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Rainbow plaque

The Rainbow Plaque programme is a UK system installing commemorative plaques to highlight significant people, places and moments in LGBTQIA+ history. Emulating established UK blue plaque programmes run by English Heritage, local authorities and other bodies, the first permanent rainbow plaque (a blue circular plaque with six rainbow colours around the circumference) was unveiled in York in July 2018. Some UK LGBT locations are denoted by pink plaques, an idea that predated rainbow plaques.


Rainbow plaque outside Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York, dedicated to Anne Lister and Ann Walker

The rainbow plaque programme was initiated in 2018 by York Civic Trust and the York LGBT Forum to honour lesbian diarist Anne Lister (1791–1840) and her partner Ann Walker, with the first version of a plaque unveiled on 24 July 2018,[1] replaced with amended wording including the word 'lesbian' in February 2019.[2][3] Temporary cardboard plaques were also placed on key sites during LGBT pride campaigns in York in 2018 and Leeds in 2019.[4][5]

The permanent plaque initiative then extended nationally through the Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum and Studio Voltaire, unveiling permanent plaques for Oscar Wilde at Clapham Junction railway station on 24 July 2019,[6] and for the 1985 film My Beautiful Laundrette on Wilcox Road in South Lambeth on 10 September 2021.[7] A rainbow plaque was also unveiled in Burnley on 30 July 2021 marking the 50th anniversary of a meeting of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality held at Burnley Library.[8]

In 2023, five further rainbow plaques were announced for London, supported by the Mayor of London's Untold Stories Fund and Wandsworth Oasis.[9][10]

  • Greenwich Tavern - Then a well-known gay bar, the Gloucester Arms (today the Greenwich Tavern) in Greenwich was the location of a key scene in the 1996 film Beautiful Thing which was set and filmed in Thamesmead and Greenwich in southeast London.[9][10][11] The plaque was unveiled at the Greenwich Tavern on 23 July 2023.[12]
  • Black Lesbian and Gay Centre - Originally established in Haringey in 1985,[13] the centre moved to a converted railway arch in Peckham in 1992.[13][3]
  • Jackie Forster - Jackie Forster (1926–1998) was a journalist, writer and lesbian rights activist who joined the Minorities Research Group and wrote for the UK's first lesbian publication Arena Three. She later set up the magazine and social group, Sappho.[3]
  • London Lighthouse - Founded in 1986 and based in Ladbroke Grove, the London Lighthouse was a centre and hospice for people with HIV/AIDS.[3]
  • Haringey Council - Haringey was a pioneer in the LGBTQIA+ rights movement in the 1980s, establishing a Lesbian and Gay Unit in 1986, while the local Positive Images group - formed to increase lesbian and gay visibility - was established in the same year.[3]

Pink plaques

Predating rainbow plaques, pink triangle plaque memorials have memorialised gay people killed in the Holocaust and victims of anti-gay violence. In the UK, the idea of pink plaques to more generally commemorate and celebrate LGBT heritage was promoted in a 1986 book, The Pink Plaque Guide to London, written by Michael Elliman and Frederick Roll and published by Gay Men's Press.[14] Pink plaques were also discussed in Brighton in 2006,[15] and a mobile phone app was later (2020) created to guide users to Brighton pink plaque locations.[16]

Pink plaques have been unveiled in some UK locations to celebrate LGBT heritage. For example, the first pink plaque in Nottingham was unveiled at the New Foresters, a popular gay bar on St Ann's Street, on 17 September 2021.[17] On 19 September 2021, a pink plaque commemorating Mary Wollstonecraft was due to be unveiled in Islington, London, near to a girls’ school she established in 1784, with plaques at other Islington locations to follow.[18]


  1. ^ "Anne Lister: Plaque wording to change after 'lesbian' row". BBC News. 3 September 2018. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
  2. ^ "Anne Lister: Reworded York plaque for 'first lesbian'". BBC News. 28 February 2019. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Rainbow Plaques". Studio Voltaire. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
  4. ^ Heyam, Kit. "Rainbow Plaques: Making Queer History Visible". Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
  5. ^ "#RainbowPlaques project". Queerology. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
  6. ^ Krause, Riley (24 July 2019). "Permanent Rainbow Plaque dedicated to Oscar Wilde unveiled at Clapham Junction". Wandsworth Times. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
  7. ^ "Rainbow Plaque: My Beautiful Laundrette". Studio Voltaire. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
  8. ^ Jacobs, Bill (29 July 2021). "Landmark Burnley gay meeting to be commemorated". Lancashire Telegraph. Retrieved 1 August 2023.
  9. ^ a b "London Pride 2023: Five rainbow plaques to be installed across London". BBC News. 29 June 2023. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  10. ^ a b Perry, Sophie (29 June 2023). "Five rainbow plaques to be installed across London to mark Pride Month". Pink News. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  11. ^ "Beautiful Thing: filming and locations". IMDB. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  12. ^ Nunn, Gary (22 July 2023). "The first gay pub I dared set foot in now has a rainbow plaque. Here's why that matters". Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  13. ^ a b "Black Lesbian and Gay Centre". Bishopsgate Institute. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
  14. ^ "The Pink Plaque Guide to London". Amazon. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
  15. ^ "'Pink plaques' call for Brighton". BBC News. 7 February 2006. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
  16. ^ Prager, Sarah (18 August 2020). "This Queerantine Was Made For Walking: 10 Self-Guided Tours Of Hidden LGBTQ+ Past". GoMag. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
  17. ^ Zagnat, Olimpia (17 September 2021). "Nottingham's first LGBTQ+ pink plaque unveiled at city's oldest gay bar". NottinghamshireLive. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
  18. ^ Chapman, Helen (13 August 2021). "Pink plaque for hidden history of feminist Wollstonecraft". Islington Tribune. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
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Rainbow plaque
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