The Islington Museum has been host to many exhibition launch parties and celebratory events, take a flashback to some of these events, linked to the LGBTQ+ exhibitions from the last 10 years, in the photos below.
2015 Trade Exhibition Launch Party
The launch party for Trade in 2015 was a glamorous event with drinks flowing and live DJ sets. We were joined by many who were involved in and partied at the club night Trade.
2017: Up Against It Exhibition Launch
The launch night for the Up Against It exhibition in 2017 was attended by Mayor Una O’Halloran and Chris Smith, Baron of Finsbury.
2019 LGBT History Month Celebration Party
In 2019, rather then a launch night for the Making the Invisible Visible exhibition, Islington Heritage in collaboration with Forum+ held an end of LGBT History Month celebration night at the Islington Museum. We were joined by Aloyius Ssali, Charlie Kiss and Duncan Irvine who featured on our exhibition panels with a stunning performance from the London Gay Men’s Chorus.
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In February 2020, as part of LGBT History Month, Islington’s Pride presented a (very) temporary exhibit in the Islington Local History Centre featuring a selection of archives collected by the project. The theme for LGBT History Month 2020 was Poetry, Prose and Plays.
In July 2020, as part of series of online events, Islington’s Pride presented a Virtual Tour through the LGBTQ+ archives collected by the project. The tour displayed a selection of archives to highlight some of the less represented LGBTQ+ communities. The slideshow below is a short version of the full tour.
Many archives have been catalogued onto the Islington’s Pride LGBTQ+ archive catalogue. Islington’s Pride is an ongoing project and we hope to continue to add archives to the catalogue and receive donations from the public to improve the collection. If you would like to donate items to the collection please get in touch by emailing email@example.com
In 2019, as part of LGBT History Month, Islington’s Pride curated ‘Making the Invisible Visible’, an exhibition focusing on the less visible narratives in the LGBTQ+ community and featuring LGBTQ+ individuals connected to Islington.
Between 1 February and 30 March 2019 a selection of items collected in the Islington’s Pride archive collection went on display in the Islington Museum, the majority of which have now been added to the Islington’s Pride online catalogue and can be viewed by appointment at the Islington Local History Centre. The Centre is currently closed due to Covid-19 safety measures but enquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The exhibition also featured artwork created in the Islington’s Pride adult art classes and the books included in the Under 5s LGBTQ+ book list created in collaboration with Islington Libraries and Gay’s the Word Bookshop.
The exhibition accompanying the display explores ten LGBTQ+ individuals connected to Islington; their role in fighting for equal rights and providing support for the community.
Islington’s Pride is an ongoing project and we hope to continue to add archives to the collection. If you would like to donate items to the collection please get in touch through email@example.com
Researched and written by Marlin Khondoker Islington Local History Centre | Islington Museum February 2019
Islington Heritage Services wish to thank the following for their support and generosity for this exhibition:
Islington Libraries, Gay’s the Word, Duncan Irvine, Lisa Power, Charlie Kiss, Aloysius Ssali, Olumide Popoola, Abigail Kay, Osh Gantly and Speak Out London
In 2017 Islington’s Pride curated the exhibition Up Against It: Islington 1967 as an homage to the history of gay men in Islington. On 27 July 1967 the Sexual Offences Act was passed, the exhibition explores the stories of well-known gay men living in Islington before and after the act, which decriminalized homosexual acts between men aged 21 years or over in private.
Between 22 July and 21 October 2017 a selection of book covers defaced by Orton and Halliwell held by the Islington Local History Centre went on display at the Islington Museum alongside the newly acquired World of Cats 1966 collage screen by Halliwell and a selection of archives.
The exhibition accompanying the items on display examines the life of gay men in London before and after 1967, as well as highlighting the lives of several gay man who have lived in Islington.
Islington’s Pride, a project created by Islington Heritage and awarded funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2016, presented its first exhibition in 2017. The foundation of the project was to create a LGBTQ+ archive reflecting the community’s stories and heritage in the borough. Find out more about the project at www.islingtonspride.com
The exhibition in 2017, Islington’s Pride – Collecting for the Future, aimed to present the importance of Islington to LGBTQ+ heritage in the UK and as a call out to assist with building the archive. The exhibition encouraged visitors to leave comments and contributions, including charting places of interest in the borough on a large map displayed on a wall.
Between 13th January and 28th February 2017 a selection of LGBTQ+ archives held by the Islington Local History Centre went on display at the Islington Museum. Many of the archives on display, including the newspaper cuttings that were arranged on the wall, have now been added to the Islington’s Pride online catalogue and can be viewed by appointment at the Islington Local History Centre. The Centre is currently closed due to Covid-19 safety measures but enquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
A newly acquired collage piece went on display for the first time in this exhibition. The large four-panel collage screen, unofficially titled World of Cats created by Kenneth Halliwell in 1966 was obtained with funds raised from an Art Fund grant and a private donation.
