A six-part podcast series, ‘Prejudice & Pride’, presented by broadcaster and author Clare Balding, launches today and explores stories from National Trust places across the country, uncovering the LGBTQ heritage that has often been left out of recorded history.
The series brings together studio discussions and recordings at Trust places, with contributions from new and established writers, historians and curators.
Each episode follows a theme, such as women’s intimacies, creative retreats, queer history in the ancient world and connections with the performing arts.
Clare Balding says: “I’m delighted to present some of the creative, dramatic and surprising stories that have emerged as part of the National Trust’s ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme. I admire hugely the work the Trust has done in preserving our cultural and architectural history, and these places mean so much more when we understand the people who lived and loved in them.
“I think it’s crucial to realise that LGBTQ heritage and LGBTQ people are not a new phenomenon or a passing phase. There have always been people of amazing creativity, generosity and importance who do not conform to gender stereotypes.
“I feel we can get better at embracing difference. Realising the impact of the LGBTQ community as a key part of our British heritage is a step in the right direction.”
The podcasts – to be released weekly – are among the latest series of activities and events announced by the Trust in its year-long ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme to mark 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.
LGBTQ heritage has an important place in the history of the conservation charity and the places in its care. To celebrate this heritage, the Trust has been exploring the stories of the people who challenged conventional notions of gender and sexuality and who shaped the places in which they lived.
Three short documentary-style films have also been produced to celebrate LGBTQ heritage and the breadth of activity across the ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme. Artists in residence Simona Piantieri and Michele D’Acosta have captured key moments from the programme.
The films include footage of the recent joint project with The National Archives to recreate The Caravan, a queer-friendly members club in 1934 that was shut down by police; the moving stories of Pre-Raphaelite artist Simeon Solomon and his contemporaries connected to Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton; and highlights of Birmingham Pride Festival in May.
The Trust’s research into the many LGBTQ stories at its places and the people who shaped them has been published this month in a new Prejudice & Pride guidebook by Professor Alison Oram and Professor Matt Cook.
From tales of cross-dressing to stories of servants and the retreats used by same-sex couples, the guidebook explores famous names and unknown people, as well as the architecture, design and collections which they may have associated with as a way of expressing their desires and relationships.
Tom Freshwater, National Programmes Manager at the National Trust says: “There is an extraordinary range of stories and people connected to our places which illustrates how deeply LGBTQ heritage goes back into our shared history.
“Thousands of visitors have already enjoyed theatre performances, art installations and exhibitions as part of our programme so far this year, as well as taking part in our partnership projects with University of Leicester and The National Archives, and joining us as we participate at Pride festivals.
“This is not just a year-long celebration but one which will give us a lasting legacy and offer a greater understanding, accessibility and higher profile for LGBTQ heritage that will benefit us all.”
Property-based events in the Prejudice & Pride programme are also taking place this summer and autumn.
- Sutton House, Hackney
Sutton House is hosting a year of exhibitions, activities and events around the theme ‘Sutton House Queered’. Exploring identity in a creative, challenging and playful way, the programme has been developed with the LGBTQ community and a number of partners. A summer School of Anarchy will explore themes of LGBTQ activism and protests, banners and flags, DIY cultures and activist zines. Queer artist Jacob V Joyce will be creating an exciting and interactive in-house exhibit alongside a series of engaging family activities. 24 July to 3 September.
- Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk
A new short film ‘The Unfinished Portrait’ narrated by local resident, actor, writer and presenter Stephen Fry, tells the story of the last squire of Felbrigg – Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer. The last squire was a shy, gentle man, known as ‘Bunny’ to his friends, who restored his exquisite ancestral home and bequeathed it to the nation in 1969. Although many have privately acknowledged his homosexuality, this has not been previously discussed with visitors to the Hall. Working with the staff at Felbrigg, the University of Leicester team has uncovered new information about the last squire – his poetry, scholarship and circle of friends – that has been used to create the beautiful short film.
The film uses an unusual and striking blend of live action (featuring National Trust volunteers from Felbrigg), animation and motion graphics, created by a talented team of artists and designers – Julie Howell, Tom Butler and Lea Nagano.
Released online and at Felbrigg from 25 July.
- Kingston Lacy, Dorset
A bold new installation and exhibition – Exile! – celebrates the contribution of William John Bankes to Kingston Lacy and the impact he had on the house and estate. Forced to flee England in 1841 to avoid prosecution and a possible death penalty for same-sex acts, Bankes was exiled in Europe, from where he sent back a vast collection of art to further develop the house.
This collaboration between Kingston Lacy and the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, places Bankes’ experiences in the context of a broader history of the persecution of LGBTQ lives, enriching the contemporary relevance of his story. In memory of his exile, the rainbow flag will be flown at Kingston Lacy throughout the installation.
18 September to 12 November
- Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent
At Sissinghurst Castle Garden, LGBTQ heritage plays a particularly important part in the property’s story. Owners Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West, who purchased Sissinghurst in 1930, enjoyed a happy and loving marriage while also engaging in same sex extra marital affairs. Their relationships challenged social norms and influenced them both creatively.
Speak its Name! – a display in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, London – will present selected portraits from the Gallery’s Collection, including photographs and drawings of Sackville-West’s lovers Violet Trefusis and Virginia Woolf, and portraits of the couple’s artistic and literary contemporaries, including Duncan Grant and Lytton Strachey. Items from the Sissinghurst collection also feature, including a copy of ‘The Well of Loneliness’ by Radclyffe Hall, a book with a lesbian protagonist that was deemed ‘obscene’ by a British judge when it was released in 1928, and pictures of Nicolson and Woolf that once belonged to Sackville-West.
9 September – 29 October
- Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland
When Emperor Hadrian ruled ancient Rome from AD 117 – 138, there was nothing unusual about same sex relations. What was extraordinary was his outpouring of grief over the death of his younger male lover, Antinous. Evidence of it remains in the shape of marble busts of Antinous’ likeness and coins that depict him. In October, an evening of talks, created in partnership with Vindolanda Trust, Newcastle University and Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, will round-off the National Trust’s year of events celebrating our shared LGBTQ heritage.
See the Prejudice and Pride web page for more details of the podcasts, films, activities and LGBTQ events around National Trust places in 2017.