Initiated in 2018, Rainbow Plaques is an ongoing national scheme highlighting the importance of intersectional LGBTQIA+ visibility in our streets and public spaces. The programme was established by York Civic Trust and the York LGBT Forum to honour lesbian diarist Anne Lister (1791–1840). The programme builds upon existing work established by Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum and Studio Voltaire in creating permanent plaques for Oscar Wilde at Clapham Junction Station in 2019 and the 1980s film classic, My Beautiful Laundrette, on Wilcox Road in 2021.
Rainbow Plaques is a national scheme organised by the London LGBT+ Forums Network and Studio Voltaire that identifies hidden and lost LGBTQIA+ heritage, whilst highlighting the importance of queer visibility in our streets and public spaces. The new Rainbow Plaque in Greenwich is the first of five to be installed across the capital in celebration of significant people, places and moments in LGBTQIA+ history.
On Sunday 23 July 2023, Studio Voltaire and the London LGBT+ Forums Network unveiled a permanent new Rainbow Plaque dedicated to the 1990s coming-out and coming-of-age film, Beautiful Thing, at The Greenwich Tavern.
Written by actor and playwright Jonathan Harvey (Gimme Gimme Gimme and Coronation Street), Beautiful Thing is an important queer cinema classic. The film debuted 30 years ago as a play staged at the Bush Theatre in London, directed by Hettie Macdonald (Normal People, Doctor Who and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry). After touring the West End, it was adapted into a film in 1996, commissioned by Channel 4 Films (now Film4).
With deep sensitivity and nuance, the romantic comedy tells the story of two classmates and neighbours who fall in love over one summer. Filmed in Thamesmead and Greenwich, the love story was set in a postwar London council estate, which has since been torn down. The Rainbow Plaque marks a poignant scene filmed at The Gloucester pub, known today as The Greenwich Tavern.
Set against the backdrop of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Section 28 and the deep-rooted homophobia of 1990s Britain, Beautiful Thing’s unique representation of South East London's working-class communities is a radical celebration of young love, community and identity. Three decades on from its first release, Beautiful Thing remains a witty and insightful exploration of the intersectionality of the film’s characters across class, gender, race and sexuality.
In 2023 five new plaques will be placed at sites in Greenwich, Peckham, Westminster, Ladbroke Grove and Haringey.
More than 100 people participated in consultation workshops alongside an advisory panel to decide on the five new plaques. The advisory panel was Dr Justin Bengry (MA Queer History course convenor at Goldsmiths, University of London), Fisch (Performer and Activist), Tessa Havers-Strong (Director of Forum +), Juliet Jacques (Writer and Filmmaker), Nathan Lewis (Programme and Partnerships Manager of Black Thrive & Chair of Southwark LGBT Network), DJ Ritu (DJ, Broadcaster, Producer) and Marc Thompson (Curator and Activist).
These five new plaques are supported by The Mayor of London’s Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm and Wandsworth Oasis and Wandsworth Oasis.
The Greenwich Tavern
1 King William Walk
London SE10 9JH
The London LGBT+ Forums Network is a collection of individual LGBTQIA+ forums, Prides and borough-based community groups from across Greater London. They exist to tackle issues of inequality within the public services and to be a voice for their members and LGBTQ+ residents as well as deliver projects that celebrate our shared culture and heritage.
Since its foundation in 1989, Wandsworth Oasis has provided support to - and challenged stigma towards - those living with HIV. Using revenue generated by their nine charity shops located in south London, as well as fundraiser events, they have given over £1 million in grants to HIV-related projects and organisations during the last ten years alone.
Courtesy of Joel Ryder and Milan Sveda