Saturday, August 19, 2017

The National Trust and LGBTQ

My letter and the response.

Full name Graham John Weeks:

Address (first line and post code):71 Lee Rd, UB6 7DA

'National Trust volunteers at a country house who decline to promote the LGBT agenda are being told they cannot meet the public.
The Trust is currently holding a “Prejudice and Pride” season to celebrate homosexuality and transsexualism. 
But around ten helpers at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk have reportedly declined to wear a LGBT lanyard or badge – and so therefore cannot be on duty in “a visitor-facing role”.’
If you persist with such a policy my membership will not be renewed.


NT response

Dear Graham,

Thank you for your recent message about the ‘Prejudice and Pride’ programme and the exhibition at Felbrigg.

As you will know, our founders set up the Trust ‘for the benefit of the nation’ and that is why we believe that we must make everyone feel welcome when they visit our properties and in the stories we tell, reflect the diversity of the society we live in. Like many other heritage and cultural organisations, this year we’re marking the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality at a small number of our properties.

Many of our volunteers across the country have taken the opportunity to get involved in our ‘Prejudice and Pride’ programme, which explores LGBTQ heritage. At Felbrigg, many volunteers have supported a new six-week exhibition, which looks at the life of Robert Ketton–Cremer. His decision to leave the house to the Trust was the result in part of the fact that he had never married and had no heirs to inherit. The thoroughly researched exhibition features a thoughtful and respectful video presented by Stephen Fry about Ketton-Cremer’s life. The question of his sexuality is only one part of the story it tells.

As part of the programme at Felbrigg we asked our staff and volunteers to wear a rainbow lanyard or badge, as a welcoming symbol to all of our visitors. However, we’re aware that some volunteers had conflicting, personal opinions about the badges and felt uncomfortable wearing one. This was never our intention. The issue around wearing badges also risked distracting attention away from the message of the LGBTQ programme and discussion of more important issues. We have contacted all our volunteers at the house to make it clear the decision to wear a rainbow lanyard was optional. Many have chosen to do so and continue to enthusiastically support the programme.

Conservation of our places remains at the heart of what we do, and thanks to the support of our members and donors, we are now spending more than ever before – more than £100m a year – on conservation work, mainly on our houses and collections. Our membership numbers continue to grow and are approaching 5 million this year, while the number of visits we receive each year is rising too. So I hope I can reassure you that the National Trust has not lost sight of its core purpose.

I hope this makes our position a clearer, thank you for the support you have shown us.

Kind regards
Jake McNally
Supporter Service Centre
National Trust

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