Author:
Lucy Robinson
Subject:
Arts and Humanities, Film and Music Production
Material Type:
Module
Level:
Adult Education
Tags:
LGBT History, Mass Observation, Oral History, Queerama
License:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0
Language:
English
Queerama and Telling Queer Stories

Queerama and Telling Queer Stories

Module Overview

This is the first of three open educational resources inspired by the Daisy Asquith's film Queerama (2017).  Queerama marks the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offenses Act, which partially decriminalized private homosexual acts in England and Wales. The documentary was created from footage from the BFI National Archive and captures the relationships, desires, fears and expressions of gay men and women. You can follow the three learning blocks in order or pick and choose.

This resource uses resources from the JISC funded project 'Observing the Eighties' and is OER produced under a CC-BY license.

Task 1 : Queer Histories

This is task is designed to invite users to think about how queer identities, representations and experience fit with broader historical narratives. (contains references to sex and rape) 

Choose from one of the following two podcasted lectures. The first was a stand alone recording, the second is a lecture from the second year History module 1984:Thatcher's Britain at the University of Sussex.  How do historians think about people's experiences and stories? Whose stories do you think get told more often than others and why? More importantly, why does it matter?

Queer Punks In T-Shirts
Family Values and Sexuality in Thatcher's Britain

 

This task is designed to question the ways in which historians construct narratives and to suggest that Queer History might be a way of working as much as a subject of study.

Do different identities have different ways of building their own histories?

What sort of experiences, identities and lives are included or excluded in the lecture you listened to?

What makes History Queer History?  Is it about how we 'do history' or what we 'do history' about?

Task 2 : The Politics of Being Heard

This is designed to encourage users to think about the variety of ways in which stories can be told and the variety of different purposes stories can have

Can you think of the different ways that queer stories have and can be told?

Think about why stories matter. Why does it matter whose story is heard? Why does it matter to tell your own story?

You might think about different types of queer stories such as -

Coming Out Stories, Intergenerational Conversations, Queer memoirs and autobiographies

Do different types of stories have different  meanings and are they told for different reasons?

This article by Jeffrey Weekes might help you think about how stories build communities. Weeks, J. (1996). The idea of a sexual community. Soundings2, 71-83.

This is designed to familiarise the user with the Mass Observation Project and to think about the context in which stories are told. 

In the next task we are going to look at one persons voice and how they have described the world in wich they lived.  Firstly you will need to find out a bit more about the Mass Obersation Project (MOP).

Find out about the history of the Mass Observation Project

Introduction

This introduction to Mass Observation in the 1980s might be helpful.

Task 3 : Follow One Story

This is designed to help the user idenfity with one respondant (volunteer writer over time) and to think about the relationship between the questions being asked and the stories being told.

 

Mass Observation Project (MOP) is made of a collection of individual writers - who we call respondents because they are invited to 'respond' to an open question rather than answer it.

In this task we will follow one respondant

Read the responses to four different directives (MOP's name for questionaires). They were all written by the same person, a gay man who was born in 1945. Because MOP is anonymised we idenfity him by his code B1106

You might also find it useful to look at the Directives themselves to think about how he was, and was not, answering the questions he was asked. Does the respondent always respond in the way that you or the original question imagined? How do individuals take charge of the way that they answer questions? If you want to follow some other resondents then a bigger selection of writers can be found in the Observing the 80s project

 

This is designed as a practical exercise through which users can apply their thinking so far and think about how stories might change over time.

 

 

•How would you answer the same four directives that B1106 responded to? Do you think that this might change over time and depend when you were answering them? Prof Dorothy Sheridan has produced a useful guide to the Directives responded to in the 1980s which helps shed light on why certain questions got asked.

Now design your own directive - what would you like to ask and why? 

Task 4 : Sharing Queer Stories

This is step is designed to help the user think about the ways in which individual stories are shaped in conversation and the different reasons that there might be for sharing a story. It will also help users to think about how oral histories are stories that grow out of a conversation between interviewer and interviewee.

 

These short clips or oral histories are taken from the British Library collection for Observing the Eighties. It was the first time that the Library has put their oral histories online under a creative commons license.

Choose one person from the three following interviews. Think about how they tell their story, but also the way in which they talk about other 'stories' - the media, the law etc.

Jonathan Blake talks about the differences, challenges and experiences of working with other political groups including some discussion of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners which you might have heard of through the film Pride. (20.21- 21.10 ). He talks about how interviews work as a way of telling stories and expresses thoughts on the structure of the interview.  He also talks about how he originally became aware of AIDS and the development of its diagnosis and treatment. (01.04-06.39) He talks of changing relationships after hearing of others' deaths (11.15 - 12.50). He also moves on from talking about treatment and diagnosis, to reflect on the role of gay press (and they stories that they published) in self-education of gay men(13.36 - 15.57).  He talks about the impact of legal restrictions, for example that he ' Believed that Clause 28 more or less allowed gay bashing to be OK' (06:05-13:40). 

 

•Haydn Lewis talks about response to partner's diagnosis  with HIV/AIDS(01.19-02.23), and the different treatment models that were available in 1987 (04.48-05.28).  He also talks about the importance of  disclosure of HIV status and media ,representation. As well as the legal and financial implications of the disease. (09.04-13.22)

•Paul Ward Gay- talks about reporting on AIDS as a story and early press coverage (01:01:52-01:07:50). He outlines early medical developments in NHS, including press coverage, and changing sexual practices. ( 01.07.50 - 01.10.11). He makes a comparison with Amsterdam and the safe sex campaigns, 'tombstone' and 'iceberg' (01.10.12 - 01.11.54) Identity and the relationship between HIV and gay is discussed. (01:09:15-01:10:20)  He shares his experiences how  medical staff responded to HIV patients.  He talks abut the level of ignorance and blind panic in the press coverage (01:11:54-01:14:46)  He also describes how sexual behaviour adapted in response to a growing awareness of HIV related deaths, including that of Mark Ashton (from Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners). (01.14.49- 1.16.49) He talks about testing, and the lack of treatment choices at the time as well as the issue of coming out as HIV+ (1.16.53- 01.18.19)

It would also be useful to think about the role of queer stories in the history of Oral History. What is the relationship between Queer History and Oral History?

You might want to explore the collection further. You can sort by individual interview of by a series of subjects (including one on Gay Rights).

Task 5 : Writing and Talking

This is a concluding task, designed to bring the different elements of the module together and to help the users think about the importance of how a story is told, as well as what in included in a story. 

Draw together the two different types of stories - written MOP responses and recorded oral historis. In some ways these are both 'second hand' stories for us .

How might your responses be different to those that could have been expected at the time?

What do you think the differences are between saying or writing your own story? and how do you think this might matter?