William John Bankes

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William John Bankes | National Trust Images/Angelo Hornak/NTPL/Angelo Hornak | 17161gh

A two-month project examining the life and exile of a man has gone on display at the stately home he inherited in 1834 but from which he later had to flee.

William John Bankes of Kingston Lacy, Dorset, was forced out of Britain because of his gay relationship with a soldier.

His stately home is now owned by the National Trust, who are mounting an exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in Britain. The exhibition includes a facsimile copy of the 1533 “Act for the punishment of the vice of buggery” alongside the 1967 Act and the 2004 Civil Partnership Act.

There are also a collection of 51 ropes hanging in the entrance hall, representing men aged between 17 and 71 who were hanged for same-sex acts during the lifetime of the house’s owner. The last two ropes hang next to each other representing two labourers, John Smith and John Pratt, who were caught together and executed together.

Bankes would have suffered the same fate because it was the second time he had been caught with a man. His wealth allowed him to escape and live in France and later Italy, from where he continued to remotely transform the house into a Venetian Renaissance palazzo.

The Exile exhibition will run from from 18 September 2017, the day Bankes went in to exile, until 12 November 2017, with a rainbow flag flown from the property for the duration.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/18/william-john-bankes-forced-into-exile-after-gay-liaison-celebrated-by-national-trust

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacy

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Oscar’s new basement flat

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Getty Images | 17158gh

After a 20 year project, a temple devoted to Oscar Wilde crammed with devotional-style religious art has been opened in the basement of a New York church.

Conceived by artists David McDermott and Peter McGough at The Church of the Village, the space will be open to members of the public five days a week and available for private ceremonies, including weddings.

Mr McDermott said the temple was a place “free of religious doctrine, honouring a watershed historical figure who pioneered the long struggle for equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender peoples”.

The Oscar Wilde Temple transforms a basement chapel back to 1882-83, the time of Wilde’s lecture tour to the US. A 1.2m wood statue of Wilde which looks like marble is displayed with his prisoner number from Reading jail. On the walls are seven oil and gold leaf canvases on linen based on newspaper coverage of his trial and imprisonment.

https://www.rte.ie/news/2017/0913/904296-wilde_secular_temple/

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The Two Brewers Double Arsonist

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Jason Fossett | Press Association | 17147

Jason Fossett has been jailed for life after setting fire to a busy south London gay bar, the Two Brewers in Clapham, for the second time.

Fossett piled rubbish against the fire exit of  before setting it alight and fleeing on March 20. He pleaded guilty to arson with intent to endanger life at Inner London Crown Court. He could not remember starting the fire after “having a couple of drinks”.

He was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum sentence of three years and 244 days.

He was traced through his bank card after CCTV footage showed him buying two drinks at the bar on the night of the arson.

Officers searched his home and found receipts from the Two Brewers for that night, and a red leather satchel which matched that seen on the CCTV.

In 2004, Fossett was jailed for eight years for targeting the same venue in an arson attack. Police said there was no suggestion the attacks were hate crimes, although Fossett’s motivation is not known.

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/man-jailed-for-life-for-setting-fire-to-busy-clapham-gay-bar-a-second-time-a3605851.html

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David Is Homosexual

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A clip from the film | Dave Belton/CHE | 17122

The film “David Is Homosexual” was made for the Lewisham branch of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. The film was written by Wilfred Avery and filmed by Dave Belton.

An educational film, made in 1976, it tells the coming-out story of the titular David, a repressed office worker whose mum and dad scream abuse at the telly when gay rights marches appear on the news.

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During filming | Copyright control | 17123

“David Is Homosexual” had a long lifespan, touring the country until 1979. At a screening for trainee gas fitters and plumbers at a technical college, the filmmakers were greeted with a chorus of “Backs to the wall, lads” when setting up their equipment. After seeing the film, the quizzical apprentices had softened their tone. “Are you two lovers, then?” asked one, genuinely interested, from the back.

The Lewisham branch of the CHE and other groups helped raise funds for the film with jumble sales.

https://www.theguardian.com/global/2017/jun/18/glad-to-be-gay-the-story-of-the-filming-of-david-is-homosexual

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The British Library’s gay secrets

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A scene from “My beautiful laundrette” | Oliver Stapleton | 17102

A new exhibition at the British Library, London, “Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty” explores Britain’s evolving attitudes towards homosexuality. Original literary manuscripts and rare prints of newspapers and novels document the “transformation in society’s attitudes towards gay love and expression”.

A memo from the lord chamberlain’s office, dated October 1958, proposed marginally greater freedom for gay playwrights. “For some time the subject of homosexuality has been so widely debated, written about and talked about, that it is no longer justifiable to continue the strict exclusion of this subject from the stage. … I therefore propose to allow plays which make a serious and sincere attempt to deal with the subject.”

The exhibition includes a manifesto from the Gay Liberation Front, notebooks and journals from writers including Sarah Waters, Kenneth Williams and WH Auden, a never-before-seen annotated script by Hanif Kureishi for the Oscar-nominated film “My Beautiful Laundrette”, and the first edition of Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/01/british-library-explores-changing-attitudes-to-gay-love-in-exhibition

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John Hervey

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John Hervey was a key figure in 18th Century British Politics.

Born into aristoracy as the second Baron of Ickworth, he became a Member of Parliament for the Whig Party and held appointments including Lord Privy Seal.

His close friend Princess Caroline became Queen to King George II.

Hervey was bisexual, and had a wife who bore him eight children; he had several mistresses, but the love of his life was Stephen Fox.

The satirical poet Alexander Pope was jealous of Hervey’s friendship with a lady who had rejected him, and wrote a poem “Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot” in which he portrayed Hervey as Sporus, a young Roman who was castrated by Emperor Nero who then married him.

Pope’s poem became a template for putdowns of gay men, creating the stereotype of gay men being effeminate and camp.

A new book, “The Collected Verse of John, Lord Hervey” collects together for the first time Hervey’s own poetry, including this poem he wrote to Stephen Fox in 1731:

For not the Joy of Beauty’s open arms
Nor other friendships, nor Ambition’s charms
Defraud thy Empire of the smallest part
In this engross’d, this undivided Heart
You rule unshaken on that worthless Throne
My life the tenure, and the whole thy own.

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Cambridge University Press | 17083

The Rt Hon John Hervey, 2nd Baron Hervey PC, born on 13 October 1696 and died on 5 August 1743.


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Tate Bares All

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The Critics | Henry Scott Tuke | Warwick District Council

London’s Tate Britain is preparing its first show dedicated to “queer art” -“Queer British Art 1861-1967”. It is almost 50 years since the decriminalisation of male homosexual acts in England and Wales.

“We have works which demonstrate lots of different attitudes, from anxiety to celebration,” Curator Clare Barlow told the Observer, adding that other items came to acquire notoriety by accident. Walter Crane’s languorous 1877 painting, The Renaissance of Venus, is a good example. “Crane’s wife did not want him viewing or drawing nude women, so instead he used a well-known young male model, Alessandro di Marco, to stand in for the goddess of love.”

The exhibition includes a full-length portrait of Oscar Wilde by Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington, given to the writer as a wedding present by the artist and now being shown publicly in Britain for the first time. Next to it is Oscar’s prison cell door.

Queer British Art 1861-1967 is at Tate Britain, London SW1P, from 5 April to 1 October 2017.


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Anne Lister

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Anne Lister’s portrait | Calderdale Cultural Services | 17055

The life of Anne Lister is being dramatised by the BBC and HBO networks.

Anne Lister was born on 3rd April, 1791 and was educated at home, in Ripon and in York. She lived in the 15th century Shibden Hall near Halifax, Yorkshire, now a listed property.

In 1806 she began a diary of her life, which she wrote in code using zodiac signs, punctuation marks and mathematical symbols; the diary, which amounts to more than four million words, detailed her social and sexual life as well as local events during her life and provides a unique insight into life in the district during the late Georgian and early Victorian periods.

She was privileged to be a wealthy land owner who could afford to go travelling and mountain climbing.

Her neighbours called her “Gentleman Jack” while her lovers called her Fred.

She died in 1840 aged 49 from a fever which she caught from an insect sting while travelling in Russia with her partner Ann Walker. The pair even got married, but it was not legally recognised.

