It was with much sadness that the Calgary Gay History Project learned Neil Richards of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan passed away last month at the age of 68. Neil was dogged in the preservation of gay history in his Province. A consummate collector he amassed one of the most extensive LGBTQ collections in the country – over 6000 book titles, including ephemera, artefacts, and serials that reflect various aspects of queer existence.
Neil Richards from a feature in Bridges Magazine, June 2014 (a Saskatoon Star Phoenix Publication)
I met Neil on a research trip in April 2016. He introduced me to the collection at the University of Saskatchewan accessioned and named after him. He was also very generous with his time. I spent days trawling through his personal papers housed in the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan for references to Calgary’s historic gay community – and there were many. Copies of early Calgary publications included: Carousel Capers, Gay Moods, and Camp 181 newsletters, as well as many details about the CLGRC conference, hosted Calgary in 1980. Even more valuable than the papers were his personal recollections of early gay rights events on the Prairies he actually attended.
Neil seemed bemused by life and laughed easily. We ate many nourishing meals together, and I was surprised at the instant sense of camaraderie we established – queer historian being perhaps a niche corner of human endeavour.
Although he confessed to not having ever spent much time in Calgary, the amount of Calgary materials in his archive collection was a testament to the closeness and cross-pollination between gay communities on the Prairies.
A present from Neil
On my final research day with Neil, I had my suitcase with me, as I was going right from his desk at the University, (which he still occupied – although retired) to the aeroplane. He handed me a going away present: a duplicate of a 1968 pulp fiction novel in the collection – A Queen’s Fury. I treasure it as a gift. Loving the title, I am inspired to be a fierce queer historian, worthy of its name. I cherish it even more now, as it was in pure kindness given, and given to me by Neil.
Rest in peace.
We have new summer reading material, thanks to Neil Richards who gave us a parting gift of a 1968 gay pulp novel, which was a duplicate in their archive. Everyone in Saskatoon during last week’s gay history research trip was exceedingly helpful, and the amount of Calgary materials in these archives are a testament to the closeness and cross-pollination between gay communities on the Prairies.
If you are in Calgary next weekend you should check out the Human RITES conference, an exploration of faith and identity, April 29-May 1. Conference organizer, Pam Rocker, explains that Human RITES was created because of the recognition that religion, in a broader sense, still actively marginalizes LGBTQ people. The conference goal is to create a space where people can discuss religion, identity and sexuality comfortably and respectfully.
Highlights include, an evening with Rae Spoon, singer/songwriter/author, workshops with writer/speaker Brandan Robertson and a reading of ‘oblivion’ by local playwright Jonathan Brower (he also is a researcher & collaborator with the Calgary Gay History Project).
Finally, we are looking forward to our upcoming Beltline Gay History Walk
as part of Jane’s Walks in Calgary on May 7th. Mixing it up, we will have a travelling artist with us during the walk. Bogdan Cheta, will be presenting some of his work, a manifesto has come to light
which was conceived at an artist residency in Calgary’s oldest artist-run centre, The New Gallery.
Art + History = Delicious Event.
Posted in Gay history
Tagged bisexual, Bogdan Cheta, Brandan Robertson, gay, Gay history, Human RITES, Jonathan Brower, lesbian, Neil Richards, Pam Rocker, queer, Rae Spoon, The New Gallery, transgender
We are travelling to Saskatoon and Regina, August 5-9, to do some research in the Neil Richards Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity located at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. Check out this recent CBC article which describes the collection as one of the largest of its kind in the country.
CBC image of a poster in the Neil Richards Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity/U of S Archives.
Not only will be looking for Calgary citations in the collection, but we will also be meeting with Mr. Richards to discuss best practices for setting up our Calgary gay history archive.
Any former Calgarians or visitors to Calgary, who are now living in Saskatchewan, and who may have stories about our LGBTQ history are invited to contact Kevin – we are keen on interviewing you!