“Everyone who tells a story tells it differently, just to remind us that everybody sees it differently” – LGBT+ artists’ books in WSA Library

“Everyone who tells a story tells it differently, just to remind us that everybody sees it differently. Some people say there are true things to be found, some people say all kinds of things can be proved. I don’t believe them. The only thing for certain is how complicated it all is, like string full of knots. It’s all there but hard to find the beginning and impossible to fathom the end. The best you can do is admire the cat’s cradle, and maybe knot it up a bit more.” Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit


As part of the Library, University and community-wide celebrations of LGBT+ History Month, we have been working with colleagues to showcase LGBT+ resources in our collections. Over the last couple of years, as part of this event, we have delved into our fabulous collection of Spare Rib magazines and last year we co-curated the exhibition  Queering Connections  with iPIC Research Group Directors, Valentina Cardo and Shaun Cole.   


Visionaire: Spirit: a Tribute to Lee Alexander McQueen (58)
On display in our exhibition Queering Connections, February 2020. Photograph by Bren O’Donnell (2020)

This year we have chosen to focus on LGBT+ artists and related works in our Artists’ Book Collection. This collection was established in the early 1970s and now has over 2,000 items, consisting of unique and limited edition works. We have put together a slide show of these resources which you can access here, and we have provided links to our catalogue for further details. The items that we have selected represent an exciting range of content spanning the history of the collection. The earliest item is a Gilbert and George flip book from 1972, entitled Oh the Grand Old Duke of York and the most recent acquisitions that we have included are by contemporary artist and poet Jeremy Dixon, who publishes under the imprint Hazard Press

In the context of the recent Channel 4 drama It’s A Sin, addressing the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, we have included Mark Addison Smith’s Years Yet Yesterday. This book is inspired by activist Larry Kramer’s 2004 call to action speech, The Tragedy of Today’s Gays, and provides a powerful visual response.


Years Yet Yesterday by Mark Addison Smith (2016). Photograph by David Gibbons (2021)

We have also chosen to showcase the beautiful box Derek Jarman: Reliquary from 1996. This contains amongst other items a fragment of the film ‘Blue’, a textile sample of the sainting robe, some poppy seeds, a Dungeness hagstone and a copy of John Donne’s poem ‘The Sunne Rising’ which appears on the side of Prospect Cottage, Jarman’s home and saved for the nation last year by the Art Fund.


Derek Jarman : Reliquary (1996). Photograph by David Gibbons (2021)

As part of the events organised by the John Hansard Gallery there is the opportunity to find out more about this artist by joining the webinar Derek Jarman’s Queer Nature In Conversation: Philip Hoare and Sarah Wood, with Dr Valentina Cardo and Woodrow Kernohan onThursday 25 February, 5-6.30 pm. Book here  


If you have enjoyed exploring our resources and fancy making something of your own why not join the Space to Create activity organised by the JHG and create your own slogan t-shirt. 

If you would like to find more LGBT+ resources in our collections visit our library catalogue WebCat and our Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging pages.

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