LGBTQ+ Collections at Experience Barnsley Museum

In celebration of LGBT History Month, Tracey Hebron (Collections Clerk) and Michael Hardy (Digital Engagement Curator) take a look at donations to the museum by the LGBTQ+ community.

Experience Barnsley is the memory box of the whole borough, and we collect objects from just yesterday to thousands of years ago to tell stories about people’s lives. We are proud that this includes the stories of our LGBTQ+ community and the contribution they have made to Barnsley. Historically LGBTQ+ histories, similar to those of other minorities were hidden, and thus we have to work harder to reconstruct this history. Because of this, we are actively collecting objects and stories with links to LGBTQ+ people. What would you donate to tell part of your story in Barnsley? Do you have any LGBTQ+ stories or objects to donate?

Kate Charlesworth Collection

A collection of Kate Charlesworth material including books, illustrations and a pencil case

Kate Charlesworth was born in Barnsley in 1950 and is a British cartoonist and artist who has produced comics and illustrations since the 1970s. Her work has appeared in LGBT publications such as The Pink PaperGay NewsStrip AIDS, as well as The GuardianThe Independent, and New Internationalist

Barnsley Museums have a number of items in the collection that were personally donated by Kate. These include a signed copy of her book Sensible Footware, A graphic guide to lesbian and queer history 1950-2020. A Roger and Gallet box filled with art materials used by Kate when working on her illustrations, including pencil pens and paint brushes. Copies of her illustrated booklets including Drawn out and Painted Pink, and The life and times of Auntie Studs

We spoke to Kate as part of a virtual coffee morning in 2021

Pride of Place by Creative Recovery

A painting of two miners' in an embrace

In 2017 Barnsley LGBTQ+ Forum, Barnsley Museums, Creative Recovery and the Heritage Lottery funded project “Barnsley uncovered” came together to produce artwork marking the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Creating a group of local volunteers, the Barnsley LGBT+ Forum wanted to do something different to tell the stories of working-class people from the local community. Many of the stories the volunteers found were centred around criminality and the way it was reported. Research uncovered by the volunteers span nearly 200 years of people experiencing and acting upon same sex desire. The research was used to create a film, an exhibition, a walking tour, and a learning pack.

This canvas painting depicting two Barnsley miners kissing was part of a larger mural that was displayed in various venues around Barnsley as part of the project, including the Town Hall and the library. It has now been accessioned into the collection at Experience Barnsley Museum as a lasting legacy of the project.

Read more about the Barnsley Uncovered project

Maurice Dobson & Fred Halliday

Maurice Dobson lived in Darfield with his partner Fred, where they ran a shop together. In his will Maurice gave the shop to the people of Darfield to be turned into a museum and with help from lottery funding his wish came true in December 2000 when the Maurice Dobson Museum and Heritage Centre opened to the public. You can read more about Maurice and Fred in this Around Town article

Maurice was an avid antiques collector and following his retirement at the age of 65 he devoted more time and money to his favourite pastime. Ken Brookes, a tour guide at Darfield Museum says Maurice was far from expert – once sawing down a leg on a  Jacobean chair to make it rest evenly on the stone floor of their home! You can see some of the things Maurice collected on display in Maurice Dobson Museum and Heritage Centre, and also in Experience Barnsley

Take a virtual tour of the museum with this episode of the Barnsley Museums podcast

Follow @DarfieldMuseum on Twitter and Facebook for details about opening times and latest events.

Zine Collection

Zines, short for ‘magazine’, are created and self-published by an individual or a group of people to showcase art and engage with your community or subculture, allowing people to connect, to ask questions and to stay up to date on events.

Various colourful zines

In 2019, created through Barnsley Civic and LGBTQ support groups around Barnsley, people were inspired to create their own zines and distribute them through support networks around the UK. Local artists, writers and zine-makers guided each other and created a number of new publications including The Little book That Made A Big Difference , The Good People Made, Alphabet Soup, and In Your Shoes.

Pride Skittles

A white packet of skittles with the white sweets in front of the packaging

This Pride Edition of skittles was designed to be white in support of Pride 2020 and sold in cities and towns where pride events took place. Purchased from Summer Lane Petrol Station in Barnsley, text on the packet reads “During Pride only one Rainbow Matters” and as you can see above the sweets are all white too. Mars the company behind the sweets decided to replace the iconic Skittles rainbow in honour of Pride Month. Money from each packet was donated to LGBTQ+ charities.

John Linacre’s Drag Queen Dress & Wig 

A black and silver dress and wig which is on display in the museum

On permanent display in the museum is a dress and wig worn by John Linacre who was one half of the cabaret duo ‘Divine Divas’ John’s drag partner for almost a decade, Liam Mills sadly passed away in 2019. You can read tributes to him here:

Stephanie Hirst’s Record Player

A red fisher price record player with blue and purple plastic records

Also on display in Experience Barnsley Museum is the first record player owned by Barnsley born DJ and broadcaster Stephanie Hirst. Stephanie started spinning discs on this Fisher Price record player at the age of three and began a career in radio at age of twelve with Radio Aire in Leeds. In recent years Stephanie has been heard on a number of radio stations including Hits Radio Pride, a digital radio station that initially launched as a celebration of Pride Month. You can hear Stephanie Hirst every Saturday night on her ‘Belters’ show on Hits Radio. During the pandemic she entertained the nation with ‘Kitchen Belters’ a weekly DJ set livestreamed on Facebook. A well as appearances on ‘Lorraine’ and ‘The Wright Stuff’ Stephanie is also a public speaker

Beau Jackson’s Badge and Pokemon Collection c.2000

A collection of badges and pokemon memorabilia

Collected from her time at Edward Sheerien School. Beau had a largely positive experience growing up LGBTQ+ in Barnsley, she said ‘most people just got on with it and had other things to worry about’.

Roman Coin 2nd Century

A silver coin with the word Aegypros on the front

Emperor Hadrian ruled over the land that became Barnsley almost 2000 years ago where this coin was found. Hadrian had a Greek gay lover Antinous and the pair were inseparable travelling their empire. Hadrian himself visited Britain in 122AD, and in subsequent tours of his empire he was accompanied by his Greek lover Antinous. In 130 AD the couple were in Egypt, but during a Nile cruise Antinous drowned so Hadrian declared him a god.



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