Queer Britain, the UK’s first LGBTQ+ museum, located in Granary Square King’s Cross, is a well-crafted and long overdue celebration of those from the LGBTQ+ community who have shaped Britain.
Opening at the beginning of last month, the museum contains carefully curated art pieces that provide an insight into various aspects of Britain’s LGBTQ+ past. The viewers’ attention is drawn to acts of solidarity within the community as well as individuals whose stories indicate landmark moments.
As stated on the Queer Britain website, "Queer people have impacted every part of culture, yet all too often their lives have been written in the margins of history books,". The museum is therefore successfully providing a "dedicated space" for these stories "to be preserved, explored and celebrated".
Upon entrance to the galleries, viewers are presented with the artwork. The most eye-catching of these is Sadie Lee’s painting of David Hoyle. Lee is known for her realistic depictions of individuals, and she often focuses on the 'fabulous and marginalised'. This particular painting is no different and is a beautiful celebration of being oneself. Lee captures an understanding of what it means to be queer in Britain through Hoyle’s eyes and this feeling of being seen continues throughout the museum.
The photography gallery is no doubt the star of the show. Anyone with an interest in British cultural history is likely to be in their element. Displaying photographs - donated by Getty Images in 2019 - from the 1870s to today, this particular room is a who’s who of British Queer icons.
One of the first images in the collection is that of Justin Fashanu. As the world’s first publicly gay professional football player, coming out in 1990, he represents everything that has changed and still needs to change in the sport.
His image is followed by equally influential individuals, for example, Ian McKellen protesting in support of gay rights as a young man.
British Queer history could not be told without recognising the tragedy that was the AIDS epidemic and the lives of those that we lost. The exhibition, therefore, houses an image of Princess Diana who is well known for her allyship and work towards destigmatizing HIV and AIDS.
Importantly, alongside these well-known faces, less well-known stories of those who have fought and continue to fight for LGBTQ+ rights are captured. The spirit of Pride is evident from the moment you walk in and the Queer community’s defiance and love – which bridges across generations – is centred.
This is evident in a collection of images entitled Chosen Families. Displaying work by various photographers commissioned by Queer Britain this collection demonstrates the Queer community’s ability to provide comfort and draw strength from one another.
The museum closes with yet more photography. Work by Allie Crewe captures people who desire transformation and through her work, she is able to critically challenge gender constructs – a mission that the LGBTQ+ community is at the forefront of.
Though small in size, the museum and galleries represent something much bigger. The artwork it contains provides a vital commentary on the continuing, vital influence that the Queer community has on British culture and the museum itself is a milestone in the sense that the Queer community’s impact on culture is finally getting the recognition it deserves.
Have you visited Queer Britain yet? Let us know in the comments!