3 March 2017
The museum was delighted to welcome Ian McKellen to open Never Going Underground: The Fight for LGBT+ Rights - a ground-breaking exhibition that explores the movement and stories of diverse LGBT+ communities and their quest for equality, and which marks 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexual acts in England and Wales (1967 Sexual Offences Act). The event was supported by Freshfields, our new neighbour in Manchester and strong advocates of equality, with support in kind from the Co-op (Fairtrade wine), CH&Co Group (caterers at the museum) and cocktails from Crazy Pedro’s, part time pizza parlour and late night drinking den.
Ian McKellen said: ‘We should all accept the simple fact that we should love each other. Radical non-conformist passion defines this city and it’s wonderful that the People’s History Museum should be telling this story. I hope this exhibition can go across the country so that this story can be told, and then it should travel the world.’
Janneke Geene, PHM’s Acting Director said: ‘It means a great deal to all those who have helped to make Never Going Underground happen, that it has been opened by Ian McKellen; one of the world’s most recognisable, respected and vocal figures on LGBT+ rights, who has been involved at the frontline of LGBT+ campaigns for many, many years. This is a powerful and hugely important exhibition that illuminates the humbling story of what people have gone through to achieve rights to simply be themselves, and one that, as the People’s History Museum, it is our privilege to tell and invite visitors to share in.’
Never Going Underground, which is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), takes visitors on an often stark and hugely emotional journey, serving as a reminder of the way that LGBT+ people have been criminalised, persecuted and erased from history for hundreds of years and the struggles they have had to encounter to achieve equality.
Tiffany Hunt, Chair of HLF North West Committee, said: ‘I’m delighted to be visiting Never Going Underground and seeing the incredible impact of National Lottery players’ money. This pioneering exhibition will preserve an underexplored part of the UK’s heritage for future generations and pay tribute to those who have fought as part of the ongoing struggle for LGBT+ rights.’
The vision for the exhibition has been led by nine voluntary Community Curators supported by the People’s History Museum. Adrian Smith, Heather Davidson, Jenny White, Kirsty Roberts, Kirsty Jukes, Lu Tolu, Sarah Wilkinson, Stephen M Hornby and Vivien Walsh have met with campaigners, researched archives and reached out to individuals and groups to gather art, photographs, newspaper reports and memories to present their narrative of how diverse LGBT+ communities have forged the path forwards towards equality. Protest, representation, visibility, solidarity, a shared voice and creativity have been the driving forces behind the vision for LGBT+ rights, and these form the backdrop for the exhibition.
Vivien Walsh, community curator for the People’s History Museum said: ‘Looking at all the material we’ve collected and put together, it is shocking to realise how long it took us to achieve – partially – the basic human right of being treated equally: and how far there is still to go. I am especially struck by how much campaigning and struggle it took. Like everything else celebrated in the People’s History Museum, what the LGBT+ community has achieved, took decades of campaigning and sacrifice by the people who are remembered in this exhibition.’
Sarah Wilkinson, Community Curator for the People’s History Museum said: ‘There is no single narrative in the struggle for LGBT+ rights and we hope that the exhibition highlights some of the everyday heroes who fought, and continue to fight, for LGBT+ rights as well as representing key events that have made a difference to all our lives.’
Four partners are working with the People’s History Museum on Never Going Underground: The Proud Trust, LGBT Foundation, Proud 2 b Parents and Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus. The project has been made possible by the National Lottery through a HLF grant of £63,000. The exhibition forms part of a year long programme of events, talks, community projects and a schools learning programme; all of which will discuss, explore and navigate the LGBT+ movement showing the struggles and the social and historical context of decades of activism.
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