Posted: 26th April 2021
It’s such a thrill to tell you we’re launching a new podcast for Hull Museums. As you can see from the podcast artwork for Pride in Our City – the Podcast by artist Paul Salter, it’s so very Hull with bright colours and little nods to the city with the The Deep, Murdoch’s Connection and the Humber Bridge featured. The content of the series will also include familiar local voices. Pride in Our City – the Podcast is hosted by me, Dan Vo (Dan’s Twitter) Museum ‘Queerator’ and Pride in Our City project mentor, and in each episode I’ll introduce you to a member of the Pride in Our City project team, including curators, artists, and members of the community who are participating in the ongoing work to curate and design an onsite exhibition. You’ll find out what is going on behind the scenes, what each guest’s role is within the project, and what it means to them to be involved.
The first episode features Lauren Field (Lauren’s Twitter) Community Curator: Social History at Hull Museums and Project Lead of Pride in Our City. You’ll hear Lauren explain how this project launched with a digital exhibition in July 2020 and is now taking the next exciting steps to bring more to you with an in-real-life exhibition to come at the Ferens Art Gallery, and digitally still via activities and things like this brand-new podcast! Lauren is also the chair of Hull Museums LGBTQ+ Working Group – a service-wide staff group which works towards improving the quality of visitor experiences and increased access to collections, and so you’ll find out more about the ethos and values behind the mission to make Hull Museums more inclusive and representative.
Listen to the full first episode of Pride in Our City – the Podcast here:
Or on YouTube: Click Here
About Lauren Field
Lauren Field has worked in various curatorial roles at Hull Museums for the past 5 and a half years. Her most recent role as Community Curator: Social History allows her to engage with various communities throughout Hull to ensure that the museums are safe and welcoming spaces for all, by providing authentic inclusion and representation throughout their delivery. Since 2019 Lauren has been Project Lead of the Pride in Our City project.
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 the Hull Museums Pride in Our City Podcast. I’m your host Dan Vo and over the next few weeks you’ll be hearing from some amazing local guests who are involved in this really exciting project.
Pride in Our City started off as an online exhibition in 2020 during lockdown as a way to celebrate together, and we invited everyone to tell us what Pride means to them, and what Pride means to you. This year we’re expanding that, and it’ll become part of an artist-led community-created exhibition that will be on display at the Ferens Art Gallery and some of the people you’ll hear from over the next few weeks will be the organisers, the makers, the creators and we hope that by having these talks you’ll be able to go on the journey with us as the exhibition starts to take shape and launches. It’ll be a real actual event and we’d love to see you there, of course, so you’re definitely invited.
Now today we’ve got Lauren Field from Hull Museums who was one of the instigators of the working group that looks at increasing access to LGBTQ+ stories through research, documentation, and programming. She helped launch the digital exhibition Pride in Our City and is currently on the team that is taking it into the next phase. So, over to you Lauren:
Lauren: Hello. My name is Lauren Field, my pronouns are she/her, and I’m Community Curator for social history at Hull museums.
Basically, my role as a community curator is to engage with the community around Hull Museums. So, everybody within our local area who uses our museums, or who doesn’t use our museums, to have conversations with them and to highlight gaps within our collections that, you know, we can have conversations with our local communities about what’s missing, how we can change that, and how we can make Hull Museums a more welcoming and engaging environment for everybody to enjoy. So having those honest and authentic conversations and providing that engagement and changing it really, for the better. So that’s something that we’ve been doing with Pride in Our City. In around 2019, we began acknowledging that within Hull Museums there was a massive gap. We weren’t representing the LGBTQ+ community of Hull. It was extremely underrepresented within our collections, our interpretation, and our delivery. So, we set out to change that. So, by having conversations and actively engaging with people, hopefully that’s what we’re doing with Pride in Our City.
Dan: And how do you think that’s been going so far?
Lauren: I might be a little bit biased, but really well! I think because obviously we started this project and the first thing that we did was we had staff training. So, we had service-wide staff training with Yorkshire MESMAC, a sexual health organisation located in Hull.
They came in and they gave us LGBTQ+ and trans awareness training, so that we were in a better position to have these conversations with our audience. And then, obviously, unfortunately, COVID-19 hit and we were a little bit stuck, but with ongoing conversations with Yorkshire MESMAC, and organisations like Pride in Hull, and the Hull and East Riding LGBTQ+ Forum, we were able to kind of identify that there was still a want there for engagement. So as Hull Museums started thinking, really, what can we do? How can we facilitate that? And we started having these one-on-one conversations with people talking about their memories of Pride in Hull, because unfortunately that event was canceled as well and that lead to was putting on a digital exhibition. So, one of Hull Museums first digital exhibitions, Pride in Our City and the response to that was overwhelmingly positive. I was a little bit nervous at the beginning, wondering if people would want to engage, considering everything that was going on and would people have the means?
