NEWSETTES

FRIEND Now in Seven Cities

LONDON: FRIEND,the homosexual counselling service now has branches in seven cities throughout the country. At the January conference, the sub-committee approved new branches in Brighton, Cambridge, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Cardiff. Plans for a Croydon branch are in hand and details will be available shortly. All FRIEND Branches are able to call on the specialist advice of professional consultants, and there is a befriending service extending over the whole of the UK. For further details contact 01-402 6345, Mondays to Fridays, between 7.30 and 9.30pm.

[Photograph: R.I.Poff]
Outspoken Reactionary Dies

EDINBURGH: Tubby, ultra reactionary. Councillor Kidd of Edinburgh has died of “exhaustion”. He was sixty four, and famous for his pronouncements on everything from fat bus conductors to filthy queers (GN5, 7 etc). He also had a particular dislike for strip clubs and go-go dancers, and once travelled to Glasgow to protest about the opening of a sex supermarket there.

He said “My big mouth is necessary if this country is to remain sane.”

Record Breaking Success

LONDON: The ‘Masked Valentine’s Disco’ held on Saturday 17th February at the Euston Tavern in Judd Street, was a record breaking success. The happy crowd of just over two hundred gay women and men, all intent on having a really great evening, surpassed all previous attendance figures for similar disco’s arranged in the past by Sappho.

Sappho are planning to hold a further social event in the near future. It will probably be called the ‘Queen Of The May’ disco. Sappho is the monthly gay women’s magazine edited by Jackie Forster, which also holds regular meetings at the Euston Tavern (see information page for details). All women are most welcome to attend these gatherings.

Brutal Cottage Murder

ELLESEMERE PORT: A middle aged photographer, Leonard Bestwick, who was stabbed through the heart with a butcher’s knife in a public lavatory and savagely beaten with a claw hammer, managed to run for 100 yards before collapsing and dying. A 16-year-old youth pleaded not guilty to the murder.

It was stated that the youth was the ringleader and that together with a 22-year-old friend known as Scotch Al, decided to rob someone, preferably homosexual, with violence; the idea being that he was less likely to report the crime. The case continues.

Clap Wrists, Here Comes Chelsea.

LONDON: Venereal diseases in Kensington and Chelsea are on the rise – 60 per cent in three years – and a massive campaign is being launched by that Borough aimed especially at the 15- to 30-year-old age groups. Posters, teach-ins, and stickers for phone kiosks will be used in an effort to stamp out VD.

Reason for the massive increases – 13,500 in 1971 – were blamed by the Royal Borough’s Medical Officer Of Health, Dr D J Sheerboom, to the number of “speudo-artists or drifters” living in the area. “We have reason to believe that due to artistic temperaments in the borough, there is a high emphasis in sexual activities. This has not been stressed enough in the past as a cause for these sexually transmitted diseases.” Two new VD clinics were opened in the area last November to cope with the dramatic increase in cases.

Why Gay Lib?

ABERDEEN: Gay lovers in this ‘granite city’ (an oil boom town nowadays) were given a St Valentine’s Day pick-me-up when Ian Dunn spoke about homosexual love and the law in the Students Union on February 14. 550 students and public crowded in to listen and take part in the debate, ‘Why Gay Lib?’ which was organised by the University’s Debating Society. The Chaplaincy, the Student Councelling Service, and the Police were sharply criticised for their negative attitudes towards Aberdeen’s estimated 8,000 gays. The SRC has passed a motion in support of gay people and will call upon the National Union of Students to prioritise a Gay Rights motion for the Exeter conference.

NEWSETTES

◉ Public School Meets Gays

BRISTOL: Bristol Gay Awareness took its message to Clifton College, Bristol, recently. After a showing of the Gay Liberation Front movie Come Together, everyone divided up into discussion groups.

Members of the Bristol group felt that the evening was very successful in that they were able to put over the problems faced by gays in society to an understanding audience.

Perhaps other public schools and the gay groups near them, should do the same.

