Sunday, 27 July 2014

City Pride : Pink Lace

Yesterday Nottingham hosted Nottinghamshire Pride. After many years of being held in the Arboretum or Goose Fair site it has moved into the historic Lace Market and Hockley area of the city. It feels like a home-coming, because the first ever Pride-like event in Nottingham took place there in 1997. It was called Pink Lace. 

It also gave me an idea for a new mini-series of articles. Inspired also by my recent article on Toronto I thought I’d do a series on individual cities and towns when they held their Pride celebration and look at their lgbt heritage. I’ve called the series City Pride (which includes towns and other areas). 

As the Pink Lace Tour is the newest of my lgbt tours of Nottingham I thought I’d start there. Rather than give a review of the whole city I’ll restrict myself to the Lace market and Hockley area and the street leading up to it from the Market Square. These are just snapshots of Nottingham’s great wealth of lgbt heritage and I hope I’ve chosen a varied selection for your enjoyment. There are too many lgbt pubs, clubs and venues to mention them all. The map below shows you where things happened. 

1a) Zara – This fashion store is on the site a popular old pub that was here for several centuries until 1903. Here Lord Byron’s coffin was brought to rest overnight before being taken for burial in Hucknall several miles away. Thousands of people filed past the coffin to pay their respects to one of the very few parliamentarians to defend working people’s rights. Byron lived in the city centre as a child, for part of that time at 1b). 

2) J. M. Barrie – A large decorated wall plaque marks the location of the offices of a local newspaper on which Barrie worked. It is said that he got the idea for Peter Pan after watching children at play in a local park. 

3) Thurland Hall – A pub named after a huge stately home that once stood here (I’ve outlined the extent of the original Hall on the map). This old palace was the only building big enough to house the court when “Queen” James I came to Nottingham, which he did 6 times, each time without his wife but with his “toy-boys”. 

4) The Bodega Club – This was where the Scissor Sisters gave their first Nottingham performance to a crown of less than 100 in 2003. Their subsequent 3 appearances in the city attracted thousands. 

5) Outhouse Project – In 1998 the National Lottery gave £228,000 to help establish an lgbt centre in Nottingham. Although the plane never came to fruition, with several sites being considered, the office of the Outhouse Project was here. Nottingham still has no lgbt centre.

6) The Queen of Clubs – Formerly known as Omega, before that Rain, before that Ice, and before that Jacey’s. Jacey’s hit the headlines in 2001 when the council banned its weekly male stripper show. Jacey’s pointed out that the council-run Theatre Royal had hosted the Chippendales and was about to produce “The Full Monty”. The council cancelled Full Monty and banned ALL male strippers (the ban has not been officially lifted). My friend and former barista at Jacey’s, Rich Cowell, made front page of the tabloids in 2005 when he was a Royal Navy lieutenant. He had been voted Mr Gay Plymouth and the Navy considered disciplinary action. Rich came 2nd in the Mr Gay UK finals. 

7) Broadway Cinema – Nottingham’s leading independent cinema whose cafĂ©-bar is my home from home. It has hosted several exhibitions and screening for LGBT History Month and Nottingham Pride and for many years hosted the British Film Institute’s touring LGBT Film Festival. For Pink Lace in 1997 it provided the entertainment and facilities. 

8) The Health Shop – A health clinic, the base of the Gay AIDS Initiative project (GAi) which was launched on 11 July 1994 with Sir Ian McKellen doing the official opening. The Health Shop also provided facilities for volunteers to put together thousands of free condom packs to be distributed around city venues. Several lgbt support groups held meetings here. In 1999 Channel 4 television followed Health Shop director Tim Franks for several weeks for their fly-on-the-wall series. 

9) The Masquerader In 1913 an eccentric local character was arrested for begging. It turned out that this cross-dressing astrologer was a Serbian war refugee. His home was on the site of this car park.

10) Pierrepont Hall – another huge stately home long since demolished (the extent of the property is marked on the map). It was the childhood home of Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu, who married her lover’s brother to avoid becoming Mrs. Clotworthy Skeffington. She introduced smallpox inoculation into England and popularised the Language of Flowers.

11) Short Hill – One of the surviving lace worker’s tenement buildings still stands. It was the home of Karl Wood before World War I. He became an art teacher and painter of windmills. In 1957 he was imprisoned for his homosexuality.

12) The Galleries of Justice – The old city court house and jail, now the National Museum of Law. In 2008 an exhibition commemorating Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment in Reading Jail came here. Wilde’s grandson, Merlin Holland, recreated Oscar’s trial in the old court itself. Part of the exhibition included the door from Oscar’s cell, and visitors reported hearing voices from behind it! During it’s working life as a court this building saw one of the biggest mass prosecutions of gay men before homosexuality was legalised – 23 men were put on trial in 1961.

If you’d like to see your own city featured in City Pride why not let me know. Or you could write your own article and be a guest blogger for the day. Just give me plenty of advance notice so I can schedule it in (I usually plan one month in advance of publication).

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