Living Knowledge blog

17 August 2018

The Library is open – celebrating a summer of Pride at the British Library

This summer, the Library was proud to again participate in its local Pride festivals in York, London and Leeds. Doing so enables us to engage new audiences with the Library’s extraordinary collections, to promote the Library as an inclusive employer, and to support our local communities.

What did we get up to this year?

A big focus this year was to signpost our LGBTQ Histories webspace, which was established as a legacy of the Library’s hugely successful Gay UK: Love, Law, Liberty exhibition in 2017. This web resource introduces some of the Library’s incredible collections of LGBTQ stories and identities.

IMG_9268-YORKAbove: British Library staff taking part in the Leeds Pride parade (left to right): Katie Betts, Caylin Smith, Giuliano Levato, Stavroula Angoura, Caan Walls and Simon Whibley. Top: Pride flags with Leeds Civic Hall and Leeds Town Hall in the background.

The British Library is home to the national collection of published, written, audio and digital content, and has a duty to collect a copy of everything published in the UK. It’s a collection of extraordinary diversity and richness, bursting with heritage and stories of every kind.

From remarkable literary treasures such as Oscar Wilde manuscripts to civil rights campaign materials and specially commissioned oral history accounts, the LGBTQ Histories website begins to open up this extraordinary national collection in a new way. IMG_8817

So this year we distributed our colourful new rainbow bookmarks which proved very popular – both at the Pride festivals themselves and in our Reading Rooms. These handy markers included a link to the LGBTQ Histories webspace.

Marching with the LGBTQ community

In addition to promoting the Library’s remarkable LGBTQ collection items, Pride also offers a great opportunity to engage thousands of people to raise awareness of every aspect of the Library. York and Leeds Prides were bigger than ever before, with a combined audience of around 60,000 people from the region around our Boston Spa site. London Pride remains one of the largest marches in the world, with over 1 million people turning out to celebrate in the capital. These are brilliant opportunities for the Library, as a symbol of inclusivity and enlightenment, to assert that its services are genuinely ‘for everyone’ and to be proud of its own LGBTQ employees. In a similar vein, the Library flies the rainbow Pride flag at both our sites in St Pancras and Boston Spa.

IMG_9345-leedsLibrary colleagues at the Leeds Pride parade (left to right): Simon Whibley, Stavroula Angoura, Giuliano Levato, Caan Walls and Caylin Smith.

Employees from the British Library marched in each festival, and at York and Leeds also ran market stalls to promote everything the Library has to offer, both as a cultural resource open to all, and as a significant regional employer.

Having represented the Library at six Pride events over the last two years, my personal experience is an overwhelmingly positive one. The reception we get from people is incredibly inspiring; both from people who are familiar with us and those who know nothing at all. People are proud to see this national institution turning up for them – and so am I.

Rob Field

Head of Public Policy