Bill Springall: Full Interview
Interviewed by Dominic Bilton
17th September 2018
DB: Dominic Bilton, 17th September, West Yorkshire Queer Stories.
B: I’m Bill, I currently live in Leeds and I’m gay.
DB: Simple enough isn’t it! [laughing]
B: Yes [Laughing]
DB: Thanks for coming Bill, I thought we could talk about….
B: Is that recording now?
DB: It is yeah
B: It’s just I couldn’t see the meter.
DB: Yeah it’s going, yeah its, fingers crossed.
DB: I thought that we could talk about your time at Leeds Poly with the Gay Liberation; I thought you could tell us how you got involved with the Gay Liberation at Leeds Poly to start with.
B: When I used to go to the meetings every Friday evening, so people used to gather and often there would be someone there giving a talk, that was it, and often went go back to someone’s place afterwards for a bit of a party [laughing] or we might go down the pub, is it the Fenton, is it still the Fenton?
B: Yeah, we used to go to the Fenton as well. Yeah.
DB: Was that advertised around Uni or was there just a ……
B: I don’t know really. I don’t know how I found out about it, there might have been some posters up or something, I don’t know really, the other thing that I got involved in to do with that was there was, it would have been the GLF [Gay Liberation Front] office on Woodhouse Lane. They have knocked a building down next to the post office which I think that was the building in the basement there and it’s sort of across from the Fenton, down that little side road, yeah, so that’s where it was, you went down stairs coz there was an office down there and we painted it out sort of all psychedelic and swirly patterns and that, so.
DB: What did it mean for you to get involved with the Gay Liberation, was it more to meet meet….
B: Well it was a social thing really getting to know to know other gay people, coz coming from not knowing anyone else who was gay and it was nice to meet other people who were gay, that’s the thing, so.
DB: So the gay liberation thing was more of a social thing than more of a political thing?
B: Well I think it was a bit of both really, some people were more social and other people were more political, there are a few people were quite political, there is a bloke who is still around Leeds who goes to the meetings here [at MESMAC] on a Friday the Leeds Gay Men’s Group. I used to go to that but I’ve given it up as it’s not very good [laughing] and he still goes to that at times, yeah, there was also another thing at the time CHE [Campaign for Homosexual Equality] which you would have heard about won’t you?
DB: Just explain that for us will you?
B: Yeah, Campaign for Homosexual Equality. Is it OK to put in other people’s names?
DB: Yeah, well yeah
B: Well Henry Giles, he’s dead now but he used to have a lot to do with CHE, in fact he used to run the local group, he was one of our lecturers on interior design at the Poly, so, that’s how I got to know about CHE through him. It’s funny really because in our group at college, there was three of us who were gay in our group, so.
DB: Out of how many?
B: Was there eight or was there ten because what happens there is that you start with a year group and then it splits up in year two into three groups, into interior design, industrial design and furniture design. I did interior design but later on I wish I had of done furniture design, probably. I think there was eight, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, yeah eight or ten and three of us were gay and we all had the same Christian name as well, which was rather funny [laughing].
DB: Must have been a popular name at that time. What year are we talking here Bill? [Laughing]
B: Well I started that in 1971, so ‘71 to ‘74.
DB: So it’s a couple of years after the decriminalisation isn’t it?
B: Yeah coz that was ‘68 wasn’t it? 
DB: Yeah, so what part were you, were you more social or political?
B: I’m not very political at all really, it’s more social for me. I’m not really a political person, so.
DB: Was there marches, was there rallies organised? Did you go on anything like that?
B: There were but I don’t think I went on anything like that, no, I don’t think so.
DB: Just a social thing?
