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National Library announces year-long programme of LGBTI+ events

Events Programme co-curated with the NLI by activist and journalist Tonie Walsh.

30 March 2021
A man holds up an enlarged photograph of a Pride parade

Bill Foley at the launch of Living with Pride: Photographs by Christopher Robson

Living with Pride runs between March and November, with a major exhibition planned for Summer 2021.

The National Library of Ireland (NLI) has today (30.03.21) announced details of Living with Pride, a year-long flagship programme exploring Irish LGBTI+ identity and experience over the last several decades and into the present day. It includes a physical and online exhibition of the work of activist Christopher Robson, as well as a year-long programme of LGBTI+ online events. 

These online events have been co-curated with the National Library by Tonie Walsh, veteran LGBTI+ rights activist, journalist and founder of the Irish Queer Archive – itself housed in the National Library. They include virtual talks, readings, workshops, panel discussions and events for children and young people. The first event, entitled ‘Lived lives: The Irish Queer Archive’, takes place on Wednesday, 31st March, with events taking place each month thereafter. 

The programme hinges on the National Library’s Christopher Robson Photographic Collection, which will be the subject of a dedicated photographic exhibition. It will launch in Summer 2021, COVID-19 restrictions permitting, both at the NLI’s National Photographic Archive in Temple Bar, and online. Christopher Robson was a founding member of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN). His photographic collection of around 2,000 slides, which document LGBTI+ life and activism in Ireland, was donated to the National Library in 2015 by Bill Foley, Christopher Robson's civil partner and by GLEN, in the presence of President Michael D Higgins. The exhibition will focus on Christopher Robson’s photography, life, activism and achievements, while the accompanying events programme facilitates a closer look at many of the themes and issues raised by his photographs.

Speaking at the announcement, Director of the NLI, Dr Sandra Collins said: “As Ireland’s memory-keeper, the National Library of Ireland is committed to collecting, preserving and sharing the story of Ireland in all its rich diversity. This includes historically lesser-told and marginalised narratives, like that of Ireland’s LGBTI+ community. The Library’s collections are for everyone, and we are a place of welcome for all. It is important to us that diverse groups feel seen and listened to in the Library’s collections and in its wider work; and that they feel visible, respected and included.  

“Living with Pride is a major initiative for the Library, and a demonstration of our commitment to diversity and inclusion. In designing Living with Pride, we took a ‘nothing about us without us’ approach, striving for sincere and meaningful engagement with the LGBTI+ community, in a way that reflects both its historical and contemporary concerns and experiences. We are delighted to be working with Bill Foley and Tonie Walsh on the curation of the exhibition and events, and I would like to thank them both for their valuable and ongoing input and generosity. On behalf of the staff of the Library, I would also like to thank ShoutOut, who provided training to staff across the Library in preparation for this project.” 

Co-curator of the Living with Pride events programme, Tonie Walsh added: “As the founder and independent curator of the Irish Queer Archive, it feels particularly special to return to the Library and work with it in devising the Living with Pride programme. Ireland has followed a remarkable trajectory in terms of LGBTI+ liberation and equality, in legal recognition and public attitudes. A programme of this scale and sort, mounted by a national cultural institution, would have been unthinkable not too long ago. It is my hope that the wide-ranging series of events will allow Ireland’s LGBTI+ community to take stock of where it has come from and consider where it is going next. 

“An overriding objective of this programme is to ensure that members of the LGBTI+ community are aware of the Irish Queer Archive. The collection includes media clippings, community publications, material relating to various LGBTI+ organisations and initiatives and other ephemera, and is an invaluable community resource. It will be accessible to explore and enjoy as soon as public health guidelines allow in-person visits to the Library. It was important that we integrate a number of practical workshops on accessing and using the IQA in the events programme, and I urge members of the LGBTI+ community to take advantage of these workshops, and to engage with the IQA when the Library re-opens.” 

As part of Living with Pride, a poet-in-residence programme will run throughout 2021, in which award-winning poet Seán Hewitt will engage with the content of the IQA to produce a number of works. This residency is a partnership between Cúirt International Festival of Literature and the National Library, funded by the Arts Council. 

For more information and the most up-to-date programme of events, visit nli.ie.