On 27 July 1967 the Sexual Offences Act was passed, with the result that homosexuality was partially decriminalised in England and Wales.
We are marking the anniversary by staging Salomé, written by Oscar Wilde who went to prison for being homosexual. The cast of the show expain what this anniversary means to them.
For me this anniversary marks both a moment of celebration and pause. It is always important to celebrate any moment in human history where we can feel proud of our progression and openness as a society. Fifty years ago England took a leap forward in compassion and it prompted a new journey in the gay story. Further bills were to be passed across the UK that resulted in the success of the Gay Marriage Bill in 2014. However, this anniversary must also make us pause to remember those who were not lucky enough to live during a time when it was legal to love who you love. But this moment of pause is not just about looking back. This year alone we have seen a ‘gay purge’ in Chechnya, scenes of public flogging in Indonesia and also the deadliest incident of violence against the LGBTQ community in American history. With every positive bill towards equality we must pay further attention to a world that does not follow suit. Those of us who believe in a world of acceptance and unity must not acquit ourselves of the continued responsibility to promote positive change.
Owen Horsley, Director
For me, the anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality couldn't come at a more fitting, poignant time. We currently find the world, our country and on a smaller scale, many of our local communities having to confront issues of division more than at any time I've experienced in my young adult life. By commemorating the passing of a law which was originally passed to separate, to control and condemn, a particular community of people, we are not only celebrating this One Act. On a much larger scale we are celebrating the profound and beautiful effect that can come about when we focus on the individual rather than the collective, when we pass empathy instead of judgement, and perhaps more than any of the above, simply Kindness. I think the world could do with a bit more of that right now.
Gavin Fowler, Iokanaan
The fact that a large section of British society was outlawed for something as natural as their sexuality, just 12 years before my birth, never ceases to amaze me. It seems such a preposterous, cruel and uncivilised position for a government to adopt and a shameful page in our history. This anniversary is not only an opportunity to assess how far Britain has come in terms of gay rights and equality, but also to remind ourselves that there are communities of gay men and women in countries around the world who are still facing persecution, imprisonment and in some cases death due to their sexuality being deemed illegal. Those communities deserve the same rights and we all share the responsibility to fight for them. Intolerance seems to be prevalent in our world at the moment. May we never lose our will to fight it.
Simon Yadoo, Jew
The other day my partner and I were verbally abused on the Tube in London for being gay. My hand had just brushed his knee and we were laughing and talking together. When the man said what he did to us it shocked me to my core. It reminded me how fragile our freedom is and how we still feel ashamed and have to hide ourselves in public. This, in 2017. This instinct to hide holding hands, to never kiss in public except in 'safe' areas, to be inconspicuous. This is why, when given a chance, we need to celebrate these milestones, this forward movement to a better time, when holding hands or a brush of a hand across a knee is seen for what it is - an act of love rather than a political statement or threat. By acknowledging this anniversary we take stock of how far we have come and how much further the world still needs to go. And to never forget the men that came before. Who maybe never had the freedoms and privileges we already have. Who lived through much narrower times. So much still needs to be done.
Byron Mondahl, Nazarene
I can't imagine a time when homosexuality was illegal. It seems mad, and 50 years doesn't feel like all that long ago. It feels important to celebrate the wit, intelligence, beauty and courage of those who loved when it was illegal to do so. It's a great marker of how much progress has been made, and a reminder that we must celebrate and protect that progress and continue working towards even greater acceptance of all forms of love and diversity.
Matthew Tennyson, Salome
The decriminalisation of homosexuality was a vital step on the path of tolerance and acceptance in the UK. For me, growing up secretly gay in a staunchly Christian family in the 80s/90s, it was the slow realisation that other gay people were legally allowed to be themselves that eventually gave me the confidence to reach for the same and make my own first steps towards acceptance of who I am. Without the bravery of others before me fighting for decriminalisation, my own development as a fully functional human being would not have begun. Outrageously, countries like Uganda have yet to achieve even this first vital step: the world still needs our bravery to step further on the path of acceptance.
Jon Trenchard, Jew
It wasn't until I moved to London and got to the age where all of my friends were getting married that I started to think how crazy it was that some of my friends hadn't been allowed to do this. I saw men marry women, women marry women, men marry men. None of them loved each other any less. So for it to have been a criminal offence 50 years ago for my friends to be together is unfathomable to me. All we need from society is love. I've been thinking a lot about it after losing a friend in the Manchester attacks. Love is love and everyone needs it, everyone deserves it. Everyone should be allowed to love. No matter who they are. My friends, gay or straight, show me this all the time. Love is love. That's all we need.
Laura Bangay, Musical Director
This anniversary is a celebration of hope and a big step for human rights and civil liberties. It's the happy moment when love is no longer a crime. In a world where a man who loves a man, a woman who loves a woman, can be sentenced to death, arrested, thrown to prison in the name of an official homophobia, it's important that we celebrate how much our western society evolved in 50 years.
We forget how very recently life was drastically different for so many people. So many broken lives, people humiliated, made silent by society. Whether it's race, or sexuality, it's important that we take into account 50 years later, how lucky we are to be in a society where we are free to love whoever we want, without fear, with less social stigma.
This anniversary has a bittersweet taste. It is an enormous accomplishment, but as long as homosexuality is still punished by law in more than 80 countries, as long as gay teenagers are four times more likely to kill themselves than straight ones, as long as some citizens have fewer rights than others because of their sexuality, it's also a reminder to never lower our guard. Because what can seem acquired forever can disappear in the blink of an eye.
Ilan Evans, Naamen, Singer