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OutStories Returns To Bristol

The exhibition based on archival records and oral history interviews with LGBT people associated with Bristol and the surrounding area returns to the city for the summer.

The popular OutStories Bristol’s ‘Revealing Stories’ exhibition is on display in the Bristol Record Office from 10 June to 4 October 2014. The ground breaking exhibition which has been put together by the ‘OutStories’ group reveals the hidden histories of Bristol’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities through images, artworks, oral history and memorabilia.

Focusing on living memory (c. 1940s to the present) the exhibition tells how people in Bristol fought to shape and control their own lives. It is the story of those who witnessed these changes and helped to make history and was first staged at the M Shed between February & April last year.

As well as the vertical text panels from the original exhibition, the display includes material from the Bristol City archives not previously shown including programmes from Bristol Pride festivals in the 1980s/90s and early documents relating to Bristol Gay Switchboard, Gay West and the Campaign for Homosexual Equality.

It will be accompanied by a talk ‘Untold Stories’ on 10th July about the making of the exhibition and the stories and people featured in it. The talk will reference documents at Bristol Record Office and excerpts from oral histories collected from LGBT Bristolians.

The project was funded mainly through an award of £20,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Donations were generously made by Bristol Central Reference Library, Bristol City Council Rainbow Group, Gay West and Wizard’s Tower Press. Importantly, these enabled us to fulfill our HLF commitment to provide £500 of matched funding, and to fund some of the costs of nine supporting events.

Preparing the exhibition required work to research stories in the local press, archives and by contacting individuals who were involved. Locating objects and images proved difficult because of the nature of LGBT history; most people involved were extremely wary of having photographs or other record made. The other field of activity was to train and equip a team of 13 volunteers to interview and record oral histories. Short sound clips from the 42 interviews were included in the exhibition, and the full interviews will become part of the Museum’s permanent collection, the core of a growing record of Bristol LGBT lives.

Four local secondary schools were involved in the project, with workshops at M Shed and students then contributing their responses to some of the stories and objects. These were widely seen as a key element, the relative openness to LGBT issues among today’s students contrasting with the legal and social problems experienced in the past.

The public response to Revealing Stories was extremely positive and the local press supportive, with features and interviews on BBC Radio Bristol and in The Post. The planned opening dates of February 2 – March 3 was extended for two weeks by M Shed in response to the visitor numbers and public feedback, and then toured local locations including the University of West of England and Yate Library.

The Bristol Record Office is located at the‘B’ Bond Warehouse in Smeaton Road just off Cumberland Basin. The exhibition is open Tuesday to Friday: 9.30am to 4.30pm, additional opening hours can be found on the museum’s website