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]

NEWSETTES

Irish Help

DUBLIN: Gays who want to talk about ‘their problem’ in an informal, understanding and ‘constructive’ atmosphere are invited to contact the Legion of Mary in Dublin.

The legion which has been running its gay-help group for about five years, says the majority of those it’s helped have found it useful.

It stresses that the group is non-denominational and that all problems are treated in confidence.

The contact number for the Legion is (01) 776083, any evening between 8pm and 10pm.

Poison Ivy

MORECAMBE: The Morecambe Visitor, the weekly paper that’s biting its editorial fingernails and waiting for the CHE conference, ran an amazing letter from the Rev Frank Ockenden.

The Rev Frank quoth: “Homosexuality, like prostitution, is a moral disease, which society may at best only contain, but for its good must endeavour to prevent or cure.

“To condemn the practice does not necessarily imply the condemnation of its victims. Being Holy, God condemns all sin, and has said so, but being also Love, He has provided salvation from it in his Son Jesus Christ. This includes all homosexuals, and makes irrelevant any campaign for equality.”

Then in slammed the Corrs of Lancaster, lambasting the Rev Frank, who (incidentally) lives at Ivy Cottage, Arkhole, for would-be correspondents.

The Corrs – Bill and his wife Anna – blasted away in fine style: “Since the majority of people in this country are no longer practicing Christians the advice of the Rev Ockenden and his fellow minsters of religion would be heeded only by those who share their respective faiths.

“Homosexuality ought to rank equal in the eyes of the law with heterosexuality so far as age of consent, marriage and so on are concerned.

“At the moment homosexual men (the law does not recognise that female homosexuality exists, oddly enough) exist in a legal minefield.

“Naturally all that this would mean is that the gap between the law of the land and Mr Ockenden’s theology would be at liberty to denounce homosexuality as a sin to anyone prepared to pay any attention.”

The Rev Frank is a loner in the realms of backwoods revivalism. His Arkholme Evangelical Church broke away from the Lancaster Methodist Circuit about two years ago, because the Lancaster Methodists were having dealings with members of other churches.

Since then the Rev Frank has been wearing the top dog-collar at Arkholme and master-minding Munich style rallies of revivalist religion. Even the Rev Ian Paisley chickened out of one invite the Martin Luther of Poison Ivy Cottage sent him.

John Pointless Ross

LONDON: The Evening News’ man-for-all-occasions, John Pointer Ross, managed to get a swipe at gays into his January 19 column for the more boring of London’s evening papers.

Along with Ross’ ‘thoughts’ on crime and punishment, drug-addiction, a farm-worker from Brighton who has sired 17 children and the price of beef – Ross was never the first with an idea – we got this gem: “CHE, in case you didn’t know, stands for the Campaign for Homosexual Equality.

“They wanted to hold a conference for their members. The usual resorts where conferences are normally held have turned them down.

“The homosexuals seem surprised. Are you?”

But the Fleet Street hacks don’t all think the same way. Readers may remember Des Wilson as the man who cared about the homeless. Now he’s returned to his first love, journalism.

From his perch on top of his regular column in The Observer, Des Wilson observed: “Weymouth and other seaside towns (including, I gather, Morecambe) have certainly shown why a Campaign for Homosexual Equality is needed. The ignorance and prejudice reflected in some towns’ responses have been incredible.”

Normal Homosexuals

From the tons of newsprint produced every day we present this excerpt from the Evening Post (Luton):

Question: Can you be a homosexual and still be normal in other ways?

Answer: Most certainly. But that’s not to say that all homosexuals are otherwise normal.

The same applies, of course, to those who favour the opposite sex.

Chaplain Charged

LEEDS: The Church of England chaplain at Wakefield prison was released on bail by Leeds magistrates after he had appeared before them charged with ‘indecently assaulting’ a policeman in a public lavatory.

The Rev George who is said to have assaulted PC Gordon in a cottage in Marsh Lane, Leeds, was remanded on £25 bail. The police did not object.

He will appear before the magistrates again on March 6.

Editorial

We live in a democracy. It means we’re free to do and say what we like – and that’s official. But the way society is run might tempt cynics to say that British democracy means we have the right to do and say what the state and certain self-appointed arbiters of behaviour ordain.

The 1967 Sexual Offences Act – which made gay love “legal” – specifically excludes members of the armed forces from equality with other gays, already a minority unequal with “straight” society.

At least the law spells out the ground rules even if they are, undoubtedly, wrong. For instance laws that limit gay sex to those not in the armed forces, over 21 and in two’s, in private are clearly indefensible because they make us unequal with the rest of society.

