Submitted by EmmaBrown on 28-02-2019 11:08:50
The top floor of the City Arts Centre has a stunning view, showing off some of Edinburgh’s most iconic landmarks. On the second of February, a group of us met there to discuss the city from a different perspective - what do the buildings, streets and places of Edinburgh mean to LGBT+ people?
The ‘Queering the Map of Edinburgh’ workshop was a collaboration between LGBT Health and Wellbeing, Scotland’s Urban Past, and the Scottish Civic Trust, and we were also lucky enough to hear readings from Our Story Scotland, who collect and archive LGBT life stories.
On three large maps of the city, we used a mixture of art and collage materials to note down significant spots - ranging from queer venues to personal memories. An iconic gay bar that no longer exits; the cafe where someone can use their real name; a park where a couple spent a happy afternoon; the AIDS memorial bench… The maps are bursting with stories and covered in miniature flags, symbolising different LGBT+ communities and disability access. For example, someone has put a rainbow flag and a British Sign Language symbol at the location of Deaf Action, to highlight their queer inclusion work.
The map doesn’t just record positive places, and one of the main motivations for running this workshop was to think about how our environment can be experienced very differently by queer people, particularly queer people of colour. Red pens were used to highlight locations that have held difficult experiences, and to point out different viewpoints on the same spots. For example, someone has added a note to one of the cafes, to point out its lack of wheelchair accessible toilets.
Where do you feel safe to be visible? Where can you hold hands with your partner? What places do you wish existed? Through these questions we can see what it’s like to be us in Edinburgh right now, how it was in the past, and where it needs to change in the future.
My role was to help out with the creative side of the day, and over the next month I will be putting together a collaged map, using the art and writing created in the workshop. This will be printed and available online in an expanded, interactive form.
It was a real privilege to spend the afternoon with such a brilliant group of people, who were extremely generous with their ideas, stories and enthusiasm. Hopefully the workshop was a good opportunity to meet people and think about different experiences, as well as creating a unique guide and archive of LGBT+ Edinburgh.