Our chat with Seán, project manager at Islington’s Pride

  • 28
  • Sep

As part of LGBT History Month in February, we sat down with Sean McGovern, Project Manager at Islington’s Pride, who told us some amazing stories relating to our proud LGBT history that happened right here in the borough. If you want to find local LGBT History Months event this month, visit our Things to Do page.

Could you tell us a little about Islington’s Pride

For all of us here at Islington’s Pride, heritage is more than just preserving history for a select few. Heritage is about identifying the histories that are important to our community and securing them before it’s too late. While we can never stop progress, we can do our best to future-proof the past. Heritage brings communities together, it reduces isolation, it teaches us about our past and connects us to it. It also brings history to all people in a way that’s accessible and inviting, rather than just compiling it in some dusty tomes. Not that we don’t like a tome or two. 

What can you tell us about Islington’s LGBT history?

Islington is a place of firsts: The first elected openly gay Mayor (Bob Crossman, ‘86) and the first elected openly gay MP (Chris Smith ’84), the first after-hours club in London (the legendary Trade at Turnmills), and was in fact one of the birthplaces of the gay rights movement in the UK, with the first public gathering taking place on Highbury Fields 1970. Islington was the birthplace of London Friend, the UK’s longest running LGBT+ charity, and is still the home to Switchboard, the phoneline and indeed the lifeline for many LGBT+ people, now in its fifth decade. 

What are some of the benefits of keeping, storing, archiving, and preserving LGBT history?

Though Islington is not without its share of sadness – need we mention the cruelties of Section 28, the sorrow of AIDS and an unavoidable culture of prejudice that existed at the time. But amongst the darkness was a light: having at one time over 40 LGBT+ bars and venues as well as establishing the very first LGBT Youth Group in the UK – we know all this because we preserved the heritage and recognised its significance, and are lucky to have met people and collected objects and ephemera that will keep these histories alive.  

How can every Islington resident get involved in LGBT history?

We also believe that even the very young can explore the heritage in age appropriate ways, so our friends at Gay’s the Word and Islington Libraries have helped put together our LGBT+ book list, which features a rich assortment of books for the under 10s, and lots for the under 5s. And while you’re at it, pop into one of the libraries to see the reading list for adults, with some of the best and boldest contemporary fiction and non-fiction. 

What’s next for Islington’s Pride?

Over the next six months we’ll be collecting oral histories of those folks who lived, worked and played in the borough and have stories to tell, as well as creating a digital trail for all to engage with LGBT+ heritage. And while at Islington’s Pride, every month is LGBT History Month, not everyone can be like us, we’ve lined up some great events to explore LGBT Heritage. And to anyone reading who think they have something that might interest us, email islingtonspride@islington.gov.uk. You never know what heritage you might have inadvertently preserved, so let us take it off your hands!

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