It’s been a busy and productive year for the Haringey Vanguard project. We’d like to thank everyone who has worked with us through volunteering, or inviting us to speak.
In 2020 we’ll continue to collect these vital Oral Histories and look forward to sharing our work with the community.
The 17th LMA LGBTQ+ History & Archive conference was a great success. Our Intern Kamara Dyer Simms reflects on what was such a stimulating day.
PROVOKE: The 17th Annual LGBTQ+ History and Archives Conference
How can we redress the invisibility, erasure and oftentimes appropriation of BAME LGBTQ+ history and culture?
On Saturday 7 December 2019, London Metropolitan Archives hosted the ‘Provoke: The 17th LGBTQ+ History and Archives Conference’ with a distinct focus on the history and culture of BAME LGBTQ+ communities. The conference consisted of a plethora of talks, workshops, round tables, and exhibitions – which included the Haringey Vanguard pop-up exhibition, as well as the Rainbow Pilgrims pop-up exhibition featuring the stories and portraits of LGBTQI+ migrant and traveller communities in Britain.
The need for intergenerational dialogue in archiving LGBTQ+ stories
Commencing with opening remarks by Deborah Hedgecock about archiving BAME LGBTQ+ history, and Veronica McKenzie about the objectives of the Haringey Vanguard Project, the conference succeeded in bringing to the forefront the imminent need to preserve and ensure these histories are not forgotten or misrepresented. Funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, the Haringey Vanguard project works in conjunction with the London Metropolitan Archives and Bruce Castle Museum to record the contributions made to politics and culture by Haringey BAME LGBTQ+ activists from the 1970s to 1990s through oral history interviews.
The overarching sentiment of the event was the importance of remembrance. In his ‘Decolonising Queer History’ talk, guest speaker Campbell X spoke to the importance of enriching the archive with BAME contributions, moving past cis-normative and heteronormative interpretations of BAME LGBTQ+ history. Furthermore, the panel with Sue Lemos, Olivette Cole Wilson and Femi Otitojo entitled ‘An Intergenerational Dialogue: Uncovering the History of the Black LGBTQ+ Movement in Britain’, showcased the need for intergenerational dialogue in engaging with LGBTQ+ histories and the understanding that the Black LGBTQ+ Movement in Britain is ongoing social justice work.
Representation, sanctuary spaces, and intersectional perspectives
Several sessions throughout the day were concerned with BAME LGBTQ+ community sanctuary spaces and their visual representations, including a focus on LGBTQ+ representation in arts and media in ‘The Set Up: Representations of Race and Gender’ with Ope Lori, and the importance of nightlife in ‘We Own the Night’ with Hakeem Kazeem and ‘Documenting Community: A QTIBPoC (Queer, Trans, Intersex Black and People of Colour) Archive Project’ with Hayley Reid. ‘A World Within Music: 30 years of sounds, space and community’ with DJ Ritu spoke to the archival properties of music in the club scene. The penultimate session was the screening of the award-winning film ‘There’s Always A Black Issue, Dear’ directed Claire Lawrie, with an accompanying Q&A panel.
Some talks spoke to the connection between community-orientated justice and legislative challenges to the LGBTQ+ community. ‘Tracing Community Change; Churches and Same-Sex Love’ with Savi Hensman and ‘A legal and social perspective of the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community over the last 30 years: a young perspective on LGBTQ+ history’ with Sophie Whiffen referred this connection from the perspectives of the Church and young people respectively.
Delegates were introduced to the existing and ongoing work by various community organisations: BlackOut UK in Dr Rob Berkeley and Marc Thompson’s talk ‘Crunched into Others’ Fantasies and Eaten Alive?’, The Romani Cultural and Arts Company in Isaac Blake’s talk ‘LGBTQ+, Gypsy, Roma & Traveller Communities’, and METRO Charity in Sakthi Suriyaprakasam’s discussion on ‘Queer Transformations: From the Greenwich Lesbian and Gay Centre to METRO Charity (1993–2003)’. Many more LGBTQ+ organisations were represented in the eleven stalls leading into the main conference space.
The camaraderie built throughout the conference through the emotional intervention into BAME LGBTQ+ interior life was inspired by many of the personal experiences shared by the facilitators of sessions including: ‘Let’s Talk about Faith: LGBTQ+ people of faith on life’ with Shaan Knan and Olivette Cole Wilson, ‘Exploring African LGBTQ+ Lives’ with Axmed Maxamed, Véronique Belinga and Tabisa Raziya, and the grounding ‘Breaking the Silence; Tell me who you are?’ workshop with Dennis Carney. With the conference culminating in the restorative ‘Hide Me Under the Blood’ chronological spoken word performance by Keith Jarrett, narrative became an integral part to understanding BAME LGBTQ+ culture and community archival processes.
This year’s conference brought the experiences of BAME LGBTQ+ communities to the forefront, with a few speakers presenting their work for the first time. Delegates were moved by the inclusivity of the programming, with one attendee expressing that “there was a great selection of speakers and contributors”, and another stating that they found the conference “very thought provoking and entertaining” – an overall success.