Photograph of two women kissing in front of a net on a tennis court. They are both holding rackets

LGBTQ+ Collections

This is an introductory guide to LGBTQ+ resources held within The University of Manchester Library’s Special Collections.

Cropped photograph of George Merrill and Edward Carpenter, early 1900s, English MS 1171/6/2/2.
Cropped photograph of George Merrill and Edward Carpenter, early 1900s, English MS 1171/6/2/2.

Our Special Collections cover many time periods, places, cultures and languages. As LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer) material runs right through our collections, this guide brings a list of the material into one place.

The material is listed below in chronological order, beginning in the 18th century and travelling into current times. The content takes a journey from Gothic Welsh cottages, to Victorian Soho drinking establishments, the nighttime streets of ’20s Brooklyn, the Ferranti Mark I laboratory, rehearsal rooms of The Buzzcocks, university student unions, Beat poetry nights, the dancefloor of Manchester’s Haçienda club and many places in between.

Small amounts of material, not listed with the more extensive collections below, include writers Sappho, Carol Ann Duffy, Edwin Morgan, Elizabeth Bishop and John Ashbery. There is also a small amount of correspondence from the writer Walter Strachan to poet Sylvia Townsend Warner, correspondence from composer and women’s suffrage campaigner Ethel Smyth and the papers of Katharine Tynan. Poets and Beat writers such as William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Caroline Bird are also represented in our holdings.

Our expansive historical manuscript collection, which encompasses over 60 languages, five millennia and six continents is currently an untapped resource with regards to LGBTQ+ material. Due to the level of specialist knowledge needed in order to source LGBTQ+ material from these manuscripts, this guide in its current form is limited to our archives and printed books.

The guide is not exhaustive: it acts more as a starting point, highlighting key pieces of material. That said, the guide is continually being added to as new discoveries are made and we welcome input from those who come across other useful sources.

18th and 19th Century

The Ladies of Llangollen, literarians

The Thrale Piozzi Manuscripts contain a small collection of letters from Eleanor Butler (1739–1828) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755–1831), two upper-class Irish women who lived together for over 50 years. Their relationship scandalised and fascinated their contemporaries.

In 1780, the pair moved to a Gothic house in Llangollen, North Wales, after leaving Ireland to escape the social pressures of conventional marriages. They became known as the Ladies of Llangollen and received numerous distinguished visitors. Guests included Shelley, Byron, Wellington and Wordsworth, who wrote a sonnet about them.

The Thrale-Piozzi Manuscripts includes a series of correspondence from Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby and have been digitised and are accessible on our Library Digital Collections.

Walt Whitman and Edward Carpenter, writers

There are two collections relating to Walt Whitman (1819–92), the American journalist, essayist and poet, whose Leaves of Grass made him a revolutionary figure in American literature.

The Sixsmith Collection comprises papers of Charles F. Sixsmith of Anderton, Lancashire, respecting his Whitman interest. It includes 39 letters to Whitman from various correspondents, and correspondence of Horace L. Traubel, friend and lover of Whitman; mostly addressed to J. W. Wallace, Dr John Johnston and Sixsmith.

Sixmith’s papers also reflect other interests and activities, including his friendship with poet and early gay rights activist, Edward Carpenter, the cotton trade, industrial relations, and the English countryside.

Edward Carpenter (1844–1929), campaigner for LGBTQ+ equality and socialist writer, was strongly influenced by the writings of Walt Whitman, whom he visited in New Jersey in 1877.

The papers relating to J. W. Wallace and the Bolton Whitman Fellowship include letters and copy letters sent and received by Wallace and Minnie Whiteside. Correspondents include friends and other members of the Bolton Whitman circle such as Ramsay MacDonald, Edward Carpenter, Katharine Glasier and Robert Blatchford.

Frances Power Cobbe, philosopher

Frances Power Cobbe (1822-1904) was a writer, philosopher, religious thinker, social reformer, anti-vivisection activist and leading women’s suffrage campaigner. She founded a number of animal advocacy groups, including the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) in 1875 and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) in 1898, and was a member of the executive council of the London National Society for Women’s Suffrage.

