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Behind the Rainbow opens at Chelmsford Museum

Behind The Rainbow Exhibition

Behind the Rainbow, an exhibition exploring LGBTQ+ stories across Chelmsford and Essex, opens tomorrow (24 June) at Chelmsford Museum.

It is the museum’s first exhibition to be co-produced alongside an external organisation. The museum and Essex Pride have worked closely together on the exhibition, with input from members of the LGBTQ+ community across the city and county.

Exhibition confronts outdated stereotypes and highlights challenges still faced by LBGTQ+ community

Behind the Rainbow showcases the talent and creativity of a community which is often underrepresented or misrepresented. The exhibition seeks to confront outdated and problematic perceptions about what it means to be LGBTQ+. It hopes to spark conversations about the challenges the community still faces today.

Councillor Marie Goldman, Deputy Leader of Chelmsford City Council and Cabinet Member for Connected Chelmsford, says Chelmsford City Council is proud to support the chance for LGBTQ+ voices to be heard:

"I’m so proud that Chelmsford Museum has provided this all-important platform to the Essex LGBTQ+ community.

Though we’ve come a long way in recent decades, the LGBTQ+ community still faces many challenges. By helping members of the community to share their stories, experiences, and emotions with the people of Chelmsford, we’re taking a clear stand against inequality in our city."

Cllr Marie Goldman, Deputy Leader of Chelmsford City Council and Cabinet Member for Connected Chelmsford

Varied artworks capture stories and emotions of the LGBTQ+ community

The exhibition presents varied and emotive works of art submitted by members of the community. The works recognise the relationship between self-expression and identity, and demonstrate the complexity and humanity of the artists.

Items on display include photography of Pride events in Chelmsford and placards from the city’s first Essex Pride March in 2022.

A wall of poems expresses the emotions of the community, with common themes of coming out, fear of judgment, and the joy found in a sense of understanding and belonging.

Digital artworks range in tone from Vixy’s fun and light-hearted ‘Pansexual Pigeon’, showing that anyone is welcome at Pride – even the pigeons; to Ethan Dredge’s poignant depiction of two people in ‘Embrace’.

Claire Willetts, co-curator of the exhibition, says the broad range of pieces on display reflects the diverse experiences of individuals:

"Chelmsford Museum has a responsibility to share the stories and histories of the city and its many communities. By working with Essex Pride on Behind the Rainbow, we’ve been able to collate and display some incredibly moving stories, poems and works of art. It has been a privilege to have co-curated the personal and powerful experiences that the project participants have been so brave to share.

And powerful stories can be found in every part of this exhibition. Even items as seemingly simple as a pair of glittery gold heels contain complex stories about LGBTQ+ experiences in Essex and Chelmsford."

Claire Willetts, Curatorial and Learning Officer, Chelmsford Museum
Behind The Rainbow Sparkly Shoes

Interactive elements invite visitors to connect and empathise with the community

Behind the Rainbow looks to ignite thoughts of what we have in common, rather than what separates us. Through several interactive elements, visitors are invited to personally connect with the exhibition and empathise with the LGBTQ+ community.

Visitors can watch a Chelmsford For You Podcast reporting on the celebrations at Essex Pride in 2022, including the very first Essex Pride March through the city.

Artist Ellena Woolf’s voice recording ‘Voice Notes to my Child Self’ is also available to listen to in a beautifully decorated audio pod. The 15-minute audio soundscape blends poetry, song, and sound to imagine what a trans woman might say if she could leave a WhatsApp voice note to her younger self.

Visitors are also encouraged to add their own message to a mirror of magnetic positive affirmations.

Little ones can enjoy some reading time in the exhibition space with children’s book The Spectacular Suit. Illustrated by Essex-based artist Hayley Wells, the book explores the importance of being able to wear the clothes that feel most comfortable and reflect your personal identity.

Behind The Rainbow Exhibition 02

Sofia Rojas, co-curator of the exhibition, hopes it will challenge biases and help some LGBTQ+ individuals feel more connected:

"It’s really important to remember that supporting the LGBTQ+ community shouldn’t be limited to Pride Month, but on a daily basis. We can show support by trying to understand, learn and, above all, respect all individuals. Everyone deserves to be seen and respected.

I hope that this exhibition will be able to make some people feel less alone, but also to challenge biases by reminding us that we are all human. We all need to support one another to be able to make long-lasting changes in society where people can be themselves without fear."

Sofia Rojas, Community Engagement Officer, Essex Pride

Always Proud programme of events to run alongside the exhibition

Behind the Rainbow is part of Always Proud. Created by Essex Pride, the initiative aims to provide events and safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community throughout the year.

Always Proud is supported by Chelmsford City Council, which has provided funding for the exhibition and for several Always Proud events to take place in the city in 2023. To keep up to date with upcoming events, follow Essex Pride on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Visit until 29 October

Behind the Rainbow is on display at Chelmsford Museum from 24 June to 29 October 2023. The museum is open and free to visit between 10am and 5pm every day, including bank holidays.

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Cherelle Nightingill
Cherelle Nightingill

Cherelle writes about Chelmsford Theatre, Hylands Estate, Chelmsford Museum, the Mayor of Chelmsford and culture and events in the city.