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Archive Culture

Living the “Log Books”

Paul Thurlow is a volunteer with Islington’s Pride, and has contributed a large amount of the content to the project. An Islingtonian, he has seen many changes in the borough. He was a volunteer with Switchboard from 1983-86, and in this blog post he reflects on the podcast The Log Books.

The Log Books podcast uses the archives of Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ phoneline based in Islington as a launchpad to look at people’s experiences of being LGBTQ+ since Switchboard was founded in 1974. It uses entries in the Switchboard’s log books – the books with detailed phone calls and written messages that volunteers used, with many focusing on particular issues.

 The current series is looking at log book entries written between 1983 and 1991, which covers the period when I was a Switchboard volunteer. Recent issues have focused on the impact of the press and TV on the lives of LGBTQ+ people,  HIV and AIDS, the Section 28 legislation and its effects, and the Customs raid of Gay’s the Word. Just over a year ago I visited The Bishopsgate Institute, near Liverpool Street Station, to look at some of the Switchboard archive held there: looking through some of those log books I saw some of the entries I had written or pasted in myself, including information on the Gay’s the Word Defence Campaign meetings, and entries by other volunteers about Switchboard’s pioneering work around HIV/AIDS. At that time, Switchboard was the only 24-hours-a-day helpline that people could turn to for information and advice on HIV/AIDS.

 Throughout the podcast, you hear from people who were volunteers at Switchboard at the time, other LGBTQ+ people talking about their experiences of the issues covered, and how the issues covered impact on LGBTQ+ people now. It’s funny, serious, sad and uplifting, and a great way to learn about recent LGBTQ+ history, or revive your memories of living through the time!

Episodes include ‘How Nice!’ a bonus live episode, a recording of the Islington’s Pride LGBT Pride Month event held at Finsbury Library on 5th February 2020. Participants included former Switchboard volunteers Julian Hows and Femi Otitoju (who you can also hear in other episodes), Islington’s Pride Project Manager Seán McGovern, and Project Archivist Marlin Khondoker.

The Log Books podcast won Gold in the 2020 British Podcast Awards: well-deserved by the presenters Tash Walker and Adam Zmith, who also produce the podcast with Shivani Dave.

Subscribe to the Log Books on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts!

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