A Manchester based project launched last week is aiming to illuminate the stories and histories of LGBT+ people prior to and after the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967 before they are lost forever.

Founded in 2012, Initiative Arts creates and presents new work across the visual and performing arts made by artists who identify as Queer. Thanks to £76,000 in funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Initiative Arts have launched their ‘Legacy of 67 project’ during LGBT+ History Month. Through oral history techniques, the project aims to record and share the experiences of LGBT+ Manchester residents who were young adults in the late 1950s, 60s and early 70s.

Launched last week (17th of February) the project is inspiring and encouraging people in the community to come forward, share their stories and spread the word on LGBT+ History to the wider population. These stories have not been recorded systematically and are in danger of being lost forever.

The 1967 Sexual Offences Act permitted homosexual acts between two consenting adults over the age of 21 – a milestone in LGBT+ history, but more work was still to be done, according to the founders of Initiative Arts.

Hillingdon Times: Through oral history techniques, the project aims to record and share the experiences of LGBT Manchester residents who were young adults in the late 1950s, 60s and early 70s.Through oral history techniques, the project aims to record and share the experiences of LGBT Manchester residents who were young adults in the late 1950s, 60s and early 70s.

Founded in 2012 by theatre consultant David Martin Nolan and visual artist Jez Nolan, who will be celebrating 33 years together in November, Initiative Arts are ecstatic to be launching the new project – thanks to the grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Jez said: “David and I were talking about the 1967 Act and how it was a significant legislative change in the country, but realistically, if you were out of a centre like London or Manchester, what direct impact did it have?

"Women weren't mentioned in the legislation at all – it only applied to men in England and Wales over 21.

"It is still very significant, but not necessarily as significant as people might suggest in its direct impact on particularly gay men but also more widely on LGBT+ people at that time.

"Arrests for importuning and entrapment really increased after the 1967 Act, up until the mid-1980s. Then HIV and AIDS started to appear in 1981 and Section 28 in 1983, which forbade schools to talk about homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

David added: “If you were a young, sexually active queer person at the time of the legislation, your age now is somewhere between mid-70s and 90, so their stories, unless they’re captured now, were going to go untold.

“We were aware that not a lot of these stories have ever been recorded, particularly the stories of working-class people and people of colour.

“A lot of people who have spoken about LGBT+ History tend to be well-educated white men, so we thought this would be an opportunity to broaden the canon.”

Hillingdon Times: Founded in 2012 by theatre consultant David Martin Nolan and visual artist Jez Nolan, who will be celebrating 33 years together in November, Initiative Arts are ecstatic to be launching the new project.Founded in 2012 by theatre consultant David Martin Nolan and visual artist Jez Nolan, who will be celebrating 33 years together in November, Initiative Arts are ecstatic to be launching the new project.

Initiative Arts has previously worked on other projects, such as Polari Mission – an exploration into the language of Polari – and Life’s a Drag – a meta-comedy wherein the audience observes two drag queens preparing backstage for a show.

But Legacy of 67 is key to understanding LGBT+ history in Britain.

“Some of the stories had come out in the Polari and Life's a Drag project,” David said, “Stories about pubs being raided by the police in the late-1950s and early 1960s.

“If the police were coming round, they would tend to tip you off – they’d come into one establishment and, because they had a supper licence, the pub got a load of frozen fish out of the freezer, gave everybody a piece of fish and a plate.

"The police came in, saw that everybody was eating, went away, came back a little bit later, sat down at the bar and started drinking beer! It's those stories which are interesting.”

Jez said: “If you give people the opportunity to tell their stories, they are keen to do so when they are invited.

"These are very vivid times that people have lived through and some people like to talk."

And the project is something that is very close to both Jez and David’s hearts.

David said: “Growing up as a scared child who knows he's different, you're aware that the public perception of who you are is quite negative. It can be quite a traumatic experience and it's good to find your place and your people.

"Having said that, intolerance seems to be on the rise again. It’s important to make sure our voices are still heard. It's a case of standing up and being counted.”

Hillingdon Times: The 1967 Sexual Offences Act permitted homosexual acts between two consenting adults over the age of 21 – a milestone in LGBT history.The 1967 Sexual Offences Act permitted homosexual acts between two consenting adults over the age of 21 – a milestone in LGBT history.

Jez said: “Where do you learn about queer culture? You can go to Old Compton Street or Soho and party and go drinking, but you don't learn very much!

"When I've done work with LGBT+ youth groups, they go: 'what do you mean it was illegal?' In this country, queer British history isn't taught at all.”

“There are opportunities to get involved with Legacy of 67, as a participant or the volunteer, which is the most immediate way,” David added.

“We've tried to put information out in lots of different media – and there really is something for everyone.

"We're happy to be working with the Heritage Fund because they are promoting the project very strongly.”

Jez said: “There are two paid traineeships for queer people who are interested in developing their career in this area too.

“As a funder, The National Lottery are very open to ideas and very encouraging. There are elements of the project we have incorporated that have come from them, for example, we are going to incorporate trauma training into our interviewers as people might get very upset. That was a direct result of the Heritage Fund support.

"A lot of it comes from the resources of people who play The National Lottery, so that too is an important element of the project."

To find out more about the Legacy of 67 project and how you can get involved, click here.

More than £30 million goes to good causes from The National Lottery across the country every week, making vital projects like these possible. To find out more about how The National Lottery supports good causes throughout the UK, visit www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk.