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.
Click here to download a digital copy of the Southend's Twilight Worlds handout.
Click here to download an access friendly word document of the text on the handout.
Click here to download an access friendly word document of all the text on the captions displayed within the exhibition.
Click here to download an access friendly PDF of all the text on the captions displayed within the exhibition.
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.
Ruth Hazel’s series of patches titled Identify (2022) explore the interconnection between language and self-expression. Badges were, and often still are, used to indicate a person’s beliefs. Hazel has created numerous badges which feature words such as ‘Witchy’ reclaiming an age- old derogatory term for women.
The Agency of Visible Women present their publication A Snapshot of Southend as a Cultural Environment for Womxn (2019) that asked women and femmes to reflect on their experiences within the art and culture sector in Southend-on-Sea. Fifty-two of the responses are compiled with graphics overlaid with text in the ‘Mrs Eaves’ typeface that was named after Sarah Eaves, just one of the many overlooked women within the history of typography.
Scottee’s Most Homosexuals are Actually Incredibly Dull (2021) is a painted text based work on MDF featuring the titular phrase. The phrase refutes the notion seen within the Evening Echo article, and today, that homosexuals are different from everyone else.
George Morl’s large scale painting Disposition of Digital Youth (2019) reflects on how queer spaces have increasingly become digitised since the early 2010s and how developments in radar technology in South Essex during the war gave rise to GPS - the groundwork for contemporary mobile apps such as Grindr and social media.
Josephine Melville presents a steel pan to signal the founding of Southend’s first community steel pan band Steel Here. The steel pan is rich with history, once a form of communication among enslaved Africans, and later popularised in Trinidad and Tobago in the 1930s and 50s by reusing discarded oil drums. A sample of the uplifting sounds produced by the Steel Here band plays every five minutes.
Sunil Gupta presents Trespass 3 Untitled #9 & #13 for the second time within Southend-on- Sea, since its original exhibition at Focal Point Gallery in 1995. Untitled #9 exposes the invisible overseas labour behind the tea trade as two locals on Southend’s seafront look over to a hut selling hot tea. Untitled #13 foregrounds a queer presence in Southend through connotations implied by the first two panels depicting empty deck chairs and a public rest room alongside a Body Positive march: a support group for those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, active between 1985 and 2000.
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.
This figurine was found at the site of a Roman villa and would once have sat atop a household shrine as a focus of worship. Venus was the goddess of sexuality- which was described in the classical world as ta aphrodisia meaning “Aphrodite’s things.” This included lesbian sexuality, and the most celebrated lesbian of all time- Sappho of Lesbos- wrote many poems to the goddess. Her “Ode to Aphrodite” is a prayer calling upon the goddess to descend from heaven to yearning Sappho and aid her in winning the love of another woman. The cult of Venus was enthusiastically embraced in Roman Britain, and many women must have prayed just as Sappho did to such figurines, using them as objects of lesbian devotion.
In the first to second centuries AD, Venus figurines in pipeclay were mass-produced to an identical model in Gaul (modern France) and imported into Britain in significant numbers. They depicted the goddess at the moment of her birth as an adult woman, rising from the sea at Cyprus and wringing out her hair. A collection of fragmented parts were found on the foreshore at Canvey Island. Experimental studies have shown such figurines were fragile and prone to break when dropped, thus the fragmentation is likely accidental. Previously they would have stood in household shrines, and perhaps received lesbian prayers of their own
Hermaphrodite was a figure likely originating from Aphrodite’s cult centre on Cyprus, where she was worshipped in various forms including as a female with a penis. In the classical context her gender was read from her overall form and not her genitals alone, and thus her penis became a feminine organ. This bronze figurine is of the callipyge or kallipygos type- meaning “beautiful buttocks”, an epithet once given to Venus who was also depicted in this pose. In one hand she holds a mirror, gazing down over one shoulder to admire the reflection of her beautiful buttocks. Her gaze invites the admiration of the viewer- who may have been of any gender.
The emperor Hadrian was assuredly gay – his official marriage was never consummated and there is no evidence he ever had any attraction to women, while he wrote erotic poetry to his male lovers. His closest relationship was with Antinous, “a youth fair of face” with whom he shared a love of hunting. Sadly Antinous drowned during a journey on the Nile. Hadrian was distraught and in grief he commissioned an enormous number of statues of Antinous throughout the empire, named a city and constellation after him, and even defined Antinous as a god. His worship continued long after Hadrian’s own death.
The Roman goddess Cybele was served by priestesses known as gallae. The gallae were transfeminine- though assigned male they became female, adopting feminine names and speech. They applied make-up, wore feminine garments and removed body hair while growing long locks curled with irons and fragrantly perfumed. This was a permanent change in identity, body and appearance- in other words, they transitioned, their gender transformed in the eyes of society by the divine power of the goddess. This clamp may have been used to stop blood loss in the genital surgery we know at least some underwent.
The Steel Pan exhibited is a Bass Drum and is played with wooden beaters that are encased with rubber at one end. As the sounds fuse together, and the harmonious tunes of the Steel Pans are played in unison, you can’t help but be lifted in spirit and for a moment, in some way be transported to the Caribbean.
Founded in 2005, UK Black Pride is Europe’s largest celebration for LGBTQ+ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent, and is a safe space to celebrate diverse sexualities, gender identities, gender expressions and cultures. UK Black Pride organises an annual celebration during Pride month, as well as a variety of activities throughout the year, which promote and advocate for the spiritual, emotional and intellectual health, and wellbeing of the communities they represent.
