Prejudice and Pride our LGBTQ Artists-in-Residence
In 2017 we marked 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality with ‘Prejudice and Pride’, a year-long programme of celebration and activity. We worked with two national artists in residence, Simona Piantieri and Michele D’Acosta, who were given behind-the-scenes access to research the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer) heritage of our places.
They have visited sites across Britain talking to our staff and volunteers. From this research they have created three new films that investigate and reveal some of our LGBTQ histories, as well as exploring why it is so important that we have chosen to talk about this heritage this year.
Art and poverty: the story of Wightwick
A House Beautiful takes its inspiration from the collections, connections and stories from Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton. Taking the rich collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings and drawings as a starting point, the artists have delved deeper into the story of Simeon Soloman – a prominent pre-Raphaelite until his career was cut short, when he was arrested for an illegal sexual encounter with a man and spent the rest of his life in poverty.
The piece also encapsulates connections with Oscar Wilde, and the story of May Morris and her companion Miss Lobb, associates of the Mander family – Wightwick’s former owners.
It weaves together a narrative of love, loss and creativity that binds together Wightwick’s unusual history.
The tale of London's LGBTQ club culture
Caravan Club documents the reconstruction of The Caravan in March 2017, an initiative developed by National Trust in partnership with The National Archives. Coined ‘London’s most bohemian rendezvous’, a queer-friendly members club of 1934, the recreation took place at Freud Café-Bar – in almost the exact spot of The Caravan’s original location.
The 1930s was a time when being openly gay would frequently lead to prosecution and imprisonment; and the recreation of The Caravan sought to tell the important story of many similar clandestine LGBTQ+ spaces that were raided and closed by police.
Photographs, court reports, police papers and witness statements selected from The National Archives’ extensive collection on The Caravan and other clubs of the era were used to re-create the striking bohemian interior of the underground club.
The film captures not only the reconstruction, but also a flavour of a cabaret programme that took place in the reconstructed space.
Playing our part at Birmingham Pride
Pride creatively documents our presence at Birmingham Pride Festival. It captures the spirit of optimism and joy of the event, and reveals through the narration of the participants why it is so important that National Trust has chosen to celebrate our LGBTQ heritage, and what this means for our members and visitors today.
About the Artists:
Simona is a video artist and photographer who has produced a wide variety of audio-visual work for museums, cultural institutions and public spaces. Simona said about the ‘Prejudice and Pride’ residency:
" I ran away from home in Naples, southern Italy, when I was 19 years old. My parents had found out that I was gay and for them it was a curse! London was the city that adopted me. Here, I found acceptance and could explore my true identity."
'Winning the National Trust’s LGBTQ residency was both a creative and personal journey for me. It gave me an amazing opportunity to explore the lives of many LGBTQ people from history who had to struggle to live their lives amongst marginalization and prejudice. It was also a rare chance to find and lend my own voice to the final work, which was a deep healing experience for me.'
Michele is a creative writer, researcher and producer. She was one of the original members of Stonewall, which was set up to oppose Section 28, fight prejudice against lesbians and gay men, and to promote equality -- and is now the largest LGBTQ rights organisation in Europe.
In 1989 she worked as a television presenter on Out on Tuesday, the groundbreaking Channel 4 lesbian and gay primetime arts and current affairs programme.
Michele said on taking up the residency:
" I am delighted to be artist in residence for the National Trust’s LGBTQ programme. It is a very important project to which I hope to contribute through our creativity in addressing the amazing LGBTQ stories embedded in several National Trust places. I would like to use this opportunity to make visible many invisible LGBTQ lives as a tribute to the 50th Anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality."