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In the early 1980s, officers from HM Customs raided Gay’s the Word bookshop, Bloomsbury, seizing over 140 titles and charging staff with conspiracy to import so-called ‘indecent or obscene’ material. Using the Haud Nominandum collection at Senate House Library -- the personal library of Gay’s the Word director Jonathan Cutbill -- this workshop invites participants to take a closer look at copies of these seized books and to consider some of the many different ways they might be read today. 

Participants will be invited to take part in a handling session using a selection of the books seized in the raids, followed by a participatory exercise on using oral history as a method to gather histories of reading. The workshop will close with a gentle introduction to reading these texts with digital tools.

There will be a 30 minute break halfway through the workshop.

Accessibility features: Accessible toilets, Assistance dogs welcome, Pushchair/pram friendly, Seating, Step-free access, Wheelchair accessible. Please contact the organiser regarding specific access requirements.

This event is part of Being Human Festival, the UK’s national festival of the humanities, taking place 9–18 November 2023. Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, with generous support from Research England, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. For further information please see

Senate House Library is a member of the Queer Heritage and Collections Network.

All welcome

This event is free to attend, but booking is required.