Older and Bolder: Full Interview

Duration 25:57


Older & Bolder Group
Interview by Ray Larman
20th August 2018

RL: Rachel Larman. It is the 20th of August 2018. I’m with Older & Bolder at the Bradford Equity Centre and we’re gonna talk about socialising and the local social scene. So, if you could give me your names and where you live?

Roy: I’m Roy, I’m from Huddersfield.

Richard: Richard from Bradford.

Gordon: Gordon from Shipley.

Robert: Robert from Bramley, previously Pudsey.

RL: And John, where are you from?

John: I’m from Halifax.

RL: Thank you. Okay, so, Robert, tell me about the different places you would socialise in and around Bradford.

Robert: Well this would be, probably about 1978 time, I used to live in Pudsey, and I used to get the 72 bus outside my house. I used to come into Bradford, but I used to get off a stop, two stops before the Interchange and that particular stop was outside the pub called The Junction, which was one of the nicest, friendliest gay pubs I’ve ever been in, so it’s nice convenient place for me to get to. And from there I found out about the most popular night spot in the area, which was in Huddersfield, it was a club called the Gemini, and we used to go there. Usually people’d get a taxi or somebody’d give us a lift over from there to the Gemini and it was, it was the main night spot of the area because there was nowhere in Leeds. I think there was a small club in Bradford, which opened and closed so, the main place where everybody went to from Leeds, from Halifax, from Huddersfield, from Manchester was the Gemini, it was the high spot of the area.

RL: Okay. So, did other people go to the Gemini?

?: No

Roy: Before I moved to this area.

?: I’ve been a couple of times.

?: I’ve a feeling I once when there.

RL: Right, just the once?

?: It was a long time ago.

RL: Okay, so tell me what was so good about it Robert, why were people choosing to go to Huddersfield to the Gemini?

Robert: Well obviously, it was the only place. A couple of small places that used to open various days and would open and close, but the Gemini was always there, seven days a week. And they all – it was so popular, they used to run the bus on Sunday nights from the… it used to go from The Calls on Lower Briggate and it used to go, I used to get the bus at eight o’clock, you’d get there about nine and used to come back at twelve, it was free bus on Sunday nights, and they had to give you food cos they didn’t have a licence, so you got a little snack included for nothing. I know one, one Sunday we went and we were all enjoying ourselves dancing and everything like that, and then this van, it must’ve been a small bus pulled up outside, there were about 20 or 30 police and they all came running up the steps, and they stopped the music, and they said, ‘we want everybody’s name and address, nobody leaves here unless we have your name and address.

RL: So, when was this?

Robert: This would’ve been about 1978. So, I thought, well, why should I give my name and address? So, so, this policewoman, she came up to me, ‘right, what’s your name and address?’ So I said, ‘I’m not giving it’. ‘Well you won’t be leaving here ‘til you do’. So, I moved back and everybody, all these big guys in leather and the moustaches, the Freddie Mercury butch type, all hurriedly signed and dashed out, and I thought, I thought this’d be disappointing, I thought we’d all stand up to them, y’know. And everybody went out one by one, there was just me and a really skinny, really camp-looking student and his little friend from Leeds left. And the, they looked at us, the police, and they just turned round and they went out. And the disc jockey played ‘God save our gracious queen’ and we all stood up, and we actually, we dashed out to the bus, lovely that they’d held the bus for us, but it was, it was nice to think that we stood up to the police, to think nobody else did, it could’ve been really great night if everybody’d stood there or said, oh why should we give our names and addresses, we’ve done nothing wrong, I thought, why should I, but – everybody, they all just chickened out so. It was a nice – but it could’ve been a better night. No but the Gemini was the top, one of the top spots – they used to play records before everybody else. I heard the Village People in probably July 19- it would’ve been 1978, but it wasn’t a hit ‘til the Christmas cos it, the BBC played it about three or four months after we heard it at the Gemini.

RL: So, what other sort of music would they play?

