Octagon Gallery exhibition ‘Blueprints of Hope: Celebrating LGBTQ+ London’ presents a snapshot of London’s vital queer cityscape, past and present.
The exhibition has been curated by London-based collective Gedney Common in response to research by UCL Urban Laboratory (Urban Lab) evidencing a drop of 58% in London's LGBTQ+ venues between 2006 and 2017.
Bringing together the work of libraries, archives, community centres and activist groups, alongside pieces by contemporary artists including Louis Blue Newby, Jakob Rowlinson and Nina Wakeford, Gedney Common illuminate the role of London’s queer cityscape in providing a social and cultural lifeline for LGBTQ+ communities.
In his book Queer Premises: LGBTQ+ Venues Since the 1980s, Urban Lab’s Co-Director Ben Campkin argues that the term 'queer infrastructure' captures the diversity, dynamism, adaptation and extension of scenes across different periods, generations and geographical locations - a term to which this exhibition responds.
This page explores the inspiration behind the exhibition and the UCL research that underpins it, and provides a selection of related resources, links and further reading.
- Project inspiration
In the mid-2010s, a reported surge in closures of LGBTQ+ venues in London led UCL Urban Laboratory to collaborate with grassroots group Queer Spaces Network and the Greater London Authority to understand what was happening and why.
Research published by Professor Ben Campkin and Dr Lo Marshall showed that in the decade to 2017, the number of venues fell by 58%. Since then, the GLA have maintained the data, the number of venues has stabilised, and some new venues have opened. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and the energy and cost of living crises have further exacerbated the challenges Campkin and Marshall noted venues faced, through gentrification dynamics and redevelopment.
Urban Lab’s research, and the lively campaigns sparked by threats of closure, contributed to demonstrating these venues’ important part in the history, present and future of LGBTQ+ social movements. In the face of continued inequalities and experiences of isolation for some constituents of these communities, and as a connector across different groups and generations, the maintenance and extension of such resources is more important than ever.
Urban Lab researchers worked in close collaboration with LGBTQ+ communities, local government, grassroots organisations and countless individuals to map London’s network of queer venues and investigate the threats they face. The data illustrated the incredible diversity of the capital’s LGBTQ+ venues and highlighted the significant contribution they make to community life, welfare and wellbeing.
Building on earlier models of urban and gay enclaves, in his book, Queer Premises: LGBTQ+ Venues in London Since the 1980s (Bloomsbury, 2023), Campkin proposes the model of a dynamic and precarious ‘queer infrastructure’. This encapsulates how venues, which link to and transmit other resources, have recently become more visible in contested urban redevelopment, often linked to transport interchanges.
'Blueprints of Hope' uses this thinking as a springboard and explores stories from London’s LGBTQ+ past and present.
Feature: Safeguarding London’s LGBTQ+ venues
Feature: London’s nocturnal queer geographies
Video: The Bartlett International Lectures - Professor Ben Campkin
Feature: LGBTQ+ spaces face a new threat from the pandemic – here’s how they can adapt
- Reading list
A range of works, publications and media have contributed to 'Blueprints of Hope''s conceptual frameworks. Here are some key texts:
Peter Ackroyd, Queer City: Gay London from Romans to the Present Day, 2017
Ben Campkin, Queer Premises: LGBTQ+ venues in London since the 1980s, 2023
Adam Nathaniel Furman and Joshua Mardell, Queer Spaces: an atlas of LGBTQIA places and stories, 2022
Derek Jarman, Dancing Ledge, 1984
Alim Kheraj, Queer London: A Guide to the City's LGBTQ+ Past and Present, 2021
Jeremy Atherton Lin, Gay Bar: Why We Went Out, 2021
José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity, 2009
Richard Scott, Soho, 2018
Joelle Taylor, C+nto: & Othered Poems, 2021
Nina Wakeford, Our Pink Depot: The Gay Underground FLO-N202-236000000- TRK-MST-00002-SAY- HELLO-WAVE-GOODBYE- KEN-NIE-BPS, 2019
Other publications and media
Karen Fisch transcript, From a Whisper to a Roar, 2020
LGBTQ+ Centre research: https://londonlgbtqcentre.org/updates/news-report-london-lgbtq-community-centre/
Rebel Dykes Art and Archive Show, Space Station 65, 2021
Rebel Dykes documentary, 2021
Extract from Ben Walters’ listing application for the Royal Vauxhall Tavern: http://www.run-riot.com/articles/blogs/ben-walters-royal-vauxhall-tavern-becomes-uk%E2%80%99s-first-ever-building-be-listed-because-
- Associated resources
London LGBTQ+ Community Centre
The London LGBTQ+ Community Centre is a sober, intersectional community centre and café where all LGBTQ+ people are welcome, supported, can build connections and can flourish. Our vision is for a more connected, belonging and thriving LGBTQ+ community in London.
The Outside Project
The Outside Project is London's LGBTIQ+ community shelter, centre and domestic abuse refuge.
The Queer Allyship Lexicon
An intersectional LGBTQ+ glossary of terms
Glossary by We Create Space, a global community-led platform, consultancy and collective on a mission to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people and other under-represented groups of professionals around the world by connecting our communities and allies with tools, knowledge and a support network for personal growth, leadership development, allyship and self-care.
Queercircle is an LGBTQ+-led charity working at the intersection of arts, culture and social action.
Out@UCL is a staff social network and is a way for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ+) staff at UCL to get to know each other and take part in social events. The group was set up in July 2009 as some LGBTQ+ staff considered that, in an organisation as big as UCL, it was difficult to get to know people in other departments, especially other LGBTQ+ people.
UCL Trans Network
This is an informal network for staff and students for anyone who identifies as trans (including non-binary, genderqueer & all other identities not identical with the gender assigned at birth)
LGBT+ Students Network
Our network supports students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, intersex, asexual spectrum, aromantic spectrum and/or any other sexual, romantic or gender minority during their time at university. It also helps students interested in LGBT+ issues to meet like-minded people and groups in the university and across London.
Additional list of resources for support and wellbeing for LGBTQ+ staff and students:
- Exhibition contributors
'Blueprints of Hope' features collections from a range of archives and libraries as well as work by contemporary artists.
Archives, Collections and Libraries
Karen Fisch Archive
Rebel Dykes Archive
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSMigrants)
UCL Art Museum
Women’s Anarchist Nuisance Café (WANC)
Artists and Photographers
Louis Blue Newby
Graphic Design by Polytechnic
Gedney Common is an arts collective formed in 2019 by Georgia Cherry, Arthur Carey, Charlotte Flint and Ross Head. This project has been (partially) funded by the LGBTQ+ Equality Implementation Group (LEIG) Fund. This has allowed Gedney Common to publicly celebrate queer culture at UCL and raise widespread awareness of issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community.
Gedney Common would like to thank: Art on the Underground, Bishopsgate Institute, Sebastian Buser, Ben Campkin, Stefan Dickers, Naoise Dolan, Karen Fisch, Jayne Flowers, Andrea Fredericksen, Gayscene, Derek Jarman, Gerard Jones, Zbigniew Kotkiewicz, the LGBTQ+ Community Centre, the members of Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, Dr Lo Marshall, Louis Blue Newby, Ron Peck, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, the Rebel Dykes, Jakob Rowlinson, the teams at UCL Urban Lab, UCL Museums & Cultural Programmes, Del LaGrace Volcano, Nina Wakeford, Lucy Waitt, Robert Workman, and the Women’s Anarchist Nuisance Café. We also want to recognise the importance of transformative queer events and spaces past, present and future.
Public events to be announced.