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Ashley April project tracks UK trans lives over past 70 years

Exhibition on transgender rights pioneer, actress and Vogue model April Ashley will be culmination of £250,000 study of British trans people

Ashley April project tracks UK trans lives over past 70 years

A project which aims to chart the lives of transgender people living in the UK over the last 70 years will be launched today (27 July).

The £250,000 project, run by Liverpool-based LGBT organization Homotopia from July until December 2014, will feature workshops and opportunities for members of the transgender community to share their own experience, culminating in a major exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool.

The exhibition will use April’s personal collection of documents, photographs, letters, newspaper cuttings and television clips to chart her journey from George Jamieson born in Pitt Street, Liverpool in 1935 through her early career at sea with John Prescott, to cabaret performer for Einstein and Dali.

It will also cover her life-threatening gender reassignment surgery in 1960 as well as her career as an actress starring alongside Bob Hope, friendships with actors Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif, becoming a Vogue model and marriage to a future peer of the realm.

Ashley is known as the first Brit to be outed as trans in 1961 and more recently, the 77-year-old has been at the forefront of transgender equality campaigning, winning her a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) honor from the Queen this year.

‘This is a project of national significance charting the shifting social attitudes towards gender and sexuality using personal effects from April’s archive,’ said Homotopia director Gary Everett.

‘Over half a million people will enjoy the final exhibition thanks to our collaboration with the Museum of Liverpool.

‘We are looking to capture the memories of trans, lesbian, gay and heterosexual people who remember April and can tell us of their experiences and of the impact they perceive April to have had on the movement from marginalisation and prejudice towards equality.’

Ashley says she is ‘very flattered’ that there will be an exhibition based on her life.

She said: ‘This is already a special year for me as I am to receive an MBE this autumn for my work campaigning for transgendered rights.’

The April Ashley exhibition will open in October 2013.

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