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Section 28 Resources

Before The Act – Podcasts

Before The Act 1

Before The Act 2

Before The Act 3

Before The Act – Website

These three podcasts and website are all about the ‘Live Aid’ of the theatrical world – Before The Act. On 5th June 1988 the stars came out to fight a notorious piece of homophobic legislation, ‘Section 28’ of the Local Government Bill.

Before The Act is a little known but seminal moment in LGBT+ history bringing together performers from the worlds of theatre and music with a group of lesbian and gay activists at the Piccadilly Theatre in London’s West End. It showcased the work of lesbian and gay authors, poets, playwrights and composers and highlighted the harmful impact of Section 28 –which prevented libraries and schools from stocking LGBT+ relevant materials and had a profound effect on teaching in schools. 

This website and podcasts are not an official history of Before The Act. They include the memories of some of the women involved and excerpts from the show itself – as gathered by Bev Ayre, stage manager for the show and in 2003 the Development Director at Stonewall just before Section 28 was finally repealed.

The core group went on to produce a second benefit, a performance of the play Bent, at the Adelphi Theatre in 1989. The proceeds from that founded Stonewall – the organisation which lobbied for fifteen years to repeal the law.

Before The Act was devised by Michael Cashman, Sean Mathias, Ian McKellen, Stephen Oliver and Martin Sherman. It was produced by Trina Cornwell and Wendy Martin of 20th Century Vixen, and directed by Richard Eyre.

The show included performances by an incredible cast including: Judi Dench, Vanessa Redgrave, Ian McKellen, Alan Bates, Joan Plowright, Maureen Lipman, Timothy West, DV8, Maria Aitken, Rupert Everett, Richard Griffiths, The Pet Shop Boys, Parker and Klein, Pam St. Clement, Sheila Hancock, John Thaw, Gary Oldman, Michael Gambon, Anthony Sher, Tilda Swinton, The Hot Doris Band, Paul Eddington, Celia Imrie, Simon Rattle, Patricia Hodge, Edna O’Brien, Hugh Quarshie…

Bev Ayre

Gay rights: Life under Section 28 – BBC Newsnight

From May 2018:

30 years ago Section 28 was introduced. It was – the now repealed – clause of a local government act, to stop a council promoting the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship. That’s a quote. The prominent gay writer and journalist Matthew Todd – he was editor at Attitude magazine for many years – was in school in those days, and looks back now, at the effect it had. Newsnight is the BBC’s flagship news and current affairs TV programme – with analysis, debate, exclusives, and robust interviews.

Section 28 – Related Documents Held in LSE Archives:

Sue Sanders and Gill Spraggs “Section 28 and Education” (1989)
Probably one of the most definitive histories of Section 28.

Before The Act
OLGA Minutes
ALA Legal Summary S28
Stonewall Minutes
Gay Times 2003
Pink Paper 2003
S28 Background
S28 Castle View Policy
S28 Colston Girls Policy
S28 Presenter Notes
S28 Swindon Academy Policy
Shadow of S28 Slides
Unions Miscellaneous