History of Gay Liverpool

Studio 2, Parr Street
6th-31st August 2010

Reviewed by Charles McIntyre

This collection - optimistically termed an 'exhibition' - briefly documents the history of the pubs in Queen Square and Roe Street frequented by the gay community before the buildings were demolished in the 1970s.

With the monumental Liverpool Pride having taken place earlier this month, there has never been a better time for bold, honest and striking gay exhibitions to take hold of the Liverpool art scene. And yet, for some reason, the History of Gay Liverpool exhibition falls disappointingly short of this far reaching potential.

The exhibitions focuses on the forgotten gay havens of Liverpool, such as the now legendary Magic Clock of Queen Square. The secretive - yet widely known - gay pubs and clubs served as a saving grace for gay people in an age of dangerous repression and suspicion. The historical context suggests a veritable goldmine of characters and stories to accompany this fascinating subculture. Instead the focus of the exhibition is a little less defined.

A smattering of photographs provided by the Liverpool Record Office adorn a small standalone board inside the entrance of Studio 2. Little opportunity is provided for contemplation, as the comings and goings of the reception area soon deter the curious visitor, but this exhibition requires little more than a few glances. Two A4 pages alongside the photographs give a clumsy historical overview of the buildings photographed, which are in no way revelatory. Simple stock photographs of buildings, with no particular context other than of that imposed upon them, do little to inspire interest.

One things we can take from this exhibition is the inference that the absolutely minimal 'accessible' history provided illuminates just how utterly repressed the city once was. Sadly this lacklustre and unimaginative display simply reinforces the notion of a repressed, closeted and distinctly subdued gay community. Thankfully, the recent celebrations have proved otherwise.

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