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Gay Britannia and beyond: The best TV programmes marking the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act

Bea Mitchell July 18, 2017
Gay Britannia (BBC)

The Man in the Orange Shirt (BBC)

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967.

The Act partially decriminalised homosexual acts that took place in private between two men over the age of 21.

To celebrate this milestone, a host of TV shows, documentaries, films and dramas are being shown on TV and streamed online, which will look at the cultural impact and history of the LGBTQ community in Britain.

Here are some of our top picks…

1. Against the Law (BBC Two, Wednesday, July 26 – 9pm)

Daniel Mays (Line of Duty, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) stars in this drama, which tells the true story of a journalist jailed for being gay.

The film follows the infamous Montagu Trial of the 1950s, which saw Peter Wildeblood (Mays) and his friends Lord Montagu (Mark Edel-Hunt) and Michael Pitt-Rivers found guilty of homosexual offences and jailed.

Also starring is Mark Gatiss (Taboo, Sherlock) as Wildeblood’s prison psychiatrist Doctor Landers.

Rounding out the cast is Charlie Creed-Miles (Ripper Street, Peaky Blinders) as Superintendent Jones.

2. 50 Shades of Gay (Catch-up: All 4)

Rupert Everett leads this documentary, which looks at how gay life in Britain has changed since the decriminalisation of homosexuality 50 years ago.

Rupert meets people from former royal butler Paul Burrell to the lesbian community of Hebden Bridge.

3. Olly Alexander: Growing Up Gay (BBC Three, from July 18)

Olly Alexander - BBC Three - Growing Up Gay

In this film, Olly Alexander – frontman of British band Years and Years – explores why the gay community is more vulnerable to mental health issues, as he opens up about his own battles with depression.

Olly will join young people as they battle issues including homophobic bullying to eating and anxiety disorders.

4. Britain’s Great Gay Buildings (Catch-up: All 4)

Presented by Stephen Fry, this programme will look at the buildings that helped to define Britain’s gay history.

Viewers will be taken to Heaven Nightclub, Shibden Hall in Yorkshire, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, the Old Bailey, the Theatre Royal Haymarket, Bletchley Park and the Houses of Parliament.

Famous faces on the show include Mary Portas, Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood, Simon Callow and Lord Waheed Alli.

5. Queers (BBC Four, Airdate tbc)

Various writers respond to the 50th anniversary of The Sexual Offences Act in this series of eight 15-minute monologues – curated by Mark Gatiss – which will mark and celebrate some of the most funny, entertaining, tragic and riotous moments before and after the 1967 Act.

6. Raised by Queers (Catch-up: All 4)

Hollyoaks star Kieron Richardson (Ste Hay) explores parenting in the queer community in this documentary, speaking to parents and children with first-hand experience, and discovering more about surrogacy and modern parenting.

7. Prejudice and Pride: The People’s History of LGBTQ Britain (BBC Four, Thursday, July 27 – pm)

Prejudice and Pride: The People’s History of LGBTQ Britain

This series sees LGBTQ people from across the country sharing the mementoes and memorabilia that have changed their lives over the past 50 years.

Some of the rarest and most personal artefacts in our history will be shown here – including a banned book, a nun’s habit, an original Heaven Gold card, naval discharge papers and more. Comedians Stephen K Amos and Susan Calman present.

8. Convicted for Love (Catch-up: All 4)

Convicted For Love (All4)

This film explores the persecution gay men faced long after the 1967 Act was passed, revealing that it actually sparked a backlash of homophobia enforced by the police and courts

Many aspects of gay life continued to be illegal, and this film tells the stories of some of the 15,000 men who suffered Britain’s homophobic laws during the past 50 years, also exposing how the injustice continues today.

9. Is it Safe to be Gay in the UK? (BBC Two, Airdate tbc)

Is It Safe to be Gay in the UK?

In the three months after Brexit, an LGBT anti-violence charity reported a 147 per cent rise in homophobic attacks. This documentary explores some of the stories behind the headlines from the lesbian, gay and trans people who have been attacked, as well as the perpetrators, using testimony and found footage to look at why this rise has happened.

10. Pop, Pride and Prejudice (Catch-up: All 4)

Pop, Pride and Prejudice

Pop, Pride and Prejudice delves into the part music played in making it OK to be gay.

It looks at the fearless artists – global icons and hidden heroes – who used pop music as a way of gaining mainstream status for gay culture.

11. Man in an Orange Shirt (BBC Two, Airdate tbc)

Man in an Orange Shirt

Best-selling British novelist Patrick Gale tells two gay love stories in his first screen drama, which stars Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave.

“The wide social ramifications of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality are still being felt today and had huge implications not only for gay men (those over 21 at least) but for marriage,” said Patrick Gale.

“The two parts of my drama try to show how far-reaching those ramifications were and I know the rest of the Gay Britannia season will as well. I can’t wait to watch every bit of it.”

And, coinciding with Man in an Orange Shirt, BBC Two is also showing Profile of Patrick Gale, where we’ll meet Patrick at home in Cornwall and hear how his own family life inspired the TV drama.

12. Epidemic (Catch-up: All 4)

Epidemic: When Britain Fought Aids

This film tells the behind-the-scenes story of an unlikely coalition of Tory politicians, doctors and gay men came together to fight the AIDS epidemic.

It also explores how Britain has changed since its battle against AIDS in the 1980s.

13. What Gay Did for Art (BBC Two, airdate tbc)

Interviewing various people from across the arts, What Gay Did for Art reflects on the contribution gay and lesbian people have made to British culture since the 1967 Act.

As well as considering how artists’ sexuality might have shaped their art, however, it also asks whether growing acceptance has been to some extent a double-edged sword for queer artists.

14. Gluck (BBC Four, airdate tbc)

Gluck

Sandi Toksvig is set to front documentary Gluck, which charts the modern British history of female homosexuality and its representation in culture, literature, fashion and art.

It charts this history through one of Sandi’s favourite artists, 1930s painter Hannah ‘Gluck’ Gluckstein, and how she defied definitions of gender and sexuality during her career.

15. Queerama (BBC Four, airdate tbc)

Queerama

A Storyville film made up of footage from the BFI archive. Daisy Asquith directs and looks at 100 years of the gay experience in the 20th century.

The soundtrack comes from some impressive names, including Alison Goldfrapp, Hercules & Love Affair and John Grant.

More: George Montague, Kieron Richardson, sexual offences act, Sexual Offences Act 1967, Stephen Fry, Stephen K Amos, Susan Calman, Television, tv guide

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