The Big Bi Audit: What have you got?

This originally appeared in BCN issue 111.

At International BiCon 2010, a very well attended workshop discussed the possibility of archiving UK bi stuff in some sort of organised fashion.

It was decided that archiving bi stuff was A Good Idea, but that first we needed to see what the UK bi community actually had to archive. So, one BCN article and many emails later, an impressive list of bi stuff has emerged. Here’s a general idea of what people have offered for archiving.

Serial publications:

  •     ‘Bi Community News’, full run since issue 0 + full run since issue 30 (possibly earlier)
  •     ‘Bifrost’ (newsletter), complete run + some duplicate issues
  •      ‘Ungagged’ (SM Bis newsletter), many issues
  •     ‘Bi-Monthly’ (newsletter), issues 8–19 & 21
  •     Bijou (women’s bi group) newsletter, some issues
  •     ‘East Anglian Bisexual Newsletter’, 1st & only issue
  •     ‘Bike Immunity News’ (zine), complete run
  •     ‘Anything That Moves’ (US zine), possibly a complete run
  •     ‘Red Hanky Panky’ (zine), some issues

Single publications:

  •     ‘Women & Bisexuality’ 1989–90 (published book), background material & production papers
  •     ‘Women & Bisexuality, 2nd edn’, 1999–2000, (unpublished book) taped interviews & transcripts
  •     ‘The Illustrated Manhood’ (story zine)
  •     Bi Erotica Book, 2000 (published book), submissions

Conference programmes:

  •     BiCon programmes, many
  •     International BiCon papers, year(s) unknown

Group records:

  •     London Bi Group minutes & papers
  •     London Bi Women’s Group papers (from mid-80s)
  •     Bijou papers
  •     BASH (bi sexual health group) minutes & papers of previous peer education project
  •     (Scottish bi archive papers, previously in the Edinburgh L&G Centre, have now gone missing)

Videos:

  •     ‘The Other One’ (late 1990s), two copies
  •     Various TV documentaries (videotaped)
  •     Video clips from BiCon 2000

Other:

  • Various un-named zines, newsletters, fliers (for Bifest & other events), Tshirts, BiCon seaside rock(!), & unspecified ‘ephemera’

A big thank you to everyone who responded.

The big question now is whether we want to collect this stuff so that it’s safe, ordered in some sort of organised fashion, and accessible to the public.

At BiCon 2011, another archiving workshop discussed our options.

The London School of Economics Archives are interested in including bi material, either as part of the Hall-Carpenter Archive (a very large lesbian and gay archive) or as a separate collection. Workshop attendees looked over the LSE Archives draft ‘Terms of Deposit’ agreement, which could be adjusted to suit our requirements and concerns if bi archival material was loaned or given to the LSE Archives.

We also looked at the websites of two queer community archiving projects, the Rukus (black LGBT group) archive and the Brighton Ourstory archive. Rukus have recently paid the London Metropolitan Archive £500 to house their archive. We wondered whether the London Metropolitan Archive could be a better location for bi archival material than the LSE Archives?

Workshop participants represented various bi groups from around the UK, and the important issue of local versus national archiving was raised. Should bi archival material be stored local to its source, or combined to form a national archive (and if so, where should this national archive be held?).

Wouldn’t it be fantastic to produce a glossy artwork publication of historical bi material? And have a high-profile exhibition? And a launch party! We got quite carried away with the media and social possibilities at that point. But it’s all possible – the question is, how to get there?

It was decided to contact Rukus to get more information on their experiences with the London Metropolitan Archives (and with archiving in general). We also agreed it would be a good idea to discuss, at the summer 2012 bi activist meeting, the possibility of bidding for lottery funding (as Rukus have successfully done), to pay for initial bi archiving work (e.g. cataloguing material, researching archive housing options, and setting up a formal UK bi community archive (or archives)).

Establishing a UK bi community archive (or archives) could be a big boost for the profile of UK bisexuality. We have good quality material, positive interest, and in-depth queer community experience to draw on. The signs are good. Could this be the next step-up for UK bi visibility?

Lisa Colledge

If you’d like to help make the UK bi archive(s) a reality, please email [email protected]