Last year, we hosted our first OUTing the Past event at The Shakespeare Centre with a full day of wonderful speakers and performances. Dr Paul Edmondson, Head of Research at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, presented a talk on the bisexual voices of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, we heard poetry from the LGBT Poet Laureate Trudy Howson, and we were excited to share our first LGBT+ archival source guide, which we continue to expand.
Although we still face challenges due to the impact of Covid-19, we were delighted to be able to invite our speakers to join us virtually on Zoom for OUTing the Past Festival 2021. Seven amazing speakers from across the UK shared their wealth of knowledge, and their experiences of celebrating LGBTQIA+ history across the museums and heritage sector. The presentations were seen by an audience of over 250 people, from across the world.
The afternoon began with a passionate introduction to LGBT+ History Month from its co-founder Sue Sanders, who shared the challenges they have overcome to enable us all to come together for this annual celebration.
We then heard from Dan Vo and Matthew Storey about how Historic Royal Palaces have delighted audiences with their events, with the support of the Queer Heritage and Collections Network.
Dr Dominique Bouchard and Anna Niland shared how English Heritage worked with the National Youth Theatre to elevate the LGBT+ stories within Eltham Palace's history, to deliver the poignant theatre performance titled ‘Our House’.
Norena Shopland shared her hints and tips for searching for LGBTQIA+ historical records, and gave us a fascinating insight into how language has changed over time.
And so we closed the afternoon with the inspiring words of Debra Ann Byrd (Artistic Director, The Harlem Shakespeare Festival) and her thoughts on Shakespeare’s play Othello.
The poet Maya Angelou, one of the named writers in this year’s Outing the Past Festival, famously said of Shakespeare: ‘Of course, he was a black woman. I understood that. Nobody else understood it, but I know Shakespeare was a black woman. That is the role of art in life.’
Debra Ann Byrd knows that Shakespeare was a black woman too, and shared her thoughts on what that statement means to her, as she reflected on her personal testimony of Becoming Othello: A Black Girl’s Journey.
Our hope is that through working with our community, and in the continued research of our rich collection, we can uncover stories, share ideas, and incite discussion about what connects us to LGBT+ history, within Stratford-upon-Avon and through Shakespeare’s works, life and time.
If you missed any of the talks from our OUTing the Past Festival 2021, you can watch and listen here for free.