Patrick Hall: Full Interview
Interviewed by Rachel Larman
5th October 2015
RL: Rachel Larman doing an interview with Patrick Hall for the Queer Stories project, about politics, on the 5th October 2015. OK?
PH: Yes, I came to Leeds in 1969 to do a teacher training course at Trinity and All Saints College, as it was. It’s now Leeds Trinity University, but then it was just a teacher training college. It was a Catholic teacher training college, because I’d been brought up as a Catholic, and – that wasn’t why I chose it, I chose it I think because it had quite a good course […] and it also gave a BA degree, not just the teaching certificate. So, I came up in September 1969, from a very conservative background, conservative in all ways – capital C and small c – from the south coast, a fairly middle-class upbringing, and I was myself a Tory, and again probably conservative with a small c in a number of ways. Anyway, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do – I didn’t really want to teach. If I had wanted to, I’d probably lost the vocation for it a few years earlier, so I’d come up here not being able to get into university because my A-levels weren’t good enough, so I thought teacher training college was the next best thing. So really instead of doing work for the course, I tended just to get to know a lot of people – I’d been rather socially isolated in Sussex, where I had come from, and I didn’t have any school friends to speak about, really, so I came up here, being, as I say, without friends, and I got to know an awful lot of people at the college, socially it was a wonderful experience, and – instead of getting down to my studies I tended to sit around in the coffee bar and talk to people and visit people in their rooms in the hall of residence.
So for the first year, I think I did one or maybe two essays, at the most. Anyway, by the time of the first term of the second year, I think they noticed this, and one of my lectures said he was absolutely amazed that I’d got away with doing so little the first year. Anyway, I was doing history as my main subject. The head of history said, ‘well I don’t think we can really allow him to carry on, and I think we’re going to ask – we’re going to ask that you be asked to leave at Christmas’, which was the Christmas term, first term of the second year. And I suppose I was a bit shocked at first, but I thought, ‘well, it’s probably for the best, because I don’t really want to teach, and y’know I don’t know what I want to do particularly, so it’s probably for the best all round’.
Anyway, during that term I had my first gay sexual experience. I hadn’t had any other sexual experience at all up to then, not with women or men, and I’d been thinking about my sexuality obviously for a number of years and I sort of suppressed it, as a lot of people do. But I got to know one or two gay people at the college, and it was through speaking to them that I thought, ‘well yes I must be gay’, and one of them arranged for me to meet one of his ex-partners, who I had met in the summer, with this friend of mine, socially, and sort of taken a liking to him [laughs].
So anyhow, I met him and that’s where I had my first sexual experience, and I think y’know from that moment on I thought, ‘yes I’m obviously gay, no doubt about it’, and I had no regrets. I mean, yes I was still a practicing Catholic, but that didn’t really get in the way of my accepting fully that I was gay, thinking there was really nothing wrong with it. I then left college in the December of 1970, and I decided that I’d made so many friends, obviously including gay friends, and that really it was nothing for me to go back to in Sussex, and that – I probably thought it would be a long time before I could tell my parents I was gay, so best was to stay in Leeds and carry on with the social life I’d started.
So I came back to Leeds in the January of 1971 and for the first few weeks I stayed with the landlady I’d had during my first year when I was at college, and then after that I think got a flat, a bedsit in Leeds, and I’ve been in Leeds ever since. And I had got a lot of contact with my friends at college, I used to go back to the college quite regularly to see them, and it was… in I would say, I don’t know, the February or March, maybe April, 1971 that I happened to read an article in one of the Oz magazines, the old Oz magazines that must’ve been going in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. I remember it well, it was Oz 32, and an article written by Warren Haig, who’d been one of the founders of the Gay Liberation Front in the United States, and it was all about the GLF, all about the Stonewall riots in New York and how GLF had started, and the idea that gay people, gay men essentially, were saying that, ‘we’re proud to be gay, we’re not going to keep quiet about it; we’re not ashamed, why should we be? We want to shout about it’ and y’know trumpet it, to shout it in the streets, if you like – and I thought this was wonderful, this really caught my imagination. I thought, ‘yes, absolutely, why shouldn’t gay people be able to be as open about their sexualities as heterosexual people are by default’, and I know some of my gay friends were not that impressed by GLF, I think they thought we should sort of y’know just keep quiet, be very discreet, and get on with life. But I thought that GLF was a wonderful idea.