B: Yeah and also on things like that I’m a bit afraid of being seen by people I know who doesn’t know, if you know what I mean? So, I’m still a bit afraid of that now, even, coz where I live now, none of my neighbours know, so, it’s a thing I’m still a bit wary of, until I get to know people, I don’t tell them, until I get to know what they are like. So, where I live where I live now, I’ve lived there two and quarter years and I lived other places in-between and I’ve lived in Leeds from 2000 to 2004 but prior to that I lived in Birmingham and I lived there for 11 years and eventually I told all my neighbours there and it wasn’t a problem and I’m still in touch by phone with a couple of my neighbours there and I also worked in a charity shop there and I’m still in touch with someone who worked in the charity also, a woman, so. But here it will probably take me a while to come out because there isn’t a lot of interactions with neighbours really, so...
DB: But you are friends with and a member of Friends of Dorothy aren’t you?
B: Oh yeah.
DB: So that social thing is still there.
B: Yeah, the Friends of Dorothy is really good actually and I always look forward to the meetings because it’s a good selection of people and we all get on well, as well, so that’s good, so…
DB: So, tell us a bit about Friends of Dorothy, what is it? What do you do? What do you talk about? [laughing]
B: [laughing] It’s very informal, we just turn up there on a Thursday, it’s the last Thursday of the month around 12 o’clock, twelve till two, we gather in this room and Craig, runs it but their isn’t really anything organised and do you know what, it doesn’t really matter, coz as long as you go there and you talk to people, that’s really all what it is about, isn’t it? Occasionally someone comes in to talk to us about something but I like the fact that is very easy like that coz one of the things I didn’t like about the thing that I used to come to here is that they would have a video or DVD or something but you can watch a DVD at home and when it is on, people don’t talk and to me the whole thing about a social thing is that you want to talk to people, don’t you? So, that’s the thing, so
DB: Does that have a political element to it, or is not about that?
B: What, Friends of Dorothy?
B: Only in terms of promoting a social thing for gay people, if you can call that political? So I suppose you call everything like that political couldn’t you? I think it’s really good actually.
DB: Well, I suppose it isn’t the ‘70s anymore, I mean the Campaign for Homosexual Equality is still needed in some respects but….
B: Yeah but things have changed so dramatically. I mean do we just talk about anything while that’s on?
DB: Yeah, why not
B: Listening to Jeremy Vine, who I think is a bit of pratt [laughing] on his programme earlier, they were talking about people dating and I think it was to do with online dating but I wasn’t sure as I didn’t catch the start of it and there was this bloke on talking and he said something about meeting this bloke and I thought, oh he is gay [laughing] and instantly then you start to listen a lot more closely. It’s so good the fact that he is talking so openly about this bloke meeting another bloke and the nice thing about this bloke is that the bloke didn’t sound camp or anything and I hate it when they infer that gay people sound camp and I just thought that just shows how things have changed because that wouldn’t have happened years ago, it’s fantastic, so…
DB: What do you think to social media and all these apps changing those meeting groups etc.
B: Do you mean where people can meet up?
B: I don’t go on any of those, if I want to go on a computer I go to the library. What I did do a while ago was to buy a phone, I mean I have a mobile phone, that one you rang me on but I bought another one which has a bigger screen because that one is just a three inch Samsung which is really good as a phone but I bought one with a larger screen which was only £29 with £10 top up from Vodaphone and its fantastic because with this top up, you can spend a pound in a day that’s the maximum you can spend and once you have spent that, you get free phone calls, free texts and half a gig of data so I go on the internet and I go on these sites, porn sites [Laughing a lot]
DB: Maybe we’ll put a bleep through that? [Laughing a lot]
B: Well I go onto Pinterest and down load these pictures of blokes, I love hunky blokes and I have hundreds of pictures of these blokes [laughing] on my phone but someone told me about Viva Street and I have looked at that but I’ve never done anything, I’ve just looked at it once and that was it, so I’m a bit scared about that sort of thing because I’ve never done it but I know someone who is always meeting people through that [laughing] those things but it’s just one of those things isn’t it?
DB: You prefer the real interaction
B: Yeah, the problem is that I haven’t managed to get into any of the pubs as yet apart from one, Fibre or the one next door, the one that has the alley way down the side, which is that?
DB: I think they share it don’t they, Queens Court and Fibre.
