A ‘Pinning Party’ with Proud Youth: Sharing Warwickshire’s LGBTQ+ History

The record office has been working with Warwickshire's 'Proud Youth', a group for LGBT+ young people.
Image reproduced by kind permission of Warwickshire Pride

For those of you who remember my blog post last year,  you’ll be pleased to hear my work on LGBTQ+ history in Warwickshire has been progressing. As a culmination of my research thus far, I recently ran a number of public talks on LGBTQ+ history. There was a really good response from the audiences and it was great to see how much discussion the topic inspired. It certainly made people think!

Unfortunately, a mix-up with the times (entirely my fault) had meant that the kind folk from Warwickshire Pride missed these talks. We got in contact to remedy the mistake and it was decided that this would be a good opportunity to visit them on their turf, and run a session at the Warwickshire Proud Youth drop-in.

Crowd-sourced contributions

I really wanted to make this a chance for people to share their own memories and knowledge. Historically, LGBTQ+ voices and stories have been hidden or silenced, so it seemed important to actively make space for the community to speak for themselves.

My original thought was to run a session using the Historic England website Pride of Place. This is a crowd-sourced site, where members of the public can put ‘pins’ on a map, identifying places that are relevant to LGBTQ+ heritage. These could be as recent as yesterday, or as long ago as the Romans. They could be very personal experiences (positive and negative) or they could relate to social spaces, activism, work, marriage – you name it!

However, upon discovering that the venue wouldn’t have internet or computers, I had to adjust my plan to be a bit more ‘old school’. So, this leads us to the question, what exactly is a pinning party?

What exactly is a pinning party?

Well, you know how in those classic detective films, there’s always a display board for them to puzzle over – the kind with all of the evidence pinned on a map, and hundreds of threads interwoven between them? Ever since I was child with a wild imagination, I’ve always wanted to have a good reason to make one. This was just the opportunity!

Armed with some maps, stickers and coloured thread, I arrived at the drop-in. After some initial bemusement, everyone seemed to get on board with the idea – write a memory down on a sticker, and ‘pin’ the thread to the location on the map.  Conversation began to flow and the ideas and memories just kept coming. We were really able to flesh out the local LGBTQ+ history, particularly in Warwick and Leamington.

Some highlights included gay nights at various bars, community groups and rallies, and even churches which had expressed inclusive sentiments. I was particularly intrigued to hear about the mysterious and extravagant ‘Gay Lunch on Sundays’ – an exclusive affair held at different venues each week, only for those who are ‘in the know’. I’ve typed up all the contributions and they can now be found online at Pride of Place. The plan is to bring the map to events like Warwickshire Pride, so that we can keep adding to it.

Thank you to Proud Youth

It was really lovely to meet everyone and I had a great few hours getting to know people, having conversations about the importance of LGBTQ+ history, and hearing their reminiscences. Hopefully the lovely folk of Proud Youth (who, by the way, are doing an amazing job) enjoyed it as much as I did!