Until last year, the collections at West Berkshire Museum had very little to say on the subject of local LGBTQ+ histories. That all changed when James Brydon-Dickenson started collecting for an exhibit to coincide with Newbury’s first Pride. The response to the call for donations was enthusiastic and many exciting objects have now been acquisitioned into the museum’s collections and are currently on display in the Pride gallery, including banners from protests, clothing, and books, but perhaps the jewel in the collection is the range of testimonies from local queer people on their experiences living in and around Newbury.
While many of the physical objects display a rich queer culture, incorporating music, art, and textiles, the testimonies gathered through the oral history project that preceded the exhibition show a broad range of experience across different identities. Through these many accounts it is hard to find any trace of a ‘universal queer experience’, though the evidence of the ongoing struggle for human rights, dignity, and justice is one that weaves a uniting thread from Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness to the photos of early Pride marches, from the Tom Robinson Band LPs to the banners from recent anti conversion therapy demonstrations.
This exhibit offers several different insights into the history of Pride and queer life in West Berkshire, whether that be the timeline of 20th Century LGBTQ+ history, the collection of literary, musical, and protest materials, or the unique local insights contributed through the oral history project, there is something for everyone in West Berkshire Museum’s Pride exhibit.