B: Yeah Queens Court, went there with, coz I was out with, it was a thing related to the Friends of Dorothy but that was the first time. Where I tend to go I’ve been to the sauna up here though it’s crap to be honest, the last few times I’ve been in the sauna cabin hasn’t been working, it’s a sauna and the sauna cabin doesn’t work, the jacuzzi hasn’t been working and so I decided to have a trip over to the re-opened one in Armley because I used to go there when I first moved back here. It’s a bit of a trek but then they had a fire and the roof caved in or whatever. The reason I go to saunas is because I am into bodies and when you to a sauna, you see someone’s body and you don’t get a shock, you know what I mean?
B: So that’s why, but the one at Armley is full of fat old blokes and the one here isn’t much better to be honest, so I haven’t been for a while to be honest, I need to get out and down get down pub I suppose but I just need to force myself.
DB: How long have you been back in Leeds?
B: In total its nearly three years coz what I did I rented a studio flat, was it a studio flat, no probably just a flat, in Crossgates and put all my things in store and that was six months and that was while I looked for a house and I’ve been in the house now for two and a quarter years, so.
DB: How do you think students from the ‘70s and this Gay Liberation that you were part of, although you were more social than political, do you think that they effected any change within the city that you see now? That the Gay Liberation Front managed to achieve in the ‘70s?
B: Yeah but that wasn’t just a local thing, that was a national thing as well wasn’t it? Yeah, it’s because of that that the situation has changed isn’t it? If they hadn’t of been around we’d probably been in very much the same situation, wouldn’t we? So yeah, I think they have yeah!
DB: Do you still stay in touch with anyone from those days?
B: The only person I know, one of the people who goes to the Friday thing, and there is another person who I know who lives over in Kirkstall way. I did manage to find out where he lives and I went out and to see him and he was supposed to get in touch with me and he didn’t, so I thought bugger it, I tripped over there to see him and he didn’t get in touch, so I thought bugger it. And I do know someone else who lives in Headingley but I got in touch with him the last time I lived here but if he visits you, you have to make a meal for him and if I went to his house, he would make a meal and if he came to my house I would make a meal but I just can’t be arsed because you have to make a meal that’s something special and get all these special ingredients and I thought why? What’s wrong with going over to someone’s house for a coffee, so I just haven’t bothered, so, I mean, I know quite a lot of people who are not around, well you know why! Yeah, so I remember, through talking to a lot of people, a lot of them have got AIDS, so that’s the thing, so.
DB: Were you around in Leeds when that took hold, where were you then?
B: I would have been in Sheffield then, yeah, I was, coz what happened was after Leeds, I got a job in Sheffield which I took on really as a stop gap until I got something better [laughing] but I enjoyed it so much and what happened was, it was a job at Sheffield Poly as a technician in industrial design and then this design job came up in the papers in Sheffield and I applied for it and got it and went to this place called Elsecar near Barnsley, a company called Modernisation. It’s absolutely crap company really, they used to do, well work on hotels and bingo halls and things like that but the thing was the boss expect you worked all the hours God sends and didn’t pay you any extra and at that time I bought a house that needed a lot of work doing on it and I was working on that as well and I didn’t have a car and so I had to rely on someone else who worked there to give me a lift and I didn’t enjoy the job because I was working in the drawing office there with this other bloke on the top floor but this other bloke smoked and I didn’t smoke and I didn’t like that. I mean that wouldn’t be allowed these days but working in an office with someone next to you who was smoking and so I looked around and there was a job advertised at Debenhams in Sheffield as furniture repairer and I applied for that and got it and what I used to do was any furniture in store that got damaged I would repair, furniture that got delivered to people’s houses and got damaged, I would go to people’s houses and repair it, wardrobes, knock down wardrobes that got delivered to people’s houses that people couldn’t assemble, I would go to people’s houses and assemble them for them and I loved it. I didn’t have a car, so I had to do it on the bus, so what I would do is, I would phone people up and arrange jobs that were in a similar area so that I could get a bus to one and walk to the other or get another bus and I loved it and then I got contacted by Head of Department or Head of School at the college in Sheffield where I had worked saying there was a vacancy coming up and he wanted me to apply for it because he wanted me to go back there, so I was in quandary because I loved that job but I also loved the job that I was doing and I thought which do I do and I thought that the college had a better future really, so I had an interview for that, got the job and went back there and it was really good actually. I can’t remember how long I had worked there at first and the break was only like, I can’t remember how long I worked for the other company, a