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Thursday 23 May 2024

Historian Reveals Hidden History Of South East's LGBTQ Spaces

LGBTQ+ historian Alf Le Flohic unearths forgotten stories of a gay B&B, a zoo bar, and a legendary farm disco in a talk for Chichester Pride. 

Historian Alf, whose day job is in digital communications at the University of Brighton, will explore some of the fascinating stories of hidden LGBTQ+ spaces in the South East in a talk at the Novium Museum as part of Chichester Pride celebrations this month. 

The tales, drawn from his new book, The Magic Farm, range from a legendary queer disco on a Kent farm to a gay bar in a zoo. 

The book sheds light on the creativity and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community in finding spaces for connection and celebration. 

In the book Alf also explores the stories of The Hotel Roger Dee, a gay B&B established in Angmering in 1972, as well as tales of a gay bar within a zoo in Bognor Regis highlighting the ingenuity of creating LGBTQ+ spaces in unexpected locations, a testament to the community's spirit. 

Alf began writing the book during the isolation of lockdown when he was looking for something to fill his time: 

"I realised I had to do something to get some meaningful human interaction, even if that was virtual. 

"So, I began arranging some Zoom interviews with Sussex Lancers who were Brighton-based gay leather bikers which ran from 1980 until 2000 that I was in contact with and a couple of them mentioned going to a disco on a farm in Kent in the mid-1980s." 

 "It transpired that the gay owner of a fruit farm in Headcorn in Kent held occasional summer discos from 1977 to 1986. 

"They began as parties for him and his friends but with little else going on they became very popular, attracting 600 to 700 people at their peak. 

Alf continued: 

"The three stories felt connected in some way, and over time I realised that these were people creating much-needed LGBT spaces, however unusual the location. 

"I put short versions of all three tales on my website gayhistory.co.uk, but when some photos from the farm surfaced, I felt they deserved a wider audience and decided to put everything together in a book." 

Alf says that documenting oral history is vital to preserving these stories and offers a unique perspective often lost without documentation. 

He sees this as particularly important for minority groups where historical records can be scarce. 

But Alf's motivation extends beyond uncovering history. He aims to show evidence of a vibrant LGBTQ+ presence throughout time and celebrate moments of community joy. "

The Magic Farm embodies this spirit, highlighting moments of celebration amidst the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community. 

You can hear more about the book from 2pm on Saturday May 25th at the The Woolstapler's Room at The Novium Museum, Tower Street, Chichester PO19 1QH as part of the free event Sussex queer history: fact and fiction. 

Also speaking at the event will be Daren Kay, who has just published his second novel The Brightonians under Siege, which uses the discos at the "magic farm" (Hazelpits in Kent), as the location for some of its plot flashbacks.  

A discussion will follow the speakers. 

Free tickets can be booked HERE.

by: Mike Cobley




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