CHE Defies Morecambe – At A Cost

Preparations for the Campaign for Homosexual Equality’s first annual conference are now well underway. And it promoses to be a genuinely exciting and stimulating weekend. For one thing, it has been extremely well and thoroughly thought out — people started working on it more than six months ago. There will be the usual conference platforms — discussion of major papers (already available), talk-ins, brains trusts and, for the evenings, a heady social programme.

The background to the conference exposes a by-now familiar story of petty hypocrisy and back tracking. This time by Morecambe Corporation. Naturally, CHE half-expected a few rejection slips when letters were written to the well-known conference towns. But Morecambe made it clear that it was willing to have the conference there. “Should you decide to visit our resort you may be assured of our every assistance to make your conference a success”, said a letter to CHE last April. And in July the feeling was still good. “I am sure we can be helpful to you to make your conference a success, as we have the necessary facilities here,” gushed the Corporation.

But then, by September, the climate had changed. Suddenly CHE would not be welcome in Morecambe. The application had been rejected because “the conference would be split into small groups and we have not sufficient accommodation of this type” said the town’s Publicity Committee to the Morecambe Guardian. All this after a five-member delegation from CHE had visited the town and been shown the accommodation and conference facilities and agreed they were fine.

Curious mis-statements follow and the upshot was that CHE decided to hell with Morecambe Corporation. They would have the conference there anyway, but by negotiating directly with the owners of the pier to hire the facilities privately. Which means that CHE is footing a bill which the More-Combe Corporation would have met had any other organisation in the entire world sought the hospitality of this Lancashire seaside resort.

And so the Campaign for Homosexual Equality has been forced into a position of blatant inequality. But, instead of creeping away to find somewhere else, CHE is at least defying Morecambe Corporation – even though the gesture badly strains already heavily committed financial resources.

The conference itself will be the first truly national grassroots conference in the history of the Homophile movement. There have been other gay conferences, but small 5nes, consisting usually of authority figures who have, between them tended to decide what should be done for gays, not without experience and not without interest, but without consultation. At this conference, everyone has an equal voice.

The three main papers for discussion are: The law and the homosexual – which deals in considerable detail with this complex and often imperfectly understood area; the future of the homophile movement in Britain – which is certain to create some healthy disagreement; and a paper on gay life-style which asks a few questions that some people may find, perhaps, contentious.

Great emphasis will be placed on discussing the position of gay women regarding gay organisations – by women themselves, of course – and individual members and groups of CHE are already fielding some good motions for discussion.

The registration fee for the conference is 50p, even though the whole event will be more costly to CHE than it need be, and any members of CHE or the Scottish Minorities Group can attend. It is hoped that as many people as possible will make a special effort to go along to Morecambe. The dates are April 6-7-8.

Roger Baker, Press Officer
Campaign for Homosexual Equality

Springtime in Morecambe – it’s conference time! [Photograph: British Tourist Authority]

First National Friend Conference

FRIEND, CHE’s counselling and advisory service, is holding its first national conference on Saturday 13th January. The conference is intended primarily as a forum for FRIEND group organisers and their counsellors who will be coming from all over the country. Items on the agenda include planning for the future expansion of the national network of FRIEND and working with voluntary and statutory agencies.

In the evening there will be a party at CENTRE, FRIEND’s national headquarters, from 8-12 pm, open to all. A room has been booked adjoining the dance nail to enable people to talk and socialise without being blasted by the music.

Tickets cost 50p (proceeds to FRIEND) and are available now from FRIEND CENTRE, BROADLEY TERRACE, LONDON NW1, or can be bought on the night of the party.

NOTE: CENTRE is not licenced, so if you want to drink – PLEASE BRING A BOTTLE!

It’s On

MANCHESTER: The Campaign tor Homosexual Equality announced it will definitely hold its first annual conference, despite the resort’s playing hard to get.