matter of eight months or something or something like that but I went back and worked my way up to become Senior Technician but I really enjoyed the job because I was working with wood, metal and plastic, showing the students how to use lathes showing them how to use wood working machinery showing them how to vacuum-form plastic, showing them how to spray things up because what they used to do was they designed something then make an appearance model out of jelutong, which, you probably don’t know what jelutong is? It’s like a really soft wood with really close grain and because it’s got close grain you can carve it to make quite good shapes, so make things out of timber and plastics and metal and spray them up so they look like the real thing. You make a telephone and make it look the real thing but it was only made of wood or plastic but you could feel what it was like and that and I would show them how to do that and I mean there was three technicians in the workshop and I started off as working as the lowest one and I worked my way up to become the top one really [laughing] and we got on quite well the technicians and its funny coz there was, one of the other technicians, I think he probably slightly disapproved of me being gay but one thing that was really fun when I came out there coz I’d been there a while and then decided to come out and the way that happened was I was talking to this Asian student in the workshop one day and he asked me if I was married and we were talking about things and he then asked me if i was gay and I said yes and then he said, well, you shouldn’t hide it and be honest about it [laughing] and so he helped me to come out, which was really good and whenever the students had parties, I’d always get invited to their parties. Oh actually, what I was going to say, when the word got around that one of the technicians was gay and the cleaners [laughing], we used to have these two cleaners who used to come and clean our workshops, Justin and Vera, and they were saying that one of the technicians was gay and they thought it was this other technician, the one who slightly disapproved of me coz he had a slightly camp voice and they thought it was him, which Glynn and myself thought was really funny.[laughing]
DB: Were the cleaners saying that to you?
B: Yeah then I told them, no its not him [laughing] it’s me but they were really fine about it and the thing is I didn’t have any problems there and there was only one member of staff which was a senior technician higher than me, well he was sort of the top technician was in another department but he was over me as well and it was obvious he disapproved of me being gay but no problems otherwise and this house that I was working on I eventually made, in the basement, a disco area and two rooms at the back of the house I used as a work shop and that and I did those up as well and they could be used for parties as well and I used to have parties at times and I used to invite my gay friends and the students and the students, you know it would be crowded and they couldn’t give a damn that I was gay and I got invited to their parties and I could take friends as well and it was really good, it was a really good time and of course the music then, ‘70s and 80s music was superb, so it was really good…I wish things were like that now. [laughing]
DB: It’s a little bit more stricter perhaps with everything now….
B: But then what happened was, I saw this job advertised in Birmingham, sort of almost the same kind of job as I was doing but as a lecturer and so I applied for that and I got that so I moved there and that [emotional] was the same time that my brother was ill [emotional] coz my brother died of AIDS, my twin brother and he was gay as well, so, when I was moving to Birmingham that was going on as well and then he died [emotional]…so…the situation in Birmingham wasn’t as good, the relationship with the students wasn’t the same, I don’t know whether it was being a lecturer, I mean it was quite good but it wasn’t as good and then, what happened, my technician, my workshop technician was an oldish bloke but you had to be careful what you said to him otherwise he would start crying which was really strange, so we advertised for a technician and these applicants came in and one of them was an African Caribbean bloke and he seemed cheerful in the interview and he said he knew about a lot of the processes we did and so he got the job and he started and it wasn’t very good in quite a lot of ways really and he didn’t know a lot of things that he said he had known but then he started not doing his job properly and I’d ask him to do things and he didn’t do what I would ask and it made life really difficult and I complained to my superiors and they wouldn’t do anything. I don’t know if that was because he was black and I decided I was going to leave if they didn’t do anything and anyway and then I discovered what the problem was because a student told me and the reason he had a problem with you was because he’s found out you are gay and he disapproves because he’s Afro Caribbean and it’s ‘beat the batty boy’ and that kind of thing, so that was that, anyway I left, oh and when I found out what the reason was, I actually had a word with my union, NALGO, and they asked me for all my details coz they were going to take it on as constructive dismissal but in the end they decided they didn’t have enough confidence that they could win the case so they didn’t take it on, so, anyway so that was that, so…
DB: Did you stay in Birmingham or did you come back to Leeds then?
