About three years ago we had a visit to Mid Pennine Arts from a researcher who was working with the LGBT communities in Manchester and Liverpool. One of the issues he raised was how important Burnley was in the history of the LGBT movement nationally – a surprise to us all!
But what emerged from his visit was not the just the importance of the occasion to gay rights but for the civil rights of each member of our community.
He told the story of an attempt led by the late Alan Horsfall, in the early 70’s to establish a club, a meeting place for young gay members of the local community.
As you might expect the search for a place to house the club for young people was met with hostility and many refusals until a room in the old Co-operative Society Building on Hammerton Street was found. The offer was to be withdrawn later.
The desire to set up a club was met with fierce opposition in the town from local churches, local people and councillors – it was one of our councillors, I believe, who said that “we’ll have no buggers’ ball in Burnley’! To explain the need for the ‘club’ and what it would offer, a public meeting was called at Burnley Central Library. Despite support at a packed meeting the bid to set up a club failed.
Later in the 70’s another story of defiance surfaces. A local bus driver, Mary Winter, was sacked for wearing a Lesbian Liberation badge at her workplace. Her union refused to support her – just think of the power of the unions in the 70’s! Mary, with support from women’s groups around the country staged a demonstration close to Burnley’s Bus Station. Her bid to get her job back failed.
So… what is the relevance of these two stories which ended in failure? Well, we are very familiar of a world now where ordinary people feel that they can stand up and protest against ‘the establishment’. This is exactly what Alan Horsfall and Mary Winter did when they placed a marker for the advancement of minority civil rights in Burnley more than 40 years ago.
Two playwrights, Stephen Hornby and Abi Hynes, have drawn these threads together to write two new plays which will be presented at Burnley’s Central Library. Later they will go on to be performed in Manchester and Liverpool.
The Burnley Buggers’ Ball and Burnley’s Lesbian Liberator in Burnley’s Central Library on:
- Saturday 18 February – 12noon
- Saturday 18 February – 2pm
- Saturday 25 February – 12noon
- Saturday 25 February – 2pm
Each performance last approximately one hour and 15 minutes. Tickets are free but you need to book via Eventbrite.
You are all invited!
(Images courtesy of Inkbrew Productions.)