The Quay, Exeter

These are verbatim transcripts of interviews, reflecting spoken rather than written language.


INTERVIEWER 1: So it’s the 27th January 2022 and this is a story interview for Out and About: Queering the Museum at RAMM and I am Natalie McGrath and today I am interviewing Alan Quick. Hello Alan, nice to meet you. 

PARTICIPANT 1: Hello, nice to meet you. 


INTERVIEWER 1: And you, welcome. So we’re asking everyone to choose an item that they connect to from RAMM’s connections, so can you tell us which object you have chosen and then can you describe it to us as well? 

PARTICIPANT 1: I’ve chosen a lovely drawing by somebody called Piper of the quay in Exeter and it’s just a beautiful drawing of the custom house but also a building to the right. Now I have an association with the building to the right, not the custom house, the one across the road, and that was the nightclub that I used to DJ at in my younger days and that’s where the LGBTQ+ night was held, the very first one in Exeter and it was called Boxes, Boxes on Tuesday, because it was held on a Tuesday, so I’ve got a special significance with that venue and that image in that painting or drawing, so that’s where it comes from. Yeah, it’s really a fascinating picture that I just thought wow, I really identify with that and a lot of LGBT people will identify with that picture, probably of a more senior age now, but not that long ago. I am talking about the seventies and eighties when it was the venue. I must just say that as the LGBT venue it was never publicised, that night was never publicised. Back then we just couldn’t, it was just not safe enough for people to make it public that there was an LGBT night there and I know from my personal experience when I was very young, I would think about going to this night that I had heard about, but I was too scared to go in, like many people apparently. They walked past or drove past but never went in because back then, I am only talking about the seventies, police would raid clubs like that. We’d fear that our names would be printed in newspapers, so it was just not a safe time for LGBT people but as the night, as the years went by, the night, it got better and we publicised it. We still banned cameras, so we’ve got no photographic evidence of anything that ever happened in those nights because it was just not done. 


INTERVIEWER 1: So you seeing this object in RAMM’s collections is really quite poignant then. 

PARTICIPANT 1: It really is, yeah. 


INTERVIEWER 1: Because it sparked the telling of this story that so many of us just wouldn’t know about. 

PARTICIPANT 1: You wouldn’t know. No. It was like a secret nightclub and it was just a fantastic place for LGBT people to meet. It was just the biggest secret in Exeter, probably, and then later on it happened that this venue closed and we moved the night across the road. I was still DJing and then I went on to promote it, so I was running it for several years and so in the eighties, across the road, it became a really big LGBTQ+ night in the whole of the South-West and in fact it got to the stage where we had some big acts, really, The Cheeky Girls and lots of big name stars would come along and we’d organise coaches to bring LGBT people from Plymouth and Torquay so that they could come along, so we’d have over 200 people at the night and it was profitable back then and it was a great night, a big success, and so some of the money from that night we funded Intercom, the South-West organisation, so that really helped Intercom in the early years, but also I was going to mention that in the, from ’91 to ’93 – it was still going then – and Justin Fashanu, the footballer, who came out as LGBT, used to play for Torquay United and he used to come along to that night and really felt at ease and really enjoyed it, and he’s the first openly gay footballer and we spoke about the racism and homophobia that he suffered and endured and he just found this night a great escape for him, so it’s really interesting that Exeter’s got that connection with Justin. Sadly no longer with us. But it’s also led me to campaign for equality and diversity and inclusion, so I’ve been doing that a lot since his death, so I’m actively involved in Proud Grecians at Exeter City, Football v Homophobia and other things like Kick It Out and also on the LGBT side, I’m sort of involved in the foundation of Exeter Pride, so that’s kept me really busy, so I’m still involved with that and so we try to stage that annually. Obviously we couldn’t during the pandemic but we did some virtual things, so yes, it’s really inspired me to get really involved in equality, diversity and inclusion, but it all stems back to this venue, down on the quays, so amazing really. 


INTERVIEWER 1: That’s extraordinary. Have you got any sense of what the building’s called? Is it the one that’s now Dr. Ink’s, that’s the-? 

PARTICIPANT 1: I really don’t know what it’s called now. I really don’t know. I should go and have a look- 


INTERVIEWER 1: Well we’ll definitely go and find out- 

PARTICIPANT 1: -because it’s got such strong memories for the LGBT community in Exeter, those senior people, and it seems only, it seemed like it’s not that long ago really, but it shows how far LGBT rights have come since that time and there we were, fearful to even go to the night back then, it was not publicised, like I said, it’s something that young people just really need to be aware, that LGBT rights have been hard fought for and it’s not that long ago that we were too scared to go out and we’re living in a totally different society and we’ve moved so much. Obviously there is still more to do but it’s really interesting that all those things, these memories from this building, are really important to me. 


INTERVIEWER 1: I mean it’s incredible because your story, which has been so integral to all the things that are so positive for LGBTQ people that have happened in the city of Exeter and starting at this building feels like a bit of an origin story, of your story, and the story of a history or a heritage of Exeter’s LGBTQ community as well, so I’m going to deviate from these questions. Do you have any memory of that first night, what it felt like or what it was-? 