She formed a lesbian relationship with Welsh sculptor Mary Lloyd (1819-1896), whom she met in Rome in 1861, they then lived together from 1864 until Lloyd’s death in 1896.

Cobbe was the author of a large number of books and essays, many of which appeared in leading heavy-weight periodicals of the time, as well as an autobiography and a substantial amount of popular journalism.

We have various pieces of printed material relating to Cobbe, almost all of which are books written by her. There are two copies of Cobbe’s autobiography 'Life of Francis Power Cobbe'; one is contained in a Rylands-emblem binding, from the early days of the library, during Enriqueta Rylands’ stewardship; the other is part of the Hugh H. Bellot Collection at the University’s Main Library. All of her best known essays are represented, most notably amongst them 'Darwinism in morals and other essays', a 1871 essay, written at Charles Darwin’s invitation in critical response to his book 'The Descent of Man', in which Cobbe rejected his extension of evolutionary theory to ethics. Some other important essays contained in our holdings are 'The duties of women: a course of lectures', 'The hopes of the human race' and her anti-slavery work, 'The red flag in John Bull’s eyes'.

There are also three copies of 'The collected works of Theodore Parker', edited by Cobbe. Theodore Parker (24 August 1810 – 10 May 1860) was a transcendentalist and reforming minister of the Unitarian church, from the United States. His words and popular quotations are said to have later inspired speeches by Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. The strength of the acquaintance between Parker and Cobbe was such that she committed herself to collecting and publishing these works after his death.

In addition to the printed material, we also have some hand-written letters from Cobbe in the Papers of Dr William Edward Armytage Axon (1846–1913), a librarian in Manchester Free Libraries (1861–74), and a journalist on the staff of the Manchester Guardian (1874–1905). The pair mostly discuss vivisection, temperance and vegetarianism.

Margaret Rebecca Lahee, writer

Margaret Rebecca Lahee (M.R. Lahee) (1831-95) was a popular Lancashire dialect writer who was born in Carlow, Ireland, before moving to Rochdale, England, where she spent the rest of her life.

When publishing her work, Lahee concealed that she was both Irish and a woman. She did so by publishing under ‘M.R.L.’ initially and then later as ‘M.R. Lahee’ (the similarity in appearance to ‘Mr. Lahee’ was not accidental). She often wrote in the female perspective and touched on women's rights. Lahee lived in Rochdale with Susannah Rothwell Wild for over thirty years. They were buried in the same grave when they died. Lahee requested their grave should read ‘They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in death they were undivided’. However, there were difficulties in arranging the burial and the inscription was never erected. It was not clear if the difficulty was because she was Irish, a woman or because she was a lesbian.

Lahee was one of the four dialect writers to be included in the monument to Lancashire dialect writers in Rochdale. In part, her inclusion was due to the successful campaign by Wild. The chosen writers for the other three sides of the monument were Oliver Ormerod (1811-79), Trafford Clegg (1857-95), and Edwin Waugh (1819-90).

We hold five printed pieces of material, all published during Lahee’s lifetime. None of them contain a portrait of the author, nor any biographical detail, due to the almost-total concealment of her identity during her publishing career. This did change in small ways in later publications, due to shifting times and the lengthening years of Lahee’s life. We see this reflected in the publications which we hold (see below).

The first is a pamphlet from 1859 containing The Sporting Party and Owd Neddy Fitton’s Visit to the Earl o’ Derby: a True Lancashire Sketch, based on the true story of Neddy Fitton who refused to accept a steep rent rise from his landlord, The Earl of Derby. Owd Neddy was an immediate success and went into many editions.

We then have two copies of Tim Bobbin's adventure with the Irishman, or, Rising the dead by the art of Freemasonry: a Lancashire tale, the first is from 1860, bound in with 8 other Lancashire tales dating from 1860-66. The second is a standalone pamphlet with an illustrated cover dating from presumably the same (or similar) year.

