'Emotional' AIDS Memorial Quilt exhibited in Weston this week

The UK AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Winter Gardens. Pictures: Charlie Williams.

The UK AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Winter Gardens. Pictures: Charlie Williams. - Credit: Archant

The world-famous UK AIDS Memorial Quilt was hosted in Weston this week in its first exhibition outside of London in 15 years. 

First stitched in 1987 by the family, friends and loved ones of those who lost their lives to the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s and 1990s, the 'powerfully emotive' piece immortalises almost 400 victims of the disease. 

UK AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Winter Gardens, Weston.

UK AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Winter Gardens, Weston. - Credit: Archant

North Somerset LGBT+ Forum has worked in collaboration with the quilts curators, UK AIDS Memorial Quilt Conservation Partnership, to bring the memorial to the Winter Gardens this week. 

Its last exhibition was held in the capital last year, but usually the quilt remains in storage making this weeks display at Weston a rare event. 

The quilt is comprised of 48 twelve by twelve foot panels, each made of eight individual sheets. 

UK AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Winter Gardens, Weston.

UK AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Winter Gardens, Weston. - Credit: Archant

According to the sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, the true number of deaths in the UK relating to HIV and AIDS during its peak in the 1980s and 1990s is hard to quantify, but estimates remain in the 'tens of thousands'. 

UK AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Winter Gardens, Weston.

UK AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Winter Gardens, Weston. - Credit: Archant

UK AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Winter Gardens, Weston.

UK AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Winter Gardens, Weston. - Credit: Archant

Today the disease is no longer a death sentence for sufferers, with the HIV/AIDS mortality rate on a steady decline in the UK.

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LGBT+ Forum trustee, Dave Frost, said: "We're very grateful to help display the quilt in Weston to demonstrate the true scale of loss suffered in the community almost 40 years ago.

"People were extremely scared to go out and live their normal lives when the epidemic hit, and seeing the quilt now shows just how far we've come since the crisis.

"Only 383 people have their names woven into this quilt which is nowhere near a representative example of all those who tragically died."

The North Somerset LGBT+ Forum is a community group first set up in 2014 to help deliver the Weston Pride festival held annually at Grove Park.

Its work includes providing 'help, support and advice' to all members of the community who not only struggle with their sexuality, but also those who want to support friends and family.  

UK AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Winter Gardens, Weston.

UK AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Winter Gardens, Weston. - Credit: Archant

The charity says its work extends beyond the LGBTQIA group and serves the community of Weston as a whole. 

Steve Winter-Gray said: "Here at the forum, we don't just help people find themselves, we work alongside our local partners to provide a platform for LGBT+ voices through activities, drop-in sessions and social activities.

"We want to make North Somerset the most welcoming space in the UK because unfortunately the stigma which was common in the 1980s is still about and we need to change that."

The forum can be found on Meadow Street to use as a café, drop-in session or receive advice.

UK AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Winter Gardens, Weston.

UK AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Winter Gardens, Weston. - Credit: Archant