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Artists to explore LGBTQIA+ heritage in Blackpool

Abingdon Studios has received funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to create the first permanent collection of LGBTQIA+ heritage in Blackpool.

The ‘We’re Still Here’ project, led by Abingdon Studios director Garth Gratrix and producer and artist Harry Clayton-Wright, will capture stories from members of the community, and will kick off with a sound installation at new arts space The Old Electric on Saturday October 23.

As well as viewing the installation on the day, members of the public will also be invited to share their stories, have them recorded and added to the digital archive which will be available online. To book your ticket to visit the installation visit The Old Electric website.

Ahead of the installation, volunteers will be trained to become oral histories champions and learn how to gather stories from the local community and upload them into the public digital collection.

Garth Gratrix said: “Blackpool has the highest LGBTQ+ population in Lancashire but has no permanent archive that documents the lived experiences of our community, and we believe this project will begin to address that. We’re delighted to have received this funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and hope that this will be just the first step in increasing visibility and understanding of queer experience on the Lancashire coastline.”

As part of the project, volunteers will get the chance to become oral histories champions and receive training on how to gather stories from the local community, maximising the variety of experiences being captured.

People sharing their stories will be encouraged to talk about everything from the fight for LGBTQ+ equality to their families and romantic experiences; work and social lives, plus, the role costume and dress has in a town famed for entertainment.

Alongside the gathering of stories, the team will carry out a survey to help gain a deeper understanding of what the local LGBTQIA+ community wants and needs, with the goal of realising more ambitious projects in the future.

Harry Clayton-Wright added: “There are fantastic heritage projects happening in the town however, the queer community is rarely the central focus and that means our stories are disappearing before our eyes.

With this project we’re going to address that and begin capturing the experiences of a community that make up such a huge part of the town we all love. We hope that as many people as possible will want to get involved to ensure that future generations can look back with pride and have a greater understanding of their history.

We stand on the shoulders of giants – drag queens in heels are very tall – and countless pioneers, protesters and activists. We can’t wait to celebrate them and their stories with this project.”

For more information about how to get involved with the project, either as a volunteer oral histories champion or to share your story, visit www.abingdonstudios.org.uk and click ‘We’re still here.’

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