February is LGBT+ History Month and Hounslow Council has arranged the free showing of a series of thought-provoking films to celebrate at the Civic Centre.
Next Monday Simon Napier-Bell, the writer and director of Fifty Years Legal, will take part in a Q&A session after the screening of his new documentary charting the story of the 50 year battle for equal rights.
Chiswick may not figure in the documentary, but nevertheless can claim its own contribution to LGBT+ film history thanks to Victim, the first British movie to sympathetically address the persecution of gay men.
It was, indeed, the first English language film to ever use the word “homosexual” , although other pejorative terms such as “queer” and “invert” were also used in the film which premiered in the UK on 31 August 1961.
It stars Dirk Bogarde, who was a hugely popular matinee idol at the time, and plays a successful barrister called Melville Farr. The Chiswick locations reflect his social standing and emphasises how the other central male character inhabits a world apart.
Melville’s house is on Chiswick Mall, a blue plaque area of expensive homes, including 17th-century mansions leading to St Nicholas Church. Here Melville walks through the burial ground that provides the resting place of William Hogarth, and other notable artists.
Melville meets his wife Laura (played by Sylvia Syms) outside his immaculate redbrick terraced townhouse. The scene is actually filmed at a spot further along the Mall, where the expanse of water and iconic Hammersmith Bridge serves as a starker, moodier backdrop for confrontation than the manicured private gardens that line the river in Chiswick.
You can see from the pictures taken this weekend retracing scenes from the film, that Chiswick Mall has not changed much, unlike the political and social landscape for the LGBT+ community, which looks completely different over 50 years since the film was made.
At the time of filming Victim, homosexual acts between males were illegal in England and Wales until the 1967 Sexual Offences Act. The fact that willing participants in consensual homosexual acts could be prosecuted made them vulnerable to entrapment, and the criminalisation of homosexuality was known as the “blackmailer’s charter”. In Victim the blackmailers vandalise Farr’s Chiswick property, painting “FARR IS QUEER” on his garage door.
More recently, Chiswick’s riverside has been the setting for the ground breaking lesbian drama series Different for Girls, again to drive home the point that affluent lifestyles sometimes conceal a complex love life.
LGBT+ Screenings this month
The films (all certificate 15) will be shown in the Council Chamber at the Civic Centre, Lampton Road, Hounslow TW3 4DN at 6.30pm on the following dates:
Friday 15 February Pride
Pride is inspired by an extraordinary true story set in the summer of 1984 when the National Union of Mineworkers is on strike, prompting a London-based group of gay and lesbian activists to raise money to support the strikers’ families. Initially rebuffed by the Union, the group identifies a tiny mining village in Wales and sets off to make their donation in person. As the strike drags on, the two groups discover that standing together makes for the strongest union of all.
Monday 18 February Fifty Years Legal
This powerful and engaging film was created to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, showing an engaging but informative journey through LGBT history in the UK since 1967 and how changes in politics and social attitudes, for better or worse, have evolved over the subsequent decades.
Simon has gathered together some of our nation’s much loved personalities including Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Elton John, Matt Lucas, Stephen K. Amos, Derek Jacobi and Stephen Fry, to make a documentary of historical and personal accounts that relate to key episodes of LGBT culture.
It charts both the story of the 50-year battle for equal rights and deeply personal accounts from high profile politicians, comedians, actors and others in the public arena. Leading activists and commentators explore the changes that have taken place since homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK in 1967 and the influence of gay culture on society.
Simon Napier-Bell established a name for himself in the ‘60s as manager of groups such as The Yardbirds, before going on to manage T Rex, Wham! and George Michael, Boney M, Sinitta and Ultravox, among others.
Friday 22 February Beautiful Thing
Recently named by the British Film Institute as one of the 30 best LGBT movies of all time, this coming of age story is written by Jonathan Harvey and directed by Hettie MacDonald . When Jonathan Harvey’s love story Beautiful Thing debuted in 1993 as a play, he had no idea it would eventually be heralded as a crown jewel of gay storytelling.
Wednesday 27 February Stud Life
JJ and Seb are both looking for love but in the wrong places. When JJ falls in love with the beautiful diva ‘Elle’, JJ and Seb’s friendship is tested for the first time. Set in London, the film is a young and gay British urban romance that pays homage to Spike Lee’s She Gotta Have It. Film director Campbell X is an award-winning transgender director based in London.
The films, shown in partnership with Mosaic LGBT+ Youth Centre and West London LGBT Forum, are free, but advanced booking is advised. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 020 8583 2530 to secure a place.