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Heritage Fund backs LGBT+ initiative in Northern Ireland

Simon Stephens, 12.09.2019
Project will tell the story of people's experiences of the decriminalisation of homosexuality
The National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting a project that will tell the story of people's experiences of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland.

Homosexuality was not decriminalised in Northern Ireland until 1982, 15 years after legislation was passed in England. The project, which has received at £70,000 grant from the Heritage Fund, will capture and record the memories and experiences of the LGBT+ community during this period.

The two-year The Troubles I’ve Seen initiative is being led by HERe NI, a community organisation based in Belfast that helps lesbian and bisexual women and their families across Northern Ireland. It is being run in partnership with two organisations that support the LGBT+ community – the Rainbow Project and Cara-Friend.

The project will include a touring exhibition, a digital archive and a documentary film.

“Our plan to record the heritage of the local LGBT+ community is the first meaningful funded project of its kind in Northern Ireland,” said Cara McCann, the director of HERe NI. 

“Many younger people are shocked to learn that laws that criminalised same-sex relationships existed until the 1980s. The impact of decriminalisation and the experiences of LGBT+ people have never before been explored or documented in any large-scale way.

“This is our story and it can’t wait any longer to be told,” McCann said. “We’ve already lost some of this heritage as people have passed on so there is a real sense of urgency to conserve as much as we can.”

The funding will be used to recruit volunteers and provide training in a range of heritage and media skills. The volunteers will collate the artefacts, documents and historical materials held by the partner organisations that are currently in storage.

Paul Mullan, the director of the Heritage Fund in Northern Ireland, said: “Without this project the heritage of the local LGBT+ community is in real danger of being lost, so we are delighted to help give a voice to the people who lived through this period of change and enable them to record their history for the first time.”

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