Posted: 13th July 2021
Episode 4 of Pride in Our City – The Podcast has arrived!
Pride in Our City – The Podcast brings you a series of introductions and conversations between Podcast host Dan Vo (Dan’s Twitter) and members of the Pride in Our City project team. Throughout the series Dan will be chatting with project curators, artists and community members about their involvement in Pride in Our City, and what it means to them to be involved. We’ll be taking you behind the scenes of the project and giving you updates on programming and planning in the lead up to our exciting exhibition, Pride in Our City which launches at the Ferens Art Gallery on 14 August 2021.
The fourth episode features Emma Wilkinson. Emma is a councillor at The Warren where she co-facilitates Step Out, a youth group for LGBTQ+ people aged 11 – 17, with workers from Cornerhouse. She has been a member of The Warren team for 20 years. Emma has also been involved in the Pride in Our City project in a number of ways. She contributed to our digital exhibition back in 2020 and currently sits on the Pride in Our City focus group, working with us to get young people involved with the project.
In this episode of the podcast, you’ll hear Emma talk about how important LGBTQ+ representation is for young people in Hull, and how projects such as Pride in Our City can play a part in creating comfortable and joyous spaces for all to experience museums, galleries and LGBTQ+ history in a much more accessible way.
About The Warren Youth Project
At The Warren Youth Project, they are proud to offer support and a safe place to be for LGBT+ Youth from across the City of Hull, and beyond. They offer two separate confidential Youth Groups for young people identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer or Questioning. They keep membership confidential to protect people’s privacy, as not all of their group members are “out” to their families and peers.
You don’t have to be sure which labels fit you to have a place with The Warren. People go to the groups for all sorts of reasons, but one of the most popular is to make friends and meet other like-minded people.
You can find out more about the Warren on their website here – https://www.thewarren.org/
You can also find them on social media via the following:
Step Out’s Facebook
The Warren’s Facebook
Step Out’s Twitter
The Warren’s Twitter
About Pride in Our City
The Pride in Our City project aims to increase LGBTQ+ representation and inclusion throughout Hull Museums’ research, interpretation, and programming. It is an ongoing project that prioritises co-curation with communities and new understanding of untold narratives.
Now, a focus group of local community advisors and a Lead Creative Artist are working with the Hull Museums team on the next steps of this project, to develop a community-led exhibition, showcasing Hull’s LGBTQ+ history at the Ferens Art Gallery.
Explore the Pride in Our City digital exhibition here: Click Here
Want to keep updated on the Pride in Our City project? Why not sign up to our project mailing list to have updates sent straight to your inbox. Find out more and sign up here: Click Here
Download a copy of the episode transcript here: Click here to download
Dan: Hello everyone and welcome to our Hull Museum’s Pride in Our City podcast. I’m your host, Dan Vo. And we’re getting so close, so close now to our amazing launch of the exhibition. This summer, we’ll be celebrating Hull’s LGBTQ+ history with an exhibition at the Ferens Art Gallery. The grand opening is going to be on Saturday August 14, but before then, there’s actually going to be so many exciting things happening because on July 16, 17 and 18 it’s going to be designated as Creative Hull Weekend when you’ll be able to visit the Ferens and be able to experience a Pride in Hull space, as well as Pop in Pride which will be located inside Princess Quay. And on top of that, there’s also a special LGBTQ+ trail that’ll be put together by Lauren Field, who you met in the first podcast, as well as her colleague Elizabeth Lindley. They’ve got an amazing group of artworks for you to look at and admire and just understand its rich connection to queer history. Now there’s also a Call for Content from Artist in Residence Matthew Sedman who wants your help in creating a new queer interpretation of the permanent galleries at Hull Museums. So there’s so much to do and get involved with. So please do follow the links in the show notes, or hop into the website humbermuseums.co.uk, and just search for Pride in Our City Call for Content to find out all the details on how you can be part of this pivotal retelling of the story of LGBTQ+ Hull.
Now, one of the things I love is that there are so many fabulous support groups in and around Hull. There’s Trans Youth Hull, there’s Lollipop, as well as the Hull and East Riding LGBT Forum. They’re all making great steps to changing people’s lives for the better. Now they’re all just brilliant. There’s also The Warren and today we’re going to speak with Emma Wilkinson, who is a counsellor there. The Warren is a community resource centre mostly for young people, aged in their teens, through to their mid-twenties and a core philosophy of The Warren is that everybody is entitled to respect and we accept people as they are. There’s no discrimination, no racism, no sexism or homophobia, biphobia or transphobia. And most of all, no judgment. Now Emma is mainly going to talk today about the group that Emma is involved with, which is Warren’s Step Out. It’s very much for young people aged 11+, but it’s also worth mentioning there’s also the Shout group which is for those people aged 16+. So many wonderful things to be talking about with Emma. So to tell us about these two amazing groups, here’s Emma.
Emma: Hi, I’m Emma and I work at The Warren as a counsellor. I also co-facilitate the Step Out group with Corner House. Step Out is a group for 11 to 17 young LGBT+ young people who want to meet other young people who are struggling or need some support or feeling anxious and want to work some stuff out. They can come to that group and do all kinds of stuff and get involved in activities. We do beach trips. We go on a residential. We went in the woods last Friday and learnt how to make a fire. We’re currently meeting on Zoom, but hoping to get back together in a few weeks, back in the building. And the Shout group is an older group, which goes up to the age of 25 and that meets weekly as well. They also do social things and some campaigning stuff. So we have lots of discussions about things and we put the world to rights and we socialise with each other.
Dan: What are some of the things that you talk about with them?
Emma: Oh my God. It could be anything from, you know, who would win a fight between tomato sauce and mayonnaise to how you gain more confidence or how you go through transitioning. Everything and everything gets talked about in that group,
Dan: Who decided what would win between tomato sauce and mayonnaise?
Emma: I’ve heard its tomato sauce.
Dan: (laughs) Why?
Emma: (laughs) I think it’s just harder, isn’t it?
Dan: So it must be really exciting to kind of work with such young, vibrant people, sort of, you know, these sort of thoughts, just fizzing all over the place.
Emma: Yeah. It’s very… It keeps me on my toes. It’s sometimes chaotic and crazy, but it’s really, really brilliant as well. And it’s just a great way to spend your time with young people, exciting young people who could change the world.
The world’s quite an anxious place right now and there’s a lot of division and there’s a lot of stuff you read on the internet that’s very negative towards LGBT+ young people. And lots of it is very positive as well. So I think it’s about erring towards the more positive and really appreciating that young people’s lives aren’t easy. And just because we have moved forward with our rights and all kinds of things, that doesn’t mean that the world is a brilliant place for the community. So trying to adjust some of those things and helping people along with their fears, with how they feel about things, with their confidence and courage, their self-esteem. All of those things that young people generally are struggling with, but I think young people from the LGBT+ community struggle with it in a kind of separate way as well. So I think I try and pay a lot of attention to how they are in the world and how they can be their best selves.
Dan: Can you tell me a little bit more about the sort of the impact that they’ve had on you? I mean, how long have you been doing this and what have you gotten out of it?
Emma: Well, I’ve worked at The Warren for 20 years, but I’ve been doing the Step Out group maybe four or five years. We’ve recently just had our 100th member a couple of weeks ago. You know, I’m not a young person anymore, and it’s really a good way of staying in touch with what’s happening and to remain relevant and to hear what’s going on in the world for a different generation. It makes me think a lot, keeps me trying to make things better, I guess.
Dan: What did you do to celebrate the 100th member?
Emma: Well, we met on Zoom and then I think it was only me who had that information at the time. So I brought a party popper and we sadly weren’t together to celebrate, but we let off the party popper and had a bit of a cheer!