Her diaries were decrypted after she died by relatives, who had the diaries – number of quarto volumes – hidden behind a panel in Shibden Hall, and they were rediscovered in the 1980s and published as “Anne Lister’s Secret Diaries for 1817”. The diaries were added to the register UNESCO Memory of the World Programme.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/0/meet-britains-first-modern-lesbian-scandalous-life-anne-lister/

http://www.examiner.co.uk/whats-on/sally-wainwright-write-new-yorkshire-12698139


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The Raid on the Caravan Club

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Inside the Caravan Club | Police Photo/UK National Archives | 17049

The Caravan Club in Soho, London was a lesbian and gay friendly members’ club that billed itself as “London’s greatest bohemian rendezvous said to be the most unconventional place in town”. The club, at 81 Endell Street, was one of many mostly temporary venues at a time when being openly gay was perilous, often resulting in prosecution and imprisonment.

The club was run by Billy Reynolds and a former strongman and escapologist called Jack Neave, known as “Iron Foot Jack” because of the metal platform he wore to compensate for a shortened leg.

After a series of complaints about the behaviour of the customers, the Metropolitan police put the club under surveillance from October 1933. Police seem to have watched the comings and goings from unused offices at the Shaftesbury Theatre opposite.

In August 1934 they raided the club, with plainclothes officers easily entering by pretending to be visitors.

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Inside the Caravan Club | Police Photo/UK National Archives | 17050

The officer in charge of the raid was Inspector Clarence, who noted : “The room inside was very badly lighted and the atmosphere was awful. … Men were dancing with men and women were dancing with women, a number of couples were simply standing still, and I saw couples wriggling their posteriors, and where I saw men together they had their hands on the other’s buttocks and were pressing themselves together. In fact all the couples I saw were acting in a very obscene manner.”

A policeman on the raid reported: “Two men were standing in front of each other dancing and moving their bodies close to each other. One had his hand on the other’s flies and the other one said: “Oh, darling.””

One policeman was shocked to enter the bathroom and find two men applying mascara and rouge to each others’ faces.

One regular customer, Cyril, had written a letter to Billy Reyolds, which was found and seized by the Police. “I have only been queer for about two years because I knew nothing about it until I came to London.” He was married and had a daughter. He ends the letter: “Billy, please be a dear boy and destroy this note.” The note is kept in the National Archives.

103 men and women were arrested and taken to Bow Street police station. Many of the young men there were working class. The majority were found not guilty in court on condition they never frequented such a club again.

History does not record whether they complied with that instruction.

Reynolds and Neave were given sentences of 12 months and 20 months respectively hard labour in prison.

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/feb/27/revived-1930s-london-gay-members-club-caravan-club-raided-by-police

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Polari explained

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Julian and Sandy, 1970s, LP Cover | Copyright control | 17032

Paul Baker, an authority on Polari, having studied it for some time, has provided Scroll/The Conversation with a brief history of the language. To summarise:

Polari has now largely fallen out of use, but was historically spoken by gay men and female impersonators.

Polari developed first in the world of entertainment, West End theatres and 19th-century music halls, travelling entertainers and market-stall holders, and was based on Parlyaree which had roots in Italian and rudimentary forms of language used for communication by sailors around the Mediterranean, which found its way into Britain, especially London and port cities, and gradually became used by gay men and female impersonators, especially during the first half of the 20th century. In England, gays added Cockney Rhyming Slang, backslang (pronouncing a word as if it was spelt backwards), French, Yiddish and American airforce slang to Polari.

It was useful as a means of conducting conversations in public spaces, which would have alerted others to your sexuality at a time when homosexual acts were illegal.

“Vada the naff strides on the omee ajax” meant look at the awful trousers on the man nearby. Inserting a Polari word – such as bona (good) or palone (woman) – into a sentence could act as a coded way of identifying other people who might be gay. The language itself, full of camp, irony, innuendo and sarcasm, also helped its speakers to form a resilient worldview in the face of arrest, blackmail and physical violence.

In the 1970s, in a gay magazine called Lunch, activists branded Polari as ghettoising and it gradually became surplus to requirements. In 2000, Baker carried out a survey of 800 gay men and found about half the respondents had never heard of Polari.

In recent years however, there has been renewed interest in Polari. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence created a Polari Bible, running a Polari wordlist through a computer program on an English version of the Bible.

Paul Baker is the Professor of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University.

https://scroll.in/article/828942/a-brief-history-of-polari-a-language-for-gay-men-and-its-curious-afterlife


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