Public Indecency - Queer Art In Britain

Episodes

SeriesEpisodeTitleFirst
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01Coded Desire20170717
01Coded Desire20170717

Simon Callow examines the work of 19th century artists who explored same-sex desire.

A three part series marking the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of sex between men through the Sexual Offences Act of 1967. Simon Callow presents an exploration of 100 years of queer life in Britain seen through the lens of the arts.

The series has been produced in partnership with Tate Britain and their landmark exhibition Queer British Art 1861-1967. Simon's guide throughout the series is exhibition curator Clare Barlow.

In this first episode, Simon examines a handful of artists and writers working in the late 19th century, a period in British history when sexualities were far less clearly defined. In the late 1800s, a set of British artists emerged who would not have labelled themselves as gay or lesbian, but whose work explored gender, difference and queer desires, albeit in a coded manner.

We uncover the hidden messages within the paintings of Simeon Solomon, reveal the identity of the mysterious poet Michael Field (in fact an alias created by a lesbian couple) and encounter the steely gaze of Gluck, a painter who turned androgyny into a fine art.

This episode also discusses the impact of the trials of Oscar Wilde and Marguerite Radclyffe Hall on the emergence of the stereotype of a queer "artistic type".

Presenter: Simon Callow
Producer: Max O'Brien
A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

01Coming Out20170731
01Coming Out20170731

Simon Callow charts the emergence of a wave of openly queer artists in the 1950s and 60s.

A three part series marking the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of sex between men through the Sexual Offences Act of 1967. Simon Callow presents an exploration of 100 years of queer life in Britain seen through the lens of the arts.

The series has been produced in partnership with Tate Britain and their landmark exhibition Queer British Art 1861-1967. Simon's guide throughout the series is exhibition curator Clare Barlow.

In the final episode, Simon charts the emergence of a new wave of openly queer artists in the 1950s and 60s. Working at a time when practising homosexuality was still illegal, these artists liberated themselves rather than waiting for a change in the law.

Simon visits his local library, the site of a radical campaign of homoerotic vandalism which saw the writer Joe Orton and his partner Kenneth Halliwell deface library books with lewd covers, before surreptitiously placing them back on the shelves to shock the unsuspecting readers of Islington. We also sit down with Francis Bacon's close friend Michael Peppiatt who discusses the tortured male figures and scenes of gay sex that Bacon defiantly painted.

The episode concludes with an examination of the work of David Hockney who represents a radical departure in queer art. Neither coded, nor titillating, his early work - self professed "homosexual propaganda" - explores homosexuality in a way that is completely transparent and self-celebrating. Simon concludes that, while Bacon was a genius, his vision of lovemaking was not encouraging. The gospel according to Hockney however was a gospel of love and light.

Presenter: Simon Callow
Producer: Max O'Brien
A TBI production for BBC Radio 4.

01The Theatrical Type20170724
01The Theatrical Type20170724

Simon Callow charts the history of queer theatre and performance in Britain.

A three part series marking the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of sex between men through the Sexual Offences Act of 1967. Simon Callow presents an exploration of 100 years of queer life in Britain seen through the lens of the arts.

The series has been produced in partnership with Tate Britain and their landmark exhibition Queer British Art 1861-1967. Simon's guide throughout the series is exhibition curator Clare Barlow.

In this second episode, Simon is joined by the novelist Sarah Waters, the director and playwright Neil Bartlett, and leading queer historians, biographers and critics.
He heads into the heart of London's Theatreland to reveal that, despite homosexuality being illegal, in the century leading up to the Sexual Offences Act, performers in theatres and music halls across Britain endlessly and inventively explored sexuality, gender and difference. Simon's passion for British theatre shines through as he demonstrates the cunning ways playwrights smuggled queer characters onto the stage, evading the censors by using coded stage directions that hinted to directors that a character was supposed to be gay.

We also celebrate the music hall, a riotous space where queer performers could be far more bold - embodying queerness whilst attracting huge audiences across the UK. Simon also pays a trip to the Parliamentary Archives to leaf through an extraordinary document that tells the story of the secret queer language of Polari which flourished in Britain's theatres in the 19th century.

Artists and performers featured include Oscar Wilde, Noel Coward, Douglas Byng, Danny La Rue and Vesta Tilley.

Presenter: Simon Callow
Producer: Max O'Brien
A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4.

0101Coded Desire20170717
0102The Theatrical Type20170724
0103Coming Out20170731