PARTICIPANT 1: Oh my goodness, well I was too scared to go in on those first few occasions, I really was. But it was life-changing and put me so much at ease to just go into that building and be with other LGBT people, because you just didn’t really know that many LGBT people and it’s almost life-affirming and it just gives you, you could be your authentic self, I think, you could be your authentic self, and that’s what we all craved for, I think. So that’s why it’s so important and just seeing this image, that John Piper has drawn and painted of that custom house and the building opposite, it’s really important, to me especially, so thank you. 


INTERVIEWER 1: Yeah, well thank you for telling us this. I think you’ve really explored already why this object and what drew you to it, which is one of the questions we are asking, so I’m not going to ask you those because I think that’s just so embedded in what you’ve already said, but the thing, something that has struck me is finding these spaces and being able to be our authentic selves and how you’ve so beautifully articulated the life-affirming moment that you had about when you were able to go in to that building, so that leaves me in terms of the idea of spaces for LGBTQIA+ people and the question of this object, and do you think another LGBTQ person would connect with it? 

PARTICIPANT 1: I am sure there would be many, especially the more senior people, they would remember this venue and would connect with this image of just that building and how important it was in their lives, so isn’t that fascinating, that it’s really important to me and I know it will be important to a lot of LGBT people, just to see that building and say well, that’s where I had that coming out sort of… I was able to be myself at that venue and it was so important in my life at that time, so, yeah. 


INTERVIEWER 1: And I think, well, it’s incredible, whoever’s listening to this interview won’t feel the goosebumps that I’ve got right now listening to Alan and hearing about this very local, on our doorstep, heritage and which is just wonderful that it has come from, you’re kind of recognising that building and the feeling of it. I mean how do you feel about having your voice represented in the museum, Alan? 

PARTICIPANT 1: I’m really excited about it. I mean it’s something that I’ve not really spoken about before so it’s nice to be able to express that, that LGBT people do exist and there’s just this venue and this image, they’ve been the inspiration for so much good for the LGBT community locally and people just don’t realise it, the history behind it, and how things have happened and the work that’s gone on since to make LGBTQ+ rights everything, to make it happen, and it’s become, it’s the inspiration really behind it all. Fascinating. 


INTERVIEWER 1: And so there is a journey, isn’t there, that is also part of your story, from this building, to Exeter Pride today, which inhabits the city, obviously not in pandemic, these past two years that we haven’t been able to take to the streets and celebrate in a way, but can you talk about how that feels to go from that moment, I mean there’s nearly 10,000 people at Pride now! 

PARTICIPANT 1: Yeah, exactly, when I go back to the first Pride that Intercom and myself organised, and I think wow, we did it, and my inspiration for it which I took to it, was just because a comment that somebody made and I thought wow, we need to really just show that there are LGBTQ+ people in Exeter. You can’t just say there are no people like that in the city. You just can’t say that. Which was the comment I heard. And so it’s really inspired me to push to make Exeter Pride happen and so many volunteers and helpers and committee members that we have to be thankful for, but yes, it’s turned into, Exeter Pride’s turned into a huge thing and I’m really proud of it really and I have to go and stand on stage and talk to people and it’s a sea of faces and you think wow, this is from a very small beginnings, it’s turned into the most massive thing, and also Proud Grecians, the LGBTQ+ and allies group that I run at Exeter City Football Club, you know, I’m trustee of a lot of charities as well, but I’m really proud to be active in those areas and it’s all inspired from those early days of trying to work in areas of equality, diversity and inclusion and yeah, it all stems back to that time so many years ago, but- 


INTERVIEWER 1: And well, just to say thank you, for all of that work that you do- 

PARTICIPANT 1: Thank you- 


INTERVIEWER 1: -and the fact that now Exeter Pride is now really part of the city’s annual calendar of events, which- 

PARTICIPANT 1: It is yeah, it’s one of the biggest events in the city. One of the biggest events. And the city council and Devon County Council and others, they really do support it. The city supports it. It’s a great family occasion and it gets the message across and that’s what I really wanted, back then. That yes, LGBTQ people are part of the community. Celebrate that. 


INTERVIEWER 1: Yeah, that’s beautiful. Thank you. I’ve got one more question for you. What do you think is the importance for you of a project like this? The Queering the Museum project that we’re doing. 

PARTICIPANT 1: I think that this type of project is really important, because those details of the history of the LGBTQ+ community would just be lost. Those bits of information that young people today don’t really realise and young people, I sound like an old fogey, but young people need to realise that it’s really important to their lives today because those LGBT rights were really hard fought for, so they just need to understand that it’s been tough for a lot of people to get through that and some people have stood up and protested or written letters or campaigned or just been there to show their support for LGBTQ+ people and it’s led to changes in the world, really, and it is that act of joining together to campaign against things or for things that does make a difference, so I’d just like everybody to realise that their contribution is really important. Just one person’s contribution and those lots of individual people, those contributions really do have benefits, so yeah, it’s great that it all comes together. 


INTERVIEWER 1: Thank you. I mean that’s wonderful. And I just want to give you the opportunity, if there’s anything that you haven’t talked about that you think, oh, I wish I’d talked about that or there’s just anything that you would like to say to just finish the- 

PARTICIPANT 1: I’m just really proud that you’re doing this, this project, really, I just think that having this, is just going to maintain that memory and hopefully it will inspire other people to do some work in the future and to campaign and carry on to make sure that everybody has the chance to be their authentic selves. That’s what we all want. 


INTERVIEWER 1: Thank you. That’s wonderful. Thank you so much. 

[00:19:28] End of transcript