Out on an Island: LGBTQ+ Resources
Out on An Island was the first ever project dedicated to local LGBTQ+ oral history on the Isle of Wight, resulting in a collection of oral history recordings, exhibition and book (available from local libraries or available to purchase online).
The resources on this website have been commissioned by Museums and Schools and developed by StoneCrabs Theatre following consultation sessions with local teachers. They are designed to help teach inclusion alongside increasing awareness of the Isle of Wight’s rich LGBTQ+ heritage.
On this page you’ll find an educator’s introductory video guide to LGBTQ+ inclusion and a series of bite-size videos about some fascinating LGTBQ+ people with Island connections.
There are also LGBTQ+ Oral History resources available here.
An educator’s introductory guide to LGBTQ+ inclusion
This short film (10:51mins) portrays simple ways to be more inclusive in schools and colleges. It shows two teachers, one of whom is LGBT and the other is keen to be an LGBT ally. The film recognises ways to celebrate diversity and highlights the next steps teachers can take in utilising LGBTQ+ content naturally across the curriculum.
The film can be also used as a tool for further discussions/workshops with teachers and school staff about LGBTQ+ inclusion.
Island LGBTQ+ Histories
To acknowledge LGBTQ+ stories from the past builds a fuller, more fascinating picture of how our society and historical places have been used and shaped by their owners and occupants. These unexpected and unpredictable stories are a great tool to enhance a school’s inclusive curriculum.
Students may be surprised to learn how LGBTQ+ History was erased, ignored and hidden in the past due to the law which made homosexuality illegal until 1967 and also due to feelings of fear, shame and embarrassment.
Explore the resources below or download the information and links as a PDF: LGBTQ Histories
Our Stories Matter
“Outstanding and educational presentations. Awe-inspiring cinematography of the island is a treat to watch. Highly recommended”
The Isle of Wight is teeming with stories, and StoneCrabs has highlighted some of the historical LGBTQ+ people and places connected to our Island in the ‘Our Stories Matter’ film, created in 2020. The film has been selected for many festivals around the globe, winning the accolade award for best LGBTQ+ documentary film as well as the scarab for best short LGBT documentary.
‘Our Stories Matter’ was reviewed by Short Films Matter, where you can access the full film:
We have now produced a series of short films (about 5 mins each) about 7 of these historical figures. These can be used in the classroom and you’ll find them below, followed by themes and curriculum links.
Joe Carstairs in East Cowes
Marion Barbara Carstairs was known as ‘Joe’, she had numerous female lovers, which were said to include Oscar Wilde’s niece, Dolly Wilde, as well as Hollywood stars Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. Joe Carstairs was the UK’s most successful female motorboat racer during the 1920s and her boats were made on the Isle of Wight in East Cowes. Striking and masculine, she had short hair and tattooed arms.
- Curriculum links: Science and Design Technology, PHSE from KS2, History KS3 & KS4.
- Themes: feminism, women’s roles in WWI war, boat building and boat racing, gender and sexuality,
- Visit: the Joe Carstairs exhibition at Classic Boat Museum
- Read: about Joe Carstairs in the Out On An Island book, pages 257 – 260
Paget & Seely at Mottistone Gardens
‘The Shack’, a small cottage in the grounds of Mottistone Manor on the Isle of Wight was home to Paget and Seely. They were partners in their own architectural firm and referred to each other as ‘the partners’. Paget stated in an interview that they lived a “completely common life together” and were ‘partners in work and life’. Their partnership, whatever form it took, lasted until Seely’s death in 1963.
- Curriculum links: PHSE , Design & Technology, Arts, Maths Geography
- Themes: Migration, Architectural projects (including Eltham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral and Mottistone), closeted same sex relationships prior to the equality act of 1967. The need for Pride.
- Visit: the Shack at Mottistone Manor
- Read: about Paget and Seely in the Out On An Island book, pages 253 – 256
Virginia Woolf and Dimbola Lodge
Fiercely intelligent feminist writer Virginia Woolf had various affairs with both men and women, most famously a ten-year affair with Vita Sackville-West. Her connection to the Isle of Wight comes via her great-aunt, Victorian photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron who made her home at Dimbola Lodge, in Freshwater.