◉ Teacher Cleared

PRESTON: At the Crown Court here a former Southport teacher was found not guilty of ‘indecently assaulting’ a 15-year-old boy pupil.

The judge directed the jury to clear Peter, who now lives in York, of the charge. Peter denied the charge.

◉ Reading Students Back Gays

READING: Students at the university here have passed a motion declaring their support for moves to have gays’ rights discussed at the next conference of the National Union of Students.

This makes the third time that students have tried to get the NUS to take a stand on gay rights. The Reading motion was proposed by Goff Sargent, of Reading Gay Alliance, who was interviewed about this by the Reading Evening Post.

Goff said the NUS represented 24,000 gay students who were isolated and met with discrimination.

He told the Evening Post: ‘“Under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act the age of consent is 21. For heterosexuals it’s 16.

“There should be no discrimination between the ages of consent.”’

He said being gay was like being black.

‘“White people never understand what it is like to be black.” ’

The next NUS conference is on February 24 and students want to hear discussed the need for counselling and befriending gays, the provision of social facilities for gays and the creation of sexual equality. “It is no longer a clandestine activity,” Goff said.

RGA, which started as a student gay group, is now a town-and-university group. There are now more town members than university members.

What problems do Reading’s gays face? Goff said: “There is no great problem of harrassment as they have in London, but there is a general air of hostility, which means that many homosexuals are isolated. It’s the usual syndrome where he can’t mention it to his best friends and parents.”

◉ A Wilder Wiltshire

CHIPPENHAM: A group of gay people is forming in this Wiltshire market town. Initial Contact: Bob Illingsworth, Phone Box (Somerset) 2881. – BGAG.

◉ Stage Bans Gay Ads

LONDON: The Stage, the theatrical newspaper, has refused to carry a travel firm’s advertisement on the grounds that the ads refer specifically to gays.

When Gay News asked The Stage for an explanation, a spokesman for the paper said: “I’m not allowed to comment on this. But we’ve had so many veiled references, you know, that we’ve just had to start cracking down.”

We’ll report further when the managing director explains the Stage’s position of sexual discrimination in its advertisements.

◉ Dilly Goes On Record

LONDON: The Save Piccadilly campaign is giving away a 45 rpm record as part of its propaganda blitz to try to get the Greater London Council to shelve plans which will wipe out humans from London’s largest tourist attraction and gay-cruising spot.

Both sides of the record are written by Mike Klein (music) and Alan Wakeman words). The record, performed by Everyone Involved, a community rock group, is being given away.

If anyone wants a copy of The Circus Keeps On Turning/Motor Car Madness, all they have to do is to go along to The Almost Free Theatre, Rupert Street, London W1 and ask.

Nigel Stewart, Gillian Dickinson, James Asher, Mike Klein and Richard Oscar Lanchester, who make up Everyone Involved, made the record for nothing as their contribution to the Save Piccadilly Campaign.

Co-writer Alan Wakeman was partly responsible for the GLF-supporting record ‘Come Together’ which was given away last year.

About 2,500 copies of the Save Piccadilly record have been pressed.

◉ Northern CHE Gays Evade Subs Payment

LIVERPOOL: Liverpool CHE group has found that less than one-fifth of its 170 members have paid the additional local subscription of £1 over their subscriptions they pay to belong to CHE nationally.

The local sub, the latest Liverpool newsletter says, is to entitle members to go to the group’s meetings at the Archway Club.

Membership of the Archway Club does not entitle people to attend the CHE meetings held there. The club is a new meeting place for the group which finds that some members are put off coming to meetings because they are now held in a gay club

But, the newsletter says, ‘trust us; the Archway is a relaxing, pleasant, safe place to be and especially on our own nights, is reserved exclusively for CHE. And being a club means that you can unwind before the meeting with a drink, and stay on afterwards for a chat or a dance – until 2 am if you wish.’

The group has also negotiated with the club’s management to get cut-price membership of the club for its members. Liverpool CHE members who show their cards can now join the Archway club for £1.50, rather than the standard £2.00 club membership fee.

