Anniversaries are a great reason to create work around a topic and to kick start a conversation. Though anniversaries can seem arbitrary, contentious, politically motivated, or even all three, they can also be a catalyst for action and, importantly, preserving a legacy. We certainly found this to be the case with our recent film for the Let’s Talk About Sex project for LGBT Foundation, commemorating 30 years of grassroots activism around sexual health and HIV prevention in Manchester.
Let’s Talk About Sex: Four Activist’s Stories, 2018
What struck us when we were making the film was how fragile even recent history can be, particularly when the focus is on communities or groups who have been historically marginalised. We found that outside of personal archives and recollections there are few historical traces left that tell the story of the response to the HIV crisis in the 1980s and 1990s. In Manchester, the spaces where significant moments in the history of sexual health activism occurred have nearly all gone, many knocked down or converted. In part, due to the grassroots nature of activism, the papers, records, ephemera, and photos of the period were rarely collected or preserved. And more profoundly, many of the individuals involved in this activism or affected by the HIV crisis are no longer around to share their stories.
For us, this film is a way of helping to preserve and share four people’s experiences and responses to the HIV crisis – both then and now. And whilst the film only touches on some of the fantastic work of these individuals – and, indeed, only a small selection of the 45 oral testimonies collected in the wider project – we felt it needed to make visible the emotions at the heart of their story. It is easy to forget, for those relatively unaffected by the HIV and AIDS crisis, the losses suffered by Manchester’s LGBTQ+ communities.
For an event that occurred recently, and well within living memory, the history of grassroots, sexual health activism was one that demands preserving and this 30th anniversary project was a timely step towards making that happen. As a company we are particularly proud of contributing to this exhibition and helping to share and preserve this heritage.