Together as One Exhibition … Imperial War Museum North … Stockport Pride … 1971 Burnley Meeting


Together as One Exhibition

The exhibition ‘Together As One – A Celebration Of Manchester’s LGBTQIA+ Community’ launches on Thursday, 28 July at 7.00pm at the Refuge, Oxford Street, Manchester M60 7HA, with a free party.

The exhibition features a collection of photographs by Peter J Walsh and Jon Shard capturing two iconic moments in Manchester’s vibrant history – the Clause 28 Demonstration and Flesh at the Haçienda – and runs until 30 September 2022.

Clause 28 Demonstration, Manchester 1988

Clause 28 was a controversial clause in the Local Government Act 1986 that prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities; including a ban on schools teaching the “acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

Coming into force in May 1988, Clause 28 (now Section 28) was an attempt to suppress the gay community at a time when it was already struggling to deal with the Aids epidemic and the backlash towards the gay community fuelled by the media.

On 20 February 1988, a huge anti-Clause 28 protest was held in Manchester, with over 20,000 people taking to the streets to protest their anger towards the Thatcher led government. The march which culminated in Albert Square was one of the largest LGBT demonstrations ever held in the UK.

Peter J Walsh, who is more well known for documenting the city’s nightlife during the ‘Madchester’ years is one of the few who documented this important protest that would help change the face of LGBT+ rights in the UK. The photographs are © Peter J Walsh.

Peter stated: “The Anti-Clause 28 demo was one of the largest demonstrations I had covered in Manchester during that period. The starting point was on Oxford Road, by the Poly and the participants seemed to go on as far of the eye could see. Manchester City Council reckoned there were 20,000 people on the demo. It was loud, happy and vibrant. The country had been under Thatcher’s rule since 1979 and people were determined to fight back against this law. The left wing council of Manchester welcomed the marchers and stood with them in solidarity against the divisive Tory Government. The LGBQT communities civil liberties were under attack by Thatcher and we were prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with them and say enough is enough.”

The law was finally repealed in 2003.

Flesh at the Haçienda

Jon Shard’s imagery captures The Haçienda’s hallowed dance floor club night, Flesh.

Launched in October 1991, Flesh was the flamboyant mid-week night at The Haçienda, which welcomed everyone: black, white, gay and straight, and was also the home of the club’s first female resident DJs, Paulette and Kath McDermott.

Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum North explores the impact of modern conflicts on people and society. The museum occupies a site overlooking the Manchester Ship Canal, an area which during the Second World War was a key industrial centre and consequently heavily bombed during the Manchester Blitz in 1940.

The museum building was designed by architect Daniel Libeskind and opened in July 2002.

We headed to the Café and enjoyed sourdough baguettes, soups and jacket potatoes before visiting the museum’s permanent exhibitions supported by hourly audiovisual presentations which are projected throughout the gallery space.

One of the exhibits was about the Holocaust where six million Jews perished, but they were not the only victims of Nazi racial, biological and political theories. Gypsies, Soviet prisoners of war, non-Jewish Poles, people with disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and political opponents were also persecuted and murdered during the Second World War.  

It was an interesting visit and more photos can be seen here.

Stockport Pride

Plans are progressing on the return of Stockport’s annual LGBT+ festival to Stockport’s Historic Market Place on Sunday, 31 July.

Due to be the first in-person LGBT+ festival in Stockport since 2019, it will include a range of entertainment and stalls.

Filling the streets of the town centre with rainbows, a parade will be taking place. The march will start on Bridgefield Street, travel up to Suffragette Square, through Merseyway and up to Stockport’s Historic Market Place.

Stockport Pride will be free and open for all to attend from 11.00am until 6.00pm on Sunday 31 July.

1971 Burnley Meeting

The Burnley Library meeting: top left Fr Neville (Roman Catholic); top right Ken Pilling, Ray Gosling, Allan Horsfall; bottom left Fr Cayton (Anglican); Bottom right Michael Steed, Ken Pilling, Ray Gosling

The 1971 Burnley meeting was called by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) in response to a local controversy about the proposed opening of a gay club in the town.

Leading members of CHE, including Allan Horsfall and Ray Gosling had been promoting the Esquire Clubs project to create club facilities to be run by and for gay men and lesbians, inspired by the example of COC (Cultuur en Ontspanningscentrum) in Holland and by the model of the traditional English Working Men’s Clubs that had been a feature of many northern industrial towns.

When the site of a former Co-op cafe in Burnley became available, plans were drawn up to establish such a club in the town. There followed a heated debate in Burnley Council, which discovered to its dismay that it had no powers to prevent it, and sought unsuccessfully for a change in the law to enable gay clubs to be banned. Public opposition was whipped up in the press led by two local Catholic priests.

The CHE Executive decided to call an open public meeting to confront the opposition, an occasion which has now gone down in gay history.

The meeting was co-sponsored by the National Council for Civil Liberties. Manchester students handed out leaflets headed “Homosexuals and Civil Liberty” in the town centre, in an attempt to broaden the topic beyond the clubs issue. The meeting itself in Burnley Public Library on 30 July 1971 was attended by over 250 people including the two priests leading the opposition. Police stood at the back of the hall and a police van waited outside; a group of 15 skinheads turned up and were escorted into the meeting after being asked to remove their boots and leave them at the door. A party of Gay Liberation Front (GLF) supporters organised by CHE’s Glenys Parry travelled up from London, but most of those attending were locals who were assumed to be hostile to the plans. As the meeting progressed, however, and Ray Gosling who was in the chair, invited contributions from the floor, the tone changed. Andrew Lumsden invited any gay people in the audience to stand up to declare themselves and about two-thirds did so. And in a very moving intervention a blind woman said that she felt sickened by the intolerance shown by those who claimed to be Christian, and, addressing the priests directly, said that she believed her gay son who had committed suicide would still be alive if there had been such a club for him to go to.

Flyer for the landmark Burnley Meeting 50 years ago. (Flyer reproduced courtesy of Michael Steed)

In the end the plans for the club never went ahead. CHE’s local groups grew in a less formal way, but still provided a network of support and encouragement for lesbians and gay men who came together to develop the ideas and campaigns that have contributed to today’s out and proud gay community. But the Burnley meeting was reported in the national as well as the local press, giving rise to the first of CHE’s complaints to the Press Council. It also gave an enormous boost to CHE’s public profile and its sense of self-confidence.

On the 50th anniversary, 30 July 2021, a Rainbow Plaque was unveiled at the Library.

2 thoughts on “Together as One Exhibition … Imperial War Museum North … Stockport Pride … 1971 Burnley Meeting

  1. The irony of Section 28 is that Maggie Thatcher couldn’t have cared less on a personal level if someone was LGBT!


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