Robert: They used to play all the Village People, all the 12” singles, Michael Jackson, Blondie and these, Gibson Brothers and… loads of Donna Summer, and loads of obscure people, which we’ve obviously forgotten. But, but American imports they would’ve been. Y’know, they used to put them on they’d last about, some of the singles lasted about 10 or 15 minutes, but the music was… The only thing you had to be careful in there, if you bought a drink and you left it to dance, when you came back it was gone [laughs] That was the only problem with the place. But, but the drinks were a reasonable price, and they weren’t watered down. I must find out where it was and take a picture.

John: I think, if I’m right, it was on the ring road, right opposite the sports centre, the old sports centre.

Robert: That’s right. There’s two blocks of flats I think, and the sports centre isn’t there?

John: That’s all I remember.

Robert: It is, it has a sports centre yeah, cos there’s a roundabout and then I think the sports centre’s on your left, and it was opposite there, yeah.

RL: What about the Junction pub that Robert mentioned, does anyone go there?

Gordon: I’ve been there once, and it closed soon after I’d been. Was it something I’d said? [laughter]

RL: So, what was it like, can you remember?

Gordon: I don’t remember much about it, no.

RL: Okay.

Richard: Like Gordon, I’d been there once and I honestly didn’t know much about the gay scene at all then, so I just can’t remember the visit.

RL: Okay, okay. Where did you used to go out?

Roy: This is all before my time in this area.

RL: Ah, okay. So, any other tales about kind of pubs and clubs that are local?

Richard: There was the Guys and Dolls pub in Manningham, and they changed that to Jesters. I think they had drug problems there. And of course, there’s the, the main one in – what’s the main one, in Bradford? Pub? I can’t think of the name of it now. It’s only just up the road.

RL: There’s the Sun Inn up the road?

Richard: That’s the Sun Inn, I was trying to think of the Sun Inn [agreement]

RL: So, when did you go to Jesters?

Richard: Oh, that was quite a few years ago now, I used to go with a friend there.

RL: Was that like ‘70s or ‘80s or?

Richard: That would’ve been the ‘80s, because I didn’t arrive here ‘til the ‘80s because I’d been living in London, ‘til then.

RL: Ah, so was there a difference to the London scene and then what was up here?

Richard: Oh yes, very different, yes.

RL: How did you find it?

Richard: Very interesting, you could go one pub to another in London. You had the, the leather pubs and all sorts, y’know, all different kinds.

RL: So, did you find it more limiting here, compared to London?

Richard: Yes, I would say so, yes, yeah.

RL: And John, were you gonna say something?

John: … What I was gonna say is, something about pubs. Because I worked for many years in Huddersfield, and latterly I lived there for a few years, including after I retired. And we had an amusing experience with some senior students at the college that I knew through other activities. And, they – I think it was in was there a Gay News in those days? I read about a pub with a certain name, I think it was called the Grey Horse.

Robert: The Greyhound.

John: The Greyhound, and there were two in Huddersfield, and they went to the wrong one, and later, once I heard that it was the wrong pub, I ventured in and who should I see there but a colleague from the college I worked at, which was a bit surprising and embarrassing and confusing.

Robert: Yes, I was, talking about the Greyhound, everybody used to go there before they went to the Gemini. And I went once through the week and it was, it was quite quiet and I was just sat at the bar and we were chatting, we got, and the evening got later and later and we were drinking, and ‘m thinking, ‘it seem hellish late does this’, and I looked round, there was only three of us at the bar, there was nobody else in, and when I looked at my watch it was about 12 o’clock, and closing time was half past ten, and this copper came in with his helmet on and the barman just gave him a pint, he drunk it and went out [laughs] so obviously there’s some deal with the constabulary about staying open, but that was a good pub was the Greyhound cos it was a big pub and it was really popular.

RL: And was that exclusively a gay pub or was it a mix?

Robert: Yes, it was, it was all gays, we might’ve got the odd straight person in. But the Junction, conversely, the gay bar was on the left-hand side, but the right-hand side was mostly straight. But, everybody intermingled and there was never any trouble. So, it was quite unusual for that, really.

