'That's something for you to take back to Yorkshire'

Linda braves the Gateways Club in London and has her first dance and kiss with a woman.

Duration 01:36


Animation by Philippa Croft Bayliss, created as part of her Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at Leeds Arts University. Find Pippa on Instagram as @pumpkin_pips.


I decided what I would do is – I’d obviously found out what the word lesbian meant, I think I’d seen it in a book and looked it up and thought ‘Oh my god, that’s, that’s me’ y’know and like petrified, thinking ‘What am I gonna do?’ – anyway, I must’ve found out about this organisation. I think, I can remember, in the post office you used to be able to go and they’d have all the directories from all over the country, with all the phone numbers in, and I looked it up and found this London phone number.

So, I can remember going to this phone booth and being really worried that people would know – I was in the phone booth y’know where you could put money in to ring up – that they would know what I were doing, cos they could see me in the phone booth. But obviously they wouldn’t’ve known, but this is what I thought. So I rung this place up and I said, ‘Oh you’re probably going to think this is really strange but I want to know where there’s any clubs in London where you can go that are just for women’. And obviously, thinking about it now, that weren’t anything new for them was it, but it were a big deal for me. And so they said all these places, and I said, ‘Oh’, I said, ‘well I’ll – just give me the names of these clubs, where they are’, cos I had an auntie and uncle who lived in London; I thought, what I’ll do is, I’ll go down to London, cos this is where, that’s where you’d go. So they, and, the only, they said the clubs and I chose one out of it, it just happened to be The Gateways, but just by chance, I just chose The Gateways. And, I think at that time, I think at that time my mother was still alive, so this was pre ’74, pre-1974.

So I goes down to London and goes down King Road, and I’m there at about seven o’clock at night, y’know, and so I find The Gateways and I’m just got, like, clothes that, I can remember wearing bell bottoms on and like a – wearing what you used to call like an angel top, this were the style of that time. And so I goes down at seven o’clock, eight o’clock, and nobody goes out do they while ten o’clock do they, and I’m there at seven or eight o’clock down Kings Road, so I’m, I had to go and I had to knock on this door and a little window, a little window opened, and I said, ‘Oh, I’ve come down from –‘ and this is what I said: ‘I’ve come down from Yorkshire, so I’d like to be able to come in if I could’, so they said ‘Oh yeah’, so they opened the door and let me in, and I said ‘Oh’, and I had a bag, a weekend bag cos I were gonna stay at my auntie’s and I said ‘Oh can I leave this somewhere’ – can you imagine, they wouldn’t let go of a bag if you were in London now, y’know – ‘Can I leave this somewhere’, so they put it somewhere. And I went downstairs, and it just looks like, like it does in that film 'The Killing of Sister George', The Gateways did just look like that. You went down the steps and there’s just somebody, like, there taking the money, and there’s a bar and everything.

So there’s nobody hardly in there, there’s just me and – and I’m looking round and I thought there seems to be a lot of men in there, but at that time, the 1970s, it was a real butch/femme kinda look, y’know, so a lot of the women had like suit on or, I remember someone in like a tweedy jacket, and it was just the time that people started having their hair blown, y’know, so these people – I actually have really curly hair, so I didn’t have mine like that – with their hair blown and I thought, ‘Oh god, it’s like straight couples here’. So I go to the bar, and I don’t, I didn’t really drink or anything, but for some reason or other I know about summat called a Whisky Mac, which I think is whisky and ginger ale, or summat like that, so I goes and orders this, a Whisky Mac or something – when I think about it now I could cringe – and so I’m stood at the bar, and obviously I’m quite young at the time weren’t I, what I’d be less than 30 I think, and somebody came up to me – oh it was, it was a jukebox in there, they had a jukebox in there that they played the dance music, there was a dancefloor and a jukebox – and this woman came up to me – by then more people came in after a bit, I just sat there and eventually more people came in – and then somebody came up to me and said, ‘Oh, when there’s some slow music on the, y’know they’re playing, I’ll come and ask you to dance’, and I thought, ‘Oh my god, my god, what am I gonna do’. So I went to somebody else, and I said, I said, ‘D’you mind if I just stand with you for a minute’, I said, ‘because this woman said she’s gonna ask me to dance if er’, and so anyway this woman said, ‘Oh yeah, come and stand with me’, and then – and I’d never been anywhere, I’d never been anywhere where you danced with anybody or do anything – and so she said, ‘Oh yeah’, you know, she’d dance, she’d dance with me and I thought ‘Oh’ so straightaway I’m in love, I’m having a dance with somebody I’m in love, and then she said, ‘Oh’, and then she kissed me – I remember she kissed me and she said, ‘Oh, that’s summat for you to take back to Yorkshire’.