Each February in the UK, the nation observes LGBT+ History Month. Its aim is to promote equality and diversity for the benefit of the public.
Throughout the month, the team at UK Parliament will be hosting a number of online events. Through these talks, they aim to educate and celebrate LGBT+ history. We spoke to Thalia Webster, Digital Visitor Experience Manager at UK Parliament, about what to expect from these events and why it is so crucial to continue to educate the nation on LGBT+ history.
Why do you think it’s important to teach the younger generation the struggles faced by LGBT+ communities before them?
I think it’s really important to understand how far we have come and how far we still have to go. Some of the stories we will be telling in our LBGT+ online talks will not be within the living memory of people they are impacting now, so it’s important they are not forgotten. Their stories deserve to be celebrated and recognised!
And why do you think it’s important to let the younger generation, such as the students at Winchester School of Art, tell these and their own stories?
It’s been brilliant to see how the BA graphic design students from Winchester School of Art have brought their skills and experience together in this project to come up with unique ways of presenting these stories. I have loved seeing how their modern-day experiences have impacted the way they view the historic records held in the Parliamentary Archives and the attitudes to the LGBT+ community. I think it’s so important that they can react to and create work based on history and legislation that affects their lives today. Their voices are so important and the way in which they have brought forward new perspectives and opinions also means that other young people may look at the work and realise the impact it has on them too. I’m so happy to be involved in an event like this where we can share the work directly from its creators.
‘Winchester School of Art: reviving LGBT+ history’ is on Thursday 17 February at 6pm.
Your talk ‘LGBT+ histories from the Palace of Westminster’ focuses on untold stories, why have you chosen to tell these stories?
I think the untold stories can be some of the most fascinating! The reality of everyday lives of people affected by LGBT+ legislation can easily be forgotten or unrecognised throughout history as they do not have the same amount of recorded material. Now we place more importance (and rightly so!) on these stories because they can be some of the most interesting, personal, and relatable parts of history. You also then get a sense of what life was really like. We have such a brilliant opportunity with our online talks programme as we can delve deeper into research and tell these hidden stories.
‘LGBT+ histories from the Palace of Westminster’ is on Thursday 25 February a 6pm.
Both of your LGBT+ talks are free, do you think it’s important that LGBT history and education should be easily accessible to all and why?
It should definitely be easily accessible to all, it’s such an important part of our history which has impacted so many people and stories of the LGBT+ communities need to be told. One of our major aims in these events is to help provide a platform to make LGBT+ history and issues more accessible to different audiences, which is why being able to work with the Winchester School of Art students has been so exciting. Not only is the event free for all, but the work they have done aims to inspire and educate people of all ages and backgrounds, getting people to view history in a different way. All our online public programmes are free, which has helped increase accessibility, this includes our online talks and tours, our ‘how Parliament works’ workshops and our school and community outreach sessions - there really is something for everyone!
Throughout your research for these talks, is there anything you found particularly striking or that stood out to you?
How sexuality has been used as a political lever throughout history, where the legislation created was intended to impact high profile figures but actually had much longer lasting impact on day to day lives of everyday people. It’s really interesting, and a major theme of the ‘LGBT+ histories from the Palace of Westminster’ talk on 25 February!
What are you most looking forward to across these events?
I’m really looking forward to hearing the students from Winchester School of Art share their perspectives and to see their finished work! In the LGBT+ histories talk, I am looking forward to learning more about historical attitudes to sexuality and how they impacted society.
What do you hope that the audience takes away from these events?
I’d love the audience to learn something new about LGBT+ history and the LGBT+ community. It would be brilliant to inspire people to engage with UK Parliament again, either through contacting a Member of the House of Commons or Lords about an issue they care about or by booking onto another one of our online events.
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