Stuart Milk Hands Honorary Professorship to Sue Sanders at Historic Event

LGBT History Month Chair Sue Sanders is now an Emeritus Professor thanks to The Harvey Milk Institute.
The lifelong equalities campaigner was visibly delighted as she took the award from Stuart Milk, the US lifelong equalities campaigner who has travelled the globe supporting LGBT people and their rights. They met at an equalities conference in Milan two years ago and have worked with each other several times since.
Accepting the award humbly, Professor Sanders said she never gained a degree and even failed her 11-plus as a result of her dyslexia.
Sue spoke of how LGBT History Month achieved miracles with unpaid volunteers giving up their free time to make it happen. She also praised Manchester for its radical past.
The honorary professorship was given in acknowledgement of Sue’s ‘sustained and distinguished service to the LGBT community.’
As well as being an activist in his own right, Stuart is nephew to the late Harvey Milk, former supervisor in San Francisco, who was murdered by his rival in 1978 and was the subject of the eponymous film, Milk, in which he was played by Sean Penn in 2008.
The History Festival
Stuart was a guest and keynote speaker at the first ever LGBT History Festival in the UK in Manchester over the Valentine weekend. He spoke of his uncle, the rise of homophobia in the east and in particular in Hungary, where a previously liberal regime has been replaced by a far right government that has turned the clock back to the 1930s on human rights and equal opportunities.
His speech was one of literally hundreds of events, talks, presentations and discussions that took place over three days at the LGF off Canal Street, the newly renovated Manchester Centre Library in St Peter’s Square and The People’s Museum on The Left Bank opposite Salford Quays.
For photos go here
The Academic Bit
Whilst thousands came to the ‘hub’ events, the LGF Centre housed an academic conference: “What is and How to Do LGBT History” at which professors, doctors, dons and lecturers from around the world presented their research.
Among them was Charles Upchurch from Florida, who researched early 19th century British legal and parliamentary activity surrounding same sex relationships.
Others included Canadian Justin Bengry and home-grown talents such as Emma Vickers and Mark Walmesly from the academic panel that organised the conference. Stephen Whittle and Matt Cook were also amongst those who spoke.
Professor Upchurch gave the Allan Horsfall lecture, dedicated to the tireless campaigner from Burnley who campaigned for homosexual law reform from the early fifties and who died only last year. The Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE), which Allan helped to found, supported the event.
Peter Tatchell and Lord Mayor Sue Cooley opened the Saturday Conference. Peter spoke of the profound importance of LGBT History in understanding our community and ourselves. Sue reminded us that while huge battles had been won, there were still terrible dangers for LGBT people around the world.
LGBT History Month CEO Tony Fenwick commented: “To see so many lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, genderqueer, intersex, interested and allied brains, boffins, egg-heads and intellects in a small space is quite earth-shattering. And very necessary. Because history up till now has rendered us invisible. Despite same sex desire and gender variance being around in all times and all places, we have been considered sinners, agents of the devil, mentally sub-normal and psychologically damaged for  so many generations that our history is either non-existent or it portrays us in a massively negative way. Now finally we can drag the stories of our previous LGBTQQI sisters and brothers and others out of the closet. I hope this will generate further research so we can claim more of our history. We are so grateful to the Lesbian and Gay Foundation (LGF) for agreeing to host the event. ”
Festival Highlights
Meanwhile the festival hub in the library and the museum featured a presentation by Peter Tatchell of our colonial legacy in Africa and its contribution to the rise of the discrimination and criminalisation of LGBTI people in so many nations there today. Peter managed to deliver his speech despite a bad fall on his way to the library, caused in part no doubt by a sleepless night following a barrage of hate mail he received after signing a letter defending free speech. Despite being visibly shaken and in pain, he managed to explain to attendees that the British Empire exported homophobia to Africa and gave them the laws that are now being used to oppress their LGBTI communities afresh.
To complement this, Ugandan Prossy Kakooza spoke of the perils of the UK asylum system for LGBT people escaping oppression.
Delegates were also treated to Mike Jackson talking about his role in Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners and their revival to save a pit in Yorkshire now. Cath Booth talked about her experiences at Wapping with Lesbians and Gays support the Printworkers. Sheila Standard and Dr Sonja Tiernan spoke of the role of lesbians in protest movements and, in particular, Greenham Common.
Peter Scott-Presland gave readings from the first part of his history of CHE and dis a book signing; as did Helen Whitbread, who  talked about her years decoding Anne Lister’s diaries. Razia Aziz spoke of the importance of spirituality in understanding the whole self, Laila Metoui told us why she had to do LGBT with learners of ESOL and other students in further education, Steve Boyce showcased lessons from the Classroom for early years and primary and Dan Smith showcased a lesson he’d done with secondary pupils about Harvey Milk. These are just a couple of handfuls of the cornucopia of events of a multifarious nature that took place over the weekend.
Free theatre, cinema and music were also in the mix. A three part drama of a Molly House raid and its aftermath, A Very Victorian Scandal,was re-enacted in very nearly real time by Queer Contact over the weekend; Ali Child and Rosie Wakley performed as WWI entertainers Gwen Farah and Nora Blaney; Mike Jackson introduced a free screening of Pride in ‘Via’; and the Manchester Gay and Lesbian Chorus closed the festival with ‘Bread and Roses’.
Final Words
Jeff Evans, who is Academic Director of LGBT History Month as well as being a history researcher himself, led the festival’s planning on behalf of LGBT History Month and put it into reality. He said:
“The large participatory response by the general public to the 1st National Festival of LGBT History held over this Valentines weekend in Manchester has been beyond our wildest dreams. The primary feedback and the high attendance numbers highlight the public demand and appreciation for both the quality and diversity of events. Both Festival Hub days (i.e. Festival Hub Saturday at Manchester Central Library and Festival Hub Sunday at the People’s History Museum) were well patronised with excellent feedback. The two-day LGBT History Festival Conference was booked out weeks in advance – not a common occurrence for academic conferences – and was  universally praised by the participating scholars and activists who had come from as far as Asia and North America to attend. The Festival Theatre with this close reading and re-enactment of the 1880 mass police raid of a Fancy Dress Ball in the city was another highlight to the three day festival. What a fitting acknowledgement of the voluntary endeavour invested over nine months by the members of the Festival Delivery Team and the Festival Sponsors who placed their trust in the project. Not least another validation of the role of Schools Out/ LGBT HM in again proving the courageous leadership in launching the project in the first place in April last year. The 1st National Festival of LGBT History has demonstrated the demand from the wider public,  together with the LGBT Community, in this fascinating, but previously denied, celebrated, and/or highly stigmatised aspect of our island history: past attitudes to sex and gender diversity. We look forward to announcing our plans for the 2nd National Festival of LGBT History 2016 shortly.”