People’s History Museum (PHM) has appointed award winning Manchester writer Stephen M Hornby to be a Playwright in Residence in a project supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through the North Weston Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership (NWCDTP). Stephen will be using the residency to research and write a new play based on the life of revered human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

The rehearsed reading of the new play will premiere at PHM on Sunday 10 February 2019 as part of OUTing the Past, the national festival for LGBT+ history, and the museum’s 2019 programme, which is dedicated to exploring the past, present and future of protest.

Of particular focus in the play will be the controversial 1983 Bermondsey by-election, for which Tatchell stood as the Labour Party’s parliamentary candidate. The resultant campaign has gone down in political history, notably for the homophobic abuse received by Tatchell and the way in which the by-election was reported upon. The subsequent win by the Liberal Party remains the largest by-election swing ever recorded in the UK.

Stephen’s work has begun with a detailed study of the Labour Party archives, the complete holdings of which are held at PHM, which also holds the personal papers of Tatchell, and those of Michael Foot, leader of the Labour Party at the time of the by-election. Stephen has also been carrying out a series of extensive interviews with Tatchell in person.

Stephen M Hornby, Playwright in Residence at People’s History Museum, comments, “It’s been an amazing opportunity to have access not just to the original Labour Party papers on the Bermondsey by-election, but also to Peter. He’s been so generous in giving me his time and some fresh revelations about this episode in his life. I was genuinely stunned by some of the things that Peter has told me and that I’ve discovered. I think we’re ready now to reassess the politics of the early 1980s, to fully acknowledge the vile homophobia that was present in some parts of the Labour Party then for the first time, and to learn some fresh lessons that are relevant to the Labour Party of today, and in politics more generally.”

Peter Tatchell, best known for his work with LGBT+ social movements, will be in attendance at this first rehearsed reading of the one act play taking place at PHM on Sunday 10 February 2019 at 3.00pm. Following the reading there will be a Q & A with Peter Tatchell, facilitated by LGBT activist and historian, Paul Fairweather.

Jenny Mabbott, Head of Collections & Engagement at People’s History Museum, comments, “Stephen’s work demonstrates the opportunity that history gives for learning, progression and reflection. Peter Tatchell’s story is a fascinating and shocking one that should be forever remembered, and we are delighted that through Stephen’s fresh and original research it will be told at the home of ideas worth fighting for.”


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