National Lesbian and Gay Survey

In 1986, Kenneth Barrow, inspired by his membership of the Mass Observation Project, launched a Mass Observation-style project to collect autobiographical reports from gay men and women. The Survey’s aim was to gather material that would enable researchers to understand what it meant to be a homosexual in the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first century.

Two books have been published from the collection: What a Lesbian Looks Like: Writings by Lesbians on Their Lives and Lifestyles (Routledge, 1992) and Proust, Cole Porter, Michelangelo, Marc Almond and Me: Writings by Gay Men on Their Lives and Lifestyles (Routledge, 1993)

A quarterly Directive suggests areas that participants should address. Responses have documented personal stories related to coming out, homosexuality and the law, and the impact of HIV and AIDS. Other Directives asked the participants to write about historical or political subjects, such as: the general election and the death of Princess Diana.

Copies of the responses are deposited with the Mass Observation Archive in 2002 by the then Directors, Kerry Sutton Spence (Director of the women’s project) and Jerome Farrell (Director of the men’s).

In 2004 the directors of the NLGS Jerome Farrell and Kerry Sutton-Spence decided to draw the project to a close. The remainder of the collection was donated to the Mass Observation Archive in May 2004.

More information about this collection can be found at the Mass Observation Archive website.

The Mass Observation Archive

The Archive preserves the papers of the original Mass Observation movement and current Mass Observation Project and makes them publicly available, as part of the University of Sussex’s Special Collections at the The Keep.

The Archive is a Charitable Trust in the care of the University of Sussex. Lord Asa Briggs who, as Vice-Chancellor of the University in 1970, was responsible for bringing the collection to Sussex and opening it up as a public resource for historical research.

The Archive values the importance of capturing and using records of everyday life. At the heart of its work is safeguarding these records for inspiring learning and research and ensuring they continue to be made available for future generations.

Visit the Mass Observation Archive website

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