“I’m sick to death of this particular self. I want another.”
― Virginia Woolf, Orlando
The National Trust is to celebrate the gay history of many of its iconic properties with a year-long programme of events telling the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) story of its homes and halls.
Virginia Woolf’s great novel Orlando, an exploration of gender difference and sexual identity and about a gender-changing protagonist whose life spans the 400-year history of Knole House in Kent, anchors the trust’s 2017 Prejudice and Pride season.
The book was inspired by Woolf’s lover, Vita Sackville-West, who was born and brought up at Knole and, while devotedly married to husband Harold Nicolson, also had relationships with partners of the same sex (as did he).
The programme, which includes events at Knole; Sutton House in Hackney, London; Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire and Smallhythe Place, Kent will tell the histories of the men and women who shaped the properties in which they lived, challenging conventional notions of gender and sexuality in the process.
Over the course of the year, online and published resources will be available including a podcast series and a new guidebook exploring LGBTQ heritage in trust places.
Sarah Waters, author of the bestselling novel Tipping the Velvet and who is involved with the project, said: “These days we can all be a bit bolder about exploring and enjoying the UK’s rich heritage of sex and gender diversity. And I’d argue that without an awareness of that heritage our experience of certain National Trust properties is incomplete.”