We just put out a call for content, share our memories, your memories with us and your images and create some videos. And within two weeks, we were overwhelmed with a response. We had such a fantastic response, and I think the exhibition is testament to that. It’s really a nice trip down memory lane for Pride in Hull and it really, I think, really brings the community together because we were all making this content at home and doing it, you know… I was doing it from my dining room table!
Dan: So, we’re going to play a little clip of one of the videos that was made for Pride in Our City that can be found on YouTube with people talking about their memories of Pride in Hull. And if you could just tell us a little about what we might hear?
Lauren: Yeah, definitely. So, we teamed up with Yorkshire MESMAC again and in a lot of videos you’ll meet Craig. Craig worked with us to reach out to individuals and community groups within Hull to ask a few questions, so what does Pride in Hull mean to you? What’s your favourite memory of attending a Pride in Hull event? But it also touches on some serious subjects, like, discrimination, and homophobia, and transphobia and things like that. So, there were individuals involved as well as community groups.
So, one of the main community groups, or sports groups, that got involved was the Roundheads, so they’re an inclusive rugby team, they really got involved and created a lot of videos for us. And they’re all available to view on the exhibition and on our YouTube page as well. And they are really interesting to listen to, you know, as I say, sometimes they are very joyful and happy memories are discussed, but also, you know, one of the video talks about one of the members of the team who received some homophobia while he was doing his shopping. It’s difficult hearing, but obviously, you know, it’s important to have these conversations and talk about these things and understand why they happen and then how we can help support change. And, you know, we’re very thankful for everybody who created a video and got involved for the exhibition.
Dan: The one that I’m going to actually play for you now is a conversation between Craig from Yorkshire MESMAC and Heidi-Victoria from Pride in Hull, talking about memories of Pride.
Craig: You’ve been to quite a few Prides in your lifetime, do you remember your first Pride?
Heidi-Victoria: I think I do; I think my first ever Pride I was working. I also work for the Warren Youth Project and I think we had a stall. So, my first experience I was quite young, and it was so big and so exciting and quite dramatic in parts and it was quite an experience. I think one of the earliest prides I went to was when it was in West Park and I went with a couple of friends, took my dog with a sort of rainbow coat. And it was just really nice, you see so many people that you know, and it’s quite nice seeing people and recognising that, oh, I didn’t realise that you were part of this celebration. And it’s just a really social atmosphere and I think that since then I’ve seen Pride get bigger and better and more exciting and it’s just grown and grown, which I think is great for our city.
Craig: It really is and that’s why I think year on year it surprises me that we get more people every year. The event gets bigger. The parade gets bigger and it’s just a great thing to see that growth, I think.
Heidi-Victoria: And I think the thing that stood out for me, one of my first Prides and more recently I saw a few parents wearing t-shirts saying, “I love my gay son”, “I love my gay daughter” and that was quite emotional actually, seeing people that, and just seeing people that were there on their own to support people in their lives. I think means a lot and I think that’s what really stuck with me a little bit.
Dan: That was Craig from Yorkshire MESMAC speaking to Heidi-Victoria from Pride in Hull. And it’s an extract of a longer video that you can watch on YouTube from a series relating to Pride in Our City. Now Lauren, I think it’s fair to ask what are some of your memories of Pride in Hull?
Lauren: Unfortunately, I’m not from Hull, which…
Dan: We won’t hold that against you.
Lauren: People might not be happy about it. I’m only joking, but I’ve only attended a few, and unfortunately, a couple of them seem to clash with our events. So, the last one that I attended, I had to attend our Festival of Archeology in the morning, and then Pride in Hull in the afternoon, so it was a very busy day! But I’m from Manchester. So, my friends came from Manchester and we attended Pride in Hull together. And it was good to do, you know, just to sit in Queens Gardens where the event was held that year. Everybody can attend, you know, it’s a family event. It’s for people to, you know, come into the city if you identify as LGBTQ+, or not, to enjoy this event together, to acknowledge that Hull is a very accepting city and it’s a very welcoming city, it’s a city for everybody. And I think Pride in Hull is a perfect example of that.
There’s so much going on and it’s not just geared at one part of our community, it’s for Hull as a whole. So, it’s just the atmosphere that I remember, and I enjoy from the events. That it’s just a very comfortable atmosphere, I feel like everybody’s welcome. And everybody’s there just to have a nice, fun afternoon and it didn’t hurt that on that day it was really sunny… and really nice weather. So that’s always a bonus, isn’t it?
Dan: Absolutely. And in terms of the videos being so open in sharing with us, why do you think they were so keen to get involved?
