Stepping into The Hold for their latest exhibition felt like a strange experience. It has been longer than I can remember since I have been able to visit any kind of museum, gallery or exhibition. But Pride in Suffolk’s Past is a great way of being able to explore culture again.
Anyone passing the waterfront area of Ipswich will have noticed the works going on in the University of Suffolk car park to create the county’s new archive centre. Now open for all, the centre includes wonderful collections, as well as a café, shop and exhibition gallery.
Pride in Suffolk’s Past sheds light on LGBTQ+ stories from Suffolk.
The new exhibition at The Hold is called Pride in Suffolk’s Past and it tells the stories of LGBTQ+ residents of Suffolk, many of them from a time when how they identified was not socially, or even legally, acceptable. So their stories were unknown for a long time.
Interspersed with the historical stories and their original documentation, there is a timeline set up in the middle of the room with key dates to create a wider picture of how things have changed over the years.
Moving through the exhibition, I felt an odd mix of shame and hope. Shame from stories I was unaware of, but feel should be widely known, as well as shame at how recently certain events and laws were still occurring. I am reluctant to talk about the exhibits themselves in too much depth as I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, (I feel everyone should discover these in person). But it is worth spending some time at the interactive screen set up to explore LGBTQ+ rights around the world.
Some countries may surprise you, both for the better and the worse. There is something so incomprehensible about the fact that in 2021, there are still countries around the world where people are unable to simply be themselves.
Interspersed with the historical tales are the stories of current Suffolk residents and their experiences. It is these that create a sense of hope. They show us that, although there are still changes that need to be made, things are moving in the right direction and we need to continue to make sure they do.
During your time exploring the exhibition, there is a TV set up to play a loop of various newsreels, spanning from 1957 to 2020, (you really can hear how the tone has changed over the years). Again, not to spoil any of the content for anyone, I would highly recommend making sure you are near the TV when they play the “Open To Questions” interview from 1992, with Justin Fashanu. It is a fascinating piece and inadvertently makes you think of how behind the times’ men’s football still is in this area.
Suffolk Archives has done a truly amazing job of showcasing untold stories that deserve to be known and are important for all of us to learn about. After exploring the exhibition, I feel the sentiment of it all was summed up perfectly on the message wall, on a single post-it note. The message from Winter, aged 3 and a half is…
I hope everyone is happy.
Celebrate Pride Month at The Hold
So, what better way to celebrate Pride Month than by checking out the exhibition for yourself? It’s free to visit, you just need to book a time slot in advance, which can be done here. The exhibition is running until Sunday 4th July.
It is also definitely worth grabbing yourself a copy of the accompanying book, which you can buy when you book your time slot or grab a copy from the gift shop at The Hold.
Have you already been to explore Pride in Suffolk’s Past? Or are you planning to visit? Let us know in the comments what you thought of it.