A Map of Queer Brum
Commissioned by SHOUT Festival of Queer Arts and Culture and Birmingham Hippodrome, November 2019
Queer histories rely on anecdotes passed from one generation to the next. These memories replace an absence of recorded narratives, and while oral-histories prove questionable, the role of space in shaping gender and sexual identity remains certain.
A Map of Queer Brum is a directory of Birmingham’s LGBTQ+ spaces from 1850 to present. It brings together personal and collective descriptions of sites including bars, clubs and public toilets in response to ongoing threats of regeneration.
In December 2018, Prosperity Developments applied for permission to demolish existing buildings and to construct a 116 apartment complex in the Gay Village. Further venues were implicated in the Rea Valley Urban Quarter Masterplan in May 2019, a residential development comprising over 5,000 new homes. These structures will lead to noise complaints, licensing restrictions and the closure of 13 community hubs.
The displacement of LGBTQ+ groups is not a recent phenomenon and Birmingham has a history of prioritising urban development over its communities. In the 1970s, the Inner Ring Road construction led to the closure of the city’s earliest queer spaces. Again in 2000, venues in proximity to the Bull Ring Centre were demolished for redevelopment. The recollections enclosed retrace histories of communal opposition, repeated iterations of clubs and pickets for women’s inclusion. A Map of Queer Brum echoes an ongoing need for support structures that can withstand the insecurity of space.