Gordon: Apart from pubs in Huddersfield, there’s also the Empire Cinema, which is a [laughs]

RL: Right, tell me about that?

Gordon: Yeah, you had, you had the female striptease and you had mixed, you had gays going all sorts of things went on in there. You’d be watching – funnily enough they never showed male gay films, they showed lesbian films and ordinary straight sex, which is, which is – and you had to be a member.

RL: Okay. So, even though they were showing that, there would still be lots of gay men going along?

Gordon: Oh yes, yes. Some of them watching the film, and others doing other things [laughs] while the films were on. Yes, there was also another group, that was in Huddersfield, but I can’t remember – that was an LGBT group, and I’m with the Leeds group as well. In fact, I’ve been a member of the Leeds LGC before I knew about this Equity group here.

RL: What about the, the Sun Hotel that you mentioned before, cos I know that’s been going a long time, have you been to that?

Gordon: It has, yes. I’ve been a few times in the past, yeah.

RL: What’s that like?

Gordon: It’s – it’s very lively actually, yeah. It’s the only time I’ve been with a friend and who so drunk unfortunately as I stood there, and it had never happened before, along comes the security man and bodily just threw him out because he’d go around touching other guys up, and apparently, he’d been doing it several times previously. It’s a wonder they didn’t bar him from going in the first place. That was quite a new experience for me [laughs]

Robert: There was the CHE as well, the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. We used to meet on Manningham Lane at the church hall every Thursday at half past seven.

RL: So, when was that?

Robert: That would’ve been about 1978 again. And then we moved over to Sunbridge Road, it was a council and social service it was called, cos there’s a Liberal councillor, I forget his name, he was on Bradford Council, he was quite sympathetic and he let us use a room on Thursday evenings, it was a, it was the second or third floor. We were there for quite a few years.

RL: So, when was this Robert?

Robert: This would’ve been about 1978 onwards.

John: The Liberal councillor, Robert, was it Paul Hockney?

Robert: I think it might’ve been, yes, yes, yes. He was very sympathetic –

John: He was David Hockney’s brother.

Robert: Oh, yeah?

RL: Oh, right, okay. Thank you.

John: He died three or four weeks ago.

Robert: Did he? Oh dear.

RL: So, Robert, what were you campaigning on in CHE, what issues?

Robert: It was just a social group. Campaign for Homosexual Equality were just a social group really. We used to just have a games and talks like we do here really, that’s what it was – the umbrella was Campaign for Homosexual Equality. We didn’t really get in – there wasn’t much campaigning going on in them days really. But occasionally we’d go to the GAYSOC at Bradford University with the students, who were quite radical, because – and we went to Leeds one year… Because what they were going to do, the Leeds students, in the – it must’ve been late ‘70s, early ‘80s – WH Smith refused to sell Gay Times. They said it might offend their customers. So, the students were going to go and spray all the windows with white paint, but I don’t think that it ever happened, so that’s WH Smith for you. Yeah, yeah, I don’t know where the Gay, I don’t know where you got it in Bradford. I think, cos in Leeds we used to have to go down in some little grotty newsagents in The Calls to buy it, cos none of the main shops would sell it. So I don’t know – did you used to get Gay Times in Bradford?

Richard: Erm, I don’t remember now.

John: I can’t remember either.

Richard: I just can’t remember.

Robert: Cos I think there’s a shop, used to be at the side of the Alhambra, that road that goes at the side of Alhambra, at the top of there, there used to be a shop there used to sell gay magazines, Falcon.

Richard: Yeah, Morley Street.

Robert: Yeah, yeah, he used to sell, you’d probably get it there. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Cos if you went down south, you’d go into a newsagents there, there’d be Woman’s Own, TV Times and Gay Times, nobody, there’s nobody bothered. But up north it was under the counter sort of thing, or on the side.

RL: Right, that’s interesting.