Finally we hold two copies of Acquitted though guilty, or, The tenant of Wild Bank: a Lancashire story. Both are from 1883 and both copies refer to ‘The Authoress’, which is perhaps the first time Lahee’s gender is revealed in print. The first copy is from our E. L. Burney Book Collection and the second was once gifted to Edwin Waugh by Lahee herself, signed and dated with a message in February 1890. Waugh has signed it also, to denote ownership.

Marc André Raffalovich and John Gray, poets

Two small collections that are linked are the papers of and relating to the French poet and writer of queer issues Marc André Raffalovich (1864–1934), and the papers of his partner, John Gray (1866-1934).

Born in Paris, at aged eighteen, Raffalovich moved to London where he was introduced to poet and writer John Gray. They were to remain together throughout the next forty years, dying within months of each other.

The small amount of correspondence in the Marc André Raffalovich collection is mainly social in nature, regarding visits, social dining and mutual friendships; the letters form a small part of what was evidently a large and wide-ranging network of correspondents, and there are larger holdings at other repositories.

The Papers of John Gray include approximately two hundred letters to and from Gray’s family, friends and acquaintances. Topics covered include literature and literary criticism, Gray’s poetry, Gray’s anthropological research, the commissioning of artwork for St Peter’s Church, Edinburgh, and a Toy Exhibition held at Edinburgh’s Outlook Tower which was organised by Gray in 1907. Many letters are of a social nature and include arrangements to visit and discussions of mutual acquaintances.

Aubrey Beardsley, illustrator

Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (1872–1898) was an English illustrator and author. His black ink drawings were influenced by Japanese woodcuts, and depicted the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic. He was a leading figure in the Aesthetic movement which also included Oscar Wilde and James McNeill Whistler. Beardsley’s contribution to the development of the Art Nouveau and poster styles was significant despite his early death from tuberculosis at the age of 25. He is one of the important Modern Style figures.

We hold 50 pieces of material relating to Aubrey Beardsley: mostly printed books but also auction catalogues and a reference in one archive. Many of the books detail the legacy, impact and creative accomplishments of Beardsley’s life and creative work, alongside memoirs and some of his letters are reproduced in book form. Beardsley’s essays and prose are represented in works such as Under the Hill and The story of Venus and Tannhäuser: a romantic novel. Illustrations by Beardsley are contained in a number of novels, including Oscar Wilde’s Salome, The Person in Question by John Gray and The Pierrot of the minute by Ernest Dowson. We also hold Aubrey Beardsley and the Yellow Book, detailing his relationship with the influential (and infamous) quarterly literary periodical, produced between 1894 and 1897.

Some Beardsley illustrations are in the collections of our sister institution, the Whitworth. You can find them by searching in their catalogue.

20th Century

Gwen Lally, dramatist

Gwen Lally (1882-1963) was a playwright, poet, actor and, most notably, Britain’s first female pageant master. Keeping the title as ‘master’ instead of ‘mistress’, Lally organised large-scale outdoor events drawing on the history of locations such as Warwick Castle, Runnymede, and Battle Abbey, between the 1930s-50s.

Lally was trained for the stage under Rosina Filippi, one of the founding producers of the Old Vic theatre in London. Lally began acting in 1906 at His Majesty’s Theatre London, under the management of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree (founder of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art). She often played male characters, having only played one female role throughout her acting career. The only female role Lally played was in the play ‘Dinner Together’ in 1914. Interestingly, the female character was ‘a male impersonator à la Vesta Tilley’.

In terms of dress and presentation, she appears to have carefully constructed her image, both on and off-stage: she utilised her tall, slim figure, cut her hair short and wore ‘masculine’ clothing. She posed for dramatic publicity photographs and sat for a portrait with Betty Alder. 'Masculine' dress was very fashionable for artistic and bohemian women in the 1920s. What is striking about Lally is her adoption of the style on the Edwardian stage and her enduring adherence to it for the rest of her life.

