I am interested in how histories they are made and preserved, and the politics of who gets remembered and why. I have created and been involved with several projects in this vein.
This is my own personal archive of DIY culture, fat activism, queer, trans and poly lives in East London. It is based on 30+years of cultural work as well as personal papers, documents and audio-visual material. I hope to begin making it public soon with a dedicated website.
Sometimes my interest in histories is expressed in life stories and personal writing, such as this piece for The Guardian about my family, MI6, the state, surveillance, secrets, snooping, class, gender and being queer.
Cooper, C. (2017) ‘A moment that changed me: finding out at 15 that Dad was a spy’, The Guardian. [online] London. Available: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/16/moment-that-changed-me-finding-out-dad-was-spy
I have instigated and contributed to a number of projects concerning fat, feminist, queer and trans identity.
Before Stonewall Oral History Project (2003)
As an oral history worker, I was employed to record the life stories of older lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people on video for a major national archive. Find out more about Before Stonewall
A Queer and Trans Fat Activist Timeline (2010-present)
Most people are unaware that there are long and rich traditions associated with fat activism. This project recorded and developed community-based fat activist histories. Find out more about A Queer and Trans Fat Activist Timeline
Olympic Legacy Walks in E15 (2012-present)
These draw on my knowledge as a sociologist and long-term resident of E15, I facilitate guided history walks around Stratford and offer a critical understanding of the effects on communities of mega-events such as the Olympics. These walks are designed to enable people to engage with the inconsistencies between official rhetoric and lived reality of the Games and their aftermath. Recent participants include students from Liverpool John Moores University.
Stewart’s Paintings (2013)
Stewart’s Paintings is a web project that is based on my friendship with Stewart Irwin, who I met whilst working on Before Stonewall. Stewart died in 2012, and I became the custodian of 20 paintings that he produced circa 1986-2006. These paintings are what remained after friends and family took what they wanted from his larger body of work. I grappled with questions about archiving and distributing the art, and eventually decided to distribute them for free amongst queer people in the UK as a means of generating ideas about intergenerational queer kinship and inheritance. Stewart’s Paintings, launched in 2013, documents this process, and serves as a digital archive for the images.
A Walk Around Fat Activist London (2016)
Emma Thatcher and I made a video to support my book Fat Activism: A Radical Social Movement. A Walk Around Fat Activist London takes viewers on a whirlwind trip around some of the capital’s hidden fat activist landmarks.