Remembering LGBTQ+ history month in Haringey

Miriam Balanescu delves into the borough’s kaleidoscopic queer history

Philip Jones, 1978

Philip Jones became Haringey’s first openly gay councillor when he became representative for the South Hornsey ward in 1978 – a role which he retained until 1997. He also stepped up as deputy leader of the council from 1987–1991.

Nicky Price, 1981

In 1981, at the beginning of a hugely important decade in British LGBTQ+ history, Haringey unexpectedly became a major hub for queer culture. Entrepreneur Nicky Price (who HCP spoke to in an exclusive interview in the February 2023 issue) started the UK’s first LGBTQ+ one-nighter ‘Bolts’ in a Harringay-based club then called Lazer. It became the stomping ground of the likes of Take That and George Michael – who Nicky says gave his first performance ever at the club: “That group sang for the first time ever live on our stage anywhere in the world, and that was George Michael and Wham!”

Vince Gillespie, 1986

When Labour retained control of Haringey Council in 1986, Vince Gillespie stood as representative for the Bruce Grove ward. On his election address he was named as a gay and lesbian rights candidate – which Haringey Council say made him a target for anti-gay campaigners. He was involved in Haringey’s ‘Positive Images’ gay rights campaign in the mid-1980s.

Femi Otitoju, 1986

Throughout the 1980s, Haringey continued to be a focal point for LGBTQ+ history in both good ways and bad. Haringey Council’s pioneering Lesbian and Gay Unit (LAGU), of which Femi Otitoju was one of a few members, became part of the community services department. However, the unit became embroiled in controversy when the children’s book Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin, about a family with same-sex parents, was discovered in a Haringey library – a furore which is said to have led to the creation of Section 28. “If it hadn’t been that book, if it hadn’t been that library, it would have been caused by a different catalyst in different borough,” Femi told HCP last year. “Section 28 was the manifestation of a backlash that had already begun before the LAGU came into being.

The Positive Images Campaign, 1987

When the discovery of Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin precipitated protests in Wood Green, the Haringey-based campaign Positive Images teamed up with Haringey Black Action to organize the historic protest ‘Smash the Backlash’ against racism and bigotry on 2nd May 1987. 3,500 people marched from Ducketts Common to Bruce Castle Park via The Roundway in Tottenham.

Booan Temple, 1988

On 23rd May 1988, a group of four activists stormed BBC 6 O’Clock News, including the lesbian rights activist Booan Temple. They were protesting the night before Section 28 – a series of laws which prevented the “promotion of homosexuality” in the UK – was passed. One handcuffed herself to a camera, while others shouted “Stop Section 28”. 30 years after the incident, Booan told The Guardian: “I, and many of my loved ones, had been attacked in the street. There was an atmosphere that ‘the other’ needed to be eradicated and I think the LGBT community was seen as a threat to the institution of the family. Section 28 was part of that.”

Colin Ward and Ric Sajor, 2005

Four days before Christmas, Colin Ward and Ric Sajor tied the knot, becoming the first civil partnership couple in Haringey. Already being together by that point for 15 years, they campaigned with Stonewall Immigration Group to bring changes to same-sex immigration laws which would enable them to become legally recognised partners.

Lynne Featherstone, 2013

MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and then equalities minister Lynne Featherstone was instrumental in the creation of the bill legalizing same-sex marriage in England and Wales. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act was introduced in 2013. In 2012, Lynne was named Attitude Magazine’s politician of the year, and, in 2014, was Pink Magazine’s ally of the year and Stonewall’s politician of the year.

Subodh Rathod and Niranjan Kamatkar, 2014

Following the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, the first queer couple to marry in Haringey were Subodh Rathod and Niranjan Kamatkar, saying their vows at the Civic Centre in Wood Green. They were also the first gay Indian couple to marry in the UK under new marriage equality legislation. The wedding was musical-themed, entailing sung vows, serenading readings and choral congregations. It was also televised – Our Gay Wedding: The Musical was staged at the Alexandra Palace Theatre and shown on Channel 4.

Veronica McKenzie, 2018

Local resident Veronica McKenzie began piecing together Haringey’s LGBTQ+ history into a collection which she called The Haringey Vanguard Project. The heritage partnership project between Bruce Castle Museum and Archive and London Metropolitan Archives allows visitors to still see key memorabilia and remnants from Haringey’s vibrant LGBTQ+ past. She told HCP last year: “Haringey has always had a very radical community, because if you look at the makeup of Haringey, it’s always been very diverse. It was very difficult to find queer spaces [in central London], so you had to move further and further out.”

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