Anyway, this sort of changed my general politics. I still – I was still a Conservative politically, but I began to think about politics in general. And of course, GLF – the whole idea was it challenged so many ideas, really, it sort of – although it wasn’t I suppose you could say avowedly socialist, it was very much anti-establishment, and anti-capitalist, and it challenged the whole notion of the family and gender roles, and in some ways even gender identity. And, I took these ideas on board and gradually this began to change my politics, changing probably by the middle of 1971 from having been a Conservative at the beginning of the year, I was almost on the far left, and I was challenging what we know, notions of capitalism and the family and the whole set-up.
And then throughout that year – I got a job as a civil servant, which I didn’t like much, but I stayed for about a year I think, but throughout that year, ’71, I actually got to know more people in Leeds, and the Gay Liberation Front had come to England. It had started with the Stonewall riots in New York in 1969, and groups were set up there. It had come to England in 1970, and I think most GLF groups, certainly in this country, were sort of attached to university student unions, and it had come to London University in 1970, a group had been set up there, and then it came to Leeds in 1971. I think somebody called Roland Taylor helped set it up, and possibly John Olive [?] as well, and various other people, Robert Kenny maybe, and they set this group up in the University [of] Leeds, in the student union. So, there was a group in 1971, certainly late in ’71. I got to know people in the GLF, I think in December/November ’71 – I started going out with somebody who was in Leeds GLF, and then through him I gradually got involved, so I think in very early 1972 I started going to GLF meetings at the university in Leeds and got involved, and really that was my introduction to, you could say, sexual politics and we used to meet regularly every week in the university union, on a Friday, and then afterwards we’d all troop down to the Fenton. And the Fenton was the I suppose lefty pub, the alternative pub, there were probably one or two others, but the Fenton was the main alternative pub in Leeds really at that time. And that’s where we met, and I got to know more and more people.
The GLF lasted, I suppose, until about ‘74/’75 when it sort of petered out, and a lot of GLF groups merged with, or became student union gay societies – GaySocs, as they were known. And in some ways the political element faded. Now, about the same time you could say – well, I mean concurrently, really, with GLF, CHE – that’s the Campaign for Homosexual Equality – that had been formed I think in 1967. It had been the Northwest Homosexual Law Reform Committee started by – now, I’ll remember his name, he’s recently died actually, and he was quite well-known. People like Antony Grey, they’d been involved with the various law reform groups, following the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, and so the – what became CHE had been formed I think in ’67, it was later became the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, and it’s aim – it was a national organisation – it’s aim was to change the law, law reform, so that the Sexual Offences Act, which in fact – by Sir John Wolfenden, who had headed the Wolfenden Commission, which recommended the changes, and eventually got passed into law – he had envisaged really a much broader… more rights that the actual Act, in the end, we were given, and CHE’s aims really were to broaden the Act, and where the Act had been really restricted, like the privacy rule about, it had to be in private. What that meant to two consenting adults over the age of 21, in private – the privacy rules were very restrictive – it had to be in somebody’s house, it couldn’t be I think in a hotel, for instance, and there had to be no one else present. So if somebody happened to be sleeping in the same room, and possibly in the same house even, that was against the law. So there were a lot of anomalies, and CHE sought to lobby to get the law changed to remove these anomalies. Now CHE, it was quite simply a law reform organisation, and interestingly enough GLF, I won’t say was competition, it’d the wrong word, but GLF looked down on it in some ways as being purely a law reform – you could say reformist in a political sense – organisation, rather than a radical, more open organisation, which challenged the whole system, and the whole notion, if you like, which had caused the oppression of gays in the first place. And so, a lot of people in GLF were not that well disposed towards CHE. I did join CHE myself, as I thought, well, it’s got some benefits to it, I’ll join in anyway to keep a foot in the door, so to speak. I didn’t become active in it for many years, and I remained active in GLF. I was a member of CHE, I think from about 1972.
A few things that happened in those years in GLF: in ’73 there was, one of the main gay pubs in Leeds was, it was the Buccaneer Bar, which was part of the Great Northern Hotel. And, in ’73 – it was owned by Trust House Forte, I think they probably decided they wanted to get rid of gays, we used to meet at this bar at weekends and throughout the week. And, whether it was – whether they generally wanted to refurbish it, I suspect not. I suspect their wanting to refurbish it was a pretext to get rid of us. So they said at the Buccaneer Bar, one Saturday evening the hotel manager came in to say, ‘I’m afraid the bar’ll be closing for refurbishment from next week, and it’ll open again in a few months’, and that’s all he said. So, there was a pub over the road called The West Riding, which then people seemed to adopt as the alternative, and that became the sort of replacement.
However, somebody in GLF smelled a rat and we thought, ‘well, y’know it’s a plan to get rid of us, so we’re not, y’know we’re going to try to make a stand’. So the next week, when the Buccaneer Bar was closed, we decided to go down there, and there was another bar at the back of the hotel, called the York Bar (cos it was a proper hotel, a residential hotel), so we thought we go in the York Bar and stay there, anyway, we went in there – there was very few people in, if anyone, we were the majority – there must’ve been about 10 or a dozen of us. And we’d been there about half an hour or so and the manager came and said, ‘I’m sorry I’m afraid you’ll have to leave’, he might have said it’s for residents only, I’m not sure. Anyway, we said we weren’t leaving, we were staying. And then the manager’s wife came down to try to make some heartfelt plea to us, and saying how they had responsibilities, and we had no responsibilities, we were all young and single, I suppose she said or something like that. We had no responsibilities, and they had to manage a business, etc. etc. Anyway, that cut no ice with us, we didn’t leave, so in the end the manager called the police, and the police said we had to leave, it was not on our property, and we’d been asked by the management to leave. Anyhow, one or two of us walked out, some of us decided we were going to stay, and some of us were sort of escorted out – we were frog-marched out – two police officers – I was one of those – two police officers got hold of my arms and sort of, my arms and sort of frog-marched me out of the pub. At least one of our number just laid down on the floor and decided he wasn’t going to move, so of course he was dragged out. Anyway, we were all dragged, carried or walked out in the end. There weren’t any arrests or anything, and that was the end of that episode, and we sort of went home.
We decided we were going to try to launch a campaign to highlight what was happening. So, we started a campaign – we got quite a lot of good coverage in the local press. It wasn’t too hostile, it was sort of neutral, rather than hostile, so we got coverage, we got an interview on local radio, I and another member of the GLF did an interview on Radio Leeds, and I’d never done an interview before, and, y’know, I would be what 23 at that age, that time, and we said who we were, we gave our names, that we were gay and in the GLF, so sort of that was my first outing if you like. And, we had a couple of demonstrations outside the Buccaneer Bar on a Friday and Saturday. One was on a Friday evening, it was quite wet, and we marched around with a few placards, and that was another – there were two on Saturday lunchtime, and one – the manager came out and got quite cross with us, but nothing much happened. We stayed there for about an hour. Another time, another one – I wasn’t there, I was actually on holiday, it was in the summer – and there were two arrests, the police were called and two of our number were arrested. Fortunately, they were later, I think they were charged with behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace. And I’m pleased to say they were acquitted. I went to the trial about a couple of months later and it was quite clear that the police officers had collaborated with their notes, taking notes, and this was exposed in court. We had quite a supportive local solicitor, who were very good, and they were acquitted – anyway, the campaign, it was a good propaganda campaign. The management didn’t change its mind. When the bar eventually reopened after refurbishment, probably in the September, one or two of us just thought we’d check it out. We went down there, and I think there were one or two gay people there, not many people at all actually, one or two other people, maybe they were residents of the hotel or people who’d just wandered in, I don’t know. But clearly the gay population that had been there had clearly settled into The West Riding Pub on the other side, and probably weren’t going to be persuaded to go back there.
Anyhow, I went in one time just to sort of see the lie of the land, and I had a GLF badge on and I’d had a drink, and I sat down and was probably going to leave shortly, and the manager came up to me and said, ‘excuse me, can I ask you to leave my premises when you’ve finished your drink’, and I said, ‘can I ask why, is it anything to do with the badge I’m wearing?’ He said, ‘that’s exactly why’, anyway, so clearly I had a GLF badge and he noticed it. Anyhow, I thought there’s no point in arguing, so I finished my drink and left. So really, in terms of wanting to get people back there, the campaign hadn’t been successful, but it was successful in propaganda, because I think the publicity we got wasn’t negative, on – the radio interview was very good, quite positive, and even in the Evening Post it was sort of at least neutral. And as a sort of tail to this, the – a few months later, we’d heard that the manager had got the sack from Trust House Forte, and the rumours were that it was because of the way he’d handled the whole thing. So, in some ways it had been a success, y’know, we’d stood up for ourselves and if the two – if the sacking of the manager was connected, and many of us think it was and that was the general feeling, then it had been successful. So that was our main – our main event really of Leeds GLF in a way.
