Prejudice & Pride: exploring LGBTQ lives at the National Trust

Exploring LGBTQ heritage to mark anniversary in 2017

Exile ropes

EXILE installation at Kingston Lacy. Credit: National Trust / RCMG / University of Leicester. Image Credit: National Trust images / Steven Haywood.

This research project – a collaboration between the National Trust and RCMG – enriched and informed the Trust’s 2017 programme that formed part of the nation’s commemoration to mark 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Working closely with a cohort of properties and key staff, the project team explored the following research questions:

·       How can we offer diverse audiences (new and existing) authentic, engaging and meaningful experiences and purposefully engage the public in debates surrounding LGBTQ history, culture and equality by researching, acknowledging and presenting the LGBTQ histories and associations in the places, stories and collections of the National Trust?

·       How can we contribute to new thinking and practice related to the presentation of LGBTQ histories within the international heritage and museum field?

·       How can the Trust develop and sustain its capacity to engage audiences around challenging histories?

The RCMG project team comprised of Richard Sandell, artist Matt Smith, Jocelyn Dodd and Sarah Plumb. Further details of the Prejudice and Pride programme can be viewed here and here.

RCMG worked particularly closely with two properties - Kingston Lacy and Felbrigg Hall - to research, design and realise creative responses to the LGBTQ histories and stories at each site.

Prejudice and Pride: LGBTQ Heritage and its contemporary implications

Prejudice and Pride: LGBTQ Heritage and its contemporary implications, a publication edited by Richard Sandell, Rachael Lennon and Matt Smith, emerges from the collaboration and ambitious and large scale research-led public programme - Prejudice and Pride. Looking forward as well as back, the contributors to the publication collectively aim to stimulate and enrich new thinking and practice in a field that – despite significant advances in recent years – has nevertheless proved to be challenging and sometimes highly controversial. Whilst some of these challenges are undoubtedly specific to the field of queer heritage, many also resonate with attempts to reveal other hidden or marginalised histories, efforts to use these histories to speak to contemporary social concerns, and initiatives that seek to engage audiences in a more critical approach to the way we understand the past.

EXILE at Kingston Lacy

EXILE was a research-led collaboration between RCMG and the National Trust at Kingston Lacy. As an installation, EXILE considered one of the most remarkable stories of Kingston Lacy – William John Bankes’ exile in 1841 – and marked fifty years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. More about the exhibition EXILE at Kingston Lacy can be viewed here.

The Unfinished Portrait at Felbrigg Hall

The film, The Unfinished Portrait, was a collaboration between RCMG and the National Trust at Felbrigg Hall. Forming part of the Prejudice and Pride programme Stephen Fry narrated The Unfinished Portrait, which explores Felbrigg Hall's last squire Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer. The film shares the squire's fascinating life at the stunning hall in North Norfolk. The film The Unfinished Portrait at Felbrigg Hall can be viewed here.

National Trust Members' Responses

Prejudice and Pride revealed numerous connections between National Trust properties and LGBTQ heritage. Below are three videos of National Trust members – Alan & Jeremy; Elizabeth & Peter; and Kirsty & Clara – reflecting on the importance of this new approach to exploring our history.

Prejudice Pride Place Conference

The Prejudice, Pride, Place Conference, a joint event between RCMG and the National Trust, took place on 15-16 May 2018 at The Bond Warehouse in Birmingham and at the National Trust properties - Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire and Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton. It explored how heritage organisations can meaningfully engage diverse audiences in debates surrounding LGBTQ history, culture and equality by researching and presenting past LGBTQ lives. The Conference also featured the first performance of girl.boy.child by historian and respected singer songwriter David McAlmont, commissioned by Richard Sandell.

girl.boy.child

Historian and respected singer songwriter David McAlmont has produced girl.boy.child, a series of performances drawing on LGBTQ histories, commissioned by Professor Richard Sandell along with the National Trust. For more information about girl.boy.child and for forthcoming tour dates please follow this link.

Visitor Engagement and Response

RCMG was commissioned by the Trust to undertake an in-depth evaluation and visitor study of Prejudice and Pride and conduct fieldwork at a number of properties. The visitor research for Prejudice and Pride set out to enable the Trust to understand and capture evidence of the impact of its work on visitors, specifically in relation to these three key priorities:

  • How are visitors prompted to think differently by the Prejudice and Pride programme?
  • How does the programme impact visitors’ (and Trust members’) perceptions of the Trust’s relevance to contemporary lives?
  • How does the programme enrich understanding and stimulate debate about contemporary issues?

The following short video introduces a detailed report that shares the findings of Prejudice and Pride’s impact on visitors. The report can be found here.

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