Hosted by the City of Manchester

A world-first popular festival, celebrating three centuries of LGBT history, run entirely by volunteers.

Trailblazing campaigners, eminent scholars, and pioneering performers join forces to share unique and rarely heard histories, for adults and children of all ages.

On Friday, the inaugural Allan Horsfall lecture, sponsored by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, unveils the first attempts at parliamentary reform in 1832. Saturday at Central Library goes Under The Rainbow, with an exploration of LGBT identity and personal stories from the 18th century to today. Sunday at People's History Musuem explores lesbian activists, LGBT rights in the workplace, and Britain's colonial legacy in exporting homophobic laws.

A Very Victorian Scandal, our innovative, immersive theatre performance based on an 1880 police raid on a fancy dress ball, runs throughout the weekend. There are schools and families events for children, young adults, parents and educators on the Saturday and Sunday. The 2nd “What is and how to do LGBT history” conference runs in parallel.

There are films throughout the week in Manchester's Gay Village, and various surprises in the week leading up to the festival. Stay tuned, and be sure to follow our Facebook and Twitter, or join our e-mail list for up-to-the minute news! Keep scrolling to find out more, or go to the schedule page to find out full details.

What’s on?

Manchester Central Library in 1934. Courtesy Archives+.

Under The Rainbow

Saturday — Manchester Central Library

Saturday explores three centuries of LGBTQ identity, from when George III was on the throne to the present day. Campaigners and academics behind groups such as the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, the Lesbian Information Service, and Press for Change discuss their life work, legacy, successes, and regrets.

Under the Rainbow

A celebration of the remarkable work of LGBTQ campaigners living today. Highlights include the launch of The Campaign for Homosexual Equality's history, written by Peter Scott-Presland, while Ross Burgess talks about CHE's impact and legacy. Christine Burns MBE, key activist in Press For Change, whose work contributed to the Gender Recognition Act 2004, will talk about overcoming the challenges to document trans* history.

We also talk to the people behind the frontline services that improved the lives of many, such as Nottinghamshire Lesbian and Gay Switchboard (presented by David Edgley) and the controversial Lesbian Information Service (presented by Jan Bridget). How do the people involved in these campaigns and services feel about their legacy today?

Many other remarkable individuals will discuss their extraordinary lives, including Peter Tatchell, founder of the Gay Liberation Front; and Alex Herrmann, who will talk about his life as a gay man in Socialist East Germany.

Obviously as a Manchester festival we have to talk about music! Abigail Ward, founder of the Manchester District Music Archive discusses her Queer Noise collection of tickets and posters, including infamous clubnights from Flesh (at the famous Haçienda) to Club Brenda.

The CHE football team

The CHE football team. Courtesy Peter Scott-Presland.

Photo from an anti-Thatcher march

Anti Section-28 demo. Courtesy David Edgley.

Flesh flyer

Flyer for Flesh clubnight. Courtesy Manchester District Music Archive.

Olive Custance

Olive Custance. Source unknown.

Coded Lives

Helena Whitbread discusses Anne Lister's (1791–1840) coded diaries, which detail her scandalous liaisons with women. Between 1806 and 1840 she wrote prolifically, with a total output of 26 volumes containing 4 million words. As well as writing about her sex life and seduction techniques, she wrote about the weather, social and national events, and her own business interests as a wealthy landowner.

Oscar Wilde's lover, Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas was married to Olive Custance, a remarkable person in her own right. Dr Sarah Parker will discuss her new research about Olive's relationships with both men and women, and her life as a successful poet.

Delving into the archive

Paul Martin OBE, Chief Executive of the Lesbian and Gay Foundation, will present exhibits from the LGF’s archive. Sylvia Kölling, Saturday Hub coordinator and archive volunteer, will talk about the remarkable personal correspondence of the father of the modern gay rights movement, Allan Horsfall. Both archives are stored at Central Library.

Festival volunteers at the archive

Festival volunteers at Archives+. Courtesy Kim Foale.

Craggan Estate, Derry, 1985. Courtesy JGM Evans.

Power, Resistance, Empire

Sunday — People’s History Museum

Organised protest and social movements have been instrumental in building a more equal world. Sunday focusses on the impact of power, institutions, and the law, in changing rights for LGBT people.

We examine the global export of Britain's anti-gay buggery laws from the 19th century. We ask why lesbian voices have been marginalised in the protest movement, highlighting the remarkable work of women at Greenham Common Peace Camp. Finally, we chronicle campaigns against workplace discrimination beginning in the 1960s.

Uniting for workplace equality

Mike Jackson, co-founder of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners highlights the story behind this year's critically acclaimed film “Pride”. Cath Booth discusses the work of Lesbians and Gays Support the Printworkers, who assisted workers sacked by Rupert Murdoch during the Wapping dispute. TUC LGBT & Disability Officer Peter Purton will explore the history of how homophobia and transphobia have been addressed in the workplace.

Finally, All The Nice Girls explores the lives of World War I stars Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney, using theatre, cabaret and dance. Gwen and Norah routinely performed for the entertainment of the armed forces.

LGSM Banner

Original LGSM banner. Courtesy People's History Museum.

Peter Tatchell Ugandan campaign

Peter Tatchell protesting homophobia in Uganda. Courtesy Peter Tatchell.

