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TRP Stories: Dr Alan Butler

TRP Stories

Press Contact: Natalie Thomas

TRP Stories: Dr Alan Butler



As well as his role as a lecturer at Plymouth Marjon University’s School of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, Dr Alan Butler is Pride in Plymouth Director and has been busy organising events across the city to mark LGBTQIA+ History Month.

Theatre Royal Plymouth (TRP) supported Alan’s work, showcasing The Pride Pop-Up: Archives, which Alan compiled himself as part of his PHD. Alongside the archives, Alan took part in a presentation and discussion at TRP around the power of community archives.

Alan is a familiar face at TRP having worked here as a front of house usher for 13 years, as well as regularly coming to watch the pantomime as a child. Alan said: “I always loved the theatre and was thrilled when I got the usher job. It really brought me out of my shell. I tended to work in The Drum auditorium and spent an awful lot of time in the space. I liked the cutting-edge performances and verbatim theatre. I found it so interesting and it was a privilege to watch these types of shows.

“Returning to TRP for the Pride Archives, there is definitely a sense of coming home.”

Alan explains where his passion for LGBTQIA+ history came from and how the archives arose. He said: “I am a gay man from Plymouth. I was aware I was gay from five years old, but it took me a long time to talk about things and be public about it.

“I joined a group who were in talks with The Box about people in the LGBTQIA+ community but a lot of the stories they were hearing from people weren’t positive. They were desperately seeking encouraging stories and I had heard lots! I became obsessed with finding these optimistic testaments to share.

“I put in funding bids and focused my PHD on collating this archive. I wasn’t publicly out at the time, but I went through a fear process and really became part of the community I was talking to. I became empowered by it and the sense of history and heritage grounded me. I became more myself and my passion grew.

“My PHD itself took four years, but we had one year to specifically work on the project which we then exhibited at The Box. I talked to so many people during this time and unearthed amazing stories to analyse. Many said they didn’t have much to say, but when you delved into their backgrounds, they’d been massively brave and were truly inspiring.

“Nancy Astor’s son from her first marriage was gay, but that’s rarely talked about. The more we bring stories like that to light, the more it ‘normalises’ things.”

Speaking specifically about Pride in Plymouth, Alan said: “Here in Plymouth, things are run a little differently from the likes of London or Brighton in terms of LGBTQIA+. Plymouth is slightly behind the curve and has been quiet about its LGBTQ+ past, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and this is changing and we’re there now.

“The Archives Pop-Up and subsequent celebrations for LGBTQIA+ History Month at TRP focused on hearing voices, sharing stories and capturing these for generations to come. For a long time, society made people feel ashamed of who they are so they didn’t talk about their feelings. We lost a lot of history we’ll never get back, which makes it so important now that we capture experiences and celebrate them.

“LGBTQIA+ History Month is a reminder that everyone’s stories matter and everyone has a place in society. Our new project, Pride 365, takes it to the next level and stresses how important it is to be proud of who you are and who you love every day of the year.”

Watch Dr Alan’s video:

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