Lauren: I think because, you know, obviously Hull Museums and it’s not just the museums in Hull, but museums as a whole, historically have not shared these stories, they’ve remained untold for, for whatever reason, and at the moment, we’re in a position to tell those stories that have wrongly been left out of our interpretation.
And it’s not because the stories aren’t there, the stories exist. You know, part of this project that we are doing at the moment is to really research into our collections, really look at the collections that we hold and the stories that are there. And as we’re doing this research, my colleague Elizabeth and I are finding objects within our collections with amazing stories, with really important stories to be told and really link to the history of Hull in various ways. So, links to, you know, our social history, our maritime history, things like that, big parts of Hull’s heritage. And these stories have gone untold for, like I say, for whatever reason, but I think now people can see that as, as an organization, as Hull Museums, we keen to change that, we’re keen to ensure that these important and valid stories are told, they have a place to be told. And I think people are just happy to help us do that because people in Hull communities, you know, not just the LGBTQ+ community, but, but Hull as a city, I think you only have to look at how Hull responded to being the City of Culture in 2017. We had a massive volunteer drive and that was unbelievable. That wasn’t anything that I was involved with, but yeah, the amount of people that just got involved on a volunteer basis to support the city, to support projects that were going on, to ensuring that, you know, events were put on just for people to have a good time.
I think it’s just part of Hull’s fabric that people want to get involved, want to share and want to support everybody. And I think Pride in Our City, again, is a perfect example of that because people are just happy to share, and support, and it’s really great to see.
Dan: You’ve actually got some Curator’s Choice blogs on the Hull Museums website, that looks at objects that help tell LGBTQ+ stories. What’s one of the one’s that’s most remarkable to you, like one that’s stuck with you as you’re doing the research for this project?
Lauren: Oh, where to begin? You know there’s so many, I think, but the one that springs to mind is, Dan Billany. So, at the moment we’re looking at acquiring a book that was written by Dan. So, Dan was born in 1940 in Hull.
He lived in the Hessle Road area of Hull, which if you’re from Hull, you know where that is. People know of Hessle Road. He always wanted to be a writer. He trained to be a teacher and then the war began, and he signed up and joined the East Yorkshire Regiment.
So, in the blog, there is a line in there that says, you know, he joined “willingly”. He volunteered and this was a decision that would, you know, bring him both love and loss. And I think that’s quite, you know… It’s quite a romantic line, but it’s really true, because, unfortunately, in 1942, he ended up getting captured whilst in North Africa and he became a prisoner of war in Italy. And while there he met a fellow prisoner called David Dowie, and they got together, and they wrote a novel called ‘The Cage’. Now, like I say, Dan had always wanted to be a writer and he’d previously written a couple of novels, two in particular, ‘A Season of Calm Weather’ and ‘Living Amongst Spies’.
They remain unpublished even though he had previously sent them to publishers because they both look at relationships, same-sex relationships, between men and he just couldn’t get them published. ‘The Cage’ doesn’t kind of look at that theme, but as he spent more time with David Dowie, he began to fall for him, basically. And he did end up telling him that he was in love with David. Unfortunately, David didn’t really respond too well to that, but… they had a bit of a tiff, but ultimately, they kind of talked about it and got back on track. But you know, this is obviously something that really played Dan’s mind, because he had written in his diary that when he returned to England, he didn’t have a choice, he’d have to get married, he didn’t want to be a spinster, and he didn’t want to upset his family, which is… it’s really sad. I mean, I can’t remember it off the top of my head, but I do think also in one of his previous novels, he talks about, you know, same sex attraction and how that can often lead to people wanting to end their own life. So, he was understanding of the situation that he was in, and he didn’t, you know, feel that he could be perhaps open about that is. It’s hard to tell, obviously, because he’s not here because in 1943, when Italy surrendered from the war, Dan fled through the Italian countryside with David and unfortunately, they were never seen again. It’s thought that they died in the mountains, and just, you know, their bodies were never found. And in 1944, it was officially announced that Dan Billany who was presumed dead, you know, and he was only 30 years old, which is… it’s really tragic and really sad that… it’s, it’s.. quite an interesting and really heartbreaking story rarely.
And I think, yeah, looking at that within this blog and within our collections is something that’s really important. And I know it’s been explored in other exhibitions around the city, because I think Dan is a son of Hull and people have taken him to heart because, it was quite a, quite a hard story to read and explore, but again, a really important one to kind of, you know, explore the reasons why Dan couldn’t be open about his sexuality at the time and how things have hopefully changed and, you know, changing for the better, still at the moment.
Dan: I also think it’s the idea of it being an everyday voice. You know, here’s a son of Hull and it really emphasises the sense of community contribution to this project. If people are wanting to get involved, I know you’ve pulled together a focus group, so how can they get involved?