Another thing we did – we decided we were going to have a leafleting campaign, in Leeds, and we’d decide we were going to target the working class areas of Leeds, the big estates, just to say what GLF was about, what we stood for, and so we did this, and I was instrumental in organising this campaign, which I was quite pleased about, because I knew – I’d got to know quite a bit of Leeds since living there, I’d been living then in Leeds for about a couple of years, I’d got to know it quite well. So I knew where the big council estates were, so we got this leaflet out, and we targeted places like the Middleton estate, Belle Isle, probably Little London, Halton Moor (which was then had quite a reputation for being a rather rough estate, I think), the Hawksworth estate in Kirkstall, and it was I think May time, and we chose the time sort of early evening, finishing work before the pubs closed, and teams of us went out to these places and just over the period of about a week distributed these leaflets.
I remember being in the Halton Moor estate with a friend and we were doing some leafleting and we spoke to an older couple, they were doing their gardening, and we had a very nice chat with them, and we – they were quite sympathetic, we got on to talking about sexuality and what was considered normal and what wasn’t, and I remember the man was saying, ‘well after all, what’s normal?’ And I thought that it was really interesting that he himself was questioning some of the accepted ideology, y’know, and the fact that we were able to engage with ordinary people was very good. It got some reaction in the press – there were some letters to the press, quite hostile, saying, ‘what are these people doing? What do they think they’re doing?’ One or two letters were not too hostile, sympathetic, but – so it got some publicity.
And the other event I can remember, we had – Peter Tatchell came to speak to us one evening, and he was probably involved with GLF in London I presume at that stage, but he’d been, he was involved, active in various political groups on the left I think at that time, and he’d been to an international youth conference, I think in East Berlin, I think it was East Germany, and whether it was some kind of socialist youth conference I’m not sure, I can’t remember now. But he told us how he’d had quite a hard time from some of the other youth delegations from other countries, I think from East Germany, because they, their ideology, although supposedly socialist, but we would say Stalinist nowadays, couldn’t cope with the idea of I think challenging the accepted ideas about sexuality. I think the idea from some socialists and some people on the left in those days, and the Eastern Bloc I suppose, was that any notion of gay liberation, and maybe they probably thought the same about women’s liberation as well, was a sort of bourgeois deviation from the accepted Marxist ideology. Obviously, that came to be completely overturned and ridiculed a few years later, thank goodness. But that, that was their feeling, so they couldn’t accept it and then Peter had a rather rough time, and that was when I first met Peter Tatchell, 1973. But yeah, but that was – those were the memorable events I can think of, with GLF.
GLF was, I think like a lot of GLF groups, the Leeds group was sort of heavily male. There were one or two lesbians, but largely male, and really I imagine this was the time when radical lesbians would be thinking probably that GLF was not – because it was so male, and perhaps because we probably didn’t address women’s issues in the way we should’ve done, or very, very thoroughly, then I imagine that this was when lesbians would be thinking that they’re better working with other lesbians or with women’s groups generally, because obviously in some ways GLF was sort of working at the same time as the women’s liberation movement, that was very active, very strong.
I know we did have – we began to be talking about transgender and transsexual, as it was called then, and transvestite issues as well, and we did, we had meetings with – there was a group called the Beaumont Society for transvestites, not specifically gay transvestites, transvestites generally, and in fact that group in some ways was quite conservative with a small c. And some of the – some of the Beaumont Societies didn’t always welcome transvestites who were openly gay, that I do remember, though of course that changed in time. We did have one or two people in our group who were transvestite, gay transvestites, and one or two who became transgender, became transsexual later on. And I remember there was the, one of the early transsexual conferences, which was held in Leeds in ’72 or 3 , and some of us – we didn’t actually attend, either after it or in some social function we met the transsexual people, and a lot of them, one or two of them were, I think had started off as openly gay men. So that was sort of running alongside as well, and then I suppose the GLF sort of became the GaySoc society at Leeds and other places and I continued being active in it.