The exhibition accompanying the display explores the various people, places, events and organisations that make Islington an important part of the UK’s LGBTQ+ heritage.
In October 2015 Islington Heritage celebrated the 25th anniversary of the opening of Trade, the iconic gay club night in Islington, with the exhibition Trade -often copied, never equalled. The club night was originally located in Turnmills, Clerkenwell, opening its doors to revelers 3 am to 1 pm on Sundays.
Between 16 October 2015 and 16 January 2016 a selection of Trade memorabilia went on display at the Islington Museum, including flyers, albums and merchandise. The Trade exhibition has been one of the highest attended exhibitions held at the Islington Museum.
The exhibition charts the story of Trade from it’s origins, through its heyday to it’s last night at Turnmills and 25th birthday party at Egg in October 2015. Exploring the people who made Trade a reality, the concept of the club night and the atmosphere that made it a huge success.
View the Trade blog post commemorating the 30th anniversary by Islington Heritage
Researched and written by Mark Aston and Anne Marie Garbutt Islington Local History Centre | Islington Museum October 2015
Islington Heritage Services wish to thank the following for their support and generosity with this display:
Laurence Malice, Janne Oijer Adeleh, Lee Anderson, Rachel Auburn, Martin Brown, Wayn Brunsdon, Ricardo Castro, Natalie Coleman, EJ Doubell, Malcolm Duffy, Claudia Dunston, Edna, Fat Tony, Lois Froud, Alex Gerry, Tony Gregory, Leigh Green, Michael Jeans, Stephen Johnson, Rod Lay, Ian M, Andrew Malone, John McHugh, James Natt, Danny Newman, Lewis Oswald, Jayne Parkes, Simon Patrick, Ramon Philippe, Queen Maxine, Steven Sharp, Laura Sheed, Mark Smith, Smokin’ Jo, Nick, Tcherniak, Steve Thomas, Alan Thompson, Nicky Trax, Mark Wardel, Stewart Who? and Pete Wardman
In 2014 Islington Heritage curated the exhibition Kenneth Halliwell: Collage, to showcase a newly acquired collage artwork. The piece, Untitled (No. 2), created by Kenneth Halliwell in 1966, was acquired with the aid of the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Between 7 February and 1 March 2014 Untitled (No.2) by Kenneth Halliwell went on display at the Islington Museum alongside several other works by the artist, as well as new collages by local residents inspired by the new acquisition.
The exhibition accompanying the artworks explores the life of Halliwell; from his own creative work with collage as well as the defaced public library book covers that he, alongside his partner Joe Orton, was infamously imprisoned under charges of malicious damage.
In 2012 Islington Heritage released an online exhibition on Joe Meek, an influential music producer. His residence at 304 Holloway Road was also his music studio where he created many successful records. A plaque above the local supermarket at 304 commemorates this spot, and nearby a bench is also marked in remembrance of Joe Meek . A few minutes along the road, near the bridge, a spray painted silhouette of Joe Meek can be discovered on the wall.
The exhibition explores Joe Meek’s work as a music producer and his time at 304 Holloway Road.
In 2011 Islington Heritage curated Malicious Damage, an exhibition on the life and crimes of Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell in Islington. Joe Orton, a rising playwright, and his lover, Kenneth Halliwell, a writer and collage artist, were infamously imprisoned for defacing a large number of public library books.
Between 14 October 2011 and 21 January 2012 the collection of book covers defaced by Orton and Halliwell held by the Islington Local History Centre went on display at the Islington Museum. The exhibition accompanying the book covers explores the the lives of both Orton and Halliwell from their early years, through their arrest and to their terrible and gruesome end.
Researched and written by Mark Aston Islington Local History Centre | Islington Museum October 2011
Islington Heritage Services wish to thank the following for their support and generosity for this exhibition:
Mrs. Leonie Orton Barnett/The Joe Orton Estate, Islington Local History Centre, Leicester University Special Collections, A & C Black Publishers Ltd, British Broadcasting Corporation, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, Islington Gazette, Joe Orton Online, John Haynes/Lebrecht Music & Arts, Lewis Morley Archive / National Portrait Gallery, London, Orion Books, Paul Burton, Random House Group Limited, Shivali Patel and The National Archives
Joseph Grimaldi, the Clerkenwell king of clowns and the father of modern clowning, is remembered in an annual memorial service on the first Sunday in February at Holy Trinity Church (and, more recently, All Saints Church) in Hackney. The service, which has been held since 1946, attracts hundreds of clown performers from across the world. They attend the service in full clown costume, all paying their respects to this ‘King of clowns’. We too pay our tribute to Grimaldi, one of Islington’s most famous residents.
Birth of the circus
In 1768, on land near London’s Waterloo, Philip Astley created a 42-ft diameter circle in the ground and filled it with astounding equestrian feats of entertainment. This spectacle was the world’s very first ‘circus’, a Latin word originating from the ancient Greek-word ‘kirkos’ meaning circular.
