National Lesbian and Gay Survey

Scope and Content

Volunteer writers' responses to directives from the Survey.

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1986, Kenneth Barrow, inspired by his membership of the writing panel for Mass Observation, launched a Mass-Observation-style project to collect autobiographical reports from gay men and women. The Survey's aim was archival: to gather material which would enable researchers of the future to understand what it meant to live as a homosexual in the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries. A quarterly directive suggests areas which participants should address. Responses have documented personal stories related to coming out, homosexuality and the law, and the impact of HIV and AIDS. Copies of the responses are deposited with the Mass-Observation Archive. The Directors (in 2002) are Kerry Sutton Spence (women) and Jerome Farrell (men). A history of the Survey may be found at

Access Information

The collection is open to all bona fide researchers, by appointment only, telephone or email a week in advance of your intended visit. Researchers must abide by the conditions protecting the collection.

Acquisition Information

Donated by the National Lesbian and Gay Survey to the Mass-Observation Archive Trust which has deposited the collection with the University of Sussex, from 1990 onwards.


Prepared by John Farrant, September 2002.

Other Finding Aids


Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction conditions vary. Please consult the Head of Special Collections.


Further folders of material continue to be received.


The material collected by the Survey has been used in two anthologies: What a lesbian looks like: Writings by lesbians on their lives and lifestyles (London: Routledge, 1992) and Proust, Cole Porter, Michelangelo, Marc Almond and me: Writings by gay men on their lives and lifestyles (London: Routledge, 1993).