London College of Fashion, Saturday 12th March 2016
Convenors: Reina Lewis, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London, and Andrew Stephenson, University of East London.
On 27 July 2017, it will be fifty years since the passing of the Sexual Offences Act that decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales for consenting male adults. As Lord Arran declared, it was ‘an awesome and marvellous thing’ and it repealed the Labouchère Amendment to the Criminal Law Amendment Act, passed in 1885, that made homosexual acts between consenting male adults illegal. As is well documented, it was the Oscar Wilde trial in 1895 that generated publicity about the ‘illicit’ nature of male homosexuality and exposed its thriving subcultures in London. Following his conviction, Wilde’s dandified style and witty bravado became the dominant paradigm for the homosexual artist-genius. Homosexual subcultures were widely linked to the fashionable world of the creative arts – from fashion, interior decoration, theatre and music, to fine art, design, photography and film.
Taking the period from c.1885 to 1967 as our loose historical frame and seeking to expose the complex forms of queer identity and self-fashioning emerging in these decades, this conference will explore the varied cultures and lifestyles of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans artists, designers and creative individuals working and thriving in Britain in this period. Pushing beyond well-rehearsed urban stereotypes and current categories for understanding sexuality, papers are invited to address a broad range of creative practices and representational strategies to signal how the fabric of culture in Britain, its communal spaces and geographies and its same-sex group identities (actual or imaginative) were being modernised and updated according to shifting social, sexual and emotional imperatives.
Given the number and range of queer artists, designers and creative professionals active in this period, this timely conference will demonstrate for the first time how these homo-, bi- or trans-sexual experiences, lifestyles and forms of sexual desire flourished in Britain whilst, at the same time, being under the threat of scandal and criminal prosecution.
Laura Doan, University of Manchester
Christopher Breward, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh