Address: 230 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 4QH
Telephone: +44 20 7392 9200
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Bishopsgate Institute in the City is one of London’s great institutions. Founded in 1894 as a place for learning, they offer a bewildering array of courses and events to get people inspired and curious about the world, from history to performing and creative arts, languages and wellbeing.
They also hold one of the UK’s largest collections of LGBTQ+ archives, bringing together hundreds and thousands of literature and items from gay history.
Bishopsgate also holds an impressive archive of literary treasures, spanning centuries, and are an important custodian of some of London and the world’s most compelling links to the past.
All that would be be enough. But they have also become, in no small part through the efforts of their Special Collections & Archives manager Stef Dickers, a major global resource for LGBTQ+ history.
A wide range of LGBTQ+ courses, talks and tours throughout the year cover every aspect of LGBTQ+ history, society and life, from the history of Gay Switchboard to queer musical theatre, plus creative writing, film, photography and more.
We were lucky enough to meet the lovely Stef and have a tour of the gay archives of Bishopsgate. The collection is huge and inspiring, including the vast Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive – which goes back centuries and pulls together an incredible range (300,000 no less) of newspaper clippings from the straight press regarding LGBTQ+ life. The archives also range from Stonewall, Peter Tatchell, Switchboard and the Rebel Dykes history project, to GMFA/The Gay Men’s Health Charity, Outrage!, the Terrence Higgins Trust, Achilles Heel, QX magazine and much more.
There are original gay pride badges, including the famous Mary Whitehouse “Gay News Fight’s On” badge; there’s a vast collection of porn (helped along by a Scottish man who offloaded four transit vans on to the Institute); a special UK Leather and Fetish Archive; and even a bed as part of the Rebel Dykes history project!
They also hold a library of over 10,000 LGBTQ+ titles, from academic texts to gay pulp fiction, and thousands of magazines, festival programmes, club flyers, T-shirts and banners.
You can drop in anytime to look through the archive, whether for research purposes or just out of curiosity – and we strongly suggest that you do. (Book a free slot through the website).
Bishopsgate Institute – LGBTQ+ ArchivesWebsite
230 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 4QH
Undergound & Trains: Liverpool Street, Aldgate, Shoreditch High Street
Buses: 8, 26, 42, 78, 135, 205, 388, N8, N26, N205, N242