As people across the country celebrate LGBT History Month, Sheffield takes a look back at the city’s proud history in the challenge for equality for all, regardless of sexuality and gender.
LGBT History Month is celebrated nationally throughout February and in Sheffield many events are planned to acknowledge how far equality for LGBT+ people has come, and the challenges people still face today.
Sheffield’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive city is an attractive quality to LGBT+ people who live, work, study and visit the city, and this is also reflected in Sheffield’s history.
Looking back one hundred years, Edward Carpenter, the famous gay writer and thinker, chose to make Sheffield his home. Edward was a pioneer of many progressive causes which are taken for granted today, including women’s rights and sexual liberation. He moved from the South of England and lived at Millthorpe, near Sheffield, with his lover, George Merrill. They were visited at their home by literary figures such as George Bernard Shaw, E.M Forster, D. H. Lawrence and Bertrand Russell.
The theme for this year’s LGBT History month is Peace, Activism and Reconciliation , subjects very close to Edward Carpenter’s heart. His radically different lifestyle became a symbol of liberation from the traditional middle class values of Victorian England. His writings were an important contribution to the development of the English socialist movement and later the gay liberation movement.
Carpenter’s extensive collection at Sheffield Archives reflects these interests and principles and many of the issues he exposed are still incredibly relevant today.
Bringing us closer to the present day, Sheffield’s archives also document the incredible Wildcat cards collection. The Wildcat Cards feminist artist collective was set up in Meersbrook in the 1980s, producing ‘women-friendly’ greeting cards for people who did not feel included by mainstream card designs. They produced a number of cards featuring images of lesbian couples as well as a number of pithy, hilarious feminist cards. Their original artworks and card catalogues are available through Sheffield Archives and Local Studies.
There are many events taking place across Sheffield to celebrate LGBT History month. From talks on drag in Ancient Rome , an exhibition at Chapel Walk on Queer Ways of Being and a showing of documentary ‘LGBT Britain’ (with films spanning 1909 to 1994, ) plus the film Pride hosted by LGBT Sheffield, to a discussion day on lesbian visibility at Ben’s Centre, there is something for everyone.
Olivia Blake, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance said, “In Sheffield we pride ourselves on being a fair and inclusive city, welcoming to all regardless of sexuality, gender, race, age and disability. These archive entries tell some of the fascinating stories of Sheffield’s past, documenting how even one hundred years ago our city stood up and fought for people’s right to equality. LGBT+ History Month is an important time to reflect on how far things have come and how much is yet to be done so that all people can live in fairness and I would encourage everyone in Sheffield to get involved in the many events taking place this month and show your support to all those in our LGBT+ communities.”
There is a comprehensive listing of LGBT History Month events on the Equality Hub Network LGBT+ page. You can also sign up to join the LGBT Equality Hub which is a network of hundreds of people who work hard to make Sheffield inclusive for LGBT+ people.