In 1990 gay people were frequently despised and generally considered to be diseased perverts.
Just twenty years later an organisation named the London Gay Men’s Chorus were being hailed as cultural ambassadors and invited to perform at 10 Downing Street.
This significant book is written by a founder of that group of idealistic individuals who helped to bring about such a rapid and unlikely social revolution.
Why the Gay Men’s Chorus got started, and how they managed to survive against all odds is an extraordinary story. A Secret History is an adventure that needs to be told. The tale weaves together passion, politics and prejudice, and shows what happens when the weight of human rights crashes into the glitter of show-biz.
The origins of the London Gay Men’s Chorus were humble. The group grew from a joke in a damp and derelict basement in a no-go red-light district, to become the largest gay arts organisation in Europe. However, the journey was not a smooth one.
At the height of the AIDS crisis in 1990 the political climate was blatantly homophobic and the media was having a witch hunt. A group of gay men with a grievance singing protest songs and celebrating their sexuality would not have seemed an acceptable idea, but this particular group had a stubborn dream. Driven by anger and a hunger for justice they stuck together, refused to play the role of victims and raised their voices loud and proud.
With an inspired innocence and energy they invented a new way to communicate ideas and emotions through choral music and provocative performance. Show tunes became anthems of liberation, pop songs acquired unlooked-for depth and double meaning, and conventional classical repertoire gained contemporary relevance.
The group worked tirelessly and their audiences grew. They performed everywhere from back-street bars to the largest London stages, and eventually began touring internationally. Perhaps their controversial participation in competitions and frequent appearances on TV is where the current popularity of choral singing started.
By the time the twenty-first century began the expanding chorus had developed a communal dynamic, it had become its own experiment in male bonding and surrogate family; both a manifesto for queer living and a post-modern musical library.
Long established social structures were shifting all around, the internet was omnipresent and it felt as if history was happening on an epic scale.
In 1994 the UK age of consent for gay men had been reduced to 18, and eventually in the year 2000 equalised at 16.
Also in 2000 Lesbian Gay and Bisexual people were allowed to join the armed forces. In 2002 equal right were granted in adoption applications, and in 2003 it became illegal to discriminate against L.G.B. people in the workplace.
2017 is the 50th anniversary of the ‘Sexual Offences Act’ which began the process of decriminalising homosexuality, and compared to other places it feels as if gay people in the UK are in a privileged position.
We are able to marry if we should choose, and live our daily lives with more or less equal rights. Meanwhile, The London Gay Men’s Chorus now reaches out to a worldwide community and continues to educate and entertain.
Robert Offord the author was born in 1951 and raised in North London. His teenage years were constructively derailed by psychedelic folk music, and in the 1970’s a passion for pop-art and punk revolution consumed him. After a brief diversion into scientific study, and some experimentation with existentialism and alienation, he gained a BA(hons) in 1981.
His career as a part-time art teacher was cut short when he accidentally achieved international success as a graphic artist. The London Gay Men’s Chorus was founded in 1991, and the author considered the writing of this historical account to be a long-term activity until September 2016, when he received a diagnosis of advanced cancer.
Publication of A Secret History became a priority whilst the author attempts to come to terms with his diagnosis.
The book is published by Robert Offord in conjunction with WRITERSWORLD, and is produced entirely in the UK.
It is available to order from most bookshops in the United Kingdom, price £9.99 and is also globally available via UK-based Internet book retailers.
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