From the mid-1920s onwards she lived in London and Kent with her partner and fellow actor Amabel (Mabel) Gibson (1887-1979). This personal archive contains papers and photographs, collected by Lally and Gibson, relating to their lives and work. Included are the following:  

Playscripts and other literary works, including an untitled manuscript playscript in a notebook, together with other notes including notes on feminism; two typescripts of the same play (with the title ‘Dear Edward’ and ‘Edward Roupell’); four other scripts or acting parts, most in blue wrappers with the return address of Amabel Gibson; typescript notes relating to the Warwick Castle Pageant (1930); manuscript poem ‘Flaming Youth’; a group of four typescript poems by Vita Sackville-West and J.E. Flecker probably prepared for a public reading.

Photograph album of Lally and Gibson, c.110 amateur photographs of the couple at home in Kent and on holiday, in costume, posing with cats and other animals, as well as interior and architectural details.

c.95 loose photographs of Lally and Gibson, a number showing them in various costumes, some professional portraits (several signed ‘Belfie’), and many of historical pageants (including Malvern and Runnymede), other actors including Ellen Terry (two signed), Diana Wynward (large signed photo), George Bernard Shaw, Scott Sunderland (signed), some with captions on the reverse.

Vita Sackville-West, four letters signed ‘Vita’ to Lally, (“Your car nestles into the garage like a blue-tit. It is warm and safe, and is no more in the way than a kitten in a cathedral”), 1948-50, with an autograph postcard and a large signed photograph.

Other correspondence, c.30 items, chiefly relating to Lally’s investiture as OBE (1954) with letters of congratulation by Sybil Thorndike and others, some also relating to Lally’s play ‘Jezebel’ being licenced by the Lord Chamberlain (1912).

‘Jezebel’. London, 1918. First edition, 8vo, original wrappers, signed by the author; with a theatre programme (‘The Insect Play’) and a bundle of postcards.

Four Lally family letters, 19th century, manuscript notebook entitled ‘Genealogy of the House of Lally’.

This is currently an uncatalogued collection, get in touch if you’d like to arrange to see any material from this archive.

Federico García Lorca, poet

Federico García Lorca (1898–1936) was a Spanish poet, playwright, and theatre director. García Lorca achieved international recognition as a key member of the Generation of '27, a group consisting mostly of poets who introduced the tenets of European movements (such as symbolism, futurism, and surrealism) into Spanish literature.

He initially rose to fame with Romancero gitano (Gypsy Ballads, 1928), a book of poems depicting life in his native Andalusia. After a visit to New York City from 1929 to 1930—documented posthumously in Poeta en Nueva York (Poet in New York, 1942)—he returned to Spain and wrote his best-known plays, Blood Wedding (1932), Yerma (1934), and The House of Bernarda Alba (1936).

García Lorca’s visit to New York came shortly after the ending of a connection with sculptor Emilio Aladrén Perojo, this shaped some of his outlook and his approach to the poems he wrote whilst there. García Lorca also had a close emotional and creative relationship for a time with Salvador Dalí, who said he rejected García Lorca's romantic advances.

García Lorca was assassinated by Nationalist forces at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. His remains have never been found, and the motive remains in dispute; some theorise he was targeted for being gay, a socialist, or both, while others view a personal dispute as another possible cause.

We hold many printed books by, and relating to, García Lorca. We have three works which were published (in the original Spanish) during his lifetime: Primer Romancero Gitano: 1924-1927 (First Gypsy Ballads, 1928), Poema del Cante Jondo (Poem of the Deep Song, 1931) and Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías (Lament for the Death of Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, 1935).

The remaining printed books are prints of single poems as well as collections of his poems (translated into English), published posthumously, including Selected Poems of Federico García Lorca, 1943 and A Season in Granada: Uncollected Poems & Prose, 1998. For related material: we have a 2007 collection of poems by Dulce María Loynaz (1902–1997), a Cuban poet and friend of García Lorca, published by Carcanet Press.

Alan Turing, mathematician

Alan Turing (1912–1954) is recognised as one of the key figures in the history of modern computing and artificial intelligence.

Turing made a number of highly original contributions to computer science from the publication of his paper ‘On Computable Numbers’ (1936), which outlined a theoretical ‘universal’ machine (or ‘Turing machine’) to his later studies of the relationships between human and ‘machine intelligence’. Turing is also famous for leading the Colossus code-breaking operations at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.