◉ York Honours Sir John
Photograph: R.I.P. Off

YORK: The university here has granted an honorary degree to Sir John Wolfenden, chairman of the committee which produced the then-daring report on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution.

Sir John, director of the British Museum, is a former vice-chancellor of Reading University.

His committee’s report did much to lower the temperature of opinion against gays in Britain, and thus made the 1967 Sexual Offences Act possible.

The committee was the first serious attempt to study the problems gays face and, whilst its findings may appear dated now, it was seen in its time as a great step forward.

◉ Thanks … But

LONDON: Gay News’ news section depends, to a large extent, on information sent in by local groups. If there’s a heavy bias towards a few groups, it’s because we get information from them, and therefore know what’s happening around Britain. Meanwhile thanks to Bath Gay Awareness, Leeds Gay Lib, Chilterns CHE, Liverpool CHE and Reading Gay Alliance for their newsletters/bulletins/ arrows etc.

If we don’t mention what you’ve been doing, it’s because you haven’t told us. Just type it – double spaced, please – and mail it to the News Deskette at Gay News, address is still 19 London Street, London W2 for now.

Students Back Gays

BRISTOL: The student newspaper of the Bristol Art students, which has a circulation of about 15,000 copies, published an article headed ‘Gay News’ on January 25th. The article dealt with a description of what it is like to be a gay person today; it opened with a description of a typical gay club and then went on to describe organisations such as GLF and CHE and gay publications such as Gay News, Lunch, Come Together and Gin.

Distributed among the article’s 2000 words were photographs of a Gay Liberation demonstration in Trafalgar Square, a picture of two men kissing and a cartoon. The article also included a section on the relationship between student unions and the gay rights movement which involves the possibility of getting a gay rights motion passed by the National Union of Students at its next conference in April. The article was the first to be published by the area paper although individual college papers had run articles about gay lib before they were replaced by the area paper last year.

Motion Passed

The General Meeting of the University of Bristol Union passed a motion dealing with homosexuals on January 17th. The motion, which was passed without opposition, called for trade union support for homosexuals who suspected that they had been dismissed for being gay. The motion also instructed the union’s executive to produce a report on homosexuals and to send a motion to the NUS for their next conference. In proposing the motion, Trevor Locke, who is a member of the union’s executive, said that the student movement in this country could do a great deal of good in supporting gay rights and trying to attack social and legal discrimination against homosexuals. Similar motions have been passed at other universities so that there is a growing body of support for gay people in the universities of this country.

Bristol Assists Exeter

A speaker from Bristol University Gay Soc addressed a meeting of 200 students at Exeter University on January 19, which was the first time that homosexuality had been discussed publicly there. Some students asked questions or made comments, and one student declared to the audience that he was gay and outlined the feeling of isolation he had as a gay person living on a heterosexual campus. There is no gay group either in Exeter city or in the University, but Bristol will help the formation of a group there.

We’re Doing Something

EDINBURGH: People working for homosexual law reform in Scotland were astonished to read GN11’s Editorial which — while making very pertinent points on Age of Consent and the heavy task ahead for those who will be promoting sexual law reform in the UK — failed to take account of progress in Scotland in 1972.

The main work has been carried out by the Scottish Minorities Group (Law Reform subcommittee), and by some office-bearers of the Scottish Council for Civil Liberties, to which SMG is affiliated. The whole work was greatly assisted by a donation from an SMG member of £100. Without this vital cash, SMG would not have been able to get beyond the “talking shop” stage.

The moves began in May 1971 when I (the SMG Chairman) successfully guided through an SMG Motion to the SCCL Annual General Meeting, calling on SCCL to take a firm stand on remaining social and legal discrimination against homosexuals in Scotland. This motion was on similar lines to that adopted by the National Union of Students (Scottish Region) in March 1971. A much expanded version is before the NUS Margate Conference, November 1972, proposed by the University of Reading.

