FOR IMMEDIATE USE                                                                           31 July 2015


Contributions Invited for the Interactive Map

Cumbria’s first lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* (LGBT) history project, CELEBRATE, launched its crowd-sourced LGBT History Map on its new website (

The map invites people to add locations and share their stories related to the LGBT community online.

The partnership project between OutREACH Cumbria and Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery will put on an exhibition and create new collections of oral histories, objects and images related to the history of Cumbria LGBT community.

Tonia Lu, the CELEBRATE Project Coordinator, said: “The LGBT online community is fast growing and with Cumbria being a large rural region, the map helps us overcome some geographic issues and enable more people to be part of the project.”

The map also brings new technology into the project, giving it a new life online.

“There have been other LGBT history projects using maps or trails as outcomes, but the CELEBRATE Map is something completely different. We are using the technology to create an interactive on-line map where people can contribute their own stories throughout the project and beyond.

“It creates a new channel for people to get involved, as well as a great way to make the interesting and exciting things discovered through the project accessible.

“The only other example of this kind of crowd-sourced map we have found, is the LGBTQ Heritage map developed by Historic England and Leeds Beckett University. They are very interested in collaborating with us.”

A number of locations are already on the map, among them, the Whitehaven Archive and Study Centre was included because of its extensive collections of letters written by artist Percy Kelly (1918 – 1993) to Joan David, one of the artist’s close friends in Cumbria.

Born in Workington, Kelly spent most of his life in Cumbria, before moving to Wales and later Norfolk. Percy was widely known as a cross-dresser, however, people’s perceptions of this vary. Some see it as artistic quirk, some believe it was something more fundamental to his identity.

Written during the last 10 years of Kelly’s life near Norfolk, under the name Roberta Penelope – a name Kelly legally changed to, those letters contains beautiful illustrations and fascinating stories of Kelly’s life as an ‘old lady’ in Norfolk.

Most significantly, possibly the only paintings of people Kelly has ever finished – self-portraits of the artist as Roberta.

Debbie Wood, the Trans* issues lead for OutREACH Cumbria and research psychologist, said: “Whilst we do not know exactly how Kelly identified, I think we can safely conclude that this was an individual whose identity lay on the trans* spectrum.

“The language, and our understanding of gender identity is evolving. But Kelly’s letters offer a snapshot in time of the artist’s self-understanding, which is inevitably informed by the medical discourse of the time.

“During Kelly’s lifetime it was very difficult to be trans* and ‘out’ so it was a brave step to confide in anyone let alone change your name and live in the opposite gender role. As society progresses, and being gender diverse becomes easier, we have seen the likes of fellow artist Grayson Perry who expresses a female alter ego openly. For Perry this is an important part of his self-expression – not simply a quirk – and I think that at the very least this was probably the case for Kelly as well.”

The Whitehaven Archive and Study Centre is the home to thousands of original historical documents dating from the 12th century to the present day relating to West Cumbria. The archive hopes to obtain more LGBT related material through CELEBRATE.

Robert Baxter, the Senior Archivist at Whitehaven Archive and Study Centre, said:The letters were deposited to us by Rob David, Joan David’s son, in the past two years. We were fascinated by the stories told in those letters, and have set up a small exhibition about Roberta and Joan which toured around the archives.

“Kelly was a remarkable artist, and we are glad that his story was identified as an important element of CELEBRATE project.”

CELEBRATE is also calling for individuals to take part in its Cumbrian LGBT oral history collection and to share their real life stories. Those stories will form part of new LGBT history collections in Cumbria Archives. More information can be found on CELEBRATE website at

Individuals and organisations interested in this project can go to for more information and to sign up or email Tonia Lu, Project Coordinator at or phone 07956 336872




Notes for Editors

About OutREACH Cumbria:

  • OutREACH Cumbria is the main service provider for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans* support, advice and engagement in the North Cumbria area.
  • Trans* is a contemporary and inclusive term covering all flavours of diverse gender expression including the more traditional specific terms of transsexual, transvestite, cross-dresser, transgender, and fluid gender identities including non-binary and gender queer.
  • OutREACH Cumbria’s physical services may only reach the North of Cumbria, but it does work county wide and provide help to anyone within Cumbria, and the surrounding areas.
  • OutREACH Cumbria runs a Free Telephone Helpline between 7pm and 9.30pm on Thursdays as well as One to One Sessions in Carlisle.
  • OutREACH Cumbria also runs G.O.B.S (Gay Older Brothers & Sisters) Mentoring Scheme for young people.
  • It has a range of different services, groups, projects and opportunities on offer.
  • For further details on OutREACH Cumbria, please visit:

About Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery:

  • Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery (Commonly known as the Tullie House) is a meeting point of the History, Nature and Art in one of Britain’s most fascinating regions.
  • The rich collections are a resource of local, regional and national importance.
  • Tullie House run our programme of activities and events for children and families, as well as our Tuesday Lunchtime Talks and Monday Alternative Film Season.
  • Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery transferred to Trust in May 2011. The Museum is now an independent organisation and is supported by a Board of Trustees chaired by Roger Cooke.
  • For further details on the Tullie House, please visit:

Further Information 

For further information contact Tonia Lu on or 07956 336872

Free-to-use images and press releases are available from the CELEBRATE website:

CELEBRATE Online Map Launch