Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty at The British Library

A free exhibition

1895, the trial of Oscar Wilde. 2017, the pardoning of gay men by the ‘Alan Turing Law’. How far have we come in 122 years?

Personal testimony. Public protest. Art and culture. We tell the story of love, legislative change and the battles for equality experienced by gay men and women in the UK. 50 years after the Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalised homosexuality, our exhibition looks at the build up to this monumental step, its impact, and asks what challenges still remain.

Exhibition highlights include:

  • Original campaign material, journals and posters from groups such as the Gay Liberation Front, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners and Outrage!
  • Sarah Waters’ notebook with character notes that she used while writing Tipping the Velvet, going on public display for the first time
  • Hanif Kureishi’s annotated script for My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) and continuity polaroids from the set
  • The first edition of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando alongside a sound recording of Vita Sackville-West from 1954 talking about the inspiration for the book
  • Kenneth Williams’ diary entry from 9 August 1967, which covers the murder of his friend, playwright and author Joe Orton
  • Annotated script for A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney (1958)
  • Commissioned film by performer and artist Dickie Beau exploring the decriminalisation of homosexuality
  • Rachel Foss, Lead Curator of Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty at the British Library, says:

    “Since the passing of the Sexual Offences Act fifty years ago, there has been a transformation in society’s attitudes towards gay love and expression. Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty tells this story through objects and documents that are iconic, public, personal or seemingly ephemeral. These objects and documents are the tangible evidence of a living history that is fragmented, punctuated by gaps and still evolving. I hope that the exhibition will prompt visitors to consider not only how far we as a society have come but also, crucially, what still needs to be done to combat prejudice and realise true equality.”

    The British Library will be hosting an accompanying season of events to provoke debate on past and present understandings of individual identity, reflecting on how far we have come as a society.

    Event highlights include:

  • Jon Savage: 1967 A Summer of Love?, writer, broadcaster and filmmaker Jon Savage reflects on the social, cultural, sexual and political climate of a season of change
  • The Gender Games: Juno Dawson in Conversation, author Juno Dawson provides a personal insight into society’s expectations of gender
  • David Bowie Made Me Gay, a discussion on the transformation, impact and influence of LGBTQ+ music makers featuring broadcaster Simone Fanshawe, writers Julie Burchill and Darryl Bullock alongside DJ Princess Julia and performer K Anderson
  • Proud Poetry, featuring Maureen Duffy, Jackie Kay, Andrew McMillan, Richard Scott and Nick Drake reading their own poetry
  • See more at: https://www.bl.uk/events/gay-uk-love-law-liberty/

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