At a meeting of Morecambe Corporation’s Publicity Committee, the members heard CHE’s case put by the campaign’s chairman, Alan Horsfall.

The committee decided it had no objection to CHE holding its conference in Morecambe in April 1973 by private arrangement with the owners of the Central Pier.

But the committee would not rescind its inaccurate minute that Morecambe did not have the facilities CHE needed even though committee members agreed that the minute was untrue.

The committee would not even recommend that the council rescinded this untrue minute.

A spokesman for CHE told Gay News: “The facilities point was a feeble excuse by which Morecambe Corporation naively hoped originally to hide the fact that members of the council were discriminating against CHE for reasons of pure prejudice.”

Where Scots Lag…

Scotland “lags behind” England as far as homosexual legislation is concerned, a Glasgow psychiatrist told a one-day conference on homosexuality in Edinburgh yesterday.

Dr Keith Wardrop, Director of the Forensic Psychiatric Clinic, Glasgow, told the conference, organised by the SMG, that the attitudes among certain sections of the public towards homosexuals led to such things as drug-taking – particularly among young people.

Scottish Sunday Express, Glasgow.

SMG held a one-day conference on Homosexuality in Edinburgh, ft received the above report in the Scottish press. We received the following report from Joan Aitken.

SMG CONFERENCE

19720901-04One of the enormous tasks facing the gay movement is that of educating the rest of the world to the effect that gay is not bad or sick or corrupting. That is, to reverse the whole situation of gay people. For this reason SMG decided at their last AGM to hold annual (at least) conferences on homosexuality and to encourage the public to come along.

The first of these was held in Heriot Watt University on Saturday August 5th – the title of which was “Homosexuality – is it a problem?” In going along to any conference one tends to have doubts about the whole structure and almost to have headaches in anticipation. But I got a pleasant surprise – I can only say this was the best conference I have ever attended.

In the morning the question was discussed by four speakers – Anthony Grey, Michael Steed (Tres. CHE), Dr Keith Wardrop (Dir Forensic Psychiatric Clinic – Glasgow) and Sharon Murray (NE Womens Group). In the afternoon we broke into discussion groups. The conference ended with a forum.

I found the discussion on the female homosexual (did I notice a certain reluctance to use the word lesbian?) interesting in that it reflected how much homosexuals or any oppressed minority does tend to load itself with problems. There is an element of paranoia and thus some of the problems for the homosexual are self-created. I felt that Sharon Murray did present an example of this when she failed to realise that many of the problems of the lesbian are problems for the heterosexual as well. She was right, though, to get angry when Mr Wardrop suggested that life was easier for the female. There was some discussion between the speakers and the floor as to who had the roughest time – the male or the female. My own view is that it is an irrelevant question and to pose it is to indulge in the self-pity and egotism that Anthony Grey had attacked earlier in his talk.

The consent of the oppressed as a mechanism in the process of oppression was discussed by Michael Steed in an interesting talk where he scientifically looked at attitudes to homosexuality. He quoted the results of National Opinion Polls on whether homosexuals should be able to make love freely in private and on whether homosexuals needed treatment. The latter reported that 93% thought that such was the case.

This point about attitudes came up again in the discussion on why the Homosexual Law Reform Act did not apply in Scotland. David Steel, MP proved a most willing and interesting speaker and explained attitudes to homosexuality were at the time of the act less ‘enlightened’ than the English. However since 1967 the Church of Scotland, still very influential in deciding Scottish public opinion, has eased its attitudes and there has recently been much correspondence in the ‘Scotsman’ on the subject of homosexuality. The reliance on common law in Scotland to safeguard the position of the homosexual can no longer be trusted, especially after the recent House of Lords decision in the IT case, and recent local prosecutions.

But a lot of myths have to be waded through yet and how many differences there are on large issues and how much pain has to be disentangled to reach rational attitudes. The conference was good in that everyone relaxed together and the discussion was calm and sympathetic. It felt as if a breath of fresh air