Every February since 2005, LGBT History Month aims to promote tolerance and raise awareness of and help to combat the prejudices faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. It started as a Schools OUT UK project. The 2020 event was launched in November 2019 at The British Library. After centuries of criminalisation, discrimination and invisibility, initiatives such as this show that LGBT+ people are not a new phenomenon.
Although some of the press have dismissed the project as mere ‘political correctness’, LGBT people suffer disproportionately not just from discrimination by employers, family members and the public, but also from unprovoked violence. The project tries to educate the public about the fact that LGBT people have existed throughout history (and prehistory!) and that some past societies have been more welcoming of diversity than our own.
We like to think of our society as tolerant and welcoming of diversity, but there has been in increase in homophobic hate crimes in recent years, with 21% of LGBT people (41% of trans people) experiencing a hate crime or incident in the past 12 months. Discrimination affected 10% of LGBT people looking for property to rent or buy and 17% of those visiting a café or restaurant.
Throughout February, we will post occasional articles relating to the history of LGBT+ people in North Hertfordshire. We don’t have a lot of material in the museum collection, so we are asking for people to consider donating things that help tell the stories of these people from the past who are usually overlooked in our history books. There is a small display in the entrance hall of the museum that illustrates the diversity of people in the history of the district, with characters such as Baldock’s ‘female husband’ landlord of The Sun and the Roman Emperor Elagabalus, and themes like the introduction of Civil Partnerships in 2005
Curator Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews will be giving a talk relating to the exhibition on Wednesday 19 February at 1.00 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. Tickets are available from https://north-herts-museum.arttickets.org.uk/ or from the Museum reception.
Creative, Relaxed, Yourself
This project will support the mental health of young people aged 14–18 through engagement with the collections at six Hertfordshire museums (Watford, Royston, North Herts, St Albans, Stevenage and Welwyn Hatfield). It is an early intervention for those at risk of, or already suffering from stress, anxiety or depression as identified by schools and health professionals.
Museums are recognised as venues which can have a major effect on health and wellbeing. Working with collections which ideally need interpretation including newly acquired objects we will use arts practice to draw out stories which reflect participants’ own experiences.
Participants will develop a sense of belonging to their local community, combatting isolation and engendering increased wellbeing. It has been amply demonstrated through academic research that the arts have a positive effect on wellbeing, this is not art therapy, simply an opportunity to express oneself in a safe, supportive and non-judgmental environment.
The project provides for Mental Health awareness training for staff and volunteers at participating museums. There will be ongoing celebration/sharing of work by individual groups but the culmination will be a coherent online record set up in consultation with the participants.
What is it?
9 weekly 2-hour workshops.
We provide pizza, so won’t go hungry!
Who is it for?
Anyone ages 14-18 who needs a bit of time out in a friendly, relaxed space.
When is it?
Wednesdays after school, beginning in the New Year.
What will I be doing?
Different venues will be hosting different creative activities – it might be photography, art, writing, music, collage.
Most importantly, you don’t need any experience; everyone is welcome, including complete beginners.
It is NOT a formal art class.
Where does it take place?
Our sessions will be happening at North Hertfordshire Museum, in Hitchin. Others will take place in Royston, St Albans, Stevenage, Watford and Welwyn Garden City.
What if I miss the school bus?
We may be able to provide transport.
How do I find out more?
Call or text 07746 578292, email us or talk to you teacher.
My favourite part of this week was when I helped in the Learning centre in a work shop called ‘Traditional toys’ on Tuesday and a mono-printing workshop on Thursday. I am thinking of volunteering on these days after my placement is over. I learnt more about how a museum is run as I helped move objects into storage, checked object numbers were in the right place and helped open up each morning. Because of this, I feel that I now have a good understanding of what a career in a museum might look like.
I got a chance to expand my history knowledge this week, as I read a book sold in the museaum called Suffrage stories: Tales from Knebworth, Stevenage, Hitchin and Letchworth. I also learnt more about Queer history as i researched: Margaret Thomas, Henrietta Pilkington and homosexuality in the 19th century. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about both of these.