This LGBT History Month, ‘Unlocking Our Sound Heritage’ presented a room of curated archive audio and immersive projections.

Manchester’s LGBTQ+ community took to both the streets and the dance floor in response to the AIDS crisis and the introduction of Section 28.

The event exploreD these vital spaces of defiance by pairing key BBC Radio Manchester news stories with Manchester’s favourite disco tracks.

This is Part I featuring content from the event and programme. Please read Part II for a a behind-the-scenes look at how the full 40-minute film was created.

These audio recordings are a small sample of BBC Radio Manchester’s collection held at Central Library. In this collection there are approx. 30 news stories relating to LGBT lives in the Greater Manchester region between 1980-88.

As with plenty of other historical documents of the time, the dominant voices are male, white and cis. The majority of the playlist features LGBT interviewees as important local figures who fought back against discrimination. Former Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable, James Anderton’s voice features, as many will have heard his notorious comments suggesting that gay people were ‘swirling in a human cesspit’ but few may have heard directly from the source. His unjustifiable opinions are included to provide context to the anti-gay forces of authority that LGBTQ+ people faced during the 1980s.

I am aware of the irony in hosting this event in a public library which, under the shadow of Section 28 (enactment of bill Clause 28) legislation, would have been forced to comply with the law to ‘not intentionally promote homosexuality.’ This project is especially important to me as I lived under this damaging shadow for the entirety of my school career. The event’s location is also significant because on 22nd February 1988 the largest UK demonstration was held here in Manchester to attempt to stop Clause 28. This spirit of defiance when facing institutional prejudice lives on today.



Paul Fairweather from Manchester’s Gay Information Centre calls for Manchester Police to stop the practice of using plainclothes police as ‘agent provocateurs.’

2. (RMAN-1268) 16/03/86

Chief Constable for Greater Manchester Police, James Anderton makes his infamous speech referring to ‘homosexuals, drug users and prostitutes’ as ‘swirling around in a human cesspit of their own making.’ The next day after these remarks BBC Radio Manchester’s Peter Harrison interviewed him.

3. (RMAN-17169) 19/01/87

Rosemary Harthill interviewed Anderton at the Police HQ in Stretford for the Radio 4 Sunday Show and closely scrutinises his belief that it was God telling him to say these words. 

4. (RMAN-6078) 25/11/80

John Shiers from the Manchester Labour Campaign for Gay Rights talks to Diana Goodman about the huge increase in arrests for gross indecency in the Stockport area.

5. (RMAN-433) 06/05/81

John Shiers (as previous) is interviewed this time by Tony Dolan. Trafford Councillor S. G. Brownhill is poised to become Mayor and has been forced to apologise for saying that ‘homosexuals should be shot in the head.’ Shiers explains why this apology is not enough.

6. (RMAN -9331) 15/03/84

Dr. Mukti Bhattacharyya publicises a meeting to be held that evening at The Thompson’s Arms about the threat of a new disease called AIDS. (Interviewer unknown).

Thompsons Arms, Major Street/Sackville Street, Manchester. 1970 (m50650)

7. (RMAN-16117) 25/09/86

Manchester City Council issued a 32-page policy to challenge homophobic and racist assumptions about the AIDS virus as they feel that the government is not doing enough. Penny Bould talked to John Clegg (Vice Chair of the Equal Opportunities Committee) following the enforced detainment of a patient at Monsall Hospital.

8. (RMAN-14994) 14/03/85

Tony Whitehead, Chairman of the Terrence Higgins Trust talks to Joe Palet about breaking down AIDS myths and gives some stark examples of their damaging effects.

9. (RMAN-13929) 19/09/85

Mike Spencer interviews three gay men at the Gay Centre on Bloom Street about their hope for changes in the general public’s response. In this clip we hear from two of the men named Ian & Terry (surnames not given but an event attendee suggested they are likely Ian Wilmott and Terry Walker).

10. (RMAN-8434) 12/01/84

Caroline (surname unknown) is interviewed as the author of a leaflet that aims to support women who are having the custody of their children removed because of court attitudes towards their sexuality.

11. (RMAN-5874) 06/07/82

Two spokespeople from the Gay Information centre, Andy Sharpe & Paul Fairweather are interviewed at the BBC Radio Manchester Studio after the City Council banned the Council for Voluntary Service from having a marquee at the Manchester Show. 

12.(RMAN -17536) 20/02/88

David Allison follows the largest protest ever in Manchester against Clause 28. This was a bill which sadly became enacted as Section 28 of the Local Government Act. The bill sought to prevent council run schools, libraries, theatres etc. from any representation of homosexuality. Interviewees include Peter Tatchell, Jimmy Somerville, Tom Robinson and the march organiser Chris Payne.

Rembrandt Hotel, Canal Street/Sackville Street, Manchester 1970 (m50071)


1. Pointers Sisters – Automatic
2. Alexander O’Neil – Criticize
3. Adeva – Respect
4. Marcel King – Reach For Love
5. Imagination -Just an Illusion
6. 52nd Street – Cool As Ice (Restructured by John “Jellybean” Benitez)
7. Prince – I Wanna Be Your Lover
8. Patrice Rushen – Haven’t You Heard
9. Evelyn “Champagne” King – Love Come Down
10. Jocelyn Brown– Somebody Else’s Guy
11. The Communards – Why?

This selection of music was curated by Kirsty Jukes and chosen to act in contrast to the recordings, offering solidarity and positivity through music from 1979 – 1989. With a focus on queer disco and house anthems, these tracks remain firm favourites in LGBTQ+ friendly Mancunian clubs today.

Outside the screening room became an important space for intergenerational discussion about the events featured in the film and to explain the aims of the UOSH project.

Click here to download a PDF version of the event program or here to read Part II – the making of this event.

By Siân Williams

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