There were one or two other gay groups in the mid-to-late ‘70s formed. Something called gay – Gay Activists Alliance, GAA, that might’ve been about 1970, probably mainly in London, and other small groups, which I can’t remember now, but the various groups were going. But then I – CHE was still going – in the mid-‘70s the Labour movement began to take lesbian and gay rights – or gay rights as it was just referred to in those days – began to take it seriously. In 1975 the Gay Labour group was formed in the Labour Party to get to establish gay awareness in the Labour Party, and in 1976 I think the trade union NALGO, which of course is now part of Unison, NALGO – that was the National and Local Government Officers Association – that had a gay group, which they called NALGay, and that began to talk about gay rights issues in the trade union, and indeed it managed to get official policy for gay rights a few years later. I think John McKay [?], I seem to remember somebody called John McKay who started this group, or was active in this group, in NALGO.
Then in 1979 I decided that the GaySoc wasn’t going very far, sort of becoming just a social group, so I thought well I’ll get involved in CHE, there was a Leeds CHE group and I’d just been a card-carrying member y’know since about ’72, so I got involved with that. And that began to be – over the next few years, it began to be – it still was mainly a sort of reforming group, law reform, but it began to be a bit more open and outward in its ideas, I suppose caught up with the idea of the early ‘80s. I suppose this was a time when people like Ken Livingston were beginning to talk about, openly about lesbian and gay rights, and people were talking about lesbian and gay rights, rather than just gay rights. And, so I got involved in the local CHE group in Leeds, which was like a campaigning and a social group at the same time […] and in 1982 I joined – I was working for the local authority in Leeds – so I joined NALGO, which I think was the first time I’d been in a trade union, I might have been briefly in the civil service union, but not actively at all.
Anyway, I joined NALGO in ’82, and in 1983 we formed a lesbian and gay group in that, in fact in that year we formed a local Leeds branch there was an equal opportunities committee set up and that had women’s groups, disability groups, black and ethnic minority groups, and lesbian and gay groups, and so I got heavily involved in the lesbian and gay group in NALGO. We had a very supportive branch, which was – it was, the Leeds NALGO was quite a left-wing branch anyway, which helped, because it was very supportive of the equal opportunities committee and all of the self-organised groups and of course the lesbian and gay group among them. And then in 1984 I – during the first week of the miner’s strike, interestingly enough – that was coincidental, but – I joined the Labour Party, and I then began to move motions on lesbian and gay rights in the local branch, in the local constituency, which again, because they were quite left-leaning, were very supportive.
And of course, in 198… in 1985 the – both the TUC, I think it was ’85 – both the TUC and the – no it might have been ’84 actually, I don’t remember. In ’84 or ’85 both the TUC and the Labour Party passed resolutions supporting lesbian and gay rights, and I got – from ’82 actually – I got involved in the Labour Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Rights, it was started off as the Gay Labour Group became the Labour Campaign for Gay Rights, LCGR, in 1981, and then in 1985 I think it became the Labour Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Rights, and so I got very involved with that and still am involved with that organisation. And gradually, throughout the ‘80s, the Labour Party and the trade unions developed their policy in much more comprehensive, and one of the main policy areas was the idea of equal age of consent for gay men, and these were all adopted as Labour Party policy in ’86 and I think ’87 and ’88 – firstly ’84, ’85 and then ’87 and of course ’88 with the – when Section, Section 28 came in, Thatcher brought it in with the Local Government Act in ’88, so there was a huge campaign against that.
