From movie screenings and art exhibitions to drag nights and community gardening, Tower Hamlets is celebrating LGBT History Month in full force.
LGBT History Month is the time of the year when museums, libraries, art galleries and charities come together to celebrate the life and work of queer people from all over the world.
In the UK, LGBT History Month has three taglines: ‘Claiming our past. Celebrating our present. Creating our future.’ For centuries, queer people have been forced to hide in the shadows, repressing the truth of their identity in the face of violent prejudice.
The month of February brings an opportunity to rewrite the narrative and shine a spotlight on the monumental achievements of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from the past and the present.
The first LGBT History Month in the UK took place in February 2005, and was founded by Sue Sanders and Paul Patrick, then co-chairs of Schools OUT UK, the LGBT education charity. The month coincided with the anniversary of the abolition of Section 28 in February 2003, which finally dismantled a series of discriminatory laws across Britain that prohibited the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ by local authorities.
Each year, Schools Out UK picks a new theme for February, and this year it’s ‘Medicine – #UnderTheScope’. Throughout history, queer people have made immense contributions to public health, from Sophia Jex-Blake, the founder of the London School of Medicine for Women in 1874, to Cherry Valentine, the drag queen and mental health nurse from RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.
If you want to uncover the local queer history of Tower Hamlets, here is a list of top picks of exhibitions, open mic nights and archive events in celebration of LGBT History Month 2024.
Archiving Desires: A Badge Cafe Exhibition
Sunday 28 January – Sunday 25 February
Badge Cafe, founded by Ben Walters, is a ‘crafty utopian hangout’ – a queer community premised on the radical joy of badgemaking. In Archiving Desires, his new exhibition at Rich Mix, Walters showcases the badges he made through cutout vintage magazines and the ‘found’ collages crafted by Badge Cafe participants. Discover how queer people sought connection in pre-digital times, and how queer people today engage with material from the past. The exhibition is free entry and badgemaking hangouts are Pay What You Can. For more information visit our website.
Find Rich Mix at 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA
Cultivating LGBTQ+ History
Saturday 24 February
Join Rainbow Grow and Eastside Community Heritage in celebrating LGBTQ+ History through community gardening. Pop along to the Hackney CVS Garden to explore oral histories and sow seeds to leave or take home. You will even have an opportunity to record your own personal story of LGBTQ+ gardening to add to the growing archive collection. For more information visit our website.
Find the Hackney CVS Garden at 24 Dalston Lane, London E8 3AZ
Imagining Queer Pasts and Futures in the Tower Hamlets Archives
Thursday 15 February
Participate in an evening of writing and discussion, exploring photos, records and memories of the LGBTQ+ community in Tower Hamlets. East London-based writer and facilitator F. Zeeshan Choudhury will provide writing games and activities as visitors uncover the long queer history of our local area. For more information visit our website.
Find the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives at 277 Bancroft Road, Bethnal Green, London E1 4DQ
Charity Queenie Karaoke at Jungle Electric
Saturday 24 February
Join ‘Queen of the East’ Christina Draguilera at Jungle Electric Cafe on the Roman Road for a charity karaoke night. If the promise of a fabulous drag performance isn’t enough, Jungle Electric’s resident magician will be performing tricks all night to keep you entertained. Pay a visit to the cafe for a laugh, a drink, and the chance to win a prize in the raffle. All profits raised will go straight to The Food Chain, a charity delivering meals and providing communal eating opportunities to people with HIV in London and their dependents. For more information visit our website.
Pop into Jungle Electric at 467 Roman Rd, Bow, London E3 5LX
‘A finger in derek jarman’s mouth’: Book launch at Positive East
Thursday 29 February
Fancy some literature? Visit Positive East for a reading by Simon Maddrell of his new collection, finger in derek jarman’s mouth — poetry in memory of Derek Jarman, marking thirty years after his death from AIDS-related illness. The collection is a poetic tribute to Jarman’s inspiring legacy as a writer, artist, queer and AIDS activist, designer, filmmaker, and gardener. For more information visit our website.
Find Positive East at 159 Mile End Road, Bethnal Green, London, E1 4AQ
Queerness extravaganza: Open mic & variety show
Thursday 29 February
As a celebration of queer history month, St Margaret’s House is collaborating with Bellmaker Corp to host a memorable open mic night and variety show. Seasoned and budding musicians, poets and comedians are encouraged to sign up on the door from 6:30pm. The night promises to showcase the enormous talent of London’s diverse queer community. For more information visit our website.
Find St Margaret’s House at 21 Old Ford Road, London E2 9PL
Film screenings at Genesis Cinema
Throughout February, the independent Genesis cinema in Mile End is hosting screenings of a variety of queer cinema, from the BAFTA-nominated All of Us Strangers, to a special valentine’s day screening of Terrorvision hosted by queer film fanatic, Token Homo. If you’re celebrating Galentine’s Day, Genesis is also screening a range of alternative love stories curated by Girls in Film, a community championing female, non-binary and trans creatives on screen. For more information visit our website.
Visit Genesis Cinema at 93-95 Mile End Rd, Bethnal Green, London E1 4UJ
The Gay Yellow Pages
Queer East is a community-led project, aiming to provide inclusive safe spaces for the all regardless of age, gender or sexuality. On the first Friday of every month, Queer East hosts parties at Two More Years in Hackney Wick, creating the ideal spot to form friendships in the LGBTQ+ community. This February, the team has launched ‘The Gay Yellow Pages’, and is building a directory of queer businesses, freelancers and artists in east London. Whether you’re a local entrepreneur, tradesperson or visionary, join the queer directory now to showcase your talent.
Find Queer East at 7 Roach Road, Fish Island London, E3 2PA
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