B: Well I stopped in Birmingham for quite a while after because house prices had come down then and so I had to wait until house prices started going up again, so I didn’t lose money on the house which was 2000 actually, so I worked self-employed, part time and all that and did various things really, so, in a way what I wish I had of done was gone part time coz at least it wouldn’t have seemed as much and I would have still have got a regular income, however and then, what I’d did then was I decided I was going to move and decided I was going to come back to Leeds and I lived in Leeds from 2000 until 2004 and then decided I wanted to live somewhere smaller and moved and I’d lived in quite a few places in between and ended up, the thing is, I’ve been trying to look for quality of life and a gay scene and, problem is with quality of life these days is noise, I hate noise and trying to find somewhere quiet and had quite a few problems really and ended up before moving back here, ending up in Poole down to Bournemouth and I remember going down to Bournemouth in the ‘80s and it being very gay but it’s not as gay now but I ended up buying a bungalow in Poole. I looked around in winter and it seemed alright and then around about Easter time, all the aircraft noise started, didn’t it, which I didn’t know about and what I didn’t know was that the aircraft from Bournemouth airport went over that area in a loop and I didn’t know about that and I hated it but it wasn’t only that I had this horrible neighbour next door who worked for the RAC who thought the road in front of my bungalow was his parking place for his RAC van and so it was stuck out there all the time and whenever I had been to look at the property it was never there and then one evening whilst the sale was going through I went over there unannounced and it was there but if a van is there as a one off you don’t think anything of it but I wish I had of gone over again unannounced as no doubt it would have been there again and of course when I moved in, it was there all the bloody time and of course I couldn’t do anything about it and whenever he went out in it, I’d move my car there so as he couldn’t park there and when I went out in my car, I’d come back and his bloody van would be parked there again and I mean I had a drive but I would park on the road purposely to stop him. So in the end what I did, the previous people had done it so you could go onto the drive onto this area in front of the bungalow, so I had a hole made in the wall, in the hedge, so that you could go on from the road and had a drop curb and that stopped him parking there but then he put nails under my tires, damaged the wall, did all sorts, so I fitted CCTV in the end, the bastard, I contacted the RAC but they were a waste of time, he was horrible, really horrible bloke, so I moved from there because of him and because of the aircraft noise and I decided to come back to Leeds, so, my third time here, so.
DB: Is this from Bournemouth?
B: Yeah, I moved back here from there because it’s a hell of a thing because its 255 miles, hell of a way, so, it’s too far to come and look at a property, so what I did was put everything in store and rented this flat in Crossgates, what I said about earlier, and looked around whilst I was here.
DB: Have you got quality of life now?
B: Well the noise rears its ugly head again because I checked out the area on Flight Radar 24 to check there wasn’t aircraft over the area and there wasn’t and all was well until either late year or earlier this year when I started noticing aircraft and it’s got worse and I actually spoke to my MP about it last week and so he is going to make some enquiries and find out what’s going on because when I first moved there, there wasn’t any aircraft noise and it’s started. I hate aircraft noise, absolutely hate it, so
DB: What part of Leeds is it that you live in now?
B: Oakwood, so, it’s nice built in the ‘70s and the neighbours are OK and coz when I lived in Leeds the previous time I lived in a house just across from the bottom of the park and so I’m not that far from there now, so, but I hate bloody aircraft noise.