From 1948 until his death in 1954, Turing was Deputy Director of the University of Manchester’s Mathematical Computing Laboratory. Here, he played an important role in developing the theoretical and practical capabilities of the University’s Mark 1 and 1A computers.

Turing’s work led to a breakthrough that arguably shortened the Second World War and saved many lives, but he was not recognised during his lifetime because he was gay, a criminal offence at the time. In 1952, Turing was prosecuted for being gay. He was forced to undertake a period of ‘corrective’ hormone treatment which led to his suicide in June 1954. In 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologised for the treatment Turing endured and four years later Turing received a royal pardon.

The majority of the Turing material consists of published papers and any correspondence within the archive is not personal.

Tony Dyson and Cliff Tucker, campaigners

A. E. (Tony) Dyson (1928–2002) was a literary academic and critic, who played a leading role in the campaign for LGBTQ+ equality in the UK.

Dyson was actively involved in the campaign for the decriminalisation of ‘homosexuality’ from the mid-1950s. He was the instigator of an open letter to The Times on 7 March 1958, when public figures including J. B. Priestley, Clement Attlee and Bertrand Russell called for decriminalisation. Dyson also established the Homosexual Law Reform Society in 1958 to further this campaign, along with an associated charity, the Albany Trust, which provided a counselling service for gay men, lesbians and other sexual minorities.

A committed Anglican, Dyson was also involved with Christian organisations which supported LGBTQ+ equality, and edited a journal, The Christian, which campaigned for gay rights from a Christian perspective.

Dyson’s extensive collection of papers document his academic, professional and personal interests in literature, education, theology and his campaigns for LGBTQ+ legal and civil rights. It includes correspondence with publishers, theologians, politicians, agony aunts, literary critics, actors, and poets. The latter category includes Dyson’s friends, particularly writers Ted Hughes, R. S. Thomas and Thom Gunn.

Dyson’s activism in the cause of LGBTQ+ rights is well documented, including some rare pamphlets and printed ephemera from the 1970s (the records of Albany Trust and the Homosexual Law Reform Society are held at the London School of Economics Library). This includes his work promoting the “Charter of Homosexual Rights” in the late 1970s and with LGBTQ+ Christian groups.

The archive includes the personal papers of Dyson’s long-term partner, Cliff Tucker (1912–1993), including his campaign to clear the name of his friend, the Catholic priest Illtud Evans, who was expelled from St David’s College Lampeter during the 1930s because of his sexuality. Tucker succeeded in obtaining a posthumous degree for Evans.

Pete Shelley, musician

Contained with our British Pop Archive is the archive of Pete Shelley (1955-2018). Shelley was the frontman of the British punk band Buzzcocks and later a solo artist. Upon forming Buzzcocks in 1976, he was entering a British band scene and genre, punk, which was often fuelled on machismo and was not, by and large, very open to alternative examples of masculinity and sexuality. Undeterred, Shelley, as a bi-sexual man, wrote distinctive lyrics about love. For example, the band’s best-known track ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)’ was written by Shelley about an unreciprocated love he’d felt for a past male housemate. He explored this approach to lyric-writing further in his solo career, opening up avenues for other artists and broadening the landscape of British popular music.

The Pete Shelley Archive contains correspondence, photographs, lyric books, clothing and his music collection. This is currently an uncatalogued collection, get in touch if you’d like to arrange to see any material from this archive.

Sixties Counterculture

Although Jeff Nuttall (1933-2004) was not queer himself his creative connections, as part of the Sixties Counterculture movement, means there are pieces of correspondence with queer writers and poets contained within his Papers. As an anti-establishment artistic and political movement, it was only natural that many queer thinkers and doers would be counted amongst its ranks.

Held within the Jeff Nuttall Papers are annotated typescripts of ‘Machine’, ‘Last Days for David McDonald’, ‘Hymn to Saint Vitus’, ‘Song of the Battery Hen’ and an envelope addressed to Nuttall from poet, publisher, distributor and book-shop owner Bill Butler (1934-1977). Butler ran Brighton’s Unicorn Bookshop with his partner Mike throughout the 60s period, renowned for its frontage being painted in psychedelic colours. The shop specialised in contemporary poetry and stocked many American and British works, particularly Beat poets.

