This is a sponsored article on behalf of Bishopsgate Institute.
LGBTQ+ London is nothing new. Its history is vivid and fascinating, and one of the best places to learn more is at Bishopsgate Institute. They’ve been collecting books, pamphlets and archives for decades, creating one of the UK’s great national repositories of LGBTQ+ history, stretching from 1900 to the present day.
Now, Bishopsgate Institute’s vast archive has inspired a unique summer programme. Here are some of the highlights.
Samba for Absolute Beginners (six sessions: 1 May-5 June)
Always wished you could samba? Take your first steps into partner dancing. Benefit from a gentle pace and friendly environment, to become more confident as leader or follower… or both. You’ll be on Strictly in no time. Everyone is welcome in this inclusive space for LGBTQ+ people, and the partnering is gender neutral, meaning anyone can lead or follow as they wish. 1 May-5 June, £90-£120. Buy tickets
An Introduction to LGBTQ+ Literature (1 June)
Literature has often been a source of strength for LGBTQ+ people, of validation or understanding — and a space to enjoy the beauty in same-sex attraction. Educate yourself in the ‘hidden histories’ of queer literature, through the liberation era and the AIDS crisis, towards contemporary works. 1 June, £47-£62. Buy tickets
Polari – The Lost Language of Gay Men (8 June)
Kenneth Williams popularised it. So did Lily Savage. But in fact, Polari was invented as a form of code, by British gay men in the first half of the 20th century. Now, you can master it yourself, by listening to audio clips, and getting stuck into some Polari exercises. 8 June, £14-£19. Buy tickets
A History of Drag (8 June)
From the Elizabethan boy player, to the bawdy Victorian dame, to the glamorous and avant-garde incarnations seen today, drag has long held the power to arouse amorous passions, laughter, pathos, and controversy — sometimes all at once. This one-day course takes you on a vivid journey through centuries of drag in London, and beyond. 8 June, £47-£62. Buy tickets
Ballroom Tango for Absolute Beginners (six sessions: 19 June-24 July)
Latin and Ballroom dance is all the rage. Get in on the act with this series of six classes. Develop your focus, listening skills and assertiveness — and become the dancer you always wanted to be. No need to bring a partner — you’ll be invited to swap with other participants. Everyone is welcome and the partnering is gender neutral, meaning anyone can lead or follow as they wish. 19 June-24 July, £90-£120. Buy tickets
Archives Tour, LGBTQ+ Collections (4 July)
Why was John Gielgud told to see a doctor? How many lesbian pulp fiction novels can one library hold? Delve into Bishopsgate Institute’s treasure trove of LGBTQ+ history on this hour-long tour. Be wowed by cuttings, badges and banners… and a set of wizard’s robes. 4 July, £5-£7. Buy tickets
Queer Tours of London (4 May, 7 May, 4 July)
These three tours explore LGBTQ+ by taking you deep into the archives and out onto the streets, to hear fascinating stories — often in the places they unfolded:
Out of the Archives and into the Streets: Explore Bishopsgate’s collections and find out how queer archives are created and used. Learn about the impact of gentrification on queer spaces and movements, respond to the corporatisation of Pride and unlock the revolutionary potential of the queer community. 4 May, £11-£14. Buy tickets
Tour of the City: Join Andrew and Dani on this excavation of the City of London’s LGBT+ past — long since buried, but far from forgotten. Take in St Paul’s Cathedral, the north bank of the Thames and 2,000 years of history. 7 May, £11-£14. Buy tickets
Tour of South London – with Gay Liberation Front activists and Kevin Wilson: Explore Brixton’s radical black queer history with members of the original Gay Liberation Front, alongside a newer generation of black LGBTQIA+ activists. Learn about the Rock Against Fascism festival, counterculture zines such as Blackout, and black queer squatting movements. 4 July, £11-£14. Buy tickets
To learn more about LGBTQ+ culture and history through Bishopsgate Institute’s upcoming courses, events, tours and public accessible Archive Collections, check out the website.