THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Living Knowledge blog

10 July 2017

The Library is open! Celebrating London Pride

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I was privileged this weekend to join eight of my colleagues from the British Library (pictured above) and many more from the wider museums, galleries and archives sector under the Museum Pride banner, in front of an estimated 1 million people at this year’s London Pride.

The extraordinary outpouring of goodwill on the streets of London was truly inspirational. It was hard not to be struck by the incredible diversity of participants, located as we were in the Parade with groups ranging from a punk rock truck, eBay, a pack of ‘human pups’, public service unions and many more besides. It felt absolutely right that, as a group of 130 representatives of the cultural and heritage sector, we were right in the middle of that eclectic mix of perspectives under the banner of ‘Proud to represent LGBTQ+ Lives’. And it made for a very fun day for everyone involved!

It’s the first time (as far as we know) that the Library has ever participated in London Pride; certainly, the hoisting of the rainbow flag at our Grade 1 listed St Pancras site last month was a really symbolic first for us.

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And earlier this summer, our Boston Spa site in Yorkshire celebrated York Pride for the first time by setting up a very successful information stall that reached new audiences.

So it’s been a year of firsts for the British Library. But why this year?

Our excellent Gay UK: Love, Law, Liberty exhibition has played a part, marking as it does a vital year in LGBTQ+ history, 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality. That milestone has been a touchstone for many cultural institutions across the country this year, with a whole host of exhibitions and events taking place. It’s a moment for reflecting on the progress made, and the distance still to travel.

And Museum Pride itself only came into being last year as a network of LGBTQ+ professionals based with museums, galleries and archives across the UK. The success of those pioneers inspired a number of other institutions such as ourselves to join the movement this year, as visible champions of LGBTQ+ lives and experience.  

But at the core of our decision to participate is our Living Knowledge vision, which challenges us to be a Library for everyone, making our intellectual heritage available to all for inspiration and education. It means being visible and passionate champions of equality, fairness and diversity, and our participation in Pride season this year has been a wonderful way to express these values.  

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On a personal note, London Pride was full of humbling moments. I couldn’t help thinking what my awkward, closeted teenage self would have made of me now – raising rainbow flags on iconic London buildings and marching alongside such utterly brilliant people and organisations, in front of a million cheering people. I think it would have been absolute disbelief!  

Rob Field

Public Policy Manager

The Library’s Gay UK: Love, Law, Liberty exhibition runs until 19 September.