It was 40 years ago today – C4 marks decriminalisation

Tony Grew July 20, 2007
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A series of programmes to mark the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England Wales starts on Channel 4 tomorrow.

A dramatisation of the trial of Lord Edward Montagu and Peter Wildeblood, entitled A Very British Sex Scandal, is one of the highlights.

Montagu and Wildeblood, a Daily Mail journalist, were arrested and tried for attempts to incite others to homosexual acts in 1954.

Both were imprisoned for 12 months.

Whilst Montagu continued to protest his innocence, Wildeblood became one of the first men in Britain to publicly declare his homosexuality.

The Sexual Offences Act, which decriminalised gay sex between men over the age of 21, received Royal Assent on the 28th July 1967.

A Very British Sex Scandal, will be shown tomorrow at 9pm

On Sunday Kevin Elyot’s much-anticipated drama Clapham Junction, which examines the lives of seven gay men over 36 hours, will be shown at 10pm.

Starring Rupert Graves and James Wilby, it is a snapshot of the mixed experiences of gay men in London.

It also features actors Paul Nicholas and Samantha Bond.

From a civil partnership ceremony to a dinner party, five separate stories are woven into the fabric of modern day London from school and work, to bars and clubs, in one hot summer in the capital.

When the middle class dinner party is interrupted by the arrival of police on Clapham Common to investigate a reported attack, the characters are drawn together with devastating effect.

“While there seems to be a greater acceptance of gays in society – consent equality, civil partnerships, higher media visibility, homophobic violence has not disappeared,” said Clapham Junction writer Kevin Elyot.

“Bigotry is still bubbling just below the surface and sometimes in the most surprising quarters.”

On Tuesday night Channel 4 will screen How Gay Sex Changed The World, a documentary that charts the journey of gay men over the last four decades, from the moment of legality all the way to wider social acceptance and a greater sexual entitlement.

On Wednesday, in 40 Years Out, David Aaronovitch will debate the season with leading figures from the gay community.

Finally, on Thursday night, the touching and often amusing documentary Queer As Old Folk explores the present-day lives and relationships of gay men who came of age when homosexuality was still illegal, and who are now growing old disgracefully.

Channel 4 has set up a forum on their web site where viewers can discuss the programmes and the issues they raise. Click here.

All these programmes will also be available free for a week after transmission on the 4OD website.

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