Saturday, 27 February 2010

History Month, part two

As one of the LGBT History Month events, today there was a brief chance to explore some of the LGBT archives at Manchester's Central Library. It was great to see a hugely improved turnout - last time I went along to the equivalent event there were about ten or twelve people present, but this time it was nearer to thirty and you had to do a lot more swapping places with people and waiting your turn to get a look at any particular resource that interested you.

Things I'd not browsed before included:

It's Queer Up North - a document about a dozen pages long that seemed to be the original mission statement for this arts project, circa 1993. Almost entirely 'lesbian and gay' in its language, with just a nod to the concept of a wider sense of queer implying that this is about trans. Gotta love activist plan documents complete with the pencil annotations.

A dissertation by some student from a few years ago, looking at the evolution of the gay village. Throughout it talks about the queer communities, people, etc, and in talking about Manchester's queer population since the 1980s it engages with the ideas of lesbian and gay non-scene spaces... but only those.

And a large-format version the fabulous 90s Manchester city council equal opps policy - the one that was the starting point of the conversation between Bisexual Action and Manchester City Council that led to the declaration by the latter that bis are just a type of a gay.

The notable missing element for me, of course, is a complete lack of any trace of the bisexual community. We've got what is now the longest running bi group in the UK, have been host city to two huge sprawling BiCons, and of course Bi Community News had a "printed in Manchester" line on the credits for over a decade. At one point there were at least four parallel bi projects running in the city with different sets of people behind each.

But it seems the archives say nothing.

Doing something to change that level of invisibility will take time and cash. There are resources out there - or here in my personal collection - documenting at least the period since 1994. BiPhoria flyers, newsletters, BCNs, BiCon advertising, and more. I don't have multiple spares to be able to donate them to places like Manchester Central Library, and I'm not donating my personal copies any time soon.

But with the devotion of some time and cash duplicates could be created, and maybe next year or the year after, one of the displays at LGBT HM might document the love/hate relationship between Manchester's council and gay scene, and the bisexual population. Wouldn't that be good to see?

(Part one has yet to be written - as this week mostly I'm in bed with lurgy!)

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