The main failing of the law, as it stands at present, is that it does not give gays the legal equality, however grudging, that black people must receive.

But far more oppressive than open harassment and legal inequality for blacks and gays alike is the sinister form of silent censorship that Gay News and all the gay organisations experience.

The Campaign for Homosexual Equality came up against the Angry Silence twice earlier this year when it was trying to fix the place for its first annual conference. Both Weymouth and Morecambe fought shy of having fairies al the end of the pier.

Recently CHE won a victory by managing to lay a wreath to the Unknown Gay Soldier at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday. When almost any old ex-Servicemen’s Club and association representing those who allow themselves to be ruled by traitors — that is, Rhodesia – are allowed to lay wreaths, the inequality of not allowing the Gay Liberation Front to lay just such a wreath last year shrieks of a society where the homosexual is not equal even with traitors in the view of the elite law-forming body, Parliament.

Gay News has troubles with the Angry Silence in many directions and they have taken a new turn of late.

We’re used to news wholesalers and retailers such as Smiths, Menzies and Selfridges, joining in the elitist freezing out of gays. And you’re used to reading about our distribution problems by now.

The latest bizarre turn in this “free-speech” state is the Evening Standard’s refusal of an advertisement for a sex-education movie quoting Gay News.

The man at the Standard told Cobra Films’ representative that the paper wouldn’t mind running the ad if only they would quote a “respectable film critic, tor instance Alexander Walker”.

Once again the Standard has shown that whilst it will use the word ‘gay’ in headlines to sell the paper, it will not countenance the fact that gays live, are organised and have their own newspaper.

The ad-man at the Standard said that the GN crit of Cobra-1 was “near-pornography”

He is entitled to his views, but the Standard should print views it does not agree with, as the press should leave its columns open to all sectors of society as Charles Wintour, the Standard’s editor says in his recent book on the press.

Indeed, many of us feel that the views put forward as the paper’s official policy – in its leaders — and other right-wing pontifications carried in its pages are pornographic.

Mr Wintour is responsible for all the opinions expressed in the Evening Standard, including the writings of the “respectable” Alexander Walker, who was brought to the Standard by Godfrey Winn who discovered him in Brighton.

Many of the views put forward by the Standard work towards an elitist society and towards eroding free speech so that a schoolteacher may not be gay – and honest – and keep his job (GN11).

They are promoting a society where a lie is preferable to the truth. And that really is pornographic. In strictly legal terms it’s liable to deprave and corrupt the ‘Bristows’ of this world. If that’s democracy at work, no wonder so many of the more radical gays see the fight for gay equality as part of a much bigger and economic change in society.

But we at GN are used to being excluded from the press. Time Out – to whom we are grateful for many things — would not publish our ad which mentioned the personal ads in the back of GN on the advice of their legal eagle.

The silent censorship of the Cobra Films ad by the Evening Standard shows that society is not willing to accept a gay newspaper as a genuine newspaper – and it follows that if Gay News isn’t accepted as a paper by our fellow journalists, no gay can expect to be treated as anything but a curio by Charles Wintour and others like him who affect the way the power-holding elite think – no individual gay or gay organisation.

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.”

Stop Press

CHE in Morecambe

Confusion reigns over whether CHE will be allowed to meet in Morecambe or not. It now appears that although the Council don’t want CHE, the owners of the pier on which the conference was going to be held still do. The council have suggested that the pier is ‘unsafe’, but this is strongly refuted by the pier’s owners and manager.

It seems that it has only just dawned on the Council that the letters stand for Campaign for HOMOSEXUAL Equality, – so they’re objecting on ‘moral’ grounds. Like Weymouth, they don’t fancy the idea of a gay ‘invasion’.

The only remaining stumbling block is the approval of the town’s Publicity Committee – who have said that they originally endorsed CHE’s application on ‘incomplete information’.

Other problems have arisen over accommodation – only two hotels amongst all those written to, gave a favourable reply. Elsewhere empty hotels are suddenly ‘full’ when CHE needs rooms.

The issue has now become a matter of public debate – the ‘Morecambe Guardian’ has pointed out that the council could be liable for damages for breaking their contract. The story has also been reported in the ‘Morecambe Visitor’ and ‘Lancashire Evening Post’.

CHE has decided to go to Morecambe anyway, booking their accommodation and facilities privately (since it is now too late to change their venue) and will lobby councillors and appeal to the people of Morecambe to raise enough cash to pay for it all.

Bye-bye Weymouth!

Hullo Morecambe!

