This year, the Festival Comms Team has reached out to all OUTing the Past 2018 gazetted presenters, whose presentations you may see at upcoming celebrations. In order to provide a platform for their invaluable work, presenters were asked a series a questions to acquaint you with their previous and current projects.
Peter Scott-Presland & Andrew Lumsden were kind enough to share:
THE TRIAL OF LORD ALFRED DOUGLAS
PETER SCOTT-PRESLAND, Counsel for the Prosecution: Lord Alfred Douglas was the single most disastrous thing to happen to LGBT+ Equality in the last 200 years – more destructive than Henry Labouchere, more sanctimonious than Mary Whitehouse, more vindictive than Section 28. By literally and metaphorically destroying both Oscar Wilde and that pioneer of gay liberation Robert Ross, Wilde’s first real boyfriend, he set us all back by at least fifty years.
ANDREW LUMSDEN, Counsel for the Defence: In the 1890s Lord Alfred Douglas, not ‘Robbie’ Ross, was the recognisable pioneer of gay liberation. With his ‘Two Loves’ he was the first male poet since Christopher Marlowe to make an unforgettable protest against the hetero-normative. Douglas then suffered a catastrophic post-activist burn-out. Wilde refused to run for it in 1895, resulting in his prison injuries and death, and Eire honours him for that brave defiance today.
“I’ve always been obsessed with LGBT History. The first song I wrote, ‘We Were In There’, was about the Wilde Trial, the 1920s Pansy Craze and the Stonewall Riots. I premiered it on May 23rd 1972 in a very ugly beige frock in front of 200 drunken rugby players. There has been no looking back.
“I’ve written musicals (‘Wednesday Matinee’, set in a cinema on a wet afternoon in 1963), cabaret songs, plays (‘Teatrolley’, about the 1971 GLF invasion of Hampstead Heath at night) and compiled the anthology ‘Somebody Bin Usin’ That Thing’ about Gay Life 1870-1930 in Britain, France, American and Germany, using contemporary queer songs, diaries, trial transcripts, plays – and dear old gossip. A sequel, ‘Queer Things Are Happening To Me’, using similar material 1930-1970, is in the pipeline. At the moment I’m looking for funding for ‘Oscar’s Boys’, a double bill of one-act chamber operas about Robert Ross and Alfred Douglas respectively [millionaires please note].
“Then there’s ‘Amiable Warriors: The History of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and its Times’ – Volume One out already, Volume Two half way done and Volume Three stretching to infinity.
“Like I say, I’m obsessed with LGBT history – though it’s a bit disconcerting to find that, while still mentally a frisky 18-year-old, I seem to have become part of it myself.“
Andrew Lumsden was a national newspaper journalist in the 1960s-1970s, working successively for the Daily Telegraph, then owned by the English-resident Berry family rather than the offshore Barclay brothers, and The Times, then owned by the Canadian Roy Thomson, who was born the year before the conviction of Oscar Wilde. Learning of the London-based (but country-wide) Gay Liberation Front (GLF) through a report in his own newspaper Andrew became a participant. Later he was a co-founder of the seminal and hugely important fortnightly national newspaper/magazine, ‘Gay News’ (1972-1983). He is still a gay activist. See eg www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/41084414.
As a participant in GLF Andrew recognises in Lord Alfred Douglas (1870-1945) the same fury that was in the activists of the Gay Liberation Front in in the 1970s. Douglas’s brief brilliant protest in the 1890s was unprecedented since the playwright Christopher Marlowe’s similar protest in the 1590s. Both Marlowe and Douglas suffered an inner backlash of ungovernable rages, leading in Marlowe’s case to his youthful death.
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) is a different recognisable type of the 1970s, the sort of successful gay man who yearns to be “GLF” but can’t quite bring himself to be. Do shake Andrew’s hand. He has shaken the hand of a man who shook the hand of Alfred Douglas who shook the hand of… Oscar Wilde. Or if you prefer, kiss him.
Be sure to follow @LGBTHM for more information during the Festival, and check out our national media partner, The Canary!