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Shrewsbury book collector gifts LGBT ‘legacy’

Shrewsbury book collector gifts LGBT 'legacy'
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Jonathan CutbillImage copyright
Stu Maddux

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Jonathan Cutbill studied natural sciences at Cambridge and was also a keen bird watcher and photographer

An LGBT book collector “passionate about justice” has left his 30,000-piece collection to a university.

Jonathan Cutbill, a founder of Gay’s The Word bookshop in London’s Bloomsbury, died last May aged 82.

His collection, which dates back to 1760, will be moved from his Shrewsbury home to the University of London.

Geoff Hardy, a friend of Mr Cutbill, said the “incredible legacy” featured the history of LGBT issues and the oppression people had faced.

Mr Cutbill’s collection includes novels, pamphlets and newspapers, including all the copies of Gay News, which ran for 11 years.

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The collection includes novels by famous authors

Mr Hardy said his friend of 40 years began collecting in the 1970s, ahead of the bookshop’s opening.

“The idea was to stock the books that other people were not stocking, but also to become a bookshop with the knowledge of LGBTQ history and literature,” he said.

“Not only is it a phenomenal collection dating way back to 1760, it is also catalogued and cross referenced – he was a museum man.”

Mr Cutbill’s obituary in The Guardian, details how the Bloomsbury shop was raided by customs officers in 1984 and Mr Cutbill was among those accused of conspiracy to import obscene material.

Mr Hardy said the raid, in which some books were confiscated, sparked a campaign by publishers and booksellers, who raised money to defend the charges.

They were eventually dropped.

Mr Cutbill had faced prejudice as a gay man and was “most proud” of setting up the shop and how it had changed lives and supported people, Mr Hardy said.

“He was passionate about justice,” he added.

“And not just LGBTQ justice. Justice.”

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One article in the Daily Mirror from 1949 told the story of a soldier who dressed as a woman to perform as a fire eater

Mr Hardy first spotted Mr Cutbill in a military parade in London’s Blackheath.

“In the middle of this military tattoo there are two youngish guys hand-in-hand with hennaed hair swishing their way through and kissing – this is 1976,” he said.

“And I just thought, ‘I have to get to know this man’.”

The collection includes publications such as Mancunian Gay and Gay Midlands and community newspapers.

Mr Hardy said many such publications sprung up in the 1970s and 1980s and included information about groups and meetings and were a “complete lifeline” for gay people who felt isolated.

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Geoff Hardy and Sue Gorbing, of Sand (Safe Ageing No Discrimination) were among Mr Cutbill’s friends

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Mr Cutbill’s collection includes novels, pamphlets and newspapers

Maria Castrillo, head of special collections and engagement at London University’s Senate House Library, said the collection would help fill “fundamental gaps” in LGBT history.

She added the library “recognises the unique qualities of the collection and would like to develop it” and hoped it would be a catalyst for research and community engagement.

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