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Section 28 and Me Programme Notes   

Audio companion

Tom Marshman is a show off and an over-sharer, in his new work Section 28 and me he asks; has the impact of growing up during the time of section 28 legislation made him this way? 

 

During the second half of 2023 Tom asked this question in conversation with queer communities across the UK, exploring the legislation introduced by Thatcher’s Conservative government which stopped schools mentioning queer life with hundreds of individuals. Tom hosted tea parties and small performance events to collect personal histories and experiences of that time. Section 28 and me is a stitched together response of those tea party conversations alongside the artists own reflections and lived experience, he asks what is the bi product of the past invisibility and shame that was injured by him and many of the LGBTQIA+ around him.

Section 28 and Me was created and written by Tom Marshman 

Supported by Arts Council England

Commissioned by Unlimited & Bristol Ideas (part of Bristol 650), a Bit of a Do, and Brigstow institute

Partners: Bricks Bristol 

Director: Laura Dannequin  / Tom Marshman 

Dramaturg: Ben Buratta & Jen Bell 

Produced by: Sarah Warden 

Lighting Design: Ryan O'Shea

Sound Designer: Jen Bell

Photography: Paul Blakemore  

Costume: Julian Smith

Tech: Ryan O'Shea

Access support: Zed Lightheart

Music: Neil Rose 

 

With thanks to Ellie Liddell-Crewe, Naomi Miller, Lois Bibbings, Sarah Jones, Hannah Charnock, Peter Dunne, Liam Davis, Hawkwood College, Bristol Pride, Mshed, Bristol Bear Bar, Bristol Old Vic, Matthew Whittle, Surangama Datta,  Liam Davis, Bernie Hodges, Pirrip Press, Bruce Guthrie, Hannah Sullivan,  Vonalina Cake, The Island, Adam Coombs

_Tom - SOS's0724 2.jpg

Historical Context Section 28

Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, or simply ‘Section 28’, was a regressive and queerphobic piece of legislation passed in Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) in 1988 under Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government. The law was passed at the peak of societal disapproval toward homosexuality with 64% thinking it was ‘always wrong’ in 1987 – the year before Section 28 was passed (British Social Attitudes survey). 

The effect of Section 28 was to insert another section, Section 2A, into the Local Government Act 1986, stating that local authorities: "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". Arguably, a key turning point which led to the enactment of Section 28 was Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin, a 1981 Danish picture book (published in English in 1983) depicting a young girl living with her dad and his boyfriend. Various news outlets covered that this book was available in a school library within the Inner London Education Authority; however, it was in fact a teacher’s resource and never seen by students (Buckle, 2012). Section 28 was in place in Scotland until 21 June 2000, and England and Wales until 18 November 2003. Confusion arose while the Section was being debated in Parliament, and after it was formally implemented, partly because what constituted “promoting” was never clarified or defined. There was also the matter of its impact on schools - both in theory and in reality.

 

Despite Section 28 being completely repealed in Britain over nearly 20 years ago (the 20th anniversary for England and Wales fast approaching), its legacy is still apparent. This can be gleaned from research such as Lee (2019) regarding teachers’ experience both during and after the Section 28 era. Lee (2019) found that those who taught within the Section 28 era were constantly afraid of being ‘outed’ and spotted with their partner in public, typically living far outside their school’s catchment area as a result, and almost 50% reported having anxiety or depression linked to being a teacher throughout the Section 28 era (compared with only 24% who started after 2003). There are other effects of Section 28, too. For example, a survey by Stonewall in 2017 found that almost half of all LGBT+ still face bullying just for being LGBT+, and that more than two in five young trans people had tried to take their life. Guidance soon to be released by government (supposedly by the end of 2023) will hopefully go some way in combatting the stigma still faced by LGBT+ pupils, but the government must not forget the history of discrimination faced by LGBT+ youth (see King-Hill and others, 2023) and embrace queerness as more than just acceptable. 

Collated by Liam Davis and Surngama Datta


References:

British Social Attitudes survey link: https://bsa.natcen.ac.uk/latest-report/british-social-attitudes-30/personal-relationships/homosexuality.aspx 

Catherine Lee, ‘UK’s LGBT teachers still scarred by the legacy of homophobic legislation more than 30 years on’ (18 July 2019) at https://theconversation.com/uks-lgbt-teachers-still-scarred-by-the-legacy-of-homophobic-legislation-more-than-30-years-on-118618

https://www.stonewall.org.uk/school-report-2017

KentOnline, ‘Gay campaigners welcome KCC policy change’ at https://www.kentonline.co.uk/kent/news/gay-campaigners-welcome-kcc-poli-a16471/

The Sunday Times, ‘Schools escape Clause 28 in ‘gay ban’ fiasco’ (29 May 1988) at https://briandeer.com/social/clause-28.htm

Sebastian Buckle, ‘Homosexual Identity in England, 1967-2004: Political Reform, Media and Social Change’ (PhD thesis, University of Southampton), published October 2012

Sophie King-Hill and others, ‘Relationships and sex education review: government must remember history of LGBTQ+ discrimination in English schools’ (12 May 2023) at https://theconversation.com/relationships-and-sex-education-review-government-must-remember-history-of-lgbtq-discrimination-in-english-schools-203008

Stonewall, ‘2017 School Report’ at https://www.stonewall.org.uk/school-report-2017

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