1967 Sexual Offences Act – 50 years on
Commemorating LGBT life since the Act and Celebrating British LGBT Writing, 1967-2017
at the National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff Bay, The Old Debating Chamber, 6.30 pm – 8 pm, 21 November 2017
Introduction by Andrew White – Stonewall Cymru’s Director
Main speaker – Dr Andrew Blades, University of Bristol
Lisa Power MBE Rapporteur
In 1967 the Sexual Offences Act was introduced by the reforming Welsh Labour MP Leo Abse. The Act was a milestone measure on the road to giving LGBT citizens in the UK similar rights in their private activities to the rest of the UK citizens. As part of the reflection of the importance of this Act, Gorwel in conjunction with Stonewall Cymru are holding an event to reflect on change in literary and general life since 1967.
Dr Andrew Blades will examine the evolution of British LGBT writing in this commemorative event. In 1971, E.M. Forster’s novel Maurice was finally published. In 1914, when it was written, only private circulation was possible; a love story between two men would have incriminated its author. By the 1970s, homosexual acts between men had been decriminalised in England and Wales, beginning a journey towards public understanding and acceptance of gay men, lesbian and bisexual people, trans people, and those who identify as genderfluid, nonbinary or queer. Where previously writers and readers had looked for coded signs in the canonical literary tradition, from Plato to Shakespeare, Sappho to Woolf, now the possibility of an alternative or anti-tradition began to emerge, one which might be capacious enough to include a whole range of non-heteronormative and non-cisnormative narratives. From today’s vantage, Forster’s novel seems truly anachronistic, a vision of an altogether different time and different values.
This talk looks back over the last fifty years of British LGBTQ+ writing, and considers what kind of ‘tradition’ of writing has been established since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, as well as thinking about whether such ideas of tradition are helpful or constructive in charting the myriad experiences of LGBTQ+ people in the UK today. It considers key genres of writing – memoir, fiction, poetry, drama – and evaluates their role in representing, documenting and facilitating the multiplicity of non-hetero and non-cisnormative lives lived through the last half century. A complicated and fascinating picture emerges of a literature continually evolving in an effort to understand and track social and cultural change.
At the conclusion of Andrew’s talk, Lisa Power, will offer some reflections and add her own observations.
Stonewall Cymru’s Director, Andrew, has a background in the private and public sectors having developed the business of global advertising and communications company TMP Worldwide in Wales, before moving to head up the Health and Voluntary Sector Team at the Welsh Language Board. Here he conducted three major investigations and produced statutory Recruitment Guidance, he also held the equality and human rights brief.
He joined Stonewall Cymru in November 2010 and was immediately involved in successful lobbying the Welsh Government to amend the Wales Public Sector Equality Duties to be more inclusive of sexual orientation. He leads a team working across Wales in areas including workplace, public affairs, education and the Information Service.
Dr Andrew Blades
Andrew Blades is Lecturer in English at the University of Bristol. He is currently writing a monograph for the Oxford University Press, Reassessing American AIDS Literature, which reconsiders the work of key poets during the first wave of the epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s; an article on John Weir’s AIDS fiction appeared in Studies in American Fiction earlier this year. Andrew has also published a survey book, Twentieth Century American Literature (Longman, 2011), and is editing a collection for Liverpool University Press, Poetry and the Dictionary (publication due 2018). He has taught twentieth-century literature widely, both at Bristol since 2014, and at Bath Spa University and the University of Oxford from 2005 onwards.
Lisa Power MBE
Lisa has been a gay (now LGBT+) activist, writer and historian since the mid-1970s. She helped set up Stonewall, was the first openly lesbian/gay person to speak at the UN in 1991, spent 14 years with Gay Switchboard and 18 with Terrence Higgins Trust, latterly as Policy Director. She currently consults for Pride Cymru on LGBT History Month and states that she is rapidly becoming a ‘historical artifact herself’
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