8th April 2023
Alison Child did a talk about Gwen and Norah at a wonderful exhibition, in Gloucester, of photographs by Dorothy Wilding. Gwen and Norah were friends of Wilding and it was she who took the picture that adorns the cover of 'Tell Me I'm Forgiven: The Story of Forgotten Stars Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney'.
The Exhibition was organised by 100 Heroines, the only UK-based charity focussed on women in photography, celebrating past, present and future photographers.
12th February 2023
Our performance on Sunday 12th February at the fabulous LGBTQ History Month LezDiff event at the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff represented the completion of our quartet of UK capitals. We’ve now brought #GwenandNorah to Cardiff, Belfast, Edinburgh & London, touring Britain almost as widely as Blaney & Farrar themselves!
Effingham Local History Group presents an exhibition on how the village changed after 1920. Its grand houses were repurposed while untouched areas were opened up to development. We will look at how these large family residences took on new roles; for example the schools that were founded in the village, and the establishment of Effingham Golf Club.
Alongside an influx of the well-to-do came many fascinating artists and entertainers. Internationally famous performers like Teddie Gerard, Gwen Farrar, Yvonne Arnaud and Desmond Tester all lived in Effingham during this time. We will also tell the story of Eileen Ascroft, and her role in setting up the Seven Souls in Search of Sanctuary social experiment in Effingham for the Daily Mirror. There will also be displays on John Sargrove and his Primitive Methodists, who established the world’s first automated production line in the old village hall.
The Exhibition’s title “All Sorts of Peculiar Things” is taken from a comment made by Lena Bridger, an Effingham resident who witnessed the antics of some of these celebrities, and it serves as a restrained but acute observation on a time of great changes in the village.
This will be an Online Exhibition with recorded presentations and much more available here:
from Heritage Open Day
Poster designed by Laura Frost
SOME PAST EVENTS
Monday 24th February Irma's Café and Bistro, Lewes 7.30p.m.
Thursday 27th February Max Miller Society, Queens Hotel, Brighton
Saturday 7th March 2020 Book Launch Party Effingham Golf Club, 7.30p.m.
Sunday 8th March Sappho Singing and Maureen Duffy Q+A with Clare Summerskill at the Coronet Notting Hill 6.00pm and 8.00pm
Friday 13th March Older and Out, Brighton
Saturday 14th March Belfast LGBTQ+ History Month PRONI Building, Titanic Quarter
We're planning some wonderful events to celebrate forgotten variety stars Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney in the places they lived and worked. 2020 will see Behind The Lines touring to Bradford, St Austell and Effingham to engage with local communities in creating some sensational 1920s and 30s themed theatrical happenings. Watch this space.
The book 'Tell Me I'm Forgiven:The Story of Forgotten Stars Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney' is available here.
Gwen & Norah
The true story of England's first great female double act.
Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney were stars in the 1920s, singing the popular love songs of the day to each other on stage and recording the hit song of 1924. They topped the bill at the Coliseum, the Palladium, the Alhambra and the Victoria Palace as well as music halls up and down the country. Separately, Gwen toured with the legendary popular pianist Billy Mayerl while Norah starred in the original London production of The Vagabond King. Together they barely disguised the secret of their lesbian partnership which was to endure across three decades against all the odds.
“I adored this lovely, moving story, so well researched, such amazing photos. Lesbian passion-skilfully evoked in the 1920s showbiz milieu. Wish I’d been there!”
Miriam Margolyes, Actor Harry Potter, Call The Midwife
"A perfect match between biographer and subject. Alison Child does this wonderful duo proud."
Diana Souhami, author Gluck, The Trials of Radclyffe Hall, Wild Girls.
“Alison Child plunges the reader into the fascinating world of Norah Blaney and Gwen Farrar: English stars of revue and silent screen. It’s a story of showbiz chemistry and lesbian love. Historians of sexuality will be grateful to Child - as well as lovers of theatre and cinema. I am very grateful to her for introducing me to these amazing women!”
Peter Bradshaw, Film Critic, Author Night of Triumph
"A lively, racy tale of two top-notch celebrities in their day, thoroughly researched, with stunning photographs. A vital read for anyone interested in British lesbian history.” Jill Gardiner, authorFrom the Closet to the Screen: Women at the Gateways Club, 1945-1985
"A skilfully-researched evocation of a world in which being queer is ordinary, and the story is told in a voice to match. A riveting read. It brings a fascinating perspective to the 20C, reversing so many historical presumptions about what is significant, mainstream and familiar."
Professor Sarah Lloyd Director: Everyday Lives in War, First World War Engagement Centre
"A fascinating and moving story, and the depth and detail of the research are awe-inspiring! This book puts an important missing piece into the jigsaw of lesbian history."
Dr Jane Traies, author Now You See Me
"This a truly wonderful book. Written with such easy authority and charm. Two women of shining talent who were partners on stage and off. The whole world of smart Bohemian London, theatres and
Halls as well as lesbian life is so vividly and perceptively conveyed. And sumptuously illustrated too. As a child in a house shared by two women, where Gwen was an almost daily subject of
conversation (and whose photograph stood on a bookshelf,) and tea with Norah (clever, funny and full of tricks) was a fairly frequent treat, I know this book is true in fact and spirit to a
forgotten age. As important to an explorer of queer history as to the lover of theatre and music hall."
Charles Duff, author of The Lost Summer, the Heyday of the West End Theatre and Charley’s Woods, Sex, Sorrow and a Spiritual Quest in Snowdonia.