#High5Heritage!

On November 25th, the day of the much-anticipated and feared Spending Review, Prospect reps received the surprising and welcome news that the Library will see no cash reduction in Grant in Aid to 2010-21.

Having anticipated 25-40% cuts, this was infinitely better than expected, though in real terms (once inflation is taken into account) it still amounts to a reduction of about 10% over the next five years, on top of the big cuts of the last 5 years.

The Branch would like to take this opportunity to thank all Prospect members, reps and staff, Library readers and supporters, and members of the public who, over the last few years, have taken part in the campaign against cuts to the Library and other heritage organisations by joining demonstrations, talking to friends and contacts, being active on social media, helping with leafleting campaigns, speaking at conferences and writing to their MPs. Everything has helped and your help has been really appreciated. The work done by Prospect has been recognised by BL management and highlighted at recent staff talks, where the High5heritage Twitter campaign received a particular name check.

Locally, the Branch will continue to engage with management to make sure that the outcome of the Spending Review brings benefits to members’ pay, terms and conditions.

There has never been a more important time to be a member of a Union, and there has never been a time when its benefits and influence have been more apparent.

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LGBT History Month 2015

Prospect LGBT History Month Every February it’s LGBT History Month, and this year the theme is Coded Lives.

LGBT people have existed throughout history, but often in a not very visible way. After all, groups who are systematically oppressed by a heteronormative, gender-normative patriarchy rarely have sufficient voice to be heard in a point in time, let along enough voice for that voice to linger in records.

So, instead of me writing about my hero (Alan Turing) I thought I’d be even more obscure and introduce some of the people of whom you might not immediately think. Many of these are featured by LGBT History Month

Anne Lister was a lesbian living in the early nineteenth century, at a time when the words “homosexual” and “lesbian” hadn’t even been coined. She was an inveterate diarist, and wrote about a sixth of her diaries in code, including about her relationships with other women. Her isolation as a gay woman was reflected in her phrase, “Alas, I am, as it were, neither man nor woman in society. How shall I manage?” (26 Jan 1830)

I’ve mentioned Polari – the language used mainly by gay men in the twentieth century – before on the blog, but it’s worth remembering two of its best recognised speakers, Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick, who became best known as Julian and Sandy on BBC’s Round the Horne in the sixties. Polari fell out of common use after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967, but it remains significant as a way of gay men identifying themselves and communicating safely in a hostile world.

Frida Kahlo is one of Mexico’s best known artists, known for her iconic self-portraits in which she refused to comply with physical ideals, and painted herself with heavy eyebrows and moustache. She married and was romantically linked with other men and women, including Georgia O’Keefe and Leon Trotsky.

"Thomas Stewart – Chevalier d'Eon" by After Jean-Laurent Mosnier - Philip Mould. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thomas_Stewart_%E2%80%93_Chevalier_d%27Eon.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Thomas_Stewart_%E2%80%93_Chevalier_d%27Eon.jpg

“Thomas Stewart – Chevalier d’Eon” by After Jean-Laurent Mosnier – Philip Mould. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The Beaumont Society has provided help and support to the transgender community since 1966, but what’s less well-known is that it’s named after the snappily named Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont, better known as the Chevalier d’Eon. A notorious character of the eighteenth and early nineteeth centuries, the Chevalier d’Eon lived as a man until 1785, from when she lived until her death as a woman. With roles in the military, diplomatic corps and in espionage, Chevalier d’Eon has been one of the most colourful – and confusing – characters in trans history.

It’s important to remember that the LGBT communities are, themselves, diverse, and this is highlighted in this wonderful list of great black LGBT britons from 100 Great Black Britons. Their list reminds us of these often overlooked characters and their contributions to LGBT life in modern Britain, including Justin Fashanu, David McAlmont and Linda Bellos. Spanning sports, music and politics, people from black and minority ethnic groups have challenged stereotypes, opened people’s eyes and changed society.

Finally, a quick mention of Pride, which comes out on DVD in March. This award-winning deeply moving comedy follows the impact of LGBT activists on a Welsh mining community during the strike of 1983/84. Mike Jackson, one of the founders of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, reminds us that “prejudice cannot withstand proximity”.

And this, ultimately, is what LGBT History Month is about. The LGBT communities are still not part of every day life in Britain, and this has an impact on the health and well-being of young LGBT people growing up. Without visible, strong role models, both contemporary and historical, it’s easy to think that you’re the “only gay in the village”, and a society which is heteronormative – which privileges straight people, their love and their relationships – makes those of us who don’t conform feel pressured to fit into a mould we don’t fit.

LGBT people are disproportionately represented in mental health diagnoses, suicide attempts, homelessness, low educational attainment and in poor pay. As a union, Prospect joins with LGBT History Month to support the decoding of hidden lives to support better futures for LGBT people, both younger and older.


More information about events during LGBT History Month is available on the LGBT History Month website, and events being organised by the trade union movement are available on the TUC website.

If you’re a member of Prospect, and you’re concerned about any aspect of homophobia – or other forms of discrimination – in the workplace, please contact a rep.

Campaigning really works!

Prospect HQ have just posted a story on their website which updates members with some very good news about the campaign to save the Imperial War Museum’s library and learning centre.

Astonishingly, in the week he pledged financial gloom and doom for at least the duration of the next Parliament, George Osborne has assigned the Museum £8 million to protect its learning services.

Of course, the battle is not fully won yet, as there is no guarantee that the library itself will survive, but this is an important development which goes to show that a public outcry and ardent lobbying can have a real impact.

And, on that note, we continue our own campaigns….

A big week for public sector staff

It’s an important week in public services. As political parties start to think ahead to the election, we public service staff are keen to let the world know what’s been happening in our workplaces, and to send a definite message to government and public that things cannot continue this way. The scale of the cuts inflicted on our organisations have left services at a tipping point and staff shell-shocked and demoralised.

Three public sector strikes have already taken place this week. Prospect members were not asked to participate in these, but the union is stepping up its ongoing campaign of using other means to publicise the problems.

Tomorrow – Friday October 17th Library members and reps will be leafletting on the Euston Road outside the Library’s St Pancras site, for the fourth time. This will last from 12 to 2pm, and all members are encouraged to donate their lunch breaks to come and take part

This will be followed by a strong Branch and national presence at the TUC rally on October 18th. Called “Britain needs a pay rise”, it focusses on the plight of innumerable people, in both public and private sectors, who have watched their standards of living erode even as salaries at the top of the corporate sector have increased exponentially.

Prospect has produced some strong arguments for why working people need a pay rise – and you can also view a video of Mike Clancy, General Secretary, too.

If you are not yet a member of Prospect, you can join here today! Don’t delay! Make your voice heard!