Documenting Northamptonshire’s gay community in sound and image – Compiled by Iain Armstrong with illustrations by Jayne West
In 2003, the tenth anniversary year of the Northamptonshire Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Alliance (NLGBA), I was commissioned to produce an oral history archive to celebrate and document the local gay community while commemorating the work of the organisation.
The interviews for this project were conducted during the period from September 2003 to February 2004 and took place mostly in the interviewee’s homes or at the offices of NLGBA. The participants are varied in their background and occupations and age from 18 – 69. Each participant was asked to comment on their experiences of living as lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the county. The responses and anecdotes recorded in this process, while both humorous and sad, tragic and shocking, provide a potent reminder and honest insight into how one’s sexuality and the way in which it is perceived by others can shape people’s lives.
Presented as a series of monologues, these people’s stories form the 10 chapters of Forgotten Fairytales. They are introduced by a Prelude which draws excerpts from the various chapters and presents them as a montage intended to encapsulate the emergent themes and issues which resonate across the project as a whole.
In order to illustrate the work, local photographer Jayne West took large photographic portraits of the interviewees. Gay, lesbian and bisexual issues have frequently been addressed within the context of an urban, metropolitan environment. This project differs significantly in that respect, so she photographed the contributors in a location which had some meaning for them – the same kind of locations that mean a lot to anyone; home, the park, the theatre, the countryside. In taking portraits, ultimately, to highlight their differences from most of society, she hoped to try and capture their sameness.
The entire project including images and full interviews was produced as a specially designed, limited edition box CD set available on the discography page of this site. The work also toured as a gallery installation in which large format prints of the photographs were displayed alongside looped, stereo playback of the Prelude. A computer in the space allowed visitors to access the complete interviews at their leisure and listen to them on headphones.
The installation opened in Northampton Museum and Art Gallery and ran from 21 March – 25 April 2004. It was subsequently shown at: Trinity Gallery, Leicester; Sanctuary Arts Centre, Northampton; several times at University of Northampton as part of their Diversity Week; and Sonic Arts Network Expo 2004, De Montfort University, Leicester.
Commissioned by Northamptonshire Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual Alliance with funding from Arts Council England, Northamptonshire County Council, SRB6.