Art + Culture Featured

Queer Britain Museum: LGBTQ+ Muslim History to be Showcased

The Queer Britain exhibit also explores the rise of islamophobia in post-9/11 Britain

Since opening its doors in May of this year, Queer Britain has put on an array of spectacular and thought-provoking exhibitions. Now, Britain’s first queer museum is diversifying its content by featuring exhibits dedicated to exploring the UK’s queer Muslim community.

Queer Britain exhibition
The exhibition (Pink News)

Queer Britain is a groundbreaking museum space that’s housed in stylish Kings Cross Granary Square. It’s Britain’s first space that’s solely dedicated to celebrating and sharing queer history and culture. The space is free to visit, and co-founder, Joseph Galliano aims for the museum to become as inclusive as possible. 

Britain’s queer community is made up of many different cultures, ethnicities and religions – as is British society in general. As a result, Queer Britain is attempting to explore this patchwork of differences which makes up our wonderful community and society, with a range of exhibitions, starting with queer Muslims.  

Queer Britain
Inside the museum (Pink News)

The exhibition is in collaboration with Faizan, the co-founder of Imaan: the world’s longest-running LGBTQI+ organisation. It will feature a range of items, including a rainbow khimar hijab, a south Asian camouflage shalwar khaneez and a Palestinian keffiyeh. Faizan spoke recently to Pink News about the exhibition, in which they contributed three pieces, “My mum made two of the outfits, the shalwar kameez and rainbow hijab, so there’s a bit of personal history in there.” Faizan continued, “that was the first time that anyone had ever seen a rainbow hijab anywhere. My idea was to capture queer Muslim identity very quickly and very easily so people could see what was going on here. Put a rainbow flag on a hijab and bingo, we exist. We wore those on the 2005 Pride march, and then Imaan was invited to speak at Trafalgar Square.”

The exhibition arrives at the same time as South Asian Heritage Month and references the changing public opinion in the UK over the course of the 21st century. “They represent how after 9/11, in the face of growing Islamophobia, British Muslims including LGBTQ+ Muslims became politicised for the first time,” said Faizan. “Before that, Muslims were not really on the radar. There were just white people and non-white people. That was essentially the two big demographics in this country.” For Faizan, it’s personal, “The way that the newspapers talked about us, the way that we were represented on TV, had no nuance. Then when 9/11 happened, Islamophobia went from being a word that didn’t exist to being through the roof. Queer Muslims were getting stopped by the police and facing prejudice. Not just in straight communities, but even in gay environments like in clubs and bars, and even at Pride marches.”

Faizan at the museum
Faizan at Queer Britain (Pink News)

In the first few months since its opening, Queer Britain ran its inaugural show, We Are Queer Britain, which aims to showcase a collection of British queer art, activism and history. Now, Queer Britain is moving into the second phase of the museum, which aims to delve into the detail of queer Britons. Head on down to Granary Square, Kings Cross, and explore this exciting museum fresh with creative ideas.

For more information, visit here.

Community Featured

Queer Britain: The UK’s first LGBTQ+ museum opens its doors

Over the weekend, history was made with new LGBTQ+ museum

It’s hard to believe that it’s taken until 2022 for Britain’s first LGBTQ+ museum to open. Nevertheless, after four years of campaigning, the time has come to open Queer Britain.

Queer Britain
Queer Britain Museum at Kings Cross by Timeout

Queer Britain was founded in 2018, with the purpose of showcasing queer history throughout the centuries. It hopes to shine a light on how queer people have impacted every part of British culture while, in many cases, their lives have been cast into the shadows. Well, Queer Britain helps to right those wrongs and offers a space for champions of queer culture past and present to be celebrated and remembered.

This one-of-a-kind museum can be found in Granary Square, a trendy development just situated behind Kings Cross Station. The lease has been partly paid for by the British National arts charity, while the museum itself has been funded largely by private donors: a perfect example of a community supporting one another.

Queer Britain
Image by Alia Romagnoli, part of the Chosen Families exhibit – From BlooLoop

Stephanie Stevens is one of Queer Britain’s managers. Stephanie envisions the museum to be “a permanent place for us to be able to celebrate who we are, the amazing contributions we’ve made to history, and then to educate the nation so that they know about those contributions as well”. Stephanie continues, “We want to reach everyone,” regardless of gender, sexuality or identity. It’s important to have this museum and this space because as queer people we are so often expected to be grateful for the crumbs off the table.”

Amongst the many fabulous exhibitions is ‘Welcome to Queer Britain’, curated by Mathew Storey, who is an art, design and LGBTQ history curator at the UK’s Historic Palaces organisation. The show will feature two artworks by Sadie Lee, and Paul Harfleet – who won last year’s first Queer Madame F Award.

Painting by Sadie Lee
Painting by Sadie Lee from NBC News – on display

The co-founder and director of Queer Britain is the former editor of Gay Times Magazine, Joseph Galliano. In a recent interview, Galliano recalls the sheer complexities of setting up a project of this scale, “There’ve been attempts to set up museums like this before, but I think the cultural landscape and the activism landscape weren’t yet quite right at that point,” he said. “It’s also a long job that requires somebody hitting the streets every day to make it work, and I’ve done that for the last five years now.”

Although there is huge public support for Queer Britain, the difficulties mainly lie in funding. For that reason, Galliano aimed to open the museum sooner rather than later in the hope visitors will become patrons, which in turn, would mean that the museum could stand on its own two feet (financially speaking) a lot sooner. There will also be a shop located in the complex which will sell merchandise and books. All proceeds will go to the charity.

Photograph by Alia Romagnoli
Photograph by Alia Romagnoli From Creative Review – on display

In its opening weekend, Queer Britain has made a bold statement. Thousands of visitors attended, many to see what all the fuss was about. Others have been avid supporters of the project from the get-go. Some sceptics argue that queer ventures are often too niche, and thus, economically unviable. But, Galliano isn’t concerned. “If you go back to the ‘Queer British Art’ exhibition at Tate Britain in 2017, that clearly demonstrated a massive thirst for queer stories,” he said.

Photograph by Alia Romagnoli
Photograph by Alia Romagnoli from NBC News – on display

“Given that their exhibition visitors were about 50-50 LGBTQ+ identifying and not LGBTQ+ identifying, I think that goes to show us not only that you can create a blockbuster, but how broad the audience for that blockbuster on these things can be.”

For now, Queer Britain is a hit. But the proof will be in its longevity. Let’s hope this wonderful museum has legs because, in today’s climate, it’s needed now more than ever.