DB: Is it a different area now, Oakwood from when…?
DB: Is it a different feel in Oakwood now?
B: Well the thing I don’t like is all eateries now and hardly any shops which is a shame because when I lived there before their used to be a Safeway on Roundhay Road. It’s now a Home Bargains which is better than nothing because it’s been closed for a long time but it would be nice if there were a few ordinary shops there instead of just eateries and that and that’s a shame really…but nothing you can really do about that really.
DB: Gentrification I think isn’t it?
BS Is that what it is? [laughing]
DB: Yeah I think so, perhaps. I think we have had a right good chat, haven’t we?
Bill: Anything else on that list?
DB: Let’s have a look…[pause] Did we talk about aversion therapy?
B: We did but it wasn’t on here
DB: What’s Tom?
B: That’s my brother
DB: Do you want to talk some more about him, I don’t want to upset you any more.
B: We can do yeah
DB: It’s interesting how both you and him were gay, isn’t it?
B: Well let’s talk about that, well what happened was, I had a bed sitter on Ash Grove in Leeds, a really nice bed sitter and a really nice landlady as well and one day he came to visit me and he was just sat there in my bed sitter and he said, ‘oh by the way I’m homosexual’, and I said, ‘oh that makes two of us then’, [laughing], so, we started talking about lads in Millom. I don’t know how much of this going to be put in
DB: We can talk and let it flow and whatever they want to use they can use
B: Yeah, how much of this going to be made public?
DB: Whatever you are comfortable with
B: But am I asked afterwards when it’s transcribed or what?
DB: yeah yeah
B: That’s fine then. We were talking about lads from Millom in school, ones we thought were nice [laughing] and I then discovered, you see I had never, until going to these meetings at the Uni, knowingly met anyone who was gay, never had any sexual thing but I then discovered that he had and he was, although we are twins, we aren’t identical twins, and he is better looking than me, bit bigger than me and he had had various liaisons with people in Millom even, God! [laughing]
DB: And you didn’t know anything about these?
B: No because what used to happen apparently, you see he is more outgoing than me, and our Dad had a car and my brother drove it at times. I wasn’t interested in it and I think he took friends out in the car and then at night they would come back, I cannot remember the exact thing, but they couldn’t get home, or something like that, so they would share his bed and that’s when things happened, coz we had separate bedrooms and I didn’t know any of this was going on, so, revelation really, yeah but we, unfortunately didn’t get on very well because our adopted mother would play one of us of against another a lot of the time, it’s not that we didn’t get on but we got on better later on because he left home before me and so we kept in touch on the phone at times and then when I left home and got a house in Sheffield and got a phone installed, we used to ring each other. I’d ring him one week and he’d ring me the next, something like that, so we kept in touch and I visited him and he would visit me occasionally and then one time he rang me, when I was living in Sheffield, and said he’d got HIV and it was just HIV he hadn’t actually got AIDS and the sometime after [upset] he said he had AIDS and then I went to see him in hospital and he died and that was it. I mean if it was now, there would be treatment but there wasn’t then, I miss him, he is my only bloody relative I have. What happened with us is, our mother, our real mother, her husband got killed in the war and she met this other bloke who was a Canadian soldier, she had us and she had already got a son by the previous husband and my brother managed to find a few things out and I managed to find a few things out and it seemed, well, he went back to Canada after the war and it seems that it might have been that she had an alcohol problem, or something is mentioned about that, so, he left her in effect and went back to Canada and so we were put in a home. Then we were adopted by these people, which we wish hadn’t have happened and we often used to say that we wish we had been adopted by someone else because there was no love, there was no love in our house or no comfort not very good, so, so that’s that really.
DB: And where did Tom live? Did he stay in Millom?
B: No he lived in London he worked for British Airways, he was an air steward and used to fly all over the world and he reckoned he got AIDS in America, so…
DB: What year was that?