Dan: Oh, lovely…
Can you tell me what it’s like then to have seen LGBTQ+ Hull change over those 20 years that you’ve been at The Warren?
Emma: I think the community has become a lot bigger and a lot more visible. I remember those first Pride in Hull events that we had 20 years ago that were kind of a small, committed group of people wanting to do something and make something happen. And it just feels like it’s grown and grown from there. And Step Out have come along as part of that along the way, you know, some of those young people have been attending their first Prides and had the confidence to do that with a bit of support. And it’s just, it’s just been brilliant. I think young people are much braver and bolder and out there then it felt like when I was a young person. I think they’re much more able to have those conversations and be much more open-minded about things.
We’ve always walked in the parade, we’ve always done the march together. It’s an amazing thing to walk through the streets of the city that you live in as an LGBT+ person and to see people cheering you on and egging you on to be the person you are meant to be, it’s such an amazing thing to do.
And I think those young people who are there just absolutely love it. And they have such a brilliant time, and it gives them such confidence to feel like, yeah, I belong here and I can be supportive and I can be brilliant. It’s such a great thing for them to do.
Dan: It’s almost a transformative experience, isn’t it? To go on your first Pride, and to be able to do it as a young person with a group of friends who are there to support you…
Emma: Absolutely. And they’re turning up at 11 and they’re standing around waiting for the parade to start, and they’re all a bit nervous and they’re wondering what it’s going to be like. And then as soon as you walk around the corner onto Whitefriargate, and you’ve got people cheering you on and waving flags and everybody’s got in such good spirits, it can’t help, but make you feel just fantastic. It’s just great, what a great thing to do?
Dan: Have you got a particular favourite memory that you have with the group at Pride?
Emma: Yeah, I have. We were waiting for the parade to start up near Hull College one year. And a father walked up to us with his trans young son and asked, “Can my son walk in the march with you?”. We didn’t know him. He didn’t know us. And they both joined us and walked with us and, and it was… it was just great.
It was just great. And the young people welcomed him, and were chatting to him… It was just brilliant, which is brilliant. It’s just magic and things like that happen.
Dan: That does sound magical.
Emma: Yeah, definitely. And I think, you know, sometimes you can… you can be in the world from a position of being wary. And I think it’s good to have pride where you can be in the world from a position of being loved. And I think that makes a massive difference to our self-esteem and confidence.
Dan: And can we just take a step back and have a chat about how did Step Out come about as an idea? So it’s been going for about five years, you were saying?
Dan: How did it, how did it form?
Emma: It started with a guy who worked at Cornerhouse called Rob. And he was the boys and young men’s worker at Cornerhouse. And he was working with a lot of young people in schools, and he identified that there was a need to have a group where LGBT+ young people could meet. So it was really his initiative.
And he asked me if I would come on board as a counsellor to be supportive of the group’s emotional wellbeing. And it went from there. It took us a long time to get established. You know, we had meetings where we just had one young person and eventually more and more people started to come and now we’d get maybe on average 12 young people a week, sometimes more.
I just think it’s a great thing to do. You know, there was none of that when I was that age, you know, 11 to 17, it was just unheard of to go to a group that was about LGBT+ people and where you could meet other people who felt kind of similar to you.
A lot of them would like to see their school environments be more supportive. Some of them are struggling with transitioning in terms of changing their name and having been called the correct name, being called the correct gender. It feels like sometimes it’s a constant conversation that they’re having about, “Call me by this name. I’m this gender,” and I think if people were more accepting of differences that would make some things very much easier for us all.
So I think mostly the struggle is about how you… it’s about the transitioning right now.
Dan: It sounds like part of that is about their sense of identity. It’s about them saying this is who I am, and I want to be recognised and accepted for who I am.
Emma: Yeah. I think for me I suppose I’m always really inspired by young people who are brave and bold enough to come out and say, “This is who I am”. And I think when that’s met with judgment and criticism and laughed at or criticised, I think that that must be really difficult. So I think if you’re brave enough to stand up and say, “This is me, this is who I am,” I think the least that society can do is value that and respect that that’s what’s going on for somebody.
