'Rainbow' plaque to be unveiled in Burnley to mark the struggle for gay rights

A 'Rainbow' plaque is to be unveiled in Burnley to mark the town's historic struggle for gay rights.

Thursday, 29th July 2021, 11:31 am
Updated Thursday, 29th July 2021, 11:32 am

The plaque will be unveiled at Burnley Central Library tomorrow (Friday) at 4pm when a number of guests will speak about the ongoing struggle for LGBT equality.

Burnley's library was chosen as the site for the plaque to recognise the role it played when it hosted an important meeting in 1971.

In an attempt to convince local people of the need for a gay club in the Co-op building on Hammerton Street, a meeting entitled Homosexuals and Civil Liberty was held in Burnley library on July 30th 1971.

Burnley Central Library

However, the public meeting proved controversial and there was opposition from religious groups in Burnley who campaigned against the opening of the club and a heated debate ensued.

Reported in the national press including the Observer, Daily Mirror and New Society, the meeting was a significant event which showed the willingness of gay people to lobby, campaign and stand up and be counted.

Michael Steed, who was one of the speakers at the original meeting, said: "Newly renamed as Campaign in 1971, CHE immediately faced a local anti-gay campaign in Burnley. We took on the challenge and called a public meeting.

"We little knew that our decision was to make that summers dramatic gathering in Burnley such a signal event in the long battle for the civil rights of LGBT + people in Britain. Burnley truly lit the fuse."

Lancashire County Council has agreed to erect the plaque which will be unveiled by the Mayor of Burnley Coun. Mark Townsend.

Other speakers will include:

Coun. Cosima Towneley representing Lancashire County Council, Peter Scott Presland, the author of Amiable Warriors the history of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, Michael Steed from CHE who spoke at the meeting in 1971, Andrew Lumsden who attended the meeting in 1971 from the Gay Liberation Front, and Lewis Turner, the chief executive of Lancs LGBT, the main LGBT group in the county.

Coun. Andy Fewings, Burnley Council, said: "It was a privilege to be contacted by CHE about the upcoming anniversary and I am delighted to have contributed in some way with the suggestion and logistics of the plaque.

"As a gay man living in Burnley I owe a great debt to the generations before me, who fought for my right to be who I am – a fight that should not have been necessary, but it was. And still is today."

Andrew Lumsden, member of the Gay Liberation Front who attended the meeting in 1971 and will be unveiling the plaque at the launch, added: "CHE is proud to have sponsored of this plaque as a record of what we achieved in the past.

"But the story has not come to an end, a new chapter of CHE history is about to start, setting up a charitable trust to educate future generations about the challenges and achievements of those who pioneered the struggle for LGBT rights in the UK, a struggle which still continues in many parts of the world."