Edinburgh Book Festival: Queering History

We listen in as Kate Charlesworth and Luke Turner discuss their books which aim to add to a queer historical canon

Feature by Katie Goh | 29 Aug 2019
  • Edinburgh Book Festival

Two of this year’s most exciting non-fiction history books, Sensible Footwear by Kate Charlesworth and Out of the Woods by Luke Turner, are the perfect jumping off point for an event with the subtitle Queering History. Sitting on a stage surrounded by blown-up pages from Sensible Footwear, Charlesworth recounts her process when deciding to create a graphic novel that would visually document LGBTQ+ history. “Twenty years ago I was worried we were forgetting our collective history,” Charlesworth remarks. “It became a necessity to document where we came from and where we were going.”

In a similar fashion, Turner began writing Out of the Woods seeking to document the history of Epping Forest, close to where he grew up, for fear of that history disappearing. As both Charlesworth and Turner were writing their respective histories, more and more of their own personal histories began creeping in. “It all kind of mangled together,” Turner says with a laugh. Both writers acknowledge their books are as much memoirs as much as they are history books, something that seems particularly specific to queer histories that are as personal as they are collective. 

The evening finishes with Turner speaking to bi-erasure within wider social understandings of sexuality and also within the LGBTQ+ community. “Bisexuality is often seen as a stop-off on the way to coming out.” It’s a humourous, fascinating event offering an insight into how the queering of history is essential to move forward. “We must know our histories,” Charlesworth concludes to the quiet tent, “and tell other people our histories so that the bad parts are not repeated.”