queer history

Speak Out London exhibition at London Metropolitan Archives

SPK OUT London: Diversity City logo and image of two women looking at materials Speak Out London is an exhibition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer histories at the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA). Excitingly, it also the beginning of a permanent collection recording LGBTQ+ histories in London.

Voices of LGBTQ+ Londoners

The free exhibition is on until 24 August, and reveals stories of LGBTQ+ history from 1395 to the present day, from court records to GLC events; medical studies to protest and acts of parliament to campaigns.

If that sounds a little dry, don't be put off. The historical documents and materials are fascinating, but the beating heart of the exhibition is a collection of oral histories from LGBTQ+ Londoners telling their stories. There's a listening station in the exhibition, but the recordings are also available in the LMA Mediatheque.

Even though the exhibition is compact, it has the capacity to shock and inspire, from callous 'scientific' documents to vivid community newsletters. Oscar Wilde is present, of course, but so are lesser known figures like Eleanor (John) Rykener and Charlotte Charke.

Speak Out wall of contested terms: a white brick wall with 'gay', 'bisexual', and 'lesbian' written in large graffiti style letters

The focus is firmly on collective action, community, and the everyday experiences of individuals rather than a list of important events or famous figures. It's an approach which invites the visitor in to the story, and there are opportunities to create or annotate the exhibition content.

There's a glorious 'wall of contested definitions', then a map of London with magnets for attaching flyers, posters, or notes about locations. The East End is looking a bit sparse by the way - when you visit, why not help fill it in!

Speak Out map of London with notes and flyers affixed

Visit the exhibition

London Metropolitan Archives 40 Northampton Road London EC1R 0HB

Opening times:

  • Monday 9.30am-4.45pm
  • Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: 9.30am-7.30pm (Please note LMA will be closing at 4.30pm on Thursday 24 June for a special event)
  • Friday – access to exhibition only: 11am – 3pm
  • LMA is also open on Saturdays 9 July and 13 August, 9.30am-4.45pm

Don't miss the great events running to coincide with the exhibition, including the Without Borders conference 22-24 June 2016.

Poster reading "Something missing?... We welcome contributions and deposits... Contact us via 02083323851 ask.lma@cityoflondon.gov.uk"