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OUTing the Past Festival 2022

OUTing the Past Festival is an international celebration of LGBT history, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is joining as a festival hub for the third time.

On Thursday 17th February 2022, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust joined OUTing the Past Festival in our third year as a festival hub. We were delighted to welcome a variety of fantastic speakers, to share their knowledge and discuss their recent research into LGBT+ history.

Through our ‘Proud Shakespeare’ programme, we are continually working to bring LGBT+ voices to the forefront: putting the spotlight on collections objects, archival records, and library materials which contribute to an understanding of LGBT+ lived experience in Shakespeare’s time and beyond.

The afternoon began with a presentation from Jim Ranahan (he/him), Collections Archivist at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who was joined by Jessica Whitfield (she/her), the No Barriers trainee on placement with the Trust, and Michelle Avon (she/her), a local LGBTQ+ advocate and Proud Shakespeare volunteer. This talk explored how LGBTQ+ lived experiences are glimpsed ‒ and masked ‒ through the Trust’s collections.

Jim, Jessica and Michelle examined the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s ‘Proud Shakespeare’ approach: how it re-presents existing records, and how it seeks to reflect ‘today’s history’ by engaging with the LGBTQ+ community and through contemporary collecting. You can watch the presentation below.

We then welcomed Cheryl Morgan (she/her), with her presentation ‘Girls on Stage’. This talk began to uncover the complex gender play at work when boys represented female characters on stage, in Shakespeare’s time and beyond. This was followed by a fascinating Q+A with Cheryl, led by Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Head of Collections Roz Sklar. This presentation was not recorded.

To round off the festival, we were thrilled to introduce ‘Shake Up! LGBT+ Remix’, brought to us by 1623 Theatre Company. During lockdown, 1623’s ‘Shake Up!’ video series invited LGBT+ artists to mix their own experiences of marginalisation and social injustices with a shot of Shakespeare.

During this showcase, four short videos were screened, followed by an audience Q+A with the artists. This was a powerful and uplifting event, closing out the festival with a safe space in which artists and audience were free to share thoughts, feelings and experiences. You can watch the showcase below.

The entire event sought to be as inclusive as possible: all presentations and the discussions in between were BSL-interpreted by Clare Edwards and Natasha Trantom. All speakers gave a self-description for blind or visually impaired audience members. The recordings of the presentations have closed captioning.

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