Friday 15 July
Southend Pride Event
Saturday 16 July
with Drop-in Zine
led by Lu Williams
TOMA Project Space
Royals Shopping Centre,
Southend, SS1 1DG
& SUNDAYS 12-5PM
The Royals Shopping Centre is fully wheelchair accessible and all entrances and exits to the centre have automatic doors.
At the front desk is a friendly exhibition assistant to help answer any questions you may have. Chairs can be provided if needed. Exhibitions at the TOMA Project Space are all on one level.
Disabled toilets are located on the ground floor near TK Maxx, by the Pier Hill entrance. Separate baby changing rooms are also provided at this location. A dedicated baby feed area is available here, however we also welcome baby feeding within the space.
There will be access friendly versions of the handout and captions. We will have printed versions of the handout text available and you can download the access friendly captions document on your phone. Unfortunately, we do not currently have other access systems such as audio loops.
The font is plain, 18pt and double spaced to aid anyone with a visual impairment, and, or, dyslexia. Please contact us if you require any alternative provisions to access Southend's Twilight Worlds.
Only assistance dogs are welcome in the Royals Shopping Centre and the TOMA Project Space.
If there are any additional provisions we can implement, such as adapting the current exhibition’s lighting, sound, or movement, please email Elliot on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a time slot within our opening hours.
For further information on visiting 'Southend's Twilight Worlds' at TOMA Project Space please click here.
Lu Williams has produced a banner, Southend’s Queer History 1965 to 2022 (2022), which tracks the change in LGBTQ+ rights since 1965. Whilst acknowledging major events internationally, the majority of the events are smaller in scale and specific to Southend, visually highlighting how local activism and campaigning contributed to the rights queer people now have.
In Amy Pennington’s film commission “Where’s Danny?”(2022), they take on the role of a reporter named Barbara Standard. Standard’s reporting is fueled by gossip and rumour evoking the often disparaged nature of queer history. Drawing upon the headline ‘GAY SANTA GETS SACK’ from The Sun in 1986, and its appearance within a Derek Jarman painting, Pennington drags up to find out what really happened to the actor Danny Ford who was presumably dismissed from his role as Santa Claus in the historic department store Keddies.
Gay News launched in 1972 as the very first independent gay magazine. The magazine ran for over a decade before it ceased operation in 1983, during which it faced frequent opposition from numerous bodies such as local authorities and was often censored. Before the dawn of the internet, magazines such as Gay News were one of the only ways the public could find out about LGBTQ+ issues and events. On an issue from 1978, it claims to be ‘The World’s Largest Circulation Newspaper for homosexuals’.
Gay News magazine became available in Southend Central Library in April 1980, after Essex Country Council lifted the ban; the Southend division of Campaign for Homosexaul Equality (CHE) had decided to supply it to the library free of charge for a year. At the time, the ban still existed in Thurrock and further protests happened in September 1981 outside council offices to lift the ban.
The Cliff pub is now Essex’s only exclusively LGBTQ+ venue. The pub has been operating for fifty years, they celebrated their fifty year anniversary this summer. In Sarah Wayman’s essay ‘Queer by the Pier: The Cliff and Beyond’, she details her current oral history project to archive the stories of the pub’s fifty years in operation. If you have a story you would like to tell Sarah please talk to one of our Project Space Assistants to be put in touch.
Despite The Cliff being a gay pub for fifty years, it has also come up against several attempts to stop it from being so. The clipping with the headline ‘Gay Ray wins pub battle’ is one of these instances. In 1981, publican of The Cliff Raymond Stone had to fight a court battle after the police questioned whether his own homosexuality would affect him in his role as licensee. Find out more by reading Sarah Wayman’s essay in the Southend’s Twilight Worlds publication.
The Kursaal, an abandoned amusement arcade on Southend’s seafront, figures prominently within the city’s history. Vittorio Ricchetti considers how a piece of garish carpet taken from the Kursaal in the 1990’s could be considered as camp in his essay for the Southend’s Twilight Worlds publication.
