Running, Jumping, Standing Committee

Two decisions of considerable importance to the national development of CHE were made at the organisation’s National Council held in London on November 25. The Council agreed to recognise hybrid groups and also agreed to set up a Standing Committee on promoting legal equality.

A little background is necessary to explain the implications of these decisions. CHE’s National Council is a quarterly event and is attended by the National Executive Committee and delegates from CHE groups all over the country. Unusually, the National Council is one of CHE’s best events since it promotes a feeling of unity and togetherness among the widely separated groups. People from different parts of the country meet their colleagues, learn of their activities at first hand and come to understand each other’s local problems in a very realistic way. But in order to have a voice in the Council’s discussions a group must first be recognised by the Council. This is usually a formality. When the Council met in September 1971 it was agreed that the criteria for group recognition should be that the group should consist only of CHE members, that there should be ten or more members registered in the national CHE headquarters.

Since then however the homophile movement has expanded and gathered strength. In many places this has meant the evolution of groups that consist only partly of CHE members but also of other, unaligned people and which are called by another name: Reading Gay Alliance, Gay Cambridge and the Bristol Gay Awareness group are examples.

This development has worried certain people within CHE and the first thing the Council had to discuss was a proposal from Bristol CHE which asked the Council to restrict recognition to groups that are comprised only of paid-up members of CHE.

Discussion was brisk, mostly against the proposal, and in the course of it we learned a great deal about conditions outside London relating to gay groups.

Derrick Stephens, the convenor of the Bristol CHE group who made the proposition suggested three reasons why he had done so. First he felt that by accepting non-CHF. members groups could come under the influence of GLF. Then he felt that hybrid groups would contribute towards a “blurring of CHE’s image”, and finally that CHE as a whole could come under the influece of GLF.

The delegate from Cardiff felt that the proposal was “too rigid, too narrow and had no flexibility”. In Cardiff he reported, the local GLF had become less and less in sympathy with national GLF and had disbanded. But most of these activists now came along to Cardiff CHE meetings and they had found no particular differences in outlook. “There are no reds under the bed in Cardiff”, he claimed.

He indicated that the tradition of open meetings was a help to nervous or shy people who didn’t want to give their names and addresses first, before getting involved. If the proposal was agreed Cardiff CHE would have either to expel group members or leave the National Council – and he felt it would be the latter.

The Tyneside guy said it would deny local groups freedom, would give the impression that CHE was an inward looking organisation, would result in people leaving CHE, would prevent people joining and anyway was technically impossible to implement.

Bernard Greaves explained the situation in Cambridge, explaining that a hybrid group was the only solution. “We must overcome sectarian division within the community”, he said, “Gay Cambridge has a tradition of open meetings and we must destroy any thought of a secret society. This proposal is just about petty-minded, beaurocratic tidyness”, he added.

Martin Stafford said he felt the proposal was unworkable but that it was nevertheless laudable. “Concern with CHE’s image is correct, we must consider it seriously or we will have no corporate identity of any kind.”

We heard that when Reading was just a CHE group there were 13 members, now there were more than 100. “And what can you do with 13 CHE members except sit around and discuss constitutions. Let’s get on and do things and get an image in that way”.

The proposal was defeated and group recognition went ahead.

For some time it was felt that CHE’s aims and objectives were a little vague and confused. Earlier this year they were broken down (by the PPB system) into detailed and precise parts. The first objective, thus examined was “to promote legal equality”

The working party laid its proposals before the Council which were accepted, and this means the setting up of a Standing Committee charged with co-ordination of all CHE’s efforts in the legal/police field.

In practical terms this means that handling examples of discrimination, harassment etc will no longer be a matter of inconclusive discussions, perhaps letters to relevant bodies and papers, but will be tackled in an efficient manner on all possible levels.

No Ding-a-Ling For Mary

LONDON: The BBC has broken with tradition by ignoring a call from Mrs Mary Whitehouse who wants Chuck Berry’s hit record My Ding-a-Ling banned from radio and television.

When the BBC went on playing the record on Radio-1 and television’s Top of the Pops, Mrs Whitehouse packed her bags and set off to Washington to start cleaning up television in the USA.

Despite Mrs Whitehouse’s letters of protest to the BBC and Sir John Eden, the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, the BBC went on playing Chuck’s record and a spokesman said: “We’ve still had no complaints.”

