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