Lost BBC documentary – first on homosexuality – is brought to the stage for BBC 100 celebrations

A ground-breaking BBC documentary about homosexuality which was lost after airing in the 1950s is being brought back to life on the stage as part of the BBC 100 celebrations.

Inkbrew Productions will present The BBC’s First Homosexual in the New Adelphi Studio, at the University of Salford, on November 30, 2022.

In 1953, the BBC initiated its first ever documentary about male homosexuality.

At the time, the topic was so taboo that the finished radio programme sat on the shelves for four years, with a version finally being broadcast in 1957.

Then it was lost.  And all that survives is a transcript of the original programme.

Now, it is being bought to the stage at the instigation of Dr Marcus Collins, Reader in Contemporary History, at Loughborough University, and AHRC BBC Centenary Fellow.

He has unearthed archive materials held by the BBC including the full transcript of the original recording, BBC internal memos about the programme and letters from members of the public following the broadcast.

These materials have been adapted by multiple award-winning playwright and director Stephen M Hornby, who specialises in playwriting from archives and is currently the National Playwright in Residence for LGBT+ History Month.

He said: “I’ve mixed up fragments from the BBC archive with the fictional story of a young man exploring his sexuality in the 1950s.

“Through him, we get a window into being gay in the 1950s and we see the impact of the documentary has upon him.

“It’s been hard to read some of the material at times, but it also been an honour to get this amazing insight into this lost programme and its view of homosexuality.”

Dr Collins said: “This brilliantly insightful play illustrates why LGBTQ+ issues created any number of dilemmas for the BBC in the 1950s.

“The BBC first had to overcome its aversion to discussing anything to do with sex, then it had to grapple with the competing claims of a wide array of groups, from gay activists to evangelical Christians.

“The messy compromise the BBC came up with was nonetheless instrumental in starting to shape how lesbian, gay and trans people perceived themselves and how they were perceived by the wider British public.”

The play’s director Oliver Hurst, artistic director of Redbrick Theatre, added: “It’s a great challenge to bring this documentary and this period to life.

“I’m relishing it and with the wonderful script and the stellar cast that we have managed to secure, we’ve got something truly special to offer our audience.”

The play is being presented as a script-in-hand performance in the New Adelphi Studio at the University of Salford on November 30, at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

Tickets are free but need to be booked in advance through Eventbrite.

2.30pm tickets are here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-bbcs-first-homosexual-tickets-467976378947

7.30pm tickets are here: The BBC's First Homosexual Tickets, Thu 1 Dec 2022 at 19:30 | Eventbrite


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 22/214

Loughborough University Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2022 QS World University Rankings – the sixth year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2023 and 11th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) commissioned this documentary at the end of 1953.  It was recorded on 24th May 1954 under the title “Homosexuality - The Condition, The Cult and The Crime”.  A revised version of the programme was finally broadcast on 25th July 1957 at 10pm on the BBC’s Home Service radio station under the title “The Homosexual Condition”.

Inkbrew Productions is a multiple award-winning theatre and film company, with specialisms in performing heritage and dramatising archives.

The University of Salford is a red brick public research university in Salford, Greater Manchester.  The New Adelphi Studio is part of the £55 million New Adelphi building which houses music, performance, art, design and fashion students. 

Dr Stephen M Hornby is the National Playwright in Residence to LGBT+ History Month and has completed commissions for a number of archives and museums. He is currently completing his first book, “Writing from Archives for Stage & Screen” and is an Academic Fellow in Drama & Theatre Practice at the University of Salford.

Dr Marcus Collins is Reader in Contemporary History at Loughborough University and is author of “The Beatles and Sixties Britain” (2020) and “Modern Love” (2003) and co-author of “Why Study History?” (2020).  He is currently writing “Arrested Development: Broadcasting and Homosexuality from Wolfenden to AIDS”.

Oliver Hurst is a director, writer and theatre maker.  He co-founded Redbrick Theatre.  He was in the first cohort of Supported Artists at the New Adelphi Theatre and is also part of the music collective/record label Desk Jockey.