Queer Beyond London: Sexualities and Localities

January, 2016 · By Justin Bengry

Queer beyond London is an AHRC-funded collaboration between Birkbeck College, University of London and Leeds Beckett University to research histories of sexual identities and communities in Leeds, Plymouth, Brighton and Manchester since c.1965.

unisQueer Beyond London is the first sustained, contextualised and comparative historical investigation of the local impact of changing cultural attitudes and official policies concerning sexuality, and the first to look at the particularities of lesbian, gay or other queer lives in cities with different subcultural associations and reputations. The project reveals the factors which have modulated queer lives and cultures of rejection, toleration or acceptance in these places and elsewhere. It will contribute to debates about the intersection of sexual and other categories of identity and identification, and about conceptions of community, belonging and cultural change. Crucially it will also feed a broader appetite for accounts of the lesbian, gay and queer past and interrogate the individual, community and political implications of that appetite. The project will bridge a gap between ‘popular’ and ‘academic’ LGBT or queer histories, and draw attention to local and national resources, archives, community projects and on-line resources – including at least six HLF-funded LGBT community history projects. It will also garner new testimonies relating in particular to the local impact of those projects on ideas of identity and community.

Learn more about Queer Beyond London, or stay informed about events in our partner cities at Facebook: QueerBeyondLondon or Twitter @QueerBeyondLDN


London’s Vanishing Queer Spaces

July, 2015 · By Justin Bengry

On August 12, 2015 I was invited to the British Film Institute to discuss the vanishing queer spaces of London. The event sold out on the first day that tickets were available.


Queer lives have always been less visible for historians, but valuable filmic fragments documenting London’s LGBT communities do survive, as we’ll see in this special event. BFI National Archive curator Simon McCallum will present fabulous rarely-seen footage, including a recently rediscovered record of 60s drag at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and Derek Jarman’s videotape tour of long-gone club Benjy’s. He will be joined onstage by a panel to reflect on the footage, and share concerns for the future. The panel will include Justin Bengry (writer and historian, Project Researcher on Pride of Place: England’s LGBTQ Heritage), Tamsin Bookey (archivist, DJ and co-founder of Unskinny Bop), Simon McCallum (BFI National Archive), and Ben Walters (critic and member of RVT Future campaign).

Wednesday 12 August 2015 18:10 | Total run time c.120 min | NFT3

See also Wotever @ BFI and LGBT Young Londoners


Pride of Place: England’s LGBTQ Heritage

June, 2015 · By Justin Bengry

Pride of Place is a collaborative initiative between Leeds Beckett University and Historic England (formerly English Heritage) to uncover and celebrate England’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) history through its buildings and spaces. 

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) histories and heritage are everywhere. Pride of Place identifies the locations and landscapes associated with England’s LGBTQ heritage through innovative crowd sourcing and mapping techniques. Pride of Place aims to uncover new locations associated with England’s LGBTQ past, and to revisit existing heritage sites to consider their LGBTQ significance. These include, most obviously, places of LGBTQ social interaction, political action and community organisation, but sites of LGBTQ heritage are not limited to these. They may also include homes and domestic spaces once lived in by ‘queer’ people as well as buildings and interiors created by LGBTQ designers and architects, locations which may themselves hold ‘queer’ resonances. Pride of Place recognises that our LGBTQ heritage needs to be identified, recorded, understood, cared-for, and celebrated, as part of our national identity.

Project Researcher

11024761_777559568986998_6803462845599019934_nAs Project Researcher on this major digital and public history project, I was responsible for historical research, writing and advising on policy, developing crowd sourcing techniques, mapping historical data and building partnerships with LGBTQ heritage and community groups. I designed innovative crowd-sourcing techniques to engage the public in identifying significant sites of LGBTQ heritage on the project’s interactive map. As the first initiative by Historic England to uncover and celebrate LGBTQ histories, this project brought unprecedented awareness of LGBTQ heritage to the widest public by embedding it in the shared story of England’s built environment.


Pride of Place was announced on June 30, 2015 and has been widely reported on in both the mainstream press, including in the Independent and the New York Times, and also in the LGBTQ press, including in DIVA Magazine and attitude.

Pride of Place was launched on September 23, 2016, at which time it was reported in all major UK newspapers, the international media, the LGBTQ press, radio, television and many local media outlets. Major coverage included The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, New York Times and BBC News.

Coverage also appeared in:

  • National print and online press: Daily Mail, Guardian Online, Daily Mail Online, Daily Mirror Online, Daily Express Online, Reuters UK, The Architects’ Journal
  • LGBTQ press: Outfront, Gay Times, Pink News, Attitude
  • Local media: Bristol Post, Get West London, Newmarket Journal, Bedford Today, Fenland Citizen, Artlyst, Spenborough Guardian, Malton and Pickering Mercury, Brighouse Echo, Halifax Courier
  • Radio: BBC World Service, BBC Radio London, BBC Radio 5 Live, London Live


Mapping for Justice

June, 2015 · By Justin Bengry

On 2 June 2015, I was an invited panellist talking about crowd sourcing and participatory mapping at ‘Mapping for Justice: Engaging Our Geographical Imaginations and Using the Power of Maps in Struggles for Social Change’

MappingforJustice_02.06.2015From drone strikes to racist attacks, from precarious labour to gentrification, how do maps help us understand injustice and illuminate struggle?

In this public showcase and discussion we explore how mapmakers engage our geographical imaginations and use the power of maps for social change. From oral history to twitter data-mining, our featured mapmakers use a variety of techniques to make injustice visible. Whether made with paper and pen or on open source platforms, maps can give way to new tactics and strategies for intervention.

This event was organised by Bournemouth University’s Civic Media Hub and The Tear Gas Research Connection, with Sue Pell & Paul Rekret at Richmond, The American International University in London

A Public Showcase & Discussion
2 June 2015, 6-8pm
Lecture Theatre, 17 Young Street, London, W8 5EH

Queer Inheritances Workshops at the Lines of Dissent Conference

December, 2014 · By Justin Bengry

With Amy Tooth Murphy, I co-curated the morning sessions of The 12th LGBTQ History & Archives Conference 2014 at the London Metropolitan Archives.

We took as our theme ‘Queer Inheritances’ and the range of sources that might help to better understand queer lives. The conference was attended by 150-200 people and the workshops were a notable success drawing up to 25 people each to 3 workshops running twice across the morning.

Queer Inheritances:

“Discovering a box of mementoes, photos and other items that document a queer life can offer as many questions as answers about a friend, loved one, or even a stranger. What did they value? Who did they love? Who loved them? Why were some objects worth preserving and what can they tell us? Uncovering these ‘queer inheritances’, however, might only partially illuminate a past life and, in fact, might also help us to reflect on our own present.We bring to bear our own preconceptions, expectations and desires when reading past queer lives. In this workshop participants will examine queer inheritances to piece together the contours of lives based on a wide range of personal objects gathered together and preserved but also reflect on what we bring to understanding the queer past.”

About the Conference:

Lines of Dissent Programme

The twelfth annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer History and Archives conference embraces the fascinating and complex world of LGBTQ family history and genealogy. A mix of talks, workshops and creative activities will help us to explore, reconstruct and reimagine the ways in which ideas of LGBTQ family are defined and understood.

After a keynote address by Daniel Monk (Birkbeck) on the perils and pleasures of queer wills, morning workshops included hands-on encounters with historical sources, which participants used to piece together a past life and were facilitated by Heike Bauer (Birkbeck), Julia Laite (Birkbeck) and Brent Pilkey (UCL). A blog post by Claire Hayward describing the conference appeared at Notches history of sexuality blog.

London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) is the largest local authority record office in the UK, covering the City and Greater London, LMA hold books, documents, photographs, maps and drawings dating from 1067 to the present day.

