Paul Hambley was in attendance for OUTing the Past: Cardiff, the first OTP celebration in Wales. Looking back on the event, he had this to say:
Hosted in the magnificent National Assembly building, introduced by Jeremy Miles, Assembly Member, closed by local MP Stephen Doughty, we had a grand welcome to Wales! A packed audience was treated to two keynote speakers from Wales. During ‘Queer boy from the valleys’, Professor Jeffrey Weeks reflected on his 1950s childhood in the Rhonda Valley – where Cardiff was seen as a foreign country! Both funny and moving, his struggle to understand himself and his world struck a chord for many, certainly me. Paul Dillane from Kaleidoscope talked of how colonial anti gay laws continue to resonate in commonwealth countries. The appalling treatment of LGBT+ asylum seekers and refugees in the UK was highlighted. A clear and inspiring call to action.
The local flavour continued throughout the programme, with the fascinating life of Katherine Phillips, the ‘Welsh Sappho’, explored by Norena Shopland. She asked if Katherine’s lovers, who were married to men, can be claimed as lesbians or were sexually fluid. In other talks, I was amazed by the tenacity of the researchers. Helen Graham and Rainer Schultz have uncovered incredibly hidden histories! Helen talked about American Bill Alto – a Jack Kerouac figure who, fought in the Spanish Civil War and trained officers in the military, but then faced hardship during the 50s red and lavender scares. Rainer told us of the the forgotten life of a Roma Holocaust survivor and transgender cabaret artist in post-war West Germany. He started with a large collection of personal photographs donated to a museum by Nachlass Sulika Aldine (Harry Wallow). We learnt of Sulika’s circus snakes and fire-eating, work in travesti theatres and latterly gay pubs and seniors settings. Rainer made us think about the ethics of recovering a life of someone who rarely wanted to speak of her life.
Next – personal ads, sodomy and trans activism in the 1970s! Jane Traies was brilliant as ever, sharing poignant stories of lonely lesbians who found friends and love thanks to ARENA 3, a vital newsletter that was by subscription-only, which had articles, small ads and poems. There is a complete set in the British Library where Jane found the small ads of women she had replied to and who became lifelong friends. Laura Davies showed how the accusation of sodomy was used as a political weapon in medieval Britain, destroying lives of the political and military elite. She blamed the Romans, who wrote that only local uneducated savages would do such a thing! Carole Steele gave her personal story as an early trans activist forming a group in Manchester that can be traced through to Sparkle today. A pioneer making a real difference!
A great roundoff to the day came from Jane Hoy & Helen Sandler of Living Histories Cymru – The Life and Love of the Ladies of Llangollen involved lots of dressing up and audience participation. I loved the comments from people visiting Llangollen on Tripadvisor – have a look!
Many thanks to Pride Cymru, Lisa Power and the amazing volunteers for a wonderful day!
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