Talk of the Town Goes Virtual

Polly Penter London, England


April 8, 2020

One of the casualties of the unexpected early departure of our students was an event we had planned for 16th March. Talk of the Town is a series of informal lectures that take place in the evenings, off-campus, with a range of speakers talking about issues that complement - but do not form part of - students' courses. In the past we have had (amongst other things) comedian Dave Chawner talking about his struggle with eating disorders, a representative from Democrats Abroad and Intermission Youth - a group that uses Shakespeare to work with vulnerable young people. Having shown the film Pride (currently available on Amazon Prime in the US and well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it) as part of LGBT+ History Month we were due to welcome two of the activists on whom the film was loosely based to talk about their experiences of being a young gay activist in Britain in the 1980s, their involvement in the Miners' Strike and the impact of the film. While, of course, we were sadly unable to run the event as scheduled, we did manage to reschedule it, albeit in a slightly altered format, for 7th April, and welcomed former member of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners Gethin Roberts (depicted in the film by Andrew Scott) to talk to staff and students over Zoom instead.

Despite some reservations about recreating the usual informal atmosphere on a virtual platform, the event was well-attended and Gethin’s talk, and the discussions that followed it, was moving, engaging and inspiring. Gethin touched on a number of issues that are a distant memory to many of us now, such as the scourge of Section 28 (a law that banned any discussion of same-sex relationships in schools) and the huge death toll from HIV in the 1980s (LGSM alone lost 11 members to the disease). Students who attended the sessions asked many insightful questions, leading to a discussion about the role of queer spaces in today’s society and the importance of activism which could have gone on far into the evening.

We were very glad to welcome Gethin to our new virtual world, and hope he will join us back in the real world once it’s up and running again for another event.