Exporting Homophobia

In the 1800s, the British Empire stretched across two thirds of the world, and Britain exported laws banning same-sex relations to its colonies. Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and Prossy Kakooza, a refugee who has rebuilt her life in the UK after experiencing abuse and torture in Uganda, discuss Britain's colonial legacy.

Protest & Lesbianism

From Votes For Women to the Greenham Common peace camps, lesbian women have been at the forefront of movements for social change. Sheila Standard and Dr Sonja Tiernan discuss the key roles played by lesbians in protest movements, including the Barmaids' Defence League and Urania, a pioneering covert journal on gender and sexuality.

Protesters at Greenham Common

Protestors at Greenham Common. Courtesy People's History Museum.

Illustrated Police News, 1880. Courtesy Archives+.

A Very Victorian Scandal

One of the foulest and most disgraceful orgies that ever disgraced any town… (Manchester Evening News, September 1880)

A Very Victorian Scandal (#AVVS) is a groundbreaking immersive theatre project, being performed over the festival weekend. The project will recreate scenes from the biggest police raid on an ‘LGBT’ event in British history. Manchester’s famous Victorian detective, Jerome Caminada, led the raid on an all-male fancy dress ball in Hulme, and arrested forty-seven men. The subsequent press coverage caused an international sensation. This was the UK’s Stonewall moment, and it happened in 1880.

The Raid

Friday 13th, Via Fossa

A living recreation of the fancy dress ball. Mingle with the fancy dress ball attendees, learn a little about their lives, and watch them sing and dance to Music Hall tunes. A Victorian police raid will then rudely interrupt the evening's raucous events.

Hulme Temperance Hall

Hulme Temperance Hall. Courtesy Archives+

Det. Jerome Caminada

Det. Jerome Caminada. Courtesy Archives+.


Saturday 14th, Central Library

A fresh take on the motives behind the police raid, in an intimate performance at Manchester Central Library. Secrets and politics combine to make some men, and ruin others. Caminada courts the press, but can he keep control of the story?

The Trial

Sunday 15th

Experience what it was like to be amongst the 47 prisoners, as we recreate the infamous trial using immersive theatre. You will watch your fate, and the fate of the other prisoners, be decided by the Chief Justice. Will all of the prisoners maintain their promise to remain silent, or will the fear of prison force someone to speak out?

Thomas Nash, prosecution barrister

Thomas Nash, prosecution barrister. Courtesy Archives+.

Projecting Diversity

The festival will feature screenings of films from all over the world, including this year's smash hit “Pride”. More information on the full schedule and special guest speakers coming soon!

A Schools OUT event. Photo by Huw.

Schools & Families

On Saturday and Sunday, Schools OUT UK will host the Schools & Families festival strand. We will offer children, educators, parents and governors the chance to experience educational, fun, and inclusive activities for children of all ages.

At Schools OUT, we are proud of our 40 year legacy making schools safer and more equal for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* people, in all their diversity. We are run entirely by volunteers, and established both LGBT History Month and The First National Festival of LGBT History to further our aims as national educators.

Readings & Lessons

Readings will be presented by Adam Lowe, a local poet and founder of Young Enigma, Catherine Hall, author of Repercussions, and Sue Sanders, co-chair of Schools OUT. They will be reading titles for children and young adults such as “My Invented Life”, “Pugdog”, “Space Girl Pukes” and “Who Are You, Stripy Horse?”. A range of diversity lessons will be presented by experienced classroom teachers.

All the books read will be available to borrow from the library!

Stuart Milk

Stuart Milk. Courtesy Harvey Milk Foundation.

Harvey Milk

Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk, will present a lesson on his uncle's work and legacy, and the work of the Harvey Milk Foundation worldwide. Harvey Milk was an American politician who campaigned for gay rights in San Francisco's famous Castro district. He was tragically assassinated in 1978 alongside his colleague George Moscone. Stuart co-founded the Harvey Milk Foundation, and is now an ambassador for LGBT rights around the world.

Combating discrimination and the law

Schools OUT believe that to eliminate the prejudice and negative stereotypes around minority groups and women, we need to educate out prejudice.

All public organisations (including schools) have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to not only prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but to actively educate people about all the protected characteristics, including gender, sexuality and marital status.

These lessons will demonstrate how this can be done, and prove that such work can be fun, educational, and successful in eliminating discrimination.

Equality Act 2010 booklet

Archive card index. Courtesy Archives+.

Academic Conference

The LGF hosts “The 2nd What is & How to DO LGBT History?” conference, which seeks to place attitudes, experiences and identities in their historical context.

Despite the increasing popular demand for "LGBT History" in Britain, the history of attitudes towards sex and gender diversity in the UK remains an underdeveloped field, especially in comparison with the advances that have been made in the United States. An important part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of LGBT History month is to lead and develop the growing discourse into past attitudes towards sex and gender diversity within the academy and among the general public.

Learn More

The First National Festival of LGBT History is the official celebration of LGBT History Month's 10th anniversary. LGBT History Month is a part of Schools OUT UK, which has worked towards equality, safety and visibility for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* people in education since 1974.

We are proud to work with Manchester City Council, the LGF, Manchester Metropolitan University, and scholars from some of the country's most respected institutions in delivering this unprecedented, world-first festival.

© 2014 LGBT History Festival

Part of Schools OUT UK, Registered Charity #1156352 in England and Wales.

Uncovering & celebrating our past to enlighten our present & thereby guiding our creation of a more inclusive & equitable future.

LGBT History Festival website created with love by Kim Foale and Squid.