I focused my research around the Kings Cross area in London in the 1980’s. The show uncovers the hidden histories of LGBT communities in this area, which has undergone radical change since this time. I discovered that in many ways it was a hub of LGBT communities, bars and culture but more underground in comparison to West End hang outs that most people know about. I feel like the show really celebrates this raucous and riotous time where sexuality and identity was being explored, HIV was causing tragedy and rights were to be fought for.
I put a call out that I was hosting tea parties to collect stories from this time which were open to all but with an LGBTQ focus. There I met people who I then interviewed and these interviews were transcribed and woven into the eventual script. I guess I met around half of the participants through the tea parties and the other half were people I already knew. I was just a little bit too young to be hanging out in London in the 80’s. I had one friend who worked at Gay switchboard right at the beginning of the 80’s, so I knew I wanted his descriptions of the place in the show and he was happy to donate his story. It’s funny when people come to the show and hear the descriptions of the place which was small and dilapidated. People find that quite surprising! I wanted a diverse range of stories for the new tour of the show and I have added an extra story from a Trans person, so all of the characteristics of LGBTQ are represented in some way. It is exciting that the show can evolve in this way.
The show doesn’t have many props or set but I have a jacket in the show that was donated for the run of the show from one of the interview participants. I wear the jacket that is very brightly colored and fun at the end. It belonged to Jalle, who was a friend of my interviewed participant. Jalle contracted AIDS during the 80’s when HIV was really hitting the London gay scene with a frightening furiousness. The jacket still has Jalle badge on it and it say’s 'Young Dumb, But Cute.' I can’t help but feel close to him when I wear it, although I never knew him. Sometimes the show can feel like a weird sentence
I also really love the fact that some people in the show were tired and frustrated by the gentrification of Kings Cross and so as a local community, they bought their local pubs to save them from the fat cat developers. It’s so heartening to hear that there are still pockets of real community where the rest can feel soulless. Since I did the interview I have been to the local pub and had a great night there. I can highly recommend the King Charles 1st on Northdown Street. Visiting the pub has brought these stories to life and I really see how important the pub is to the people that live there.
Many of these stories are not reported as part of our social history. I think history has a habit of being statured by white, middle class men and these stories counter that and allow us to hear something that isn’t in the mainstream. This ultimately gives us a better understanding of humanity and it’s complexity.
Over the Summer I am developing a new project with the National Trust to tell LGBTQ stories through their properties. I’ll be working in Hanbury Hall in Droitwitch. It's a really exciting time to work with them as they are leading with this program. It’s 50 years de-crimalisation and they are making a big effort to make the National Trust tell more diverse stories.
This is a massive question and I think the show goes go someway to addressing this through the stories. Some people feel a frustration that what they were campaigning for in the 80’s has not enabled a more radical change and that through gay marriage it has normalized same sex relationships. This hasn’t been hugely helpful to those who don’t conform to those homogenised identities with beliefs that the gays have just been immersed into the mainstream.
In terms of HIV and AIDS, the developments in medicine have dramatically changed so now it is no longer a death sentence as it was in the 80’s and yet there is still a lot of stigma around it and that hasn’t changed so it’s two fold.
You can catch King's Cross Remix at The Wardrobe on the 5th & 6th April. Click here for tickets
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