In December 1971, the SMG Annual General Meeting adopted Councillor Ian Christie’s motion which instructed the Executive Committee (a) to consult with the SCCL upon the introduction of parliamentary legislation to repeal the 1885 Act as far as it applies to Scotland in order to legalise homosexual acts between consenting adults, and (b) to conduct an energetic campaign to enrol public opinion in Scotland in favour of such law reform.

We got off to a brisk start in January when the SMG pamphlet “The Case For Homosexual Law Reform in Scotland” was circulated to all 71 MPs who represented a Scottish constituency, and to a fair cross-section of Members of the House of Lords who had spoken out in favour of law reform in the 1960’s. The pamphlet was accompanied by a covering letter signed by Peter Wellington, the then Chairman of SCCL. The response was disappointing. Those MPs who even bothered to reply said they’d oppose Law Reform, or said that they were “sympathetic” but didn’t think it was an urgent issue. Liverpool CHE got much the same response when they wrote to all MPs in their area in May 1972. Disappointed as we were, we followed up the letters with an insistent lobbying campaign in the Edinburgh Area. The results of our conversations were quite encouraging (for the first time MPs were face-to-face with homosexuals, and it wasn’t so easy to be evasive), and we gradually realised that our best chances of success lay in the introduction of a Bill in the House of Lords.

Meanwhile (June 1972) we had completed our analysis of the (English) 1967 Act. A summary of this appeared in GN3 (July 1972). The analysis procedure was carried out over a series of committee meetings. We sought the views of SMG members through SMG NEWS, and wrote to several people with a knowledge of Scots law. We also began to write to the major religious and social institutions calling on them to inform SMG of their attitudes towards homosexual law reform, and to support the SMG campaign. So far, the Society of Friends in Scotland (Quakers) has expressed clear support for the SMG proposals.

This was the grimmest period of our work. The task was difficult and often distasteful. The existing law is couched in highly pejorative and emotive terms. Reluctantly we realised that we couldn’t hope to “clean up” all the phrases. The idea of a sexual “offence” is retained in our final proposals, as is the distinction between “sodomy” (buggery in England and Wales) and other types of sexual “offences”. Our legalisation proposals are fixed at 18 absolutely, with strong defence safeguards for 16 and 17-year-olds. No less than 5 Acts (3 exclusively relating to Scotland) are repealed in part or amended, and this explains why we felt it necessary to promote a “Scotland only” Bill — we really doubt whether an English Act could successfully take into account the fundamentally different aspects of Scots law. We have sent a copy of the Bill to Gay News. The Bill will be formally published on 2nd December 1972, and copies can be obtained from Mike Coulson, 9 Moray Place, Edinburgh, 3 at a cost of 30p each, post free.

Although we have had one definite response from a Member of the House of Lords, who has agreed “as a last resort” to introduce our Bill, we are still in the process of sounding out other Members’ views. Our lobbying campaign continues (up-to-date details from our Annual Report for 1972, issued 1st December), and the Crown Agent has congratulated us on the draughtsmanship of the proposed Bill. His main criterion is whether or not reform proposals are enforceable, and our proposals are “thoroughly enforceable”.

We have come under much pressure — even attack — from many homosexuals, some “figureheads”, for pushing ahead with Scottish proposals. When people haven’t been questioning us on the need for law reform (why bother, we’re okay thanks, brigade) others have criticised us for being too timid. Most people seemed to forget that the Law Reform Committee was (and is) working within the terms of the SCCL and SMG Annual Meeting instructions. Within these terms, we maintain, we have made good and solid progress towards Homosexual Law Reform for Scotland.

Ian Dunn

ED: The editorial in GN11 was written deliberately with the hope that we would receive such a response as above. To date we have received no replies from Campaign for Homosexual Equality or Gay Liberation Front.

We do though, consider it a great pity that SMG have settled for eighteen as being the consenting age for male homosexuals, for as we said in our editorial – ‘The age (of consent) should and must be sixteen, as it is with girls – for to settle for anything else would be an admission on our part that homosexuality is something different and strange.’