A couple kissing at Gay Pride, London in monochrome

Queer in the city: London

Explore London – past, present and future – from a queer perspective.

In 2017 Peter Ackroyd published Queer City: Gay London from Romans to the present day. The book coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 which partially decriminalised male homosexuality in England and Wales.

Following the publication of the Wolfenden Report, the Homosexual Law Reform Society allowed a forum for LGBTQ people to come together as and fight for legislative change.

Wolfenden Report, 1957

Front cover of the 'Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution' AKA the Wolfenden Report, dated 1957 (c) British Library Board

The Wolfenden Report recommended that 'homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should be no longer a criminal offence'.

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In October 1970 the first meeting of Gay Liberation Front UK was held at the London School of Economics. Think-ins quickly grew to over 200 people. Regional groups began to meet, a manifesto was written and activism flourished.

Gay Liberation Front Manifesto

Gay Liberation Front Manifesto containing an illustration of a clenched fist

The 1971 Gay Liberation Front Manifesto proclaimed that ‘Homosexuals, who have been oppressed by physical violence and by ideological and psychological attacks at every level of social interaction, are at last becoming angry.’

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The communes of LGBTQ people that came together were one of the most radical experiments to be born out of the Gay Liberation Front UK. The communes in Brixton, Bethnal Green and Notting Holland all questioned what family and societal norms were, and the prominence of the nuclear family at the centre of British life.

Queer City: London was an event held at the British Library on 7 August 2017 to coincide with the exhibition Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty. This wide-ranging discussion touches upon lesbianism in Paris, Black Pride, queer life in the regions, and much, much more.

Presented here in an edited format, the release commemorates the London Pride parade 2020, which was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The full recording can be heard in the British Library Reading Rooms. 
Steven Dryden
  • Steven Dryden
  • Steven Dryden is a Sound Archive and Humanities Reference Specialist at the British Library. Steven co-curated Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty (2017, British Library) and led a series of student workshops and public lectures at the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality at Harvard University, USA (2018).

    Steven’s primary research interest is in the use of language by heritage institutions. His recent work has focused on the cataloguing of gender and sexual minorities in archive and museum catalogues. Steven develops content for the British Library LGBTQ Histories website and has spoken widely across Europe and the UK.