QUAY Arts was decked with rainbow flags and banners for the launch of Out on An Island — a project exploring the untold and often hidden heritage of the Isle of Wight's LGBTQ+ community.

The event was held at the Newport arts centre on Thursday (June 6) and attended by around 80 people, including members of the Isle of Wight Pride team, Island Labour chair Cllr Julian Critchley and Isle of Wight Cllr Karl Love.

Speakers gave their own personal accounts and spoke about the project’s commitment to working with as many groups and businesses across the Isle of Wight as possible.

Project manager Caroline Diamond described the project’s aims and spoke about the volunteer roles has to offer — from interviewers, who will receive free training from the Oral History Society, to event organisers, researchers and outreach workers.

She talked about the difficulties faced by LGBTQ+ people, who often feel isolated, and urged the Island’s heritage centres and historical societies to get in touch to help unearth hidden stories.

Cllr Love described the Island’s lively gay scene in the 1980s and 90s and said the Island was ahead of the times in appointing him as its first community sexual health worker.

Franko Figueiredo, project creative director, introduced the StoneCrabs Charity, which is running the project, and spoke about the importance of highlighting different narratives and a diverse set of stories to the fore, making the Island a diverse, inclusive home for all its visitors and residents.

Anna Murray, Age UK Isle of Wight’s domestic violence abuse and hate crime lead, described the beauty of seeing individuals become their authentic selves and the potential of Out On An Island to reach a wide audience.

Elaine Chambers spoke about her book, This Queer Angel, an account of her career as a high flying commissioned officer in the army and how she ultimately had to resign because of her sexuality.

Peter Woodnutt spoke about his life and career running a menswear shop in Ryde. He read some of his poetry and talked about coming out publicly as a gay man in his fifties.

Rainbow cake and music by DJ Kaf Tan added to the celebratory mood.

Out on an Island has been supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which has awarded the project a £42,400 grant.

For further information about the project, or to volunteer, email outonanisland@stonecrabs.co.uk