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Talking Back: inaugural conference of the Oral History Society’s LGBTQ Special Interest Group at London Metropolitan Archives

Saturday 2 December 2017 saw the inaugural conference of the Oral History Society’s LGBTQ Special Interest Group (SIG), appropriately entitled ‘Talking Back: The 15th annual LGBTQ History and Archives Conference’. With thanks to the support of conference partners, London Metropolitan Archives and the Oral History Society, and the tireless efforts of the group’s Chair, Clare Summerskill and team, the conference welcomed over 150 attendees during the day-long event at LMA. Tom Furber describes the day.

The programme enjoyed creative participation from the Tate’s ‘Queer Collage Workshop’ as well as the time for networking, collaboration and exploration in the project-sharing space. Lunchtime activities included connecting with organisations and projects through stalls, exploring the LGBTQ+ and other oral histories held at LMA, and behind the scenes tours.

Diverse papers and presentations from members of the SIG ensured that the core of the programme was packed with visceral, candid and moving glimpses into LGBTQ+ life. The panels considered the legacy of the fiftieth anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, the power of spoken word in LGBTQ+ oral history projects, opportunities and challenges in gathering LGBTQ+ oral histories and curating and displaying testimonies. Veronica McKenzie and Dr Molly Merryman (Kent State University), also made important contributions relating to Anglo-American LGBTQ+ communities and the use of oral testimonies in communicating LGBTQ+ life stories through documentary film respectively.

To bring the day to a close PJ Samuels, poet and LGBTQ+ human rights activist, offered a powerful spoken word performance, followed by a somewhat festival and pop-tastic recital from the London Gay Symphonic Winds Lite Ensemble.

With the footfall for this event matching the LMA’s turnout from previous LGBT History and Archives Conferences, as well as such positive feedback from attendees as, ‘Talking Back will stand out as one of the friendliest, liveliest and moving conferences I have ever attended’, the SIG are already considering next year’s theme!

For further information visit the Oral History website, or contact, Chair - Clare Summerskill, Secretary - Alan Butler.

18 January 2018
Last Modified:
14 June 2019