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah (Lady Phyll), founder of UK Black Pride, discusses how the organisation began with a visit to Southend-on-Sea. In 2004, Lady Phyll was running the organisation BLUK (Black Lesbians in the UK) and organised a trip to Southend that spurred on the idea for UK Black Pride which was inaugurated a year later in the same place.
You can read the full interview with Lady Phyll in the Southend’s Twilight Worlds publication.
Southend Pride began in late 2017 and the first parade took place along the high street in the summer of 2018. This was not the first Pride the borough had seen however. In 2003, a seemingly discreet Pride took place in Southend to celebrate the repeal of Section 28 within England that year. Fifteen years later locals Sam Adams and Dan Turpin helped to bring people together to form what Southend Pride has now become, alongside a group of passionate people who manage the various different elements which form part of the organisation year round.
You can read the full interview with Sam Adams & Dan Turpin in the Southend’s Twilight Worlds publication.
This copy of Spare Rib magazine from October 1982 was just one of the many issues, amongst other feminist and LGBTQ+ magazines, donated to the project by Southend Pride’s Sam Adams. Spare Rib was an important part of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the late twentieth century, the magazine challenged the way society viewed women. The magazine started in 1972 and ceased production in 1993.
‘OH BOY! THE ODD COUPLE: Brothers who go gender bending’ was the headline of a tabloid article from an issue of the Evening Echo in 1984. The author Peter Wilson wrote a short exposé on two brothers, who were two of many that used to attend ‘special gender bending nights at Rains club in Southend-on-Sea’.
In this double-page spread within the Evening Echo from 1984, the reporter documents a Tuesday night party at the Rains club called The Zig-Zag Club. A person named Toni Valentine set-up the event for people who also wanted to ‘bend the rules of conventional fashion’. From these images we can see that in the 1980s there were people in Southend who sought to dismantle the gender binary and express their true selves despite the largely conservative attitudes held within the area at the time.
In January 1980, a woman named Jacqueline Forster gave a talk to the students of South East Essex Sixth Form College (SEEVIC). Forster was one of the most prominent founders of Sappho, a radical lesbian magazine which ran from 1972 to 1981. In this article, the reporter quoted some of her talk that told students to embrace their sexuality, stating that “it’s no-good kidding yourself any longer”. Forster apparently also spoke of lesbian stereotypes, of how lesbians are perceived to be “all big and butch with short back and sides” but this isn’t always the case, she noted how her lover is “quite beautiful”.
Sappho magazine was established in 1972 by Jackie Foster and other women involved in the Press Freedom Group. The magazine was a politically committed feminist magazine, linked to a program of social activities, including support groups for lesbian mothers and lesbian teachers. Sappho also coordinated and funded the legal defense of servicewomen accused of lesbianism, and it helped to establish the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard in 1974. Due to declining readership and criticism the magazine was not sufficiently political, Sappho’s last issue was in 1981.
Keddies had been a regular fixture of Southend-on-Sea’s high-street since 1892, until it closed down in 1996. Now, where the department store used to stand is a combination of commercial stores: HMV, Clinton Cards, Sports Direct and Super Drug.
This Christmas card housed within the stores of Southend Central Museum dates to around 1912, and was published in London by E.A. Schwerdtfeger and Co. An older gentleman dressed as Santa Claus peers through large wooden doors, with a sack of presents in hand. Whilst directly above their head is the writing: ‘May your Christmas be merry and gay, take your choice’. This card uses the word gay in its original meaning, as to be happy, or ‘light-hearted and carefree’.
In 1986, a local actor named Danny Ford was subject to a tabloid scandal in The Sun newspaper with the headline ‘Gay Santa Gets Sack’. Ford was working at the Keddies department store as Santa Claus during the festive season. According to the Sun’s article, he was fired from his role as they found out about his sexuality. This was during the height of the AIDS crisis and so the reporters interviewed other employees who stated he did not have AIDS and would not be able to pass on the virus by kissing children who visited the grotto. However, HIV/AIDS could not be transmitted this way and so the article in The Sun is an example of the regular misinformation spread within the press then that often encouraged violence towards gay men.
This painting by the widely known artist, film maker and gay rights activist Derek Jarman features the ‘Gay Santa Gets Sack’ headline from The Sun in 1986 about a local actor named Danny Ford.
Two days later the Evening Echo interviews Danny in The Cliff enabling him to explain his side of the story. Ford had not been fired, but chose to leave after another national newspaper insinuated they were going to incorrectly publish that he had AIDS. This led to him making the decision to leave his role in order to avoid the unwanted attention and harm that such media exposure would have brought at the time.
The corsets in these photos were made in Southend in 1991. They were worn by a married couple on the occasion of the 1991 UK tour of the Rocky Horror Picture Show in Southend. They are now in the Fashion and Textile collection of Southend Museums alongside the ephemera presented in this case. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as exemplified by the image of the couple wearing the costumes, challenged and played with the concept of gender and personal expression.
The garments were made by Tabby, a successful business owner, designer, model and artist based in Westcliff. Tabby followed an ingenious business model where the production of her designs was boosted by her own career as a glamour model. These catalogues, printed locally, presented Tabby both as a brand and as a model, showcasing her advanced skills in designing and making corsetry, lingerie and hosiery.
Tabby’s business and career are an example of self-determination, representation, agency and sexual freedom in Southend. Together, these images show us a freer and less normative side of Southend’s 80s and 90s which, like for the rest of the country, were characterised by a return to conservativism and populist politics.
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