There are handwritten and typescript letters from writer Harry Fainlight (1935-1982) to Nuttall, and a corner ripped from ‘Psychic Press Ltd.’ Fainlight was a British-American poet associated with the Beat movement. Dual citizenship gave him the opportunity to travel freely to the US and meet heroes such as Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997). He stayed in New York for three years from 1962. During his sojourn there, Ginsberg called him, "the most gifted English poet of his generation". Like Ginsberg, Fainlight was Jewish, gay and a keen user of drugs. His American work included a poem, "Mescaline Notes" and a disturbing epic about a bad LSD trip, "The Spider". More information on some of our Ginsberg material can be read in our article, For My Angel Poet Friend.

Included also is a single letter from English film director and distributor Antony Balch (1937-1980) to Jeff Nuttall accompanying 10 shillings payment. Balch was best known for his screen collaborations with Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs (1914-1997) in the 1960s. They first met at Madame Rachou's Beat Hotel in Paris, while Balch was working as a location scout and subtitler of French films for their British releases. In Barry Miles’ biography of Burroughs, Balch is described as "gay, well dressed with dark hair and an eager smile. After a few drinks he could be quite camp: 'The trouble with fish is that they are so fisheee!’ he once shrieked in a restaurant".

Further material are letters from poet, art critic and historian Edward Lucie-Smith (born 1933) to Nuttall. Lucie-Smith was a contributor to The London Magazine, in which he wrote art reviews, and wrote regularly for the independent magazine ArtReview from the 1960s until the 2000s. A prolific writer, he has written more than one hundred books in total on a variety of subjects, chiefly art history as well as biographies and poetry. More printed material relating to Lucie-Smith can be found in our catalogue.

Finally, there are handwritten and typescript postcards and letters from American poet Harold Norse (1916-2009) to Nuttall, sent from Germany and London. A poet and memoirist, Norse is best known for his associations with the Beat Generation and the gay liberation movement. Mentored by William Carlos Williams (1883-1963), Norse wrote poetry that employs the American idiom of everyday speech to reflect on themes of travel, identity, and sexuality. A copy of the September 1967 collection of poems entitled ‘Klacto/23 special’ featuring works by Norse, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Henri Chopin, Diane Di Prima, Francois Dufrêne and Allen Ginsberg is included in the Jeff Nuttall Printed Collection.

This is currently an uncatalogued collection, an outline list for parts of the collection is available via the Reading Room. Get in touch if you’d like to arrange viewing of any material from this archive.

Rosie Garland, writer

Rosie Garland (born 1960) is an author, poet, performer and singer with post-punk band The March Violets. She sometimes performs cabaret as Rosie Lugosi, whom she describes as her ‘alter-ego lesbian vampire queen’, as being ‘all about disobedient queerness’ (from an interview with Lucy Writers and Elodie Rose Barnes, 2021). Her award-winning poetry, short stories and essays have been published internationally.

She was the inaugural writer-in residence at John Rylands Library from 2018–2019. In late 2021, we acquired the first donation of Garland’s papers. Her archive contains handwritten working notes, research materials, plus printed copies and amended drafts of her first three novels: The Palace of Curiosities (2013), Vixen (2015), and The Night Brother (2017).

The archive is currently uncatalogued. Please contact us at for information about accessing material.

Adam Johnson, poet

The poet Adam Johnson (1965–1993) was born in Stalybridge near Manchester, later settling in London. He self-published his first collection of poems, In the Garden, in 1986. His later material was published by Carcanet Press.

Johnson was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1991 and died in 1993 at the age of 28. During the last years of his life his writing developed at a remarkable rate. He delivered the typescript of The Playground Bell to Carcanet Press just three weeks before he died of an AIDS-related illness.