Dan: And we’re talking about Hull Museums at the moment as well, and the Pride in Our City project. What do you think is the role of a museum and inclusive museum in this sort of bigger picture?
Emma: I think the role of the museum really is to acknowledge that LGBT+ people exist and that they are a part of history. And so to share that history and to make it known, to make it visible. And that LGBT+ artists and curators and, you know, all of those things exist.
Dan: Can I ask if history is something that interests the young people that you work with as well?
Emma: Yeah, we’ve done some things around an LGBT+ History Month. Sometimes we do a little timeline about what’s happened in the past. I think they are interested in the history of where we’ve got to in the world, in this country. One of the things we did was we had lots of different events, so when the Stonewall Riots happened, when things were legally allowed to happen, when you could get married, all these things in there. And we asked the group to put them into order of when they thought things happened and then we had a very debate and discussion about it. And that opened up to broader things about their own histories and talking about their own life.
Dan: And in terms of Hull do you get a sense of, you know, that they want to contribute to the history of Hull and LGBTQ Hull as well?
Emma: I think they are. I always say to them that they’ve one of the first ever 11- to 17-year-old group to me. And they, you know, they’re a force to be reckoned with really, and I think they could go amazing places. We did our first Pride Prom a couple of years ago before COVID (we would have had one last year, but obviously we weren’t allowed). And that group was instrumental in making that happen. It was the first one in this area. It was at The Deep, it was really successful. And I think they’ve got potential to make great things happen.
Dan: That’s so exciting. I love the idea of that. Tell me how a Pride Prom comes together.
Emma: I think it happened after this discussion around their own problems at school and whether they were allowed to wear what they felt comfortable and wanted to wear. So we decided that we would just have our own way you could wear what you like, come as the gender you feel comfortable as. That was why it happened. That’s how it happened, really. And it just grew and grew and became this big event.
There were lots of very glamorous outfits and there were lots of very just casual outfits, you know, jeans and jackets and just a t-shirt. I think whatever people felt comfortable then was really okay.
Dan: How about you, Emma? What did you come to the Pride Prom in?
Emma: I just wore a black dress, boring! I had a vision that I would go all glamorous and that didn’t work out. So I had to have a last-minute change.
Dan: Oh, yeah. The little black dress is always a good staple to have though. Isn’t it?
Emma: Yeah, definitely.
Dan: I mean, you’ve met with Matthew Sedman and there’s talks about what the group might do with this particular exhibition Pride in Our City. What are some of the ideas that are floating around?
Emma: Well, they’re quite a creative group. So I think they might get involved in something with Matthew where we meet as a group and do something creative. So that might be art, or it might be writing something and thinking about how best to represent that young group as part of the project that they’re doing. So there is a plan afoot to meet up and do something creative.
So Matthew came to the meeting, talked about the Pride in Our City project, and explored what the young people thought and how they might get involved. And they were keen to do something creative that could be, I guess, put on the wall or be part of something that was on display. And so there was a lot of discussion about how they might do that. And then we made a plan obviously to meet up with Matthew and take it a little bit further. And I guess that stuff will happen, and we’ll make a plan about what that might look like.
Well, I guess there’s something about how important it is that LGBT+ young people are represented, that they can identify with what’s going on, that they feel part of something that they feel included, and that they have voices that are interesting and need to be listened to.
To me it feels a bit like museums and art galleries have a reputation for being a little bit snooty or not a place for young people to go, working class young people. I think if we can change that and make people feel welcome and valued and that their presence is important, and they have absolutely every right to be there. I think that’s a really good way forward.
Dan: And do you think by providing them with an opportunity to put themselves on the walls, is that going to kind of help overcome that hurdle?
