Pride of Great Yarmouth

An exploration and celebration by Yarmouth’s young of the town’s recent and not-so-recent LGBTQ+ history

Luke at Great Yarmouth Pride (2019) by Young Communicators YarmouthTime and Tide Museum

Who are we?

We are a small group of young communicators working with Kick the Dust, a four-year project across Norfolk that is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The main goal of Kick the Dust is to get more young people involved in every part of the exhibition process; from creating content, collections management and the technicalities of designing. Our members have all had the opportunity to explore their areas of interest and have been faced with a few challenges, including the unexpected Covid-19 situation, to which we have adapted well to. 

Pride Flag (2019) by Young Communicators YarmouthTime and Tide Museum

We decided to create an exhibition of our own for the celebration of Pride month. Our exhibition takes objects, from Time and Tide Museums collections, which we feel tie in well with what we wish to portray. As well as these objects, we present photography taken at Great Yarmouth’s first ever Pride Parade in 2019

Great Yarmouth Pride (2019) by Young Communicators YarmouthTime and Tide Museum

We also include a time-lapse make up tutorial by another member, research into the history of Pride and why it has become so importance in the last few decades.

Coconut seahorse-mermaid (1792)Time and Tide Museum

Carved Coconut

This side of the coconut shows an interpretation of a seahorse in a literal way: a half-horse, half-fish hybrid. Greek mythology tells that this half-horse, half-fish creature - known as the Hippocampus -supposedly pulled Poseidon’s chariot. The Ancient Greeks considered seahorses to be a symbol of strength and power and sailors around the world have long viewed the seahorse as a good luck charm. Seahorses could be symbolic of breaking traditional human gender roles. In nature, the male seahorse carries and gives birth to the young. This contrasts our own stereotypical gender roles; women have traditionally been depicted as the primary caregivers. This could be interpreted to show how lines between gender roles can be blurred; encouraging us to break free from stereotype.

Scrimshaw whale toothTime and Tide Museum

Whale Tooth Scrimshaw

Today, many people recognise the sailor as a gay icon. Men at sea were in proximity for long periods of time. Meaning there was an increased opportunity for sailors to explore physical connections with one another, even those who usually considered themselves heterosexual. For sailors who did not usually consider themselves straight, the seas also provided a welcome escape from the heteronormative mainland - a place where they could safely express and explore their sexuality.  This is further represented in the works of Jean Genet, Thomas Mann and, most famously, Tom of Finland, and can even be seen in the effeminate presentation of our very own carved sailor.

Viloet CardTime and Tide Museum

Embroidered Cards

In order to avoid persecution, secret symbols have long been used by the LGBTQ+ community to discreetly communicate. Violets, just like the ones on these cards, have historically been used by lesbian and bisexual women. It can be traced back to the Ancient Greek poet Sappho who frequently describes a female lover adorned with garlands or crowns of violets in several her poems. Shakespeare also acknowledges the significance of the violet in the form of Twelfth Night’s Viola; the infamous cross-dresser who Olivia falls in love with. Édouard Bourdet again uses a bouquet of violets to represent lesbian love in his play La Prisonnière in 1926, which was then censored in Paris. In response to this, lesbian women wore violets in an act of silent protest and comradely.  

Violet CardTime and Tide Museum

In the context of this card, the violets and purple colouring could represent recognition and validation of the sexuality of either the sender, receiver, or both. Without knowing who sent or received these cards, it’s possible they were tokens of an LGBTQ+ relationship, challenging the heteronormative view of assumed straight-ness, museum objects have been treated with in the past.

Binder PackagingTime and Tide Museum


Throughout history, what is perceived to be the ‘ideal’ body type has drastically changed and fluctuated. In the Victorian era, corsets became popular for women to create the appearance of a small waist and an elevated, separated chest. In the 1920s, as young people sought to rebel from traditional constraints and the accompanying appearance, flappers (among others) bound and flattened their chests. This abdominal binder, from Yarmouth’s own Grouts Textile Factory, was designed to tighten the waist to create an hourglass figure. Today, binders are most commonly used by some transgender men and gender non-conforming people to conceal breasts and breast development, and help the wearer appear more physically masculine and match how they identify on the inside. 

Decorative art metalwork (1617/1618) by Unknown by usTime and Tide Museum


We’ve long been fascinated by mermaids. This mermaid-covered ewer from Norwich Castle dates from 1617, while writer Hans Christian Andersen wrote “The Little Mermaid” almost 200 years ago. Jens Andersen suggests in her novel the writer was either gay or bisexual - his fairy tales, allegories for his personal struggles. Andersen wrote the story after sending love letters to Edvard Collin - who rejected him. When the little mermaid turns into a human, every step she takes is like “walking on knives”. Perhaps, like the mermaid pretending to be human, this describes Andersen’s torment at hiding his true identity. Andersen says mermaids do not have immortal souls like humans. Maybe this is another allegory - in the 19th century, homosexuality was considered a sin. Turning into sea foam at the end of the story, she is given hope that she too can live on through acts of kindness.

While Andersen focused on the tragic elements of the mermaid, we can look at how mermaids are a liberating symbol for the LGBTQ+ community today. For the transgender community, the mermaid is an important symbol because of their ability to transform and because their tails mean that they can’t be defined by their genitalia. The charity that supports young transgender people is even called Mermaids! This symbol has always been intertwined with maritime history, and indeed, Great Yarmouth’s - the town’s coat of arms is a half-lion, half-fish. 

Adam's Makeup look. (2020) by young communicators yarmouthTime and Tide Museum

Make-Up and Drag

Explore the ways in which Great Yarmouth locals celebrate Pride. 

Young Communicator Adam doing his Makeup by Young Communicators YarmouthTime and Tide Museum

Adam at Great Yarmouth Pride (2019) by Young Communicators YarmouthTime and Tide Museum

Interview with Kyle Hussey ,Charlie Orriss and Young Communicators. (2020-05-27) by Young communicators yarmouthTime and Tide Museum

Great Yarmouth Pride (2019-06-29) by Young Communicators YarmouthTime and Tide Museum

Great Yarmouth Pride (2019) by Young Communicators YarmouthTime and Tide Museum

Find out more from the Time and Tide Museum collection here 

Credits: Story

Curated by Young Communicators Yarmouth, associated with Kick the Dust. 

Photography by young communicators; Luke Ford-Busson. Sharna Ford-Busson. Adelmo Ricardo Calipe Fonseca. 

Graphics by young communicator; Sharna Ford-Busson. 

Object information by young communicator; Lorna Hatch. Mermaid text written by young communicator; Hollie Paine.  

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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