Monday, June 28, 2010

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans trade unionists – Millthorpe Project

The first phase of a series of audio interviews carried out with lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans trade unionists has been deposited with the British Library Sound Archive. These interviews have been carried out by the Millthorpe Project with support from the University and College Union (UCU) and the Trades Union Congress (TUC). The Millthorpe Project (which takes it name from the Yorkshire home of Edward Carpenter, the openly homosexual, nineteenth century socialist) is very conscious of the fact that history often overlooks or ignores the life stories of people from stigmatised minority groups. It recognises that increasing numbers of people choose to identify openly as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, while also being involved in union organisation in their workplaces. The stories collected here illustrate how trade unionists from a variety of backgrounds have sought to integrate these two elements of their life experiences. Most of the interviewees have been influenced to some extent by the sexual politics which emerged in the 1970s; LGBT people wre encouraged to be honest about their sexuality and to come out in as many parts of their lives as possible. While these stories illustrate the political strategies and personal experiences of courageous individuals, they also cast light upon the role of self-organisation and collective action in supporting people’s decisions to come out and thus transform the trade union movement into something more reflective of the diverse society of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

The first phase of the project began in 2007. The Millthorpe Project is now seeking funding to enable further data collection and the production of educational materials. It is particularly keen to collect stories by the end of 2011 from as wide a cross section of LGBT trade unionists as possible. Anyone interested in being interviewed can have a discussion with members of the Millthorpe Project team before they make a decision about taking part. There is also a confidentiality agreement which outlines the terms upon which others can access these stories.

More details from Bob Cant at or Seth Atkin at

British Library Sound Archive online catalogue

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