Emma: Well, I think so, but also, you know, having young people friendly spaces so that, you know, sometimes you go into a museum you don’t know whether you’re allowed to talk even in an art gallery. You’re not sure whether you’re supposed to speak, you can’t, you know, you can’t, it’s supposed to be, it’s like a solemn affair. You’re not allowed to laugh or have a half a bit of fun. And I just wonder about that really? Is that really what it’s all about? Can we go in, and can we be playful? Can we be joyous? Do we have to just be quiet? And I think that, I think that’s also a barrier isn’t it? You go in and you’re not sure how to behave. Not sure what’s expected of you. And that can put people off, I think.
Dan: Do you reckon we could get your young people to come into the museum and create a ruckus?
Emma: Oh God yeah, I’ll be at the front of the queue.
Dan: What would you want, what do you think they would want to shout about?
Emma: I just think the excitement of seeing things and interacting with things and you know, you’re not, you know, you’re going to an art gallery, not allowed to touch things. And I get that, you know, things are precious, and they are worth a lot of money, and you don’t want things broken, but you know, to have somewhere that’s more hands-on and that you can feel what it’s like or get up close. Those kinds of things are really important. We went to something at the Ferens a couple of years ago that was very hands-on. And that was, that was exciting. We’d all lay on the floor and look at things and, you know, just, just be a bit freer.
Dan: So making sure that there’s a sense of playfulness would be really important to your group in terms of bringing that to the Pride in Our City exhibition?
Emma: Yeah, definitely. I think for adults as well, you know, it’s important that we remain in touch with our sense of play. And especially when times are hard.
Dan: I’d love to hear from you what you’d like to achieve in terms of this engagement with the museum and if the output is a very happy young person, what does that look like? You know, what, why is, having a happy young person important?
Emma: Well, a happy young person feels confident, and a confident young person can change the world.
Dan: Well, that’s a really short and sharp statement. I love that.
Emma: It’s true though.
Dan: It is! What happens when they sort of graduate from your group? Like how do they, how do you know that? Well, I suppose age means that they have to leave. Right. But how do we know they’ve sort of, emotionally graduated?
Emma: Well, I think there’s something about being ready to move on because once somebody reaches 17 they can join the Shout group, which is The Warren’s older LGBT+ group. But some people in the past have felt that they wanted to give back to Step Out so they’ve become volunteers. And that feels like a really great thing to happen that they’ve gained the confidence and the skills to offer something else to young people coming along behind them.
We had some young people come back as volunteers and they were really great at being respectful, listening, sharing experiences that were pertinent and relevant and appropriate to do that, and just helping create a safe space. And because they’ve been through the group and they’ve all had their first time there and they know what it’s like to come to a group and be nervous and what they needed at the time, and they can now help that and give that back to have the young people, having gone through it themselves, I think that’s really important.
Dan: Your group sounds amazing, Emma. I mean, it just sounds like your job is probably one of the most enriching jobs that I’ve… I’ve heard of…
Emma: Oh, I have an amazing job. I love it. It’s probably why I’ve been here so long, I’m a bit long in the tooth really, but I’m clinging on!
Dan: (laughs) Actually one last thing, which is if people want to get in touch, how do they do it?
Emma: They can go on our website, it’s thewarren.org or they can email me at email@example.com or contact Corner House, Viv and Luke at the Corner House are the other two workers who do Step Out.
Dan: Brilliant. Thank you, Emma.
Emma: You’re welcome.
Dan: This has been the Pride in Our City podcast for Hull Museums. You can find us on social media, on Twitter as @Hull_Museums I’ve been Dan Vo and you can find me as @DanNouveau. The podcast was edited by me and mixed by Lewis Campbell.
If you liked what you heard, please do rate review, and subscribe. Or get involved, remember you can help Matthew Sedman with the community led interpretation of Hull Museums by answering the Call for Content. So do that by going onto the website humbermuseums.co.uk and just search for Pride in Our City Call for Content and all the details will be there. That’s it for today. Thank you so much. And I’ll see you again soon. Bye.