But in ‘8… I think was ’87 or ’88 the Labour Party leadership under Neil Kinnock decided that the reason we’d lost the ’87 election was because the Labour Party polices were too radical, too left-wing. Now, certainly people on the left of the Labour Party challenged that notion completely, as being completely erroneous, as I did, and that it was a complete mis-reading of the situation, and that wasn’t why the Labour Party was losing elections. Anyway, the Labour Party leadership decided that there must be a complete policy review, so it set in motion a review of all the policies, and brought, brought resolution to the conference I think in ’89, basically watering down or actually trying to get rid of a lot of policies. The commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament, that was one that was scheduled for demolition, along with the equal age of consent for gay men. So it was felt that this was far too radical for the public and they wouldn’t accept it, which I think was a load of rubbish, but was proved to be the case, but anyway, that was the thinking. We mounted quite a successful campaign at the party conference in ’89, interestingly enough we had the support of many trade unions, including the National Union of Mine Workers – one thing I have accidentally skipped over is that of course, as a lot of people probably know, Lesbians and Gays Support the Mine Workers was set up in 1984, mainly it was a London-based group, and of course, as we know, the film Pride has been recently, which highlights very, very well the very work that this group did and the wonderful links made between lesbians and gays and striking miners and their families and the mining communities, and of course the film highlights the particular mining community in South Wales, which because of the support that the lesbian and gays had shown they actually got money together – the lesbians and gay got money together to buy a van for the, this group in South Wales, and the van, the van actually, the miners brought the van to Pride in I think it was 1985 and this was on the pride march – all this is shown in the film, but it was wonderful.
Anyway, we built up really good links with the NUM and other unions, so by 1989 the, that part of the Labour Party resolution, which was wanting to remove a commitment to the equal age of consent from the manifesto – that was defeated, and it was wonderful. It was composite 32, I remember now, and even the NEC was split on it, because the MP Jo Richardson who was on the left, I think a member of the campaign group, and a great supporter of ours, she said that she’d been instructed at the last conference to vote against but clearly when she said it there were laughs from the audience, because the way she said it we could tell that her heart wasn’t in that. Anyway, as I say, pleased to say composite 32 was defeated, against the wishes of the leadership, so a commitment, a commitment to an equal age of consent stayed in the manifesto. Other things were lost, but that stayed in. So, I think that was a wonderful example of where the Labour movement going together with lesbians and gays to build lasting links, and of course those links are still there.
And one of the groups that was set up during that time – the printworkers’ dispute at Wapping, against Murdoch, a group was set up for, called Lesbians and Gay Support the Printworkers. I actually went on one of the picket lines down there, and that was another example of links being made in the Labour movement. And of course, at this time the various local authorities, particularly in London and the GLC and out of London, like Manchester, they were making great strides with setting up committees for lesbians and gay men, and gay cen- setting up lesbian and gay centres, all sorts of things like that. Leeds, unfortunately, lagged very strongly behind at that time, I think because the local council leadership, the Labour council leadership in Leeds was frightened, basically, of lesbian and gay rights, and frightened possibly of the Evening Post – quite unnecessarily I think – and this notion that, if you’re seen to be too supportive, then it loses votes, there again, a load of rubbish, as has since been shown, but at that time they were too scared, which was a pity because the – the council leadership in Leeds under John Trickett wasn’t that different from the Labour council leadership under Graham Stringer in Manchester, but Manchester did, y’know, move their, made great strides, a centre was set up there and the sub-committees, council sub-committees for lesbians and gay men. As I say, in Leeds, John Trickett and the former George Mudie had been a bit scared to make that move, even though the local Labour Party in fact was very supportive. I can remember bringing a motion from my consistency of the Labour Party, which was Leeds Central, to the, what was then the Leeds District Labour Party, the District Management Committee, and it was two motions, in fact, I think in 1986, and they were passed with overwhelming majorities, but most of the councillors were too scared to implement the resolution, which was sad, but there we are.
Yes, in 1979 Leeds Gay Switchboard was formed, and I think Leeds Lesbian Line about the same year, I’m not sure – this was an advice and information service for, well, Gay Switchboard for gay men, obviously Lesbian Line for women. And I was one of the founder members of that – that was set up in February 1979 and we were, there again it was, it was people in GaySoc that really set that up, and we were given a rather dingy basement premises from the student union, I think, or it might even have been the university itself, and we had a telephone line, and I think the university paid for the rental for the line and the telephone, and I think we met – we operated in the first instance something like 7pm ‘til 10pm, was it – it might’ve been seven days a week to begin with, I think we had to reduce that later on, and I was there certainly for the first five years of its existence, ‘til ’84. And it continued for many, many years. I think probably in the era of the internet and mobile phones, with so much information around, and a much bigger gay scene, so to speak, but maybe it was felt that it wasn’t needed, though that’s perhaps not necessarily completely true, there are always people who’d like to speak to someone confidentially, for a chat, you know and so – but as far as I know it, I don’t think it’s still going, but it lasted many years, probably well over 20 years I should think.