First National Festival of LGBT History

October, 2014 · By Justin Bengry

In 2014 I was invited to be a member of the committee organising the academic conference to accompany the First National Festival of LGBT History in Manchester in February 2015.

The 2nd What is and how to do LGBT History Conference 2015
Methods, Subjects & Approaches

Gay_liberation_1970_poster“The 2nd What is & How to DO LGBT History?” conference seeks to place attitudes, experiences and identities in their historical context. Despite the increasing popular demand for “LGBT History” in Britain, the history of attitudes towards sex and gender diversity in the UK remains an underdeveloped field, especially in comparison with the advances that have been made in the United States. An important part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of LGBT History month is to lead and develop the growing discourse into past attitudes towards sex and gender diversity within the academy and among the general public.

The Pink Pound: Community Course

June, 2014 · By Justin Bengry

In 2014 I was asked by the Bishopsgate Institute to teach a source-based course for the wider public on the history of the ‘pink pound’.

Capitalists have sought this lucrative group of consumers relatively openly since the onset of Gay Liberation in the 1970s, but particularly from the 1980s and 1990s growth of a more public gay and lesbian community.

conclude2 Queer men in particular, but also women, have been targeted as a valuable market segment ever since. They are assumed to have higher incomes and lower financial responsibilities than other consumers, greater interest in leisure services and related goods, and also to be eager and early adopters of new products. Already in 2006, according to an Ingenious Group marketing conference, gay men and lesbians were worth some £70 billion to British businesses, and their value as consumers has only grown since then. How long have businesses sought to attract this lucrative market? And what is the historical relationship between capitalism and homosexuality?

A blog is also available at the Bishopsgate Institute’s site describing the course.


History of Sexuality Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research

January, 2014 · By Justin Bengry

Founded in 2014, and sponsored by the Raphael Samuel History Centre, the History of Sexuality Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research is the first provision of its kind in the UK that supports discussions of histories of sexuality across theme, period and region.

I am a founding co-convenor of the successful History of Sexuality seminar, which meets regularly at the Institute of Historical Research at Senate House, London. The seminar explores historical perspectives on themes as varied as sexual reform and identity-based movements, sexuality and urban space, medical and criminological discourses on sexuality and representations of sexuality. It also explores the historiography of the field, along with those varied methodological and theoretical approaches to the study of the sexual past that have shaped the history of sexuality as a sub-discipline. Finally, the seminar provides a forum for an exploration of the intersections between the history of sexuality and other related academic practices – including those of gender, feminism, psychoanalysis, and the study of the emotions.


More information and updates on future papers to be given at the seminar is available on our Facebook page and twitter @IHR_Sexuality.

All Boys Together: Homing in on Homosociality

October, 2013 · By Justin Bengry

Looking at homosocial spaces historically, we see that sexuality (or at least sexual desire) could not always be identified, and in some cases was actively overlooked where it was economically advantageous.

As part of the 2013 ‘Girls & Boys‘ season of public talks at London’s Bishopsgate Institute — a valuable London institution dedicated to community education — I was invited to give a talk on homosociality to a mixed audience that filled the venue’s library. I used the opportunity to look at how homosociality was experienced (or imagined) historically in sports, the military, media and other all-male preserves. The talk also opened up conversation about how homosociality was still used in advertising to sell particular kinds of products, and who was (and was not) included in this kind of advertising and imagery.

The talk was based on the holdings of Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive (LAGNA), held in the Bishopsgate collections. LAGNA also wrote a up a fun tongue-in-cheek blog about the talk.

Talk Description:

“All boys together? Nudge nudge. The belief that all male institutions are breeding grounds for homosexuality, has been a constant one. But what does go on behind the doors of the executive boardroom or the communal changing room? Is homosexuality the elephant in the room? The serpent in the grass? Or is it all just homosexual wish fulfilment fantasy?”