Independent Theatre Consultancy
It all started walking the dog in the park...
Jez Dolan and David Martin who make up Initiative Arts were discussing the 1967 Sexual Offences Act (like you do) which partially decriminalised sex between men. Partially decriminalised it because you still had to be above the age of 21, be in private, and not actually solicit attention. When this legislation came into force, prosecutions for same sex activity actually increased, rather than heralding a more tolerant attitude: what was this like to experience?
A casual question that came out of the discussion was “if you were - say - 20 years old in 1967, how old would you be now?” A simple calculation showed that there was probably a wealth of untold stories out there that would certainly disappear for good during the next few years, unless they were recorded and saved. People whose early experiences of their identity in the early ‘60s, when sexual activity between men was illegal and could result in blackmail are now in their eighties. The experience of working-class people and people of colour is virtually invisible; what narrative we do have tends to come from the highly educated middle and upper classes.
This conversation led to Legacy of ’67 - an oral history and arts project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. We reveal people’s experiences at the time of the 1967 act and looks at its the legacy over the rest of the century and beyond: a time of enormous changes in the public perception of LGBTQ+ people.
Dolan and Martin have recruited 20 volunteers, who have been trained in oral history techniques with the support of the Oral History Society and they are currently conducting one-to-one interviews with older LGBTQ+ people across the Northwest. These participants’ stories are recorded, indexed, and donated to the public sound archive. The volunteers have spoken to a wide range of people and have heard about activism in the ‘70s and 80’s, confrontation with immigration officials, and brushes with the law.
The company will continue to recruit volunteers and participants until December, adding to this fascinating portfolio of testimony. They will then use their experience as creators and producers working within the theatre and visual arts to tell the stories to a wider audience (see Staging Oral History (3min)). In the New Year they will mount another exhibition of original art and will produce new play commissioned from Joshua Val Martin, inspired by the material. The oral history collected will also inform a LGBTQ+ walking tour and the project will culminate in a symposium in May.