So I was involved with that for the first five years then, jumping ahead – 1987, I’d been working in the Labour Party, quite successfully, to get lesbian and gay rights taken seriously. Anyway I, y’know, I’d obviously been open about my sexuality from the day I joined the party in ’84. I’d thought of standing for the local council. Anyway, I tried unsuccessfully to get selected by my branch, probably because there were, I think there were other councillors standing or up for reselection, so it probably would’ve meant deselecting a sitting councillor, which understandably the branch didn’t particularly want to do at that time. But, so anyway I was selected to stand in the Weetwood ward, the local Labour Party there, some of the members whom I knew quite well, they’d selected me to stand as their candidate – and I remember going to the selection meeting in Weetwood and y’know getting a very good response there, a very good reception, and I said I was gay and involved in LCLGR, which was the Labour Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Rights – anyhow, they selected me, and I think I, y’know they knew that I’d be open about my sexuality, that I would want to be. And we had the election campaign in the May 1988.
Now, it was a Tory ward, so we didn’t have much hope that I’d be elected, but we thought we’d put up quite a good fight. I remember one person on the campaign, who was a very nice person, quite supportive and fairly left-leaning, she said to me once – I’d said I wanted to put a bit in my manifesto, in my personal statement about my being gay, and she said, ‘oh well, it does lose votes you know’, and I said, ‘oh right’, and I thought I won’t argue, I’ll leave it at that. But it was, anyhow I was obviously going to put something in, whether they liked it or not, but y’know I never got any – I mean she never said anything else after that, and y’know she was generally very support of me. Anyhow, I put in – in the part of the leaflets which allowed the candidate to put something about his or her own life, I just put, among my other interests, that I was gay and a member of LCGLR, just that bit, that was all, and – anyway, I didn’t get elected, as I didn’t expect that I would, but I was – I can say, I think without any contradiction, I was the first openly gay candidate to stand for the Council, for Leeds City Council, and I had two – the only reactions I had from local residents, one was on election day itself, it was in the afternoon, and we were sort of knocking up our supporters, people who promised they were going to vote – what we call knocking up those who, from the canvas returns, hadn’t gone to the polls, we were calling them, asking them if they wanted to go and if they wanted a lift and that sort of thing. And one man came up to me, I must have been outside one of the polling stations, and he said, ‘oh yes you’re one of the Labour candidates aren’t you’, and I said, ‘yes, that’s right’. And he said, ‘well I looked at your leaflet’, and he said, ‘there’s just one thing I’m not happy with’, and I thought, ‘oh God, here we go’, I thought, ‘I bet I know what it’s going to be about’ – and I’d had no reaction at all up to then – he said, ‘you talk about, you say you’re gay, and talk about lesbian and gay rights’, anyway, he spoke and said he was not happy with this at all and went on, and he was polite enough, but made his position clear. I thought, well, we’ve obviously lost his vote, but hopefully he’s just in a minority, and I thought, well I’d better just ask if he has voted, because, just at least ask him, and I said, ‘well, are you going to vote Labour’, fully expecting him to say no, but he said, ‘what do you mean, am I going to vote Labour? I voted for you at nine o’clock this morning!’ And you know, that was absolutely amazing, and I thought, ‘oh thank you’ and it, y’know I was taken aback, and I said, ‘thanks a lot for that’, and he went away, almost quite offended that I’d asked him. But it said such a lot to me – it completely blew out of the water this idea that it loses votes, I mean okay, with some people it might, but clearly that showed that a Labour voter who was committed to voting Labour was not going to change his or her vote, y’know, even though he might not agree with my position, and I think that that said it all really, it showed it – I think it disproved – although that was only one person – I think it showed that it wasn’t a vote loser, despite what the Labour leadership might think, and other people in the Labour Party, it wasn’t a vote loser, it just wasn’t an issue with a lot of people even though they might not agree with lesbian and gay rights it wasn’t an issue and there had been other issues as well that have been in the same position, that have been wrongly thought of as losing votes.
I did get a reaction from somebody, several months later, saying that, a woman who came up to me saying she was not a Labour voter, but that she voted for me because of my stand on lesbian and gay rights, which was quite interesting. And I know another friend of mine, a gay friend, he wouldn’t vote Labour normally, but said he voted for me because of that, so that was quite interesting.
