LGBT History month celebrated with Shakespeare

Sutton House. Pic: Laura Raphael

Sutton House. Pic: Laura Raphael

A National Trust House in Hackney is celebrating Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans (LGBT) History month with a Shakespearean sound installation.

It marks the first time for Hackney’s Sutton House to celebrate LGBT History Month, a grass roots initiative which has celebrated the role of LGBT communities in history for the past fourteen years.

The installation, called Master-Mistress: Passion, Desire and Ambiguities in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, takes place in the house’s Tudor rooms and features four speakers cunningly masked by artist Judith Brocklehurst. People, who identify as LGBT, read the contemporary readings of Shakespeare’s 17th century Fair Youth Sonnets.

The installation aims to question desire and ambiguities of gender and identities as opposed to Shakespeare’s sexuality.

Sean Curran, exhibition curator and National Trust volunteer, said: “You are drawn in by the sound, a kind of subliminal engagement. The artworks compliment the surroundings of Sutton House so you instantly assume they are original objects. There is a playfulness, they poke fun at the heritage that has prevented these stories being told.”

Judith Brocklehurt artwork. Pic: Laura Raphael

Judith Brocklehurst artwork. Pic: Laura Raphael

Curran said that the visibility for the LGBT community is vital: “Sexuality is still hugely political and we are still seeing extremes like Russia at the moment. There are a lot of young LGBT people who face daily harassment and commit suicide. Things like the equal marriage bill are a distraction; there are far more productive ways of ‘being seen’. Like a child walking round a museum that sees these different narratives and perhaps someone they can identify with who has a real heritage too. There is an element of trust within that too, as museums are seen as an authority.”

Curran continued: “It is difficult people who see the National Trust as a conservative white middle class preserve, and to an extent I agree, but the Trust are beginning to realise what else can constitute heritage and to target younger audiences.”

“I also think part of the barrier is not age but class. You don’t get many people, like me, from Sunderland who are National Trust members. At school I was part of the only family to have National Trust membership, it was seen as a middle class luxury.”

Master-Mistress: Passion, Desire and Ambiguities in Shakespeare’s Sonnets runs until Friday March 7. Entry to the house costs £3.50 for adults, £1 children and is free for National Trust members.

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