In Forgotten Black Essex: Princess Dinubolu (2018), the artist Elsa James shone a light on the 1908 media scandal over a young black woman competing in a beauty pageant at the Kursaal through video and performance. As such, the Kursaal may have been Southend’s ‘one bright spot’, as once declared on a souvenir Kursaal mirror held within Southend Museums, but it is also one of the sites at which many misconceptions about Southend and its history can be disrupted.
Princess Essex is a play written and performed by Anne Odeke (RSC, Shakespeare’s Globe, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch). Odeke’s play draws upon research previously uncovered by Steve Martin and Elsa James. In 1908, at the Kursaal on Southend’s seafront Princess Dinubolu entered herself into one of the country’s most prestigious beauty pageants. Princess Essex is a funny and dynamic tale of the first black woman to ever enter a beauty pageant in the UK.
In Southend Museums’ swimwear collection, one of the largest and more unique collections of its kind in the whole country, are a group of historical and contemporary male swimming thongs from the 1920s and from the 1980s/90s.
1920’s thongs and stringed briefs were often linked to baths and saunas, the only places where they would have been permitted. Baths and saunas have historically been places of encounter for gay, bi or pan men. Male thongs and loincloths were also associated with Beefcake magazines and the underground queer photographic circuit. These were largely fitness and bodybuilding magazines with homoerotic images produced to avoid laws restricting explicitly gay erotica.
Not only was the original designer of the contemporary Speedo, Peter Travis, a gay man, but the Speedo itself became so iconic within the queer community that it even gained its own category of gay pornography. This particularly garish animal print design from the Southend Museums collection fits perfectly into our contemporary reading of ‘campness’.
The Roman Emperor Hadrian is frequently referenced as having publicly had a male consort, Antinous, who accompanied him on his travels around the empire. It was not uncommon for his predecessors to have taken gay lovers alongside a female spouse, however Hadrian was unique in making his love “official” in a way that no other emperor before him had ever done. When Antinous drowned in mysterious circumstances in the River Nile, Hadrian was so distraught that he chose to commemorate the young Greek man by making him a divinity, founded a cult in his name and erected monuments in his honour. There are also memorials to Hadrian’s dead lover at the emperor’s villa in Tivoli.
In 2018, period black comedy film The Favorite, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, became a great success. The film follows Queen Anne who reigned over England, Scotland and Ireland from 1702 to 1714. Numerous historians have explored an exchange of letters amongst Queen Anne and Duchess of Marlborough Sarah Churchill, through these letters many have debated that a lesbian love affair ensued between them. It is the potential of this romantic relationship that informed the hit film The Favorite. In Southend Museums’ collection are a number of coins dating to the early eighteenth century that feature the profile of Queen Anne, now a historical lesbian icon.
Edward II was King of England in 1307 until his deposition in 1327. He frequented Hadleigh Castle in South Essex throughout his reign, the ruins of this medieval castle is remain to this day. Edward II’s sexaulity has also been the site of much speculation. These coins from Southend Museums’ collection feature the profile of Edward II.
It is believed that his aid Piers Gaveston was Edward’s lover. While there is no concrete historical evidence to support Gaverston and Edward II having a homosexual affair, in Christopher Marlowe’s theatrical rendition of 1592, their relationship is very much queer.
In 1970, BBC Two broadcasted Prospect Theatre Company’s production of Edward II, featuring Ian Mckellen as Edward and James Laurenson as Gaveston. The production drew upon Marlowe’s telling and so Mckellen and Laurenson exchanged a kiss: thus, this moment was Britain’s first gay kiss. More contemporary works drawing upon this story include queer British filmmaker Derek Jarman’s Edward II (1991), a film using the medieval past to critique the anti-queer politics of Maragret Thatcher’s Britain.
Southend’s Twilight Worlds is curated by Elliot Gibbons and produced in partnership with TOMA (The Other MA), The Old Waterworks, Grrrl Zine Fair, Southend Pride, Metal Southend, Focal Point Gallery, Southend Museums and Essex Cultural Diversity Project, and is made possible with funding from Arts Council England and Essex Heritage Trust.
© 2022 Elliot Gibbons. All rights reserved