And much later on, of course, in 2001 I was selected by my own branch to be their candidate, which I was very pleased about, obviously, on an openly gay ticket, and I got elected as a councillor for my own ward in 19 – in 2002, that was then University Ward. And then, so I was the first openly gay candidate to get elected to the Council, for the first openly gay councillor, so I was quite pleased with that – the only record I broke perhaps, but not bad, not bad [laughs]
Yes, of course, I mean since the ‘70s, the ‘80s and ‘90s, great strides have been made with LGBT rights. I should explain LGBT is lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, and now of course we’ve got Q, which could be questioning or it could be queer, of course the word ‘queer’ has sort of been reclaimed by a lot of activists from being the derogatory word it was to being a more inclusive word, really, including all LGBT people, and some people add the letter I, which some people say might mean intersex, so it’s including a lot of things. But, yes, the LGBT community has made great strides, because the Labour government in 1997, under Tony Blair, achieved a heck of a lot for lesbians and, for lesbians and gay men, and LGBT people.
I have to explain, being a socialist, and being on the left of the Labour Party, I’ve got a heck of a lot of criticisms, I’m not New Labour at all – I hate the idea of New Labour, and I’m firmly a Jeremy Corbyn supporter, but to give the Labour government its due, in that particular area of human rights it achieved an awful lot. And, obviously an equal age of consent, the removal of disabilities from the armed forces, the of course the marriage, for equal marriage became with the Tory government, surprisingly, but a lot of, we made a lot of gains since then in Leeds. The Leeds City Council, I’m pleased to say, has done a lot in the last 10 years. It’s set up an equalities hub, an Equalities Assembly, and that includes what they call ‘hubs’, which is like the old idea of soft committees really, hubs covering women, ethnic minorities, disabilities, there’s a carer’s hub, a faith hub for faith groups, and an LGBT hub, and I am fairly active in the LGBT hub. One of the projects which it’s looking at is a project that really it’s been going for about 30 years in Leeds, to set up some sort of lesbian and gay centre, or an LGBT community centre, as we say now.
Now there have been several successful centres set up in other parts of the country, as we know, in London, Manchester, I think there was one in Leicester for a time, and no doubt other places, but there’s never been one in Leeds because, as I said earlier, the Council hasn’t been that supportive. We’re not in a situation, ironically, from a political point of view the Council is quite supportive, but because of cuts and financial difficulties it feels that it can’t let us have any premises to use, premises of its own. And whether this will change, because I expect the Council has premises that it’s not using, and we wouldn’t require a big area, just a small area to start off with, whether that will change, I don’t know. But we’re still battling on with this, in the sense 30 years later it’s a pity that we’ve not been able to make any progress, but we’re still trying to look for some means of getting just some space, and I would say in the, in or very near the city centre for LGBT people to use, a sort of dedicated space. So this is, I suppose, the big ongoing project in Leeds with the LGBT hub at the moment.
Obviously, there’s still an active GaySoc at the university that – I don’t have any contact with that, really, there might be one at the Leeds Beckett University as well, I’m not sure; Leeds Trinity, not sure about that either – there have been groups at both those, in the past, set up. And there are probably all sorts of different LGBT groups all over the place, whether they’re social groups, walking groups, eating groups, special interest groups of all sorts. And of course there’s a big commercial scene in Leeds now, the Lower Briggate area, often referred to as the gay village, several bars, pubs, clubs, all sorts of places – I don’t know if there is a dedicated café, there used to be a café years ago, because it was run by a gay man and it was, it wasn’t exclusively gay, but certainly in the evening it was more or less completely gay, so whether we’ve got one of those I’m not sure.
RL: What was that called?
PH: Now, what was it called, that’s a good question. I thought about the name the other day – no I nearly had it, I can’t remember. It was just some ordinary name, maybe an Italian name, I don’t know, I can’t remember. But, and of course years ago there was a gay nightclub called Charlie’s Club, that I do remember, and that was the only – when pubs and bars closed at half past 10, stopped serving, this was open from about 10 ‘til 2 in the morning, licenced until 2. And before the year went bars could stay open all night, this was the main gay nightclub, but – yes, quite a bit’s changed since the ‘70s.