On Saturday 21 February 2015 we held our first LGBT History Month coffee morning at Surrey History Centre in Woking. The event was hosted and organised by Surrey Heritage and LGBT support charity Outline.
We transformed one of our events rooms into a friendly, welcoming space and by the time we’d adorned the room with bunting, tablecloths, an LGBT timeline, DVD player, and numerous displays you’d never have known that it was usually used for council meetings! Tea and coffee flowed freely and a huge array of cakes and biscuits ensured no one went hungry! The coffee morning was a chance for visitors to look at our LGBT History displays, speak to members of the Outline team, and find out more about Surrey History Centre with a behind-the-scenes tour.
The event was advertised widely and was very well attended with over 25 people. Surrey County Council’s chairman David Munro took time out of his busy schedule to pop down and chat to those who attended the event.
We have been celebrating LGBT History Month for the last 5 years with ever-changing and evolving displays celebrating Surrey’s LGBT history and ‘icons’. Previously we have teamed up with Surrey Libraries, University of Surrey, and Gay Surrey to share our displays and host talks.
The coffee morning gave us a more informal opportunity to properly meet and chat to our local LGBT community. We spent time talking about the lack of trans* representation in the timeline display (inspired by Stonewall) and with help from attendees came up with more trans* chronology details to add in. Surrey-based trans* education charity, Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES), unfortunately couldn’t attend the event, but conscious of the lack of records relating to the trans* community we have been working with them and their archives now feature in the Surrey History Centre collections.
It was great to see so many people coming to Centre for the first time; several commented that they regularly passed by but had never been in. This event demonstrated that people felt comfortable enough to take that first step, come along and find out more about our work, which was fantastic. The behind-the-scenes tour gave us a chance to explain how Surrey Heritage helps preserve, discover and celebrate the county’s history. A key part of our work is to expand our collections to be representative of all communities living in Surrey. The tour was an opportunity to explain how we continually add to our collections and show how members of the LGBT community can add their own documents and memories to ensure that they are fully represented within the archive. You can find out more about our LGBT collections and work with the community on Exploring Surrey’s Past.
Here’s just a sample of the fantastic feedback visitors gave on the day:
“It was Ace! friendly and lovely”
“Found this so interesting and well organised! Especially liked the way records are looked after and how one can access Ancestry records from here!”
“Great tour…interesting, impressive facility I was not aware of before”
Most importantly, we had a lovely morning getting to know some of the people in our local area and would love to do the event again next year if possible.
Kate Jenner, Communities and Learning Officer, Surrey Heritage Surrey Heritage