Astley went on to develop his shows to include jugglers, acrobats, trapeze artistes, strong men and clowns. A decade later Britain’s first modern and, perhaps, greatest clown was born.
Joseph ‘Joe’ Grimaldi
Actor, pantomimist and clown Joseph ‘Joe’ Grimaldi was born on 18 December 1778 in London, near to present-day Aldwych, into a family of dancers and clowns. His style of clowning had its origins in the Italian ‘commedia dell’arte’ of the 16th Century but, in the popular Harlequinades of the early-19th Century, he emerged as the founding father of modern-day clowns.
His Italian father, Giuseppe Grimaldi (d.1788), a ballet-master, dancer and pantaloon, first appeared in London at the King’s Theatre (now Her Majesty’s Theatre) in the Haymarket. Grimaldi’s mother, Rebecca Brooker, danced and played bit parts at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and at Sadler’s Wells theatre in Clerkenwell.
Debut at Sadler’s Wells
Joseph Grimaldi’s first appearance, as a child dancer at three-years-old, was in the pantomime Pandora’s Box at Sadler’s Wells with his father on 16 April 1781. Young Joe regularly performed at the Wells; in 1794 he played the dwarf in Valentine and Orson, as well as appearing in various French-revolutionary dramas then drawing large crowds to the theatre.
Guzzle the Drinking Clown
Grimaldi’s first performance as a clown took place at Sadler’s Wells in 1800. He played ‘Guzzle the Drinking Clown’ in an innovative pantomime called Peter Wilkins (or Harlequin in the Flying World) written by dramatist and theatre proprietor Charles Dibdin (the younger). Joseph or ‘Joey’ was dressed in an extravagant, multi-coloured costume and his make-up featured a white face, decorated by two red half-moons on each cheek rather than the traditional ruddy complexions of 18th-century clowns. Grimaldi became so popular in the harlequinade that the name ‘Joey’ has passed into the English language to mean clown.
King of Clowns
Grimaldi rapidly began to be celebrated as the unchallenged king of clowns. In the years that followed he played assorted comic and tragi-comedic parts. These included more performances at Sadler’s Wells, including ‘Friday’ in Robinson Crusoe (1802) and, famously, the ‘Wild Man’ in Charles Dibdin’s aqua-drama The Wild Man (or Water Pageant, 1809), written especially for him.
He was to transform the clown from a rustic fool into the star of metropolitan pantomime. To the delight of audiences, his clown possessed no respect for property, propriety or authority. He was high-spirited, mischievous and amoral, satirising contemporary British society and ridiculing the Regency period.
One of Joseph Grimaldi’s greatest successes was his performance in Harlequin and Mother Goose (or The Golden Egg) a Christmas pantomime written by Thomas Dibdin, brother of Charles Dibdin, and performed at the Theatre Royal (later Royal Opera House), Covent Garden, in 1806. The piece became the most successful pantomime ever staged at the theatre. In the years to follow, Grimaldi built on his success with further characterisations at both Covent Garden and Sadler’s Wells. Critics often remarked on the almost demonic quality of Grimaldi’s mime and the expressiveness of his face and gestures.
Joseph Grimaldi left Sadler’s Wells in 1816 and went on a very profitable tour of the provinces; he returned to the Wells in 1818 having bought a share in the theatre. The same year Grimaldi moved to nearby 8 Exmouth Street (now 56 Exmouth Market), Clerkenwell, and he lived there for ten years.
The clown’s health had been declining for some time and by the mid-1820s he had become almost completely disabled. By 1828 Grimaldi had become penniless and benefit performances for him were held at Sadler’s Wells and Covent Garden.
Joseph Grimaldi Park
Grimaldi’s only son, Joseph Samuel William Grimaldi (b.1802), who took over some of his father’s roles and had seemed to be full of promise, had become wild and uncontrollable and drank himself to an early death in December 1832. Grimaldi himself died on 31 May 1837 at 33 Southampton Street (later 22 Calshot Street), Islington, now demolished. He is buried in the nearby graveyard of St James’s Chapel, Pentonville Road.
The burial ground located in Collier Street, in which the clown’s headstone can still be seen, is now called Joseph Grimaldi Park. In 2010 a coffin-shaped musical memorial dedicated to Grimaldi, made of bronze, musical floor tiles, was installed in the park; the tiles are tuned so that when danced upon it is possible to play his famous song Hot Codlins.
The Clowns’ Church, Hackney
Joseph Grimaldi continues to be remembered in an annual memorial service on the first Sunday in February at either Holy Trinity Church (the ‘Clown’s Church’) or All Saints Church in Hackney*. The service, which has been held since the 1940s, attracts hundreds of clown performers from across the world; the vestry of the church is also home to the Clowns Gallery-Museum, which includes the Clown Egg Register. Clowns attend the annual service in full clown costume, all paying their respects to Joseph Grimaldi, the Clerkenwell king of clowns and the father of modern clowning.
*Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, this year’s service (2021) may be subject to special conditions or possible postponement, so please check with the churches for details.