In an echo of the 1980s, broadsheet and tabloid newspapers have carried lurid stories this morning about a play aimed at secondary school kids that urges them to confront homophobia.
FIT, written and directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair, has already been performed in 75 schools nationwide, but an upcoming performance in Dagenham has caught the attention of Fleet Street.
Two unnamed parents are quoted in The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Star as being “uncomfortable” with their children seeing the play.
The papers were strong backers of Section 28, a 1988 amendment to the Local Government Act that barred local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality in schools.
The consequence of the new law was misery and isolation for a generation of lesbian and gay kids, with teachers unwilling to discuss homophobic bullying and some even mocking gay pupils.
It was repealed in 2003.
A recent study by gay equality organisation Stonewall found that nearly two thirds of LGB students reported instances of homophobic harassment.
That figure jumps to 75% of young gay people attending faith schools.
The survey of more than 1,100 young people found that only 23% of all UK schools explicitly condemn homophobic bullying.
92% of gay, lesbian and bisexual pupils have experienced verbal abuse, 41% physical bullying and 17% have been subject to death threats.
30% of pupils reported that adults have been responsible for incidents of homophobic bullying in their schools.
Nearly every interviewed student had heard phrases like, ‘You’re so gay’, and remarks like ‘poof’ and ‘dyke’ in UK schools.
FIT is an attempt to tackle the issues in a form young people will relate to. Billed as a hip-hop musical, it has been well-received in schools across the country. Feedback from teachers and pupils has been encouraging, according to the producers. One teacher in Edinburgh commented: “It was absolutely outstanding! The students and staff were mesmerised.”
A Drill Hall drama group spokesperson said:
“FIT has been developed to tackle the growing problem homophobic bullying in Britain’s schools.
“This touring play has been especially created for Key Stage 3 students – years seven to nine – and specifically complements various learning objectives from the National Curriculum.
“FIT is a bold play about attempting to fit in and trying to stand out in a culture where everything from not liking sport to wearing the wrong trainers is “gay”.’
A father whose 12-year-old son is at the school managed to tell three national newspapers: “Maybe I’m pretty old-fashioned sort of bloke but I don’t want my boy seeing this. I could be wrong but I don’t think its normal to think about being gay at that age.”
In January the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, launched the first ever national guidance from the government to help schools tackle homophobic bullying.
FIT receives a public performance in Drill Hall 1 at 7.30pm on Saturday 15th November. Tickets cost £15 and £10 for concessions, which include Camden residents.