We went on a tour of London’s LGBT history and it was amazing.
What was the scene like back when male homosexuality was a criminal offence? Where did the LGBT clubbers go when being open about their sexuality put them at risk? And how on earth did you pick up women when being labelled a lesbian would make you a social pariah?
Well, now you can find out. This month, the National Trust and The National Archives have teamed up to host brilliant guided tours of Soho and all its deliciously taboo history.
DIVA went along to road-test the tour and we can confirm it rocks.
Prepare to be inspired, intrigued and entertained as you learn all about your LGBTQ+ ancestors. You will be shown where Soho’s dens of iniquity were and what went on there. You will discover fascinating and fabulous characters like controversial lady-loving dancer, Miss Maud Allen, who was accused of having an affair with the Prime Minister’s wife and being a German spy.
Victoria Iglikowski from The National Archives, told DIVA:
“While it wasn’t illegal to be a lesbian, there was clearly this repetitional damage. People were vulnerable and there clearly was an impact on women’s lives.”
After treading in the footsteps of the queer clubbers of yesteryear, you will be taken to a recreation of the iconic Caravan venue. The bohemian nightspot was a popular hangout for London’s LGBT residents. Using photos, police reports and witness statements, designers have brought the striking interior to life again so you can experience what it was like for yourself.
In the evenings you can pop along to The Caravan for an immersive bar experience. Dress up in your vintage finest, sample the authentic cocktail menu and enjoy the decidedly queer cabaret. There is also a programme of more serious events examining the history of people’s lives. For more info, look here.
This events is part of a wider, year-long National Trust project called Prejudice and Pride, looking at LGBTQ+ histories. Joseph Watson, London Creative Director for the National Trust, told DIVA:
“It’s a way of highlighting histories that are otherwise sidelined and bring some of those to the fore… These were not male-only spaces. Very often women were featured in some of the photographs, clearly playing quite prominent roles or at least as significant roles as many of the men.”
The tours are scheduled 2-26 March 2017. They last about 90 minutes and they are mostly outside so make sure you dress appropriately.