An edited version of this piece was published in the Ilford Recorder (clipping below)
An oral history project detailing the road to equal rights for same sex couples living and working in Redbridge was launched on Monday.
As part of LGBT History Month, Ilford’s Eastside Community Heritage and Redbridge Rainbow Community teamed up to create a multimedia project outlining the progress of equal rights in Redbridge.
At the launch in Gants Hill Library, Cranbrook Road, a short film was shown before a discussion with audience and drinks.
Director of the film Alexia Dickenson, Bethenal Green, said: “This film is about bringing the LGBT community to the forefront and building their presence in Redbridge.
“It is a collection of different personal journeys and significant historical events for the LGBT community.”
The project, funded by a heritage lottery grant, will be added to the East London People’s Archive, which is managed and maintained by Eastside Community Heritage.
Judith Garfield, Executive Director of Eastside Community Heritage, said: “What really surprised me is that we haven’t moved on enough.
“People are still concerned and that came through in the interviews.”
The film included Matthew Walters, a gay men’s worker and committee member for Redbridge Rainbow Community, a charity which serves the LGBT community within the borough.
He tells a story of when he was attacked and robbed by three men, in the toilet of a train while on his way to Glasgow.
“They started hitting me and calling me gay,” he said.
“I felt quite unsafe for a while afterwards travelling home on the train at night.”
The police were able to find the finger prints of one of the attackers, who was later convicted of robbery and homophobic abuse.
“What a lot of older gay men went through is quite atrocious,” he added.
Magaret, another interviewee, is a transgender woman living in Redbridge.
She was married for several decades before her wife’s passing, after which she transitioned to being a woman using hormone therapy.
“I just reverted to being myself,” she said.
“I want to see more people coming out and living ordinary lives.”
Last April, statistics from the Metropolitan Police Service showed homophobic crime had fallen across London by 12.7%, from March 2012 to March last year.
However, Redbridge recorded a rise of 200%, with a total of 22 crimes being identified as homophobically aggravated – such as blackmail, assault, harassment and criminal damage – up from 17 in 2012 and 11 in 2011.
Many cases of homophobic crimes still go unreported.
Police have been urging victims to come forward in the knowledge that all incidents would be fully investigated.
Cllr Wes Streeting, Deputy Leader of the Redbridge Labour, is a vocal LGBT activist and former Head of Education at Stonewall, the largest gay equality organization in Europe.
He said: “It’s good that we have framework that allows for equal opportunity, but there is still a battle going on over hearts and minds.
“One of the things that does concern me is a lack of visibility,” he added, “this is a very religious borough and that does sometimes cause tension.”
The archive currently holds more than 1800 oral history interviews and over 24,000 photographs documenting the lives and experiences of London’s diverse communities.
Event organisers hope that ‘Being Civil in Redbridge’ will become an important tool in the fight for equal rights for members of the LGBT community living in the borough and beyond.
The final showing for the event will take place Wednesday next week at South Woodford Library, High Road, South Woodford.
To book your place at this free event, call 020 8708 2337.