The modern historical connections between LGBTQ+ activism and Queer Craft is the focus of a first-ever academic book, set to be published this month.
Crafted With Pride: Queer Craft and Activism in Contemporary Britain breaks new ground in exploring how British activists have harnessed queer craft as a form of protest and storytelling, most expressly since the 1980s.
From Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp to Lesbians and Gay Men Support the Miners (LGSM), the book draws together case studies from across the nation, many told by the people who experienced these moments personally.
The book, which has already received strong advanced reviews, has been authored and edited by Dr Daniel Fountain, Lecturer in Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Exeter.
“From handmade clothing and protest banners to radical self-published zines and manifestos, there is a long history of using craft and DIY processes to explore identities, bring communities together, and encourage social and political change,” said Dr Fountain, of the Department of Languages, Art History and Visual Cultures at the University. “There’s been considerable research into this subject in North America, but almost nothing in the UK – despite what seems like genuine interest from the public.
“Some of this is down to systemic or institutional issues. But it’s also a result of crafts such as textiles often being positioned as passive or domestic activities, not suited to active or public activities. As such, there has been an underestimation of their value as an activist tool.”
Dr Fountain, who is himself an artist and curator, began producing the book in 2021 following an academic symposium with the Queer British Art Network (funded by Tate and Paul Mellon Centre) that gathered leading names and academics in the heritage sector. One of the themes that emerged from that conference was that the history of this field had never been told and that there was a risk of these lived experiences being lost forever.
Inviting contributions from academics, artists, activists, curators, and heritage professionals, Dr Fountain began to stitch together the story in different styles. Among the case studies discussed include the UK AIDS Memorial Quilt, Islington’s Pride, Queer Zine Library, Glasgow Women’s Library, and Queer Journeys. These critical essays and oral histories are complemented by short reflections from contemporary creative practitioners including Matt Smith, Tanoa Sasraku, Sarah-Joy Ford, Rachael House and Raisa Kabir.
“The book has assembled fragments and snippets of conversations about art practice,” said Dr Fountain. “I hope it brings together these voices and perspectives to provide a well-rounded overview and celebrates that diverse community.”
Crafted With Pride: Queer Craft and Activism in Contemporary Britain is published by Intellect and University of Chicago Press.