John: When Gordon mentioned going to London, or being in London, I can’t remember much about the circumstances, but on some occasion, I ventured to this very famous place called Heaven. Which was, which was terribly big and terribly exciting and impressive. But it’s a long time ago, my memory’s a bit confused. And I think I went to at least two other places in London, once with a good friend I had at that time, in fact we’re still in contact, but again, I have dim, dim memories – one of them I think was well up… the bookshop street, Charing Cross Road, before you get to Oxford Street. You went downstairs there. And I must say… but one was very nervous about one’s orientation and y’know who attracted you and what you wanted and – my memories are, as I say, are not good.

Richard: Strangely enough, the only pub I never knew about in London was the Admiral Duncan, and yet that got fame of course when that guy let off the bomb and killed so many people. But Heaven, you had a gay bar in Heaven, cos that was a very thriving club that was. And of course, publications were important, if you were a bit literate or y’know a bookworm like me, pretty obsessed with stuff in writing and in books and stuff. And so Soho, wandering around Soho was interesting because there was usually a place where you could go down or wherever or round the back, through the back, and there’d be books and films and stuff, cos of course we had no Internet or anything like that, that’s where people get a lot of their outlet for their feelings and whatever.

RL: So, what about… what about kind of reading materials here? You’ve mentioned about, was it Gay Times? What other things might you seek out to read that you could get locally?

Robert: Because Gay Times had that, the trouble with Gay Times they had that, what was, they had a thing about, that said was Jesus gay, and there was that trial at the Old Bailey which bankrupted them, and then it became Gay Times, a new publication came out, it was Gay, I’m not actually sure which way round it was, but I think it was Gay News, then Gay Times came out, which was more like a magazine. It had pictures and things in, and we used to, we used to get that every, that was every month I think, Gay Times. Then I think it was changed to Him, it was called Him. But they had a section where you could, you could advertise for a partner or a close encounter or whatever. You had to send a – your postal order in or cheque with two first class stamps. And at the end of – they put it in the publication, then if you were lucky you’d get a huge envelope back that they’d used a stamp on with all these letters inside replying to you, and you used to ask for pictures or whatever and send them back. That was a contact for people who couldn’t get out more socially, because there was no Internet, or there was no telephone lines in those days, so you used to have to do it that way, which was quite cumbersome.

John: Then there was the Shout magazine as well.

Robert: That’s right, that was later on, yeah.

John: Contacts, that way, for anybody you wished to meet.

RL: So, where would you get Shout magazine from?

John: Oh, you’d get it from pubs and clubs, very easily.

RL: So, when was that?

John: Well that only folded only a few years ago, I’m not sure just how long ago it was. My memory’s getting worse, when it’s getting to 83 years old, which I will be next month.

Robert: If you went in, if you went in somewhere like the Sun, there’d probably be, I think it was every Thursday, there’d probably be five or six different publications, these huge magazines with colour pictures advertised in – and of course when it got to, it must have been towards the ‘90s, there were all these lines came on, ring 0, ring 0845 for whatever it is, plumber’s mate have sex, ring, listen to the thing – it was something you listened to two minute sections and it was about 54 pence, £1.54 a minute, or there were some where you could actually speak to somebody on line. But there were loads of those, there were thousands of those, but most rip-off – it was 084 something which is a premium rate number, and then, of course, when you rung it up you got this long spiel about we, all about a minute of just wasted time before you actually got put on to what you were supposed to be doing [laughs] so that was a real rip-off. And you could actually use, you could actually put an advert in a lot of those magazines for nothing, but people that rung up got charged about £2.50 a minute to actually answer the advertisement. So, that was, that was a real rip-off, that was in the, I think it’s the early ‘90s, that, late ‘80s.

Roy: When did they start putting them in the, in the newspapers? I can remember it being in’t Telegraph & Argus.

Robert: Yeah, that’ll be about ’90, early ‘90s those, yeah.

RL: Go on, John.