This small archive includes personal documents (birth and death certificates, letters, diaries and family photographs) alongside literary material on computer disk and on paper (typewritten and holograph). It also contains artefacts previously owned by the poet such as his typewriter and baby shoes. It forms an invaluable source for literary critics and historians of 20th-century literature, especially those interested in the issues of sexuality and poetry.

A small amount of material relating to Adam Johnson including some correspondence can be found in the Elaine Feinstein Papers.

The University Archives

The archives date from 1824 and include the records of the University of Manchester and its predecessor institutions.

University of Manchester Students’ Union Archive 

The Students’ Union Archive dates back to 1851, and includes the minutes of the Union’s main governing bodies, handbooks and prospectuses, financial records, cuttings books, photographs and copies of the newspapers News Bulletin (1932–1960) and Mancunion/Student Direct (1964–2019).

The Vice-Chancellor’s Student Societies Files

The Student Society files were compiled by the Vice-Chancellor’s Office and date from the 1910s up to the early twenty-first century and provide a valuable source of information about the history of a significant number of University societies. Records of all student societies have not survived. The files provide an interesting view of the development and diversity of student social life at Manchester during the twentieth century and comprise mainly of copies of constitutions and correspondence. Some files include copies of society syllabuses, handbooks, and details of social events.

Most societies represented in this collection were recognised by the University, but a small number were not.

One folder is for the Gay (Homophile) Society. The Society, originally known as the Homophile Society, was established around 1971, when it was recognised by the Student Union. In 1975, the Society, now known as Gay Soc, was refused recognition by the University. In its draft constitution of 1975, the Society identified its objectives as “to provide adequate facilities for the social and cultural communication between homosexuals and to promote the welfare of all young homosexuals”.

Other collections within the University Archives include The University of Manchester Publications Collection: Newspapers, Magazines and Newsletters, which consists of newspapers, magazines and newsletters published by the University of Manchester, the Students Union and various student societies, alumni groups and halls of residence, and the University of Manchester Students Union Archive which includes a Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Handbook from 1996/97.

The archive is particularly valuable for the study of activities and views, social, political and cultural, of Manchester’s student population from the 1850s to the present day.

Archive of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) Students Union

The archive contains minutes of governing committees from foundation in 1910 to the 2004 merger with the Victoria University of Manchester to form the new University of Manchester. There are membership registers, and a small number of Union publications including 6 copies of the Pink Guide, a guide for LGBT+ students.

The archive documents the major activities and decisions of the Union and provides invaluable background on the social history of the student body.

Carcanet Press Archive

Our literary archives contain an excellent representation of modern, recent and contemporary literatures in English including significant 20th- and 21st-century poets and novelists; poetry in English from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, North and South America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, and the Caribbean; writing which acknowledges ethnicity, gender and sexuality.

One of the largest collections is the archive of Carcanet Press, which was founded in Oxford 1969 by Michael Schmidt and Peter Jones with the aim of publishing and promoting new poetry and it has expanded and diversified over the years. It moved in 1972 with Schmidt to Manchester where its home was the Corn Exchange from 1975 until the building was severely damaged by a terrorist bomb in June 1996.

In 1974 the Fyfield series was launched to provide editions of previously undervalued poets of the past. Other series include fiction, lives and letters, aspects of Portugal and film books. The Press also publishes the literary journal, PN Review.

Among the many poets, subjects and themes included in the book and archives, LGBTQ+ representation in the Carcanet archives can be found in work by: poet and author Caroline Bird; poet and literary critic Gregory Woods; poet and translator Edwin Morgan, who became the first Makar, or National Poet for Scotland, in 2004; novelist and poet Sylvia Townsend Warner; poet, translator and critic Marilyn Haker; poet John Gallas; poet and priest Rachel Mann and many others.

Elaine Feinstein translated a number of works from Russian poets for Carcanet and this included her translations of the Soviet Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva (1892–1941). Feinstein received three Arts Council awards for her work and she described Tsvetaeva as ‘the most important single influence on my poetry’. Her enduring relationship with the work of Tsvetaeva culminated in 2009 with the publication of Bride of Ice: New Selected Poems (Carcanet), an enlarged edition to which Feinstein added five major pieces, including ‘Girlfriend’, a sequence of lyrics, written by Tsvetaeva for her lover, the poet and journalist, Sofia Parnok (1885–1931).