19720901-03
MANCHESTER: The Campaign for Homosexual Equality has had to move its first conference next year from Weymouth to Morecambe, because the Dorset resort’s council has reversed a decision it made in July to allow CHE to hold its conference at the Pavilion.

CHE finally got the cold shoulder from Weymouth on August 17 when the council decided by 24 votes to 14 to reject the decision of its entertainments committee to invite the conference to the town after a storm of protest in both the national and the local press.

The Dorset Echo shrilled: “Between 300 and 500 homosexuals will hold a conference in Weymouth next April.

“Their applicaiton was granted yesterday despite angry protests from the Town Council.”

Leading the opposition former mayor, Ald. Wilfred Ward, who thought the idea “a disgusting lead” to give to the town.

He said; “Just how can we get in this town in order to raise money? Are we going to stoop to just anything? We seem to want to get our money without taking into regard any standing of the town.”

Coun. John Knight agreed. He said: “This will bring in a lot of morbid sightseers who will want to see a crowd of queers.”

The Daily Mirror got in on the act, too. On July 21 the paper joined the protesting chorus.

Coun. Clifford Chalker said: “We will be having a conference of prostitutes next.”

Not all Weymouth’s councillors share Mr Chalker’s prehensile views. Ald. Sidney Porter said: “We have no right to stop a bona fide conference. We wouldn’t stop one on grounds of race or creed.”

The Mirror’s bedfellow, The Sunday People joined in the finger-pointing campaign to kill the conference.

Voice of the People, the new-style, old-morality comment column lashed out saying: “Something very queer, but very understandable is going on at the seaside town of Weymouth.

“The queer thing is that some councillors are up in arms over the decision of the entertainments committee to act as hosts to the annual conference of a perfectly legal body.

“The uproar is understandable. Because the body is the Campaign for Homosexual Equality.

“Legal though homosexual acts now are between consenting adults in private, there is strong public distaste for those who engage in them . . .

“If the citizens do let the homosexuals in there is one way that they can dissociate themselves from their guests.

BY CUTTING OUT THE OFFICIAL SHERRY PARTY AND DANCE AT WHICH CONFERENCE DELEGATES ARE USUALLY WELCOMED!” – their boldface.

The Sunday People showed that there’s more than one way to go about queer-bashing and the challenge was taken up by the people of Weymouth.

The paper showed the way to get the boot in to a lot of the good people of sunny Wevmouth.

Mrs H. A. O’Neill wrote to the Echo saying: “I am far from being prudish, unenlightened I or unwordly, but I feel the citizens of Weymouth must band together to have this degrading decision rescinded.”

Despite Mrs O’Neill’s reminder to councillors that it was the citizens of Weymouth who put them on the council, the entertainments committee wouldn’t go back on its word to CHE, and its report to the council said that it (the committee) consider that this conference might lead to better understanding of the problems which face what is understood to be a fairly large number of people, without at the same time, involvement in an extension of licence that would be unacceptable to them.

“The campaign is supported by a large number of highly distinguished and responsible persons prominent in Church and State, who have given it their approval.”

Despite that the council meeting that looked at the entertainment committee’s decision to let CHE have the Pavilion decided that it was not going to risk having 300 to 500 gays in their happy seaside resort.

The Town Clerk, Mr Edward Jones would tell Gay News only that the council had debated this for about an hour and a half. Weymouth Council would make no comment on the reasons for their decision to go back on the entertainment committee’s decision.

As for CHE, Weymouth’s hostility hasn’t upset the Manchester organisation’s hierarchy a bit. A spokesman said: “Weymouth was just one of the resorts we’d approached. We’ve now fixed it all up for Morecambe.”

Presumably the people of Morecambe are more broadminded than A. W. Delacour, of Wyke Cottage, Weymouth, who wrote to the Echo saying: “For the very small minority of our population genuinely trapped psychologically in the homosexual stage of development, one must feel the greatest compassion.

“But the current intellectual cult of defending any sort of aberration or perversion in personal relationships in the name of freedom needs to be challenged and attacked by all who subscribe to the Christian concept of human dignity. There is nothing new about sexual or homosexual licence. What went on in Sodom and Gomorrah 4,000 years ago or in the Roman Empire in the days of St. Paul, is known to everyone.

“Many people in Weymouth must surely beappalled by the insensitivity of certain of their elected representatives in agreeing to receive the conference of the Campaign for Homosexual Inequality (whatever that means!)” – Mr Delacour s cock-up.

Mr Delacour was not available to comment to Gay News on his views on gayness, but we compliment him on this letter and on his error in CHE’s title.