‘WE ARE CONCERNED’: A PUBLIC READING OF THE WOLFENDEN
Sunday 11 June 2017, 4pm-late
A special reading of the 1957 Wolfenden Report that led to the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967
The Britten-Pears Foundation will be marking the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality with an event at The Pumphouse in Aldeburgh. It is part of the alternative Aldeburgh Festival in the unique setting of a former pumping station on the marshes.
‘We are Concerned’ will be a public reading of the sections dealing with homosexuality in the Wolfenden Report, a fascinating and historically significant document. Starting at 4pm, it will take approximately 5 hours and 15 minutes to complete.
The Report will be divided into 30 sections, marked by logical breaks in the Report itself. Matters covered in the Report include: ‘Is homosexuality a disease?’; ‘Blackmail and courts’ and ‘Oestrogen and Castration treatments’. It concludes with the recommendation that ‘homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence’ – although some members of Wolfenden’s Committee (who prepared the Report) submitted several lengthy ‘reservations’, which will also be included in the reading.
The Britten-Pears Foundation is delighted that human rights activist Peter Tatchell will be taking part along with other special guests, to be announced. The public will also be able to take part and can sign up now here: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/5080f45afaf2ca3f94-weare.
Lucy Walker, curator of Britten-Pears Foundation exhibition ‘Queer Talk: Homosexuality in Britten’s Britain’ says:
‘The Wolfenden Report in 1957 triggered a decade long campaign that led to the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality. Along with the 50th anniversary of decriminalisation, we are marking the 60th anniversary of the Report’s publication. It is a remarkable and historic document. The Wolfenden Committee aimed to be objective about the ‘problem’ of homosexuality, but the Report clearly exposes their moral codes and beliefs which were very much of the time. Britten and Pears inhabited this time, place and culture, as well as the legal situation outlined in the Report, and had to maintain high levels of discretion in their private lives to avoid exposure. Both anniversaries give us the opportunity to reflect on the considerable progress towards equality for the LGBTQ community in the UK.’
General Director of the Foundation, Sarah Bardwell agrees saying:
‘Despite the social context of their relationship it is impossible to separate Britten and Pears when talking about their own achievements as they inspired and supported each other for nearly forty years. Much like our 2017 exhibition, Queer Talk, the public reading of the Report gives insight and understanding of the past so that we illuminate and improve the future.’
Roger Wright, Chief Executive of Snape Maltings says:
‘Snape Maltings is delighted to work with the Britten-Pears Foundation to include this event at The Pumphouse during the 70th Aldeburgh Festival. Our ‘alternative’ venue in Aldeburgh is the perfect space to host events like this and I hope that our Festival audiences – local and national – will come and support this special reading in the anniversary year.’
Following the reading, from 9.30-10.30pm poet Richard Scott and artist Jez Dolan will present their ‘Responses to the Report’ with powerfully personal verse from Richard and a translation of the Wolfenden recommendations into Polari (the gay language used in the 1950s and 60s) and further responses from Jez.
During the first few days of the Aldeburgh Festival (9-25 June), Jez Dolan’s translation of the Wolfenden Report into Polari will be on display at The Red House, Aldeburgh. It will also be possible to see the Britten-Pears Foundation’s exhibition ‘Queer Talk: Homosexuality in Britten’s Britain’.