Sacha delving into ‘queer history’

A new research project has been launched by one of the county’s major museums to uncover the overlooked histories of the area – and it wants the public to get involved too.

Sacha Coward
Sacha Coward

The Hidden Histories project aims to document the Ironbridge Gorge’s historical stories, characters and links to the Empire, women, disability and the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) community – all of which are often left out of the history books.

Teams of external researchers have been brought in by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust to look at the four key areas, with the information being collated over the coming months.

Funded by Arts Council England, the project kicks off this weekend with the trust’s first-ever live online event, Steam PunQ – which is a virtual history cabaret night, featuring a look at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people connected to the area, alongside cocktails, performances and a drag act.

Sacha Coward, who has spent 10 years working with communities to make museums a more exciting and welcoming space for everyone, is leading the LGBTQ+ research.

He said one of the difficulties of documenting queer history is that much of it was destroyed because of its perceived illicit nature.

“When you talk about queer history, many people don’t understand that it’s often a history of burned letters and hidden relationships – it was for much of history illegal and people were often frightened to reveal their true selves, for fear of persecution” said Sacha.

“I’ve come across it over and over again. It’s just not there on a blue plaque for everyone to see – you have to look between the lines to find these stories.

"If you go back to the 1800s, being queer was almost certainly going to be seen as a scandal. There were very few people who were out and proud.”

Steam PunQ runs on Zoom, 6.30pm to 8pm, on Saturday. Tickets cost £3.50 from ironbridge.org.uk

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