UCL Urban Laboratory


Call for Papers - Soho Spirit: Our Space or a Space in Our Minds?

1 December 2015

Soho Spirit

Soho is often envisioned, at both a national and an international level, as London's gay district. Its role as a space where gay identities and communities were made has shaped the urban experience of many LGBT people in London. However, with the advent of online spaces, the increasing inclusion of LGBT people in British society, and the rise in popularity of different urban areas, Soho's role for the LGBT community of London must now be reconsidered. This one day conference will try to answer the following questions: Can Soho still be seen as London's gay district? Why are so many LGBT spaces disappearing from Soho? Is there still the need for such spaces? If Soho disappeared, how would LGBT people experience a sense of community? Are new types of LGBT spaces appearing somewhere else?

The first session will retrace the history of the district, from its creation in the sixteenth century to the gay 'takeover' of the area in the 1980s and 1990s. We will then proceed by examining contemporary Soho and what LGBT people really think of the area. In a final session, we will consider the recent disappearance of LGBT spaces from Soho and other areas of London and we will discuss possible solutions for the future.

The second session, specifically, will concentrate on alternative experiences of Soho, with particular attention to the link between space and identities/communities in the area. These include (but are not limited to):

- Absence/creation of spaces for gay women

- Re-thinking gay spaces for LGBT people with disabilities

- Queering LGBT spaces

- 'Making space' for older/younger LGBT people

- Being BME in Soho

- Performing spaces/ performing identities

- Transgender identities

- Creating community in space

- Gay male misogyny/transphobia

- (De)Constructing heteronormativity within LGBT spaces

- LGBT spaces and the straight gaze

The conference is organised by Marco Venturi, PhD candidate in Gender and Sexuality Studies (CMII), UCL. Please submit a title and abstract (no more than 250 words) to Marco Venturi (m.venturi.12@ucl.ac.uk) by Wednesday 31 December 2015. Contributions from postgraduate students are particularly welcome.

The conference will be hosted on Saturday 20 February 2016 at St. Anne's Church and Community Centre in Soho. Find information on the conference here.

In addition to support from UCL Urban Laboratory, the event is a collaboration with qUCL and JFIGS. It forms part of the Cities Imaginaries programme with UCL Urban Laboratory.

Further links

Image: Spirit of Soho mural on Broadwick Street