Posted on 01/02/2013
Gay Sweatshop, This Island's Mine
This month we are celebrating LGBT History Month with an item from our Gay Sweatshop collection, a theatre company founded in London in 1975. A small (all male) group of founder members was formed with the intention of counteracting the prevailing conception in mainstream theatre of what homosexuals were like by providing a more realistic and positive image for the public. The plays were also often politically charged and addressed issues of gay rights.
In 1976 women participated in the productions for the first time and in 1977 two artistically separate companies were formed under the umbrella organisation of Gay Sweatshop to produce gay and lesbian plays separately. Both groups went on to create critically acclaimed plays which addressed a wide range of issues facing gays and lesbians. Although based in London, the Company regularly toured in Britain as well as Germany and the Netherlands. Funding problems and a less active Gay movement through the ‘80s and ‘90s led to the collapse of the company in 1997.
The flyer above comes from This Island’s Mine, the first major play by Phillip Osmet – a prominent member of the company. It was first performed as a rehearsed reading at the Gay Sweatshop Times Twelve Festival in 1987 and then opened as a full production in 1988. The play is set in 1980s Camden and explores gay and lesbian lifestyles in the political climate of the time through the lives of men and women of different ages and races.
Find out more about the collection and what it contains by taking a look at our website and online catalogue: http://www.rhul.ac.uk/archives/home.aspx
Annabel Gill, College Archivist