Saturday, 4 April 09: Screening – A Very British Sex Scandal

4 of April 2009 @ PELANGI PRIDE CENTRE

Pelangi Pride Centre presents – “A Very British Sex Scandal”

Details at a Glance
Date: 4 April 2009 (Sat)
Time: 4pm
Venue: Pelangi Pride Centre

Cost per person: $6 (cost of 2 soft drinks and finger food)
RSVP: This event is by invitation only.
As there are LIMITED seats, prior registration is required.
For an invite – please email [pelangipridecentre at yahoo dot com] with your name (in full), contact number, the name/s of your guests.

A Very British Sex Scandal
See also: Review in Chinese from Fridae 汇乐

In January 1954, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, a 28-year-old aristocratic socialite, and his friend Peter Wildeblood, the newly-appointed diplomatic correspondent of The Daily Mail, were arrested after a concerted effort by the police to ensnare them for homosexual offences. The subsequent case scandalised high society, electrified the nation and was to change the course of British history.

Mixing drama with documentary testimony, this moving film re-lives the extraordinary events of the trial and paints a vivid picture of what it was like to be gay in 50s Britain. With contributions from 50s figures including Lord Montagu and veteran gay rights campaigners Allan Horsfall and Michael Brown, the film also dramatises the meetings of the Wolfenden Committee whose landmark recommendations led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Britain – forty years ago.

Homosexuals persecuted

In the 1950s, relaxed wartime attitudes to sex had begun to tighten and homosexual acts, even if conducted in private, could lead to lengthy jail sentences. Men were persecuted by the police, hounded by the press and faced the threat of blackmail by unscrupulous sexual partners. Amid the paranoia of the Cold War, as many as 1,000 gay men were locked up in Britain’s prisons every year.

Where some older gay men discovered a vibrant underworld with pubs and clubs, secret codes and language, and plenty of opportunity for sex, others describe experiences of confusion and isolation. The film’s contributors also explain how homosexuality was rarely, if ever, mentioned in public and, if it was suspected, they could find themselves at the mercy of well meaning doctors and psychiatrists, prescribing electric shock therapy or oestrogen tablets in an attempt to cure” them of their ‘disease.’

Montagu Trial

During the Montagu trial Peter Wildeblood caused a media sensation by publicly admitting his homosexuality in court. The authorities had got their men, but their prosecution provoked a great wave of sympathy from press and public alike. After the trial reached its sensational climax, it became clear that things had to change. The law was out of step with public opinion which expressed widespread sympathy for the convicted men – Wildeblood, Lord Montagu and Michael Pitt Rivers.

Wolfenden Committee

Wildeblood’s determination to raise awareness of the plight of homosexuals resulted in him writing a groundbreaking book, Against the Law. But in 1955 he gave what was, for him, his most important contribution to the debate about homosexuality. His appearance before the Wolfenden Committee defended the rights of homosexuals to a selection of public figures, most of whom knew nothing about the subject. In a pivotal moment in gay history, Wildeblood advocated changes which, although conservative by today’s standards, were revolutionary for the time.