+ past

The Hold building exterior

The Hold in Ipswich - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A new exhibition unearthing some of Suffolk's hidden stories and LGBTQ+ experiences from the county's past is set to be launched this spring, Covid-permitting.

The Pride in Suffolk's Past exhibition is planned for The Hold in Ipswich from February, subject to no further Covid-19 restrictions, and aims to tell the forgotten stories of people with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning/Queer (LGBTQ) backgrounds. It also hopes to document people's experiences through the increased dialogue on gender identity being seen currently.

According to Suffolk Archives, which has been working on the exhibition: "An enthusiastic group of volunteer researchers has been delving into the archives to discover stories about the experiences of ordinary people as well as well-known figures, experiences during the 1980s when AIDS and HIV were propelled into public consciousness, press coverage and the language used to talk about sexuality in the past."

Paul West

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for Ipswich, communities and waste, Paul West - Credit: Rachel Edge

Councillor Paul West, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for Ipswich, communities and waste, said: "It's to tell some of the stories of the past that wouldn't have been told at the time because of social repression or people didn't feel able to tell their story at the time.

"The current generation in 2020 doesn't necessarily know about them [the stories] so it's good to have life stories that are either new or not known about at all."

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Mr West said it had taken "hours and hours of methodical research" by volunteers and archive staff to collate research, artefacts and experiences for the display.

As well as the dive into the archives, a survey has also been collating people's experiences of gender identity in 2020, which the team hopes will help future generations understand how discussions on the issue have changed.

Interior of The Hold's exhibition space

The Hold in Ipswich - Credit: Archant

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Holly Wright, heritage trainee and contributor to the project, last year told the Suffolk Archives website: “We have uncovered so many fascinating and moving stories in the archives that show that LGBTQ+ people have always been part of Suffolk’s community. 

"Their stories have historically gone untold, because of legal and social repression, but through our new exhibition we aim to put this right.” 

More details are to be unveiled in the coming weeks.

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