Heritage is extremely important; but not just historical heritage, we have to focus on preserving the present that will soon be the past.

This statement, made by Exhibition Manager and Interviewer Alan Vaughan, after a screening of the movie “Pride” in Middlesbrough, exemplifies so much of SLAP!

SLAP Exhibition

The SLAP! Exhibition in situ at Cineworld Boldon

The exhibition, mounted and curated by Alan to provide an overall narrative, has sections highlighting local people while also referencing a wider historical setting, including politicians Nick Forbes and Nick Brown; Mr Gay World, Stuart Hatton of South Shields; Andrew Hayden Smith,an actor from Byker Grove/Dr. Who and CBBC; Singer Joe McEldery, of South Shields, and Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant of North Shields; as well as a panel on Julia Darling, author of “Crocodile Soup”.

Spotlight on Julia Darling

Julia Darling Crocodile Soup

Julia Darling was an acclaimed playwright, poet and author who lived in Newcastle. Her first novel ‘Crocodile Soup’ was published in 1998 and was long-listed for the Orange Prize. Her second novel ‘The Taxi Driver’s Daughter’ was long-listed for the Booker Prize in 2003.

Darling wrote plays for radio and the theatre and, over the course of here treatment for cancer (Julia sadly died from breast cancer in 2005), engaged with medical staff and patients through poetry and initiated the ‘waiting room’ project, a series of poems and excerpts of prose intended to be displayed in ‘miserable places in hospitals’. This became the ‘The Rebellious Stamp’ exhibition which toured around the country after her death. 

Darling helped found ‘ProudWORDS’ in Newcastle in 1999, a festival for gay and lesbian writing with an emphasis on creative writing workshops. In 2002 she was appointed The Associate Royal Literary Fund Fellow of Literature and Health at Newcastle University. 

Read more about Julia’s work via her website: www.juliadarling.co.uk


The Campaign for Homosexual Equality section includes items about former Rowlands Gill teacher Derek Oyston, who left his house to the organisation. An interview and press clippings from David Burke, who founded the Newcastle Ravens RFC, are included, the later illustrating his successful complaint against the Sun for stating that no-one wanted to play the Ravens because the players were all gay.

SLAP! Also highlights the life of Robert Coulthard, the Edwardian cross dresser, with the most famous images of him. Robert formed the basis of the (mostly) fiction performance piece,the Making of a Woman, performed at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle, with a possible future performance at the Washington Arts Centre. While not part of SLAP!, various theatre groups have expressed an interest in the play, and productions will continue into 2016. The script for the show, and images and videos from the Theatre Royal production can be found here.

Rounding out the exhibition is a panel on former gay bars/clubs in Newcastle. An interview with the owner of one of these – Strings – can be heard here.

We would  like to thank all of the venues that hosted the exhibition, and all of the people who showed an interest in the work of the SLAP!

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