Activist & researcher’s new book shines much-needed light on Wales’ LGBT history

Press Release


Forbidden Lives is a pioneering exploration of Wales’ ‘lost’ LGBT history which explores and uncovers key social and cultural moments, and tells the fascinating stories of significant LGBT figures, from the twelfth century to the modern day. Many of these stories have never been told before.

 In Forbidden Lives, leading activist and historian Norena Shopland populates LGBT gaps in the history of Wales, a much neglected part of Welsh heritage. Shopland looks at the reasons for this neglect and guides the reader through the activity behind the recent growth of the LGBT profile in Wales. She also surveys LGBT people and their activity as far back as the twelfth century, when Giraldus Cambrensis reported on ‘bearded women’ and hermaphrodites in his Topographia Hiberniae. Her subjects include Edward II and Hugh Despenser, seventeenth century poet Katherine Philips, the Ladies of Llangollen, Henry Paget, artists Gwen John and Cedric Morris, and actor Cliff Gordon.

Shopland also identifies the scientific and legal contributions of John Randell, MPs Desmond Donnelly and Leo Abse, historian AE Dyson and activist Griff Vaughan Williams, who collectively transformed social and legal attitudes towards LGBT people across the whole of Britain, particularly during the post-war period, which helped to create today’s more liberal culture.

Chapters on the responses to Pride in Wales and We All Fall Down, the first gay play in Britain, show there is still more to achieve. But the stories of the people portrayed in this book are less likely to be repeated: the LGBT community has moved from living forbidden lives to a less forbidding place. Norena Shopland’s groundbreaking book helps us comprehend the struggle for these changes.


Contact Rosie Johns for further information and for features, reviews and interviews. / 01656 663018

Notes to Editors:

About Norena Shopland: Norena Shopland has a Master’s degree in heritage studies and has worked for the British Museum, National Museums Scotland, the Museum of London, National Museums Wales, and Cardiff Story Museum among others.
Shopland has extensively researched the heritage of LGBT people and issues in Wales for 15 years. She devised the first project in Wales to look at placing sexual orientation and gender identity into Welsh history, culminating in the Welsh Pride, the first exhibition exclusively on Welsh LGBT people, allies and events. She also managed Gender Fluidity, the first funded transgender project in Wales. She arranged for Gillian Clarke to write the first poem in the world by a national or poet laureate celebrating the LGBT people of a country. Her work has appeared in the Welsh press, radio and TV and she regularly provides advice and support on the history of LGBT people in Wales. She lectures to staff networks from the Welsh Government, to numerous museums, archives, charities and other events such as BiFest, Sparkle, and Aberration.

About Seren: Seren is an independent publisher specialising in English-language writing from Wales. Seren’s wide-ranging list includes poetry, fiction, translation, biography, art and history. Seren’s authors are shortlisted for – and win – major literary prizes across Britain and America.

Publishers of:

2017 Ted Hughes Award Shortlisted: The Immigration Handbook by Caroline Smith

2016 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize Winner: The Art of Falling by Kim Moore

2016 Wales Book of the Year, Non Fiction Category Winner: Losing Israel by Jasmine Donahaye

2016 Cross Sports Book Awards Shortlisted: Dark Mermaids by Anne Lauppe-Dunbar

2015 Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize: Significance by Jo Mazelis

2014 Costa Poetry Awards Prize-Winner: My Family and Other Superheroes by Jonathan Edwards

2014 T S Eliot Shortlisted: Fauverie by Pascale Petit

2014 Wales Book of the Year, Fiction Category Winner: The Rice Paper Diaries by Francesca Rhydderch


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