Lauren: So we’ve got lots of exciting things coming up in the near future, hopefully. If people want to get involved, they can head over to our website at humbermuseums.com/projects-hull and you will see the Pride in Our City project on there. If you click on there, that brings up all the blogs and there’s a page on there that says how to get involved. So, you can sign up to our mailing list, that’s how we’re keeping lots of people kind of updated on what we’re doing. So, we’re sending out emails and opportunities that are coming up. So, at the moment, we’re actually advertising for a lead creative artist who will come on board to work with the focus group.
So, the focus group at the moment is currently made up of community groups from around Hull. So again, we’ve got groups like Yorkshire MESMAC, The Warren which is a community group in Hull, and representation from the university, and The Roundheads are all involved as well. And the artist is going to come on board to work with them, to have conversations, to engage, to do workshops, to collect stories and create content to hopefully – touching wood as I say this – develop an exhibition that will be on site, but yeah, that’s our main focus, coming up we’re working towards an on-site temporary exhibition at the Ferens Art Gallery. So, like I say, we’ve already done the Pride in Our City digital exhibition, this will be an exhibition that you can visit in person. Can you imagine going to a museum for the first time in, in how many? Two, nearly two years, one and a half years…
Dan: A lifetime really.
Lauren: Well, it does feel life like a lifetime! I’m not even sure I know how to get there anymore! But hopefully it’s going to be very exciting and it’s going to pull on our social history collection. So, although it’s based at the art gallery, it’s going to be heavily social history, but hugely community-led. So, I can’t tell you how that exhibition’s going to look, what’s going to be involved, because the community groups and the focus groups are the other people that are going to guide us into that exhibition and help us put it all together and mould what’s going to be in there. So, it’s a very exciting time really because the exhibition, hopefully it’s not that far away, but we’re still a bit in the dark about what is going to be, and what you can expect from that. But it will be great. It will be really good and really exciting.
So that’s the next step for the Pride in Our City Project, but although it’s a temporary exhibition, it’s not, you know, a temporary thing by any stretch of the imagination. The Pride in Our City project is an ongoing project. So, we are really committed to addressing the imbalance that exists within our interpretation and our accessible narratives and the stuff that we learn throughout putting this exhibition together will hopefully feed into our understanding of our permanent displays within all our sites, not just at the Ferens Art Gallery, all of our museums, and hopefully help us influence change and our permanent displays moving forward, hopefully.
Dan: Are there any funders we need to thank for Pride in Our City?
Lauren: Hull Museum is an NPO, so we’re fully funded for this project by Arts Council England. So, a huge thank you to Arts Council England.
Dan: Yes, thank you! So, Lauren to wrap us up, I’d love to just hear from you, what this project Pride in Our City means to you? Why is it important?
Lauren: It’s really important really, because I remember, growing up, going to museums with my friends and things like that, and I understand that feeling of walking into a space, a space that you know, is supposed to be a place that tells our story, that holds the stories of our past and walking into it and thinking, my story is not represented here. I’m not included. I’m actively excluded, in fact, so being able to change that for other people, for young people, for people my age or old people as we’ve probably now old! And looking, you know, how that can be made different, even if it’s a small change, you know, acknowledging that there’s change there that needs to be made. To be able to be involved in that…
I remember going to an exhibition once and thinking, this is, you know, one of the first exhibitions that I ever saw that looked at the LGBTQ+ narrative of a city and thought this is unbelievable. And I went through the feedback book, and all the feedback in that was, so positive. And I remember thinking this is so unbelievable. How is, you know, I would be… terrified of what people would say, you know, negative comments and things like that, because that’s just the world that we’re brought up in that work, that we were used to at this point. And just to see how important that exhibition was to everyone and how people were saying, you know, I’ve come to this exhibition on my own, I’m able to see myself reflected back within this person’s story. It was an exhibition about April Ashley, one of the first people in the world to undergo gender reassignment surgery. And I remember thinking this is just fantastic, and just to be perhaps involved in that for our museums, to provide that experience for somebody else, somehow, even if it’s just a tiny bit of that, I think it’s really meaningful and it’s really important to me. So, it’s very, very exciting and I’m very privileged every day to be part of this project. And I’m thankful really. Yeah.
Dan: Lauren has been a treat. Thank you so much.
Lauren: No, thank you.
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, you can find me @DanNouveau. This podcast was produced by me and edited by Samuel Gunn.
If you liked what you heard, do rate, review and subscribe, there are so many more chats coming up that are worth listening out for, so stay tuned and look if you want to get involved, please do find out more about Pride in Our City. There’s so many blogs, videos and gorgeous photos of Pride in Hull to have a look at on the website, and that’s at HumberMuseums.com, search for Pride in Our City, or have a look for the links in the show notes. And please, if you’ve got a story that you’d like to share, do reach out to us, we’d love to hear from you. So, there we go, thank you very much and I hope to see you again very soon.