Pit Prop Theatre Company Archive

The Pit Prop Theatre Company was founded in 1979, and throughout its fifteen-year life was based in Leigh near Wigan, Greater Manchester. It was a radical company which set out to challenge many of the assumptions and attitudes prevalent in society. For example, productions were inspired by the miners’ strike of 1984–5, sexuality and homophobia, the anti-apartheid movement and racial prejudice. Almost all productions were commissioned by the Company. It was particularly active in the theatre-in-education movement pioneered by Peter Slade, touring schools and community theatres.

The Company was funded jointly by the North West Arts Council (Arts Council England) and Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council, but was forced to close in 1994 as a result of funding cuts.

The archive contains papers relating to productions, including scripts, research notes, programmes, publicity materials and photographs. Productions such as Banana Fruit Mix and Jimmy Dean’s Eyes were written with LBGTQ+ characters. Some of the research material includes information on Clause 28, an amendment to the Local Government Act of 1988 that banned local authorities and schools from “promoting homosexuality”.

The collection will be of particular interest to drama students and theatre historians, but it also has wider significance for the history of popular culture, social studies and research into arts funding in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The archive is currently uncatalogued. Please contact us at for information about accessing material.

The British Pop Archive

The British Pop Archive contains material within multiple archives that link to queer culture and experience in Manchester and beyond. There are examples of ephemera and imagery relating to LGBTQ+ events and club nights at The Haçienda club, including flyers, artwork, business correspondence and interviews. Events documented include ‘Lesbians and Gays support the Miners’ fund-raising events and the launch of Derek Jarman’s 1992 exhibition, Queer at Manchester Art Gallery.

There are scrapbook cuttings for Flesh, a popular monthly queer night which started in 1991: a politically-charged night of sexual emancipation, Flesh was the club’s most profitable event as the Haçienda struggled financially in the mid 90s, and where DJs Kath McDermott and Paulette became the club’s first female residents.

There is also a wide range of materials, fanzines, magazines, periodicals and books that have queer-focussed or associated content with more to be deposited with us and uncovered as we develop the British Pop Archive project further.

21st Century

Rainbow Noir Archive

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE (Race Archives and Community Engagement) Centre hold a small collection of material collated by Rainbow Noir, a Manchester-based social and peer support group founded in February 2013 for people of colour (POC) who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Intersex (LGBTQI).

The collection includes materials relating to the establishment of Rainbow Noir as a support group for LGBTQI people of colour. This includes leaflets with information about the group and links to online content through Twitter and Facebook. Other material includes articles in Out Northwest (ONW), a magazine published by the Lesbian and Gay Bisexual and Trans Foundation (LGBTF) a registered national charity based in Manchester; and The Nubian Times, a Manchester-based multimedia publication.

Queer Theory and lived experience

The only section of our Special Collections which contains loanable material are the books on the open shelves at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre. There are a number of contemporary books relating to queer theory and lived experience, which act as very useful resources: meeting at the intersections of gender, sexuality, race and faith.

Hannah McCann and Whitney Monaghan’s ‘Queer Theory Now’ provides an introduction to queer theory, exploring its key genealogies and terms as well as its application across various academic disciplines and to contemporary life more generally. The authors engage with a wide range of developments in queer theory thinking including discussions of identity politics, transgender theory, intersectionality, post-colonial theory, Indigenous studies, disability studies, affect theory, and more.

Erotic islands: art and activism in the queer Caribbean’ foregrounds the queer histories of Carnival, calypso, and HIV/AIDS in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. At its heart is an extension of Audre Lorde's use of the erotic as theory and methodology. This book traverses black studies, queer studies, and anthropology toward an emergent black queer diaspora studies.

Suparna Bhaskaran’s ‘Made in India: decolonizations, queer sexualities, trans/national projects’ acts as an analysis of sexuality and sexual minorities in India. The author details how and why attitudes towards queer sexualities in India are different to those in the West.

The full list can be seen here.