John: I’m remembering the, the difficult feelings we had in those days, and I don’t think I’ll ever shake off a lot – my feelings of embarrassment, but I went at least once to huge demonstrations – nothing to do with gender sexuality, but to do with something like the bomb, in Trafalgar Square, and being intensely embarrassed and fearful and annoyed at seeing a bloody great gay group’s ostentatious self-advertising, cos one was indoctrinated with a feeling one should hide any, any such feelings. And, and my commitment to the cause of human survival, y’know, and um – we were all scared that we were gonna be dead shortly, but I’m going right back to the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis and, or something, that sort of time, a very long time ago. And it felt to me then, and no doubt to large numbers of people, that, that this was dangerous and scary and we should hide all this sort of part of our personality, our nature.

Robert: I can remember one incident, that’s just brought to mind, of going from the Junction pub, somebody’d invited us back to a party and there was four of us in this cab. We were really openly gay and we were talking – I’d never done this before, with three other people, and the taxi driver was literally terrified, I could see his face in the glass [laughs] which we were just talking quite openly about things that, y’know, openly, we’d had a few drinks, and the taxi driver’s face! He was so embarrassed; it was quite funny, I’d never done that before with other people, y’know, just being yourself, it was really unusual. That would’ve been about 1980.

RL: How do you feel things have changed then? Do you think things have opened up more? Is it easier to be gay now?

Robert: I think it’s a lot easier now, yeah.

Gordon: It is easier, yeah. It’s probably riskier in some ways as well, because it’s so open.

John: As long as you’re drawn to people above a certain age. But, if you’re drawn, as I believe very large numbers of people are, to somebody who is now labelable or labelled child, and the cut-off point officially I think is 18 or 17… a huge amount of public need for somebody to victimise or put their shit on to, to put it crudely, what is substituted for gay men, I’m talking about men, which is in many ways a different situation to women – a lot, lot, lot of this need for somebody to feel hostile to goes towards people who are drawn to younger people, even as old as 16, 17, 18.

Robert: I find, your point’s quite right, the term of abuse probably in the 80s, 60s, 70s, would’ve been ‘poof’, ‘you poof’. Now, they would say to you, ‘paedo’. I’ve had that a few times, cos you’re a gay, that’s the form of insult that they use now. ‘Paedo, paedo’, they say.

John: A change of language, isn’t it? As well.

Robert: You’re automatically a paedo, they think because you’re gay you also really like young boys and children, that seems to be the norm these days. That’s worse than it was – y’know ‘poof’ before wasn’t really, it’s a bit better actually than what it is now. Yeah, because – I remember, when I was at school, with I was 14 in 1964, we had one sex lesson, lasted an hour. And the teacher came in, it was the maths teacher did it, she came in to the board and she went through general bits and bats: ‘And of course there are people who like the people of their own sex, they’re called queers!’ and she wrote it right big on the board like this [laughs] – I remember that, and they all turned round and there was this other boy who was a bit, ‘[teasing/laughing noise]’, and I thought, that’s my first lesson; it only lasted an hour, but we got told we were queers, anyway by the teacher, that was rather nice.

Gordon: You see, it’s all tied up with sex. I remember my first class in biology. And the poor old biology teacher – I think the only reason we had any biology, the main reason was, so that we could get a tiny bit of sex education, and so you start with the birds – well, plants I think, first, then the birds. And then we all knew what it was building up to and then the poor fella, y’know, just before the end of term, he had to teach us about fellas and, but oh it was really embarrassing for him, everyone was tittering and so on.

Robert: I think it is worse, this business with paedos, because I think they ultimately think that, y’know, but you’ve got to be careful, I mean I live by myself, but any children, you’ve got to be careful, you feel more vulnerable now as a single man. Years ago, I would never have thought this. If a little child were to fall down, don’t help the child up or I’ll be accused of being a pervert or a paedo. I honestly do think twice if somebody was knocked down in the street. Years ago, I’d never have thought anything, just help the child, and I have helped lost children get back to their parents when I’ve been on holiday, but now I’d think twice, ‘what you doing with that little boy and girl?’ they might turn round and say now, I mean that, that I think that is worse now than it was say ten, 20 years ago.