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AUB students collaborate for Poole Pride: ‘We didn’t know if it was a revolution or a party’

Illustration by Beck O'Hara


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Arts University Bournemouth (AUB)’s BA (Hons) Illustration students are exhibiting words and images at Lighthouse Poole on the important and overlooked history of LGBT+ activism in the UK as part of Poole's first-ever Pride.

At the centre of this exhibition is a research project recognising the life and work of one of the more elusive figures involved in this story, campaigner and activist John Chesterman who was closely involved in the formation of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) in 1970.

The GLF grew rapidly to become a leading voice in gay activism of the 1970s and ‘80s. As well as helping to establish the UK’s LGBT+ media, the GLF was also an instrumental organiser of the UK’s first-ever gay pride march in 1972.

AUB’s Illustration students collaborated with Bournemouth University (BU) and LUSH to create risograph printed posters, comics, and sequences based on narratives from the life of John Chesterman and other stories related to the rich heritage of queer activism in the UK. 

Vincent Larkin, Course Leader of the BA (Hons) Illustration course, explains, "Much of the research and contextualisation of these stories comes from a collaboration between AUB Illustration students and colleagues from Bournemouth University.

"The historical research from BU provided the AUB students with the stories and archives that became the inspiration for their creations. The artwork will sit playfully alongside BU’s collected archive material and historical works to present the history of gay activism and LGBT+ culture in the UK."

Emma Caswell, Gift Design Lead at LUSH and AUB alumna, explains the cosmetics company’s involvement, "The Gifts Team has been working closely with AUB’s illustration students throughout this project. From sharing how we use our own risograph machine in prototyping with the students to selecting the pieces for the final exhibition from AUB’s submitted proposals, we’ve been there every step of the way and have really enjoyed the natural collaboration.

"We’re also working with two AUB students, Jo Frenzel and Freya Relfe-Dacey, to develop a limited-edition LUSH Knot Wrap. Our Knot Wraps are inspired by the Japanese art of wrapping known as Furoshiki, they provide a quick and easy, waste free alternative to paper gift wrap and can be reused and regifted too. When Knot Wraps are passed forward, it begins a new tradition. They truly are the gift that keeps on giving."

Jo and Freya's Knot Wraps, based on the Chesterman research, will be sold at the exhibition, with the proceeds going to charity.

"Having the opportunity to take part in the in the collaborative project with Poole Pride has been an incredibly rewarding experience," comments Freya. "The inspiration for my piece stemmed from the contributions John Chesterman made in the communication and organisation side of gay activism in the '70s and '80s.

"Reading about Chesterman’s story, I felt admiration for his work and passionate about celebrating the vibrant diversity of today’s culture. Reflecting on the progress made through the struggles of Chesterman and other activists, I am deeply moved by the positive strides made towards inclusivity and love for the LGBTQ+ community. 

Jo adds, "When I looked through the Gay Liberation Front archive, the phrase 'The streets are yours, make them sing!' really stuck with me, so I had to make something based on that. I wanted to show the power of queer joy and community that was so strong and present even back then. 

"It's very exciting to have my design made into a real thing, especially by such a big company and in support of Poole Pride and it's lovely being able to represent my community like this."

The John Chesterman exhibition will run at Lighthouse in Poole from 24 May until 16 June. Visit Lighthouse Poole's website for more information.

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