A new exhibition celebrating the life and impact of one of the world’s transgender pioneers opens to the public in Liverpool this week.
As part of the city’s RISE programme which celebrates extraordinary women, Uncovering April Ashley’s Archive and Exploring Liverpool’s Trans Lives will launch at Liverpool’s Central Library on Thursday 4 July.
It focuses on the life of Liverpool-born April Ashley MBE, and consists of personal archives donated by April to the city. A model and actress – April was one of the first people in the world to undergo gender reassignment surgery.
On display will be April’s original birth certificate alongside her corrected certificate which she received following the introduction of the Gender Recognition Act in 2004.
There are photos charting her glamorous lifestyle, mixing with celebrities such as Peter O’Toole and Ava Gardner, correspondence with John Prescott following a friendship struck up in the 1950s, along with other artefacts charting her position as one of Vogue’s most popular models. There are also newspaper clippings from when April was outed as a transgender woman by the Sunday People newspaper in 1961, illustrating the prejudice April and many other trans people faced.
The exhibition will also explore the private worlds of gender variant people, including William Seymour – who lived in Liverpool as a woman in the nineteenth century – and will showcase personal items documenting the lives and activism of people and organisations from across Liverpool.
The exhibition runs until Wednesday 25 September and is on the third floor of Central Library.
April Ashley said: “I’m delighted an exhibition has been curated around my personal archive which I donated to the city last year.
“I’m also proud to be part of the RISE season of extraordinary women. Liverpool is an extraordinary city, close to my heart and I am honoured to be included alongside these exceptional women.”
Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for culture, tourism and events, Councillor Wendy Simon, said: “April Ashley’s life-story is truly incredible and her journey has resulted in her, quite rightly, being an inspirational icon.
“When the team began planning the series of RISE events, there was no doubt we wanted April to be involved, so we are delighted that she has worked with us on this new exhibition.
“It will be a fascinating insight not only into the life of this passionate campaigner, but also today’s transgender community and I am sure it will be a hugely popular showcase in Central Library.”
The exhibition has been curated by Liverpool City Council through Central Library and Culture Liverpool, in partnership with Liverpool John Moores University and members of Liverpool’s transgender community.
For the latest information about RISE, visit www.riseliverpool.co.uk, or follow @Rise_Liverpool on Twitter and Instagram.
RISE is funded by Arts Council England. Other partners include the University of Liverpool, Weightmans, The Women’s Organisation, Blackburne House, Northern Power Women, Merseyside Women of the Year, The Girls Network and the Mayoral Club.