“Orlando had become a woman… Their change of sex, though it altered their future, did nothing whatever to alter their identity… but in future we must, for convention’s sake, say ‘her’ for ‘his’ and ‘she’ for ‘he’.” – Virginia Woolf
- Curriculum links: PSHE, English, Drama
- Themes: feminism, same sex relationships and women’s roles in Victorian society, artists retreats, Bloomsbury group.
- Visit: Dimbola Museum and Galleries
- Read: about Virginia Woolf in the Out On An Island book, pages 245 – 246
Farringford House in Bedbury Lane in the small town of Freshwater on the Isle of Wight was the home of Lord Alfred Tennyson and his wife for 39 years. Tennyson was an English poet and Poet Laureate from 1850 to 1892. We have included Tennyson because Arthur Henry Hallam inspired a number of his poems and the pair enjoyed a deeply affectionate relationship. After Hallam’s untimely death aged 22, Tennyson said, “he was as near perfection as mortal man could be.” Tennyson is remembered on the Isle of Wight with a memorial and ‘High Down’ was renamed ‘Tennyson Down’ in his honour.
- Curriculum links: PHSE (from KS2), English, History, Geography
- Themes: same sex romantic relationships, the meaning of queering, Farringford House history, migration, poetry, excerpt of In Memorium
- Visit: Farringford
- Read: about Tennyson in the Out On An Island book, pages 238 – 239
Ferguson’s Gang and Newtown
‘Bill Stickers’, ‘Sister Agatha’, ‘Red Biddy/ White Biddy’ and ‘Kate O’Brien the Nark’ were pseudonyms used by a group of young women who came together to form what was known as ‘Ferguson’s Gang’ in 1927. Some of the group were lesbians or bisexual. They were activists protecting rural England who objected to the spread of urbanisation. They made a number of generous donations to the National Trust, including Newtown Old Town Hall on the Isle of Wight.
- Curriculum links: PHSE, Geography, History.
- Themes: feminism, heritage buildings, LGBTQ+ relationships
- Visit: Newtown Old Town Hall
- Read: about Ferguson’s Gang in the Out On An Island book, pages 247 – 252
Robert Nichols was an English poet and playwright often referred to as one of the First World War ‘war poets’. He was born on the Isle of Wight in East Mount, Shanklin, and was baptised in the village at St Saviour on the Cliff. Nichols’ poem ‘The Burial in Flanders’ is celebrated as one of the greatest poems about homosexuality of the era.
- Curriculum Links: PHSE, English, History (WWI)
- Themes: WW1 Poetry and LGBTQ+ people court martialled in the Forces, Mental Health
- Visit: St Saviour on the Cliff, Shanklin
- Read: about Robert Nichols in the Out On An Island book, pages 239 – 242
Algernon Charles Swinburne is buried at St. Boniface Church in Bonchurch, Isle of Wight. He was an openly gay English poet, playwright and novelist. His childhood was largely spent at East Dene in Bonchurch, Isle of Wight. In 1848, Swinburne went to live with Reverend Foster Fenwick at Brooke Rectory in West Wight, before being sent to Eton to continue his education.
- Curriculum Links: PHSE, English
- Visit: St Boniface Church, Bonchurch
- Read: about Swinburne in the Out On An Island book, pages 243 – 244
- Content warning: includes references to sado-masochism and kink
LGBTQ+ Heritage Trail Map
The films can also be used in parallel with the LGBTQ+ Heritage Trail Map.
The map can be used in PSHE, Geography and History as well as Social Science and during consultation, some teachers suggested that these could be printed and displayed in the school as a reference tool.
On the map you will also find references to notable contemporary LGBTQ+ people such as author Patrick Gale, one of the first BBC newsreaders Kenneth Kendall, film producer Tom Priestley and many others.
You can read more about them in the ‘Queer History’ chapter of the Out On An Island book.