New digital artwork celebrates untold stories of Warwickshire’s LGBTQ+ communities - The Rugby Observer
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14th Aug, 2022

New digital artwork celebrates untold stories of Warwickshire’s LGBTQ+ communities

THE UNTOLD stories of Warwickshire’s LGBTQ+ communities are being celebrated in a new digital artwork

‘This, our hive of voices’ is being unveiled as part of LGBT History Month (February 1-28).

It is a participatory arts project led by artist Lady Kitt, working alongside staff and volunteers at Warwickshire County Record Office and members of Warwickshire Pride-run youth group, Proud Youth.

The new digital installation invites audiences to explore an online cabinet where local people have hidden stories and histories that shine a light on LGBTQ+ themes and issues, as well as broader topics.

Inspired by the content within Warwickshire County Record Office, ‘This, our hive of voices’ aims to rebalance the existing archive collections, and ensure more LGBTQ+ history is included in the archives for future generations.

Newcastle-based paper sculptor, researcher and drag king Lady Kitt said: “When Warwickshire Pride was founded in 2011, the need for such an organisation was questioned on the basis that there are no gay people in Warwickshire.

“‘This, our hive of voices’ is a direct rebuttal to that assumption – demonstrating there are, in fact, vibrant, wildly creative and mutually supportive LGBTQ+ communities all over Warwickshire and have been throughout history. The project is an opportunity for more of the County’s LGBTQ+ history to be recorded and remembered within the archive collections at Warwickshire County Record Office.

“Visiting the archives, I was reminded of a beehive; with local histories flying in to be cared for by the staff and then back out into the community! This inspired the idea of creating a virtual hive of stories.

“The groups we’ve worked with to develop our online cabinet of stories have shared some powerful, poignant and hilarious examples of LGBTQ+ lives in Warwickshire, and communicated these in a wonderful variety of creative ways. These include making Bi Biscuits – cookies celebrating bi or pansexual people from the county, including William Shakespeare – and The Burger of Expectation, an illustrated recipe for the ‘perfect girlfriend’.”

Carolyn Ewing, Archivist at Warwickshire County Record Office, said: “Our county’s archive collections should be representative of all our communities, and that’s why it’s so important that we remove barriers that prevent people from either accessing or donating to Warwickshire County Record Office.

“Through this Meeting Point project we’ve been able to build new connections in our local communities and explore how our collections document and record LGBTQ+ history.

“It’s been fascinating to hear people’s stories, and to begin a discussion about how our archives can celebrate and share LGBTQ+ history in the county and beyond.”

Jamie, a young person participating in the project, said: “I’m involved in the project to let other queer, neurodivergent people in the near or distant future know that the world is changing. We can only see a short distance ahead, but we see plenty that must be done.”

Daniel Browne, Chair of Warwickshire Pride, said: “Working with Lady Kitt on this project has been a fantastic experience that has enabled our young people to express themselves creatively and add their voices and identities to the interesting LGBT+ history in Warwickshire.

“We were told 10 years ago by a local councillor that there were no gay people in Warwickshire, so we are pleased to prove that individual was incorrect and collaborate on such an important project that honours and celebrates LGBT+ life, culture, history and voices.”

‘This, our hive of voices’ is presented as part of Meeting Point, a national programme led by contemporary arts agency Arts&Heritage which partners leading UK and international artists with museums and heritage sites to produce new artworks inspired by the museums and their collections.

Steph Allen, Executive Director at Arts&Heritage said: “Exploring how we document and record our shared history is vital if we want to ensure collections and archives represent our diverse communities.

“By working with artists, venues are encouraged to view their collections in a new light. Artists can help reflect collections back in unexpected, vibrant and sometimes challenging ways, inviting audiences to join the conversation about how their stories are told.

“Lady Kitt’s work embraces collaboration and this approach challenges the stereotype around who can, or should be allowed, to be creative. It gives communities a voice, and allows people to express themselves through art.”

The stories presented through ‘This, our hive of voices’ will also form part of a new physical artwork that will be exhibited at Leamington Library from May. More information will be released later in the year.

‘This, our hive of voices’ will be available to view at https://tinyurl.com/2p884tw2 from Tuesday (February 1).

Visit www.artsandheritage.org.uk for more information about Arts&Heritage and the Meeting Point programme.

Visit https://heritage.warwickshire.gov.uk/warwickshire-county-record-office for more information about Warwickshire County Record Office.

Visit www.warwickshirepride.co.uk for more information about Warwickshire Pride.

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