The Show of Shows
Tom Marshman is a show off and an over-sharer, in his new work The Show of Shows he asks; has the impact of growing up within section 28 legislation made him this way? During the second half of 2023 Tom asked this question in conversation with the queer community he explores the legislation introduced by Thatcher’s Conservative government which stopped schools mentioning queer life. Through integrating his past body of work Tom has begun to see this through the lens that is a bi product of the past invisibility and shame that was injured by him and many of the LGBTQIA+ around him.
Tom will developing this work during the first half of 2024 with a view to touring in the autumn. If you are interested in hearing more, supporting further development or receiving The Show of Shows at your venue then please contact email@example.com
The Show of Shows was created and written by Tom Marshman
Commissioned by Unlimited & Bristol Ideas (part of Bristol 650), a Bit of a Do, and Brigstow institute
Partners: Bricks Bristol
Produced by: Sarah Warden
Lighting Design: Jen Roxburgh.
Sound Designer: Jen Bell
Outside Eye: Laura Dannequin & Jen Bell
Set / design: Ramona Bigwood, Isabelle Lyster
Costume: Julian Smith
Tech: Jen Roxburgh
Access support: Zed Lightheart
Evaluation: Roz Hall
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, Matthew Whittle, Surangama Datta, Liam Davis, Bernie Hodges, Pirrip Press, Bruce Guthrie, Hannah Sullivan, Vonalina Cake, The Island
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
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
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