B: That was 1986, so… I’ve only ever been on a plane once coz one time he said to me, coz he had been on a flight to San Francisco, he said to me, ‘oh you should go to San Francisco’ and so one day I said to him, ‘oh I’d like to go over to San Francisco’, he said, ‘don’t be stupid, you have never been on a plane [laughing] before and it’s a 10 hour flight’, so anyway, I said I would like to go and so he arranged it for me and it cost me £60 coz you just pay 10% if you are a relative and I enjoyed it actually and that’s the only time I’ve ever been on a plane, so, yeah.
DB: Still quite raw for you isn’t it, obviously?
B: Yeah as he is the only bloody relative and he is the only person who knows what we went through with that adoption because, you know, it wasn’t very good. The house was a pig sty and she had no pride, she was fat and she was lazy and skitted me for being skinny and she was fat and you think, why do people like that adopt? He was useless and never took any interest. I’m wary about what I’m saying coz, but it’s a thing that really narks me because it has such an effect on you, I’d be a completely different person if I’d of been brought up in a nice household. I’ve got a lot of it just has an effect on you being brought up in that situation, so, anyway, that’s life isn’t it? Yeah.
What else have we got on there?
DB: Aversion therapy
B: That needs to go on there doesn’t it?
DB: Yeah, lets
B: Well, if I just say what I said before, what led up to it
DB: Yeah do
B: Shall I say what led up to?
DB: Yeah and how you ended up in Lancaster as well.
B: Being brought up in a small town up north and I served my time as a painter and decorator but was aware that I was gay and living in a small town, I was aware that people might know about me being gay, suspect I was gay and I was in touch with an ex-teacher, a wood work teacher from my school and he suggested I got to college. I hadn’t got any qualifications because I’d left school at 15, so he arranged I’d could go back to school during the day to take wood work and technical drawing and then to go in the evening to take Maths and English. These were all O-Levels and what I did was, I packed in my job and I worked self-employed so I could work my hours around, so I could go to school and, so I took four O-Levels and I got three of them [laughing]. I didn’t get the English and then, because I decided I wanted to do a design course and I would need to do a Foundation Course, with living in Cumbria, supposed to do the course in Carlisle in Cumbria but Carlisle only offered the two year course but my local authority could only give me a one year grant and Lancaster, although not in Cumbria did a one year Foundation Course and so I had to go before the board in Carlisle to put my case and they agreed to let me go to Lancaster and so they gave me the one year grant and I went to Lancaster for the Arts Foundation Course and when I was on that course, which I really enjoyed it was really good and there was 35 of us in total, mainly blokes but girls on it as well and I was the oldest one. I was aware I was living a double life because at dinner time when we had something to eat, we would wonder around Lancaster and the young lads, of course, would be ogling females and making comments and I would be surreptitiously [laughing] looking at blokes and thinking, ‘ooh he is nice’, [laughing] but couldn’t day anything, so I was aware of living a double life. So I went to my doctor, I had registered with my doctor there and I went to my doctor and said to him ‘I’m gay’, or whatever term I used then, homosexual or whatever, ‘can I have some treatment please?’ So he arranged for me to see this other bloke who would see if I was a suitable person to have this treatment. This bloke I saw was really ahead of his time because he said to me, ‘OK, so you are gay, just accept it and live with it, but if you want treatment I will arrange it for you’. So, I said, ‘yes, I would like treatment’, and he arranged treatment for me which meant going to Lancaster Moor hospital every Friday afternoon and the treatment was that you chose, I think, 40 slides of men who would be the men you found most attractive, and generally they would be generally men who were wearing shorts or trunks; and then 40 females slides, bearing in mind that I’m gay and not interested in women, just choose 40 slides which you think would be the most attractive. Then what they did, they would put electrodes on your wrists and show you the slides, and I think it was a female slide for 20 seconds, and a male slide for ten seconds, and an electric shock; then a female slide for 20 seconds and a male slide then an electric shock; and go through the whole lot three times every session and adjust the shocks to the maximum that you could stand. I went through this process, I can’t remember for how long exactly, but certainly for a few weeks but, at one point, I said to the bloke administering it, ‘do you think if you had this in reverse, it would make you gay?’ And he said, ‘well, it’s bound to have some effect’, but I just thought it was a total waste of time and so I packed it in. And then the following year I went to Leeds and it was the start of Gay Lib, so that changed my life.
