Lord Alfred Douglas
Our third blog post in the run up to our exciting OUTing the Past: The 4th National Festival of LGBT History conference, 3 February, is from Peter Scott-Presland and Andrew Lumsden.
Peter and Andrew will be delivering an interactive presentation in which the audience will be invited to participate and to come to its own ‘verdict’.
They tell us more –
“The trial is a reinterpretation of events believed to be well-known. Alfred Douglas is thought of as Oscar Wilde’s Great Love, and they are tragically yoked together forever in Queer Myth. Peter will argue that on the contrary, Douglas was nothing less than a murderer, both physically and creatively. Andrew appears for the defence, seeing Douglas as a forerunner of the Gay Liberation Front”.
“I’ve always been obsessed with LGBT History. The first song I wrote, ‘We Were In There’, was about the Wilde Trial, the 1920s Pansy Craze and the Stonewall Riots. I premiered it on 23 May 1972 in a very ugly beige frock in front of 200 drunken rugby players. There has been no looking back.
I’ve written musicals (‘Wednesday Matinee’, set in a cinema on a wet afternoon in 1963), cabaret songs, plays (‘Teatrolley’, about the 1971 GLF invasion of Hampstead Heath at night) and compiled the anthology ‘Somebody Bin Usin’ That Thing’ about Gay Life 1870-1930 in Britain, France, American and Germany, using contemporary queer songs, diaries, trial transcripts, plays – and dear old gossip. A sequel, ‘Queer Things Are Happening To Me’, using similar material 1930-1970, is in the pipeline. At the moment I’m looking for funding for ‘Oscar’s Boys’, a double bill of one-act chamber operas about Robert Ross and Alfred Douglas respectively (millionaires please note).
Then there’s ‘Amiable Warriors: The History of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and its Times’ – Volume One out already, Volume Two half way done and Volume Three stretching to infinity.
Like I say, I’m obsessed with LGBT history – though it’s a bit disconcerting to find that, while still mentally a frisky 18 year-old, I seem to have become part of it myself”.
Peter and Andrew
Andrew Lumsden was a national newspaper journalist in the 1960s-1970s, working successively for the Daily Telegraph, then owned by the English-resident Berry family rather than the offshore Barclay brothers, and The Times, then owned by the Canadian Roy Thomson, who was born the year before the conviction of Oscar Wilde. Learning of the London-based (but country-wide) Gay Liberation Front (GLF) through a report in his own newspaper Andrew became a participant. Later he was a co-founder of the seminal and hugely important fortnightly national newspaper/magazine, ‘Gay News’ (1972-1983). He is still a gay activist. Watch an interview with Andrew on Newsround.
As a participant in GLF, Andrew recognises in Lord Alfred Douglas (1870-1945) the same fury that was in the activists of the Gay Liberation Front in the 1970s. Douglas's brief brilliant protest in the 1890s was unprecedented since the playwright Christopher Marlowe's similar protest in the 1590s. Both Marlowe and Douglas suffered an inner backlash of ungovernable rages, leading in Marlowe's case to his youthful death.
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) is a different recognisable type of the 1970s, the sort of successful gay man who yearns to be "GLF" but can't quite bring himself to be. Do shake Andrew's hand. He has shaken the hand of a man who shook the hand of Alfred Douglas who shook the hand of... Oscar Wilde. Or if you prefer, kiss him.