Mary Whitehouse wants the record banned because, she says, it is meant to encourage masturbation.

Phonogram, the record company that releases the Chuck Berry record in this country, described Mrs Whitehouse’s criticisms as “ridiculous” and added that there was a longer version of the song on Chuck’s LP which had been available since July.

The company said a cinema manager in the North of England had phoned to say how popular the record was at his Saturday morning childrens’ matinees. The children sang along with it and even made their own ding-a-lings.

To the children a ding-a-ling is a piece of string with a bell on the end. Only Mary Whitehouse had thought it had anything to do with masturbation.

And the BBC went on playing the record on Radio-1. When it came to Top of the Pops they played the record, but showed no film of Chuck performing. Instead there were a series of stills of Chuck Berry, drawings, and a dance by Pan’s People, the show’s resident gymnasts.

Within days Mrs Whitehouse, who is secretary of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association – which she formed herself – was off to take on the job of cleaning up the USA at the request of President Nixon’s adviser on pornography, Mr Charles Keeting.

As she left Heathrow Ariport, London, Mrs Whitehouse, who was clutching a copy of the report on pornography by Lord Longford’s self-appointed committee on the subject said: “We are hoping to co-operate with an American society with the same aims as our own to try to reach a better understanding of the way violence and sexual permissiveness can be reduced in broadcasting.”

Mrs Whitehouse will make a coast-to-coast tour of the United States looking for dirty meanings in television and radio shows.

Lighters Strike Twice

SHEFFIELD: The city’s council is setting up a team of vigilantes, under the encouragement of Festival-of-Lighter Sir Ron Ironmonger, the council’s leader.

The vigilantes will be uniformed and will patrol the council’s housing estates in pairs. They will be able to use their power of citizens arrest at people they find breaking the law on Sheffield Council property.

At first, the council admits, the vigilantes will only be patrolling the flat-blocks to try to stop vandals’ damage to the buildings.

But the Labour-leader of the council, Sir Ron, is a self-confessed supporter of the Festival of Light, the moral rearmament group run by Mrs Mary Whitehouse and Malcolm Muggeridge.

Sir Ron told the Workers Press: “What we are faced with – and this is on a national scale, not just in Sheffield is a breakdown in law and order. A loss of respect for your neighbour and his property. Something needs to be done.”

He has given his personal endorsement to the creation of a private police force within the 500,000 population city.

What should worry Sheffield’s gays is whether Sir Ron’s enthusiasm for Mary Whitehouse will encourage him to extend the power of the vigilantes to become moral police. Generally his support for Mrs Whitehouse’s campaign brooks no odds. You either lend your name or you do not – it’s quite simple.

The Festival of Light is known to be violently anti-gay. And gays in other cities should start worrying about when their seemingly benevolent councillors will start a private police force along Sir Ron’s lines.

Shuff Goes On Record

LONDON: Mrs Shufflewick, Britain’s leading drag comedian, has gone on record again, for the first time in a decade.

Decca went along to the Black Cap, Camden, to catch Shuff’s act for a long-playing record that should be released early next year.

Mrs Shufflewick has had two records released in the past. But these are now both deleted. Decca’s new Shuff record is due for release on April 1.

Christmas Extensions

LONDON: As we know that a fair number of gays in the West London area will be around over the Christmas period, we thought you might like details of the holiday extensions the most popular of the pubs in this area will be having.

In fact the four main pubs, The Colherne and The Boltons in Earl’s Court, The Champion at Notting Hill Gate, and the Queen’s Head in Tryon Street, Chelsea, will all be having the same extensions. They are: Christmas Eve, till midnight; Boxing Day, also till midnight; and New Years Eve, till 12.30 am.

Please check with the pubs yourselves to see if they are open at all on Christmas Day.

The Wrong People

Shooting of the film version of Robin Maugham’s famous gay novel “The Wrong People” will start early next year. The screenplay has been written by Murray Smith and the film will be made entirely on location in Morocco.

Hollywood star Sal Mineo, who now lives in London, will be directing the film. This is his first appearance on the other side of the camera.

The story of ‘The Wrong People’ tells of a rich gay living in Tangiers, who uses his influence on a timid, closeted schoolteacher to procure him a boy from the approved school at which he teaches.

If the screenplay does not differ too much from the original, it should make for an interesting movie and give our censor of celluloid a few headaches.