Based on deeply personal testimonies and factual research, Out on An Island presents a rich and diverse portrayal of Isle of Wight LGBTQ+ history.
Shining a light on stories of struggle and truth shared through recorded oral histories, this is a book which unearths a public history and cultural heritage hidden for over a century. In a collaborative effort among LGBTQ+ Island residents, Out on An Island signifies the first ever project dedicated to local LGBTQ+ oral history on the Isle of Wight.
Created in remarkable circumstances, it celebrates a close-knit community surviving together in the face of exclusion, prejudice and misrepresentation. The result is an inspiring collection of interviews from LGBTQ+ people concerning their lives on the Island. The oral histories are shared in a matter-of-fact style, with accounts of disturbing homophobia, rejection and exclusion peppered with moments of joy and celebration. From beginning to end are stories of courage and despair which stand as powerful testaments of human endeavour. While some of the LGBTQ+ community were proud to call the Isle of Wight their home, others feared discrimination, and were desperate to escape.
Read about the fierce, enigmatic lesbian Joe Carstairs, and the adventures of the all-female Ferguson’s Gang in Newtown in the 1920s. Delving into the Island’s 1980s gay scene, hear accounts of a community thriving in the face of negative local press and the grim shadow of Section 28. Onwards to the 1990s, experience the moment the Island welcomed its first ever local Gay Guide; and in the not-so-distant past, learn about a lingering culture of homophobia exposed by the Island’s first Pride in 2017, and the resignations of reputable local journalist Charlotte Hofton, and the Island’s Conservative MP Andrew Turner.
A testament to the history, lives, social and political contribution of the Isle of Wight LGBTQ+ community for future generations, Out On An Island restores a shared and vibrant past. Instigating a broader dialogue on what can be complex and sensitive topics, readers are provided with a better understanding of the importance of equality, inclusion and the hurdles individuals must overcome to be their authentic selves.
Photography by Jonathan Habens