DB: Did it have any side effects?
B: I don’t know, I don’t know because I think it could make you more mixed up really, couldn’t it? [laughing] I don’t really but I just think it’s an absolute waste of time and I think the bloke I saw, the second bloke, was probably very sensible but of course when you are in that situation and as things were then I just thought they can change you but of course you cannot change someone’s sexuality, no way, so.
DB: Was this in the ‘70s?
B: Yes, that was actually 1970, yeah coz it was 1970 when I went to Lancaster, so. The funny thing is that when I came to Leeds and went to these gay do’s and went to the gay meetings and then went to my first gay party, which was in Headingley, one of those roads off Victoria, coz when I first moved to Leeds I was in some digs on Victoria Road, 137 Victoria Road, Mrs Winteringham [laughing], and I remember going to this party which was up the road from me. You crossed this road and, what’s the name of that road, but there was a party up there and who should be there but this bloke that had been on the Foundation Course with me coz neither of us knew the other one was gay but I thought that was quite funny really but that was quite strange really coz it was the first time I had been kissed by a bloke, this bloke started kissing me which was really strange.
DB: That guy from the Foundation?
BSl: No, no, I wish it had been actually coz he was nice [laughing]
DB: When is this, in ‘71?
B: Well this would have been ‘71, yeah, I guess, 1971, ’72, yeah I think it would have been ’71.
DB: So what makes you keep on coming back to Leeds? Is it because…
B: I think it’s because I came out in Leeds and I think of Leeds as home really and I mean I’ve lived in so many different places and the trouble of living in lots of different places is that you can remember bits of living in different places and you think, ‘oh, I miss such and such from another place’, so, but I think Leeds is relatively friendly and it’s got quite a good gay scene although I’ve not been there yet, since coming back here, coz when I used to live here before, I used to go into the Bridge and I used to go into one which was, I think it’s now an estate agents, on that curved road leading down to the Red Lion, there used to be a sort of, I can’t remember what it was called?
DB: I know where you mean, yeah.
B: That’s no longer there, so…
DB: I think it was called XS, or something in my day.
B: Was it, oh [laughing] I used to go to the only sauna on Bayswater Road and I used to go to Plastic Ivy and I’d been there once since the disappointment with that place [Base Sauna] and I’d forgotten how small Plastic Ivy was and it’s a bit of a trek as well going over there really, so…
DB: Harehills isn’t that far from you now though is it?
B: Yeah but I wouldn’t want to go to the Harehills one now though, I mean I don’t know what that is now?
DB: Is it still there?
B: Yeah but it’s not a gay sauna, no, I think it’s something else, coz there was a fire there one time wasn’t there but it was a grotty place that isn’t it?
DB: Doesn’t have good reviews on Trip Advisor then? [Laughing]
B: No, I wouldn’t want to go to that
DB: Do you go to that Blades Bar down here?
B: No I don’t actually but I pass by walking here actually, no, I mean I ought to go in there and I ought to go into, what’s the one on the corner called, oh the show bar, the Viaduct but I’ve never been in there and I ought to go into the Bridge and see what it is like but it’s, I don’t know, it’s getting around to it, coz last year I spent a lot of time working on the house coz the house needs a lot of work doing to it coz although it was sold as immaculate, it was anything but and I spent a lot of last year doing work on it and I’ve still got something to do but this year, for various reasons, I had a cataract operation on this eye, and I don’t know, just various things and I haven’t managed to get much done this year and I might regard this from a year off from the house and finish it off next year, so.
DB: I think we have discussed most things on the list
DB: Thank you very much, thank you.