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A ground breaking new heritage project called “Hidden Voices”, researching the history of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people in Reading will launch at Reading Museum on Thursday 24 July, with a reception and seminar, starting at 6.30pm.

Members of the public are invited to come along and hear about plans to document Reading’s LGBT heritage, culminating in a community display which will open at the museum in time for LGBT history month in February 2015.

The project, which has received the backing of the Heritage Lottery Fund, will see local LGBT charity, Support U, lead a programme of research and collect interviews with members of the community who remember a time when it was illegal to be gay.

The free launch event will include a presentation identifying key LGBT people throughout Reading’s history who have helped to shape society. Key facts about Reading’s LGBT History will be related to broaden understanding of LGBT issues as they impact on Reading today.

Hidden Voices Project manager Bobby Smith explained:
“We will be looking further back into the history of Reading, so we can see a fuller picture. In Reading we have some very important LGBT history to tell. Oscar Wilde was imprisoned here but it is less well known that Lord Wolfenden was Vice-Chancellor of Reading University when he wrote the Parliamentary report that led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967.”

By conducting oral history recordings with older gay men and women, who were discriminated against because of their sexuality, project organisers hope to discover how attitudes have changed.

Project officer, Lorna McArdle explained:
“Support U is dedicated to supporting the LGBT community and this project will assist our organisation in seeing a real picture of the cultural past and present. It’s important to get an overall picture of the people in Reading from all ages. The older generation is still detached from the LGBT Community at large, but the youngsters do want to know what it was like, we would like to bridge that gap with this project. It is only right that we make sure the history of the LGBT community is shown, to highlight just how far we have come towards acceptance.”

There will be lots of opportunities to volunteer for the project. Support U will be looking for anything that is of historical importance that can be displayed at the museum. Including real objects that might illustrate how the LGBT community congregated and supported each other in the past.

Besides plans to stage a community exhibition at the museum, organisers will be developing educational and training tool for schools and businesses and so organisers are hoping that local business people and education professionals will get involved.

Paul Gittings, Lead Councillor for Sport Culture and Consumer Services said:

“I am delighted to see Support U take this initiative with Reading Museum. The stories of ordinary people living under very difficult circumstances, because of their sexuality, will have real value, helping us all appreciate our civil rights today.

Contact: Bob Smith, Project Manager history@supportu.org.uk Phone: 033 00 881 211

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