“One night when Joe came back from a first night or some sort of occasion like that, Kenneth beat him to death and then killed himself.”
This is the story of Joe Orton and his lover Kenneth Halliwell. The famous playwright and his partner went prison for a series of pranks they played on the local library. Orton got inspired by his time in prison and when he got out he wrote his most famous works. Kenneth, however, did not enjoy prison and was jealous when he came out, which led to the horrible events.
The couple lived in Noel road in Islington and their flat is a highlight of the guided walks being held by the LGBT History month, celebrated every February, aims to “Increase the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (“LGBT”) people, their history, lives and their experiences in the community”. (CIGA). The tours scheduled for the two remaining Saturdays of the month are in honour of this LGBT history month.
Islington claims to have the highest number of cohabiting same sex couples in the UK, according to Move Bubble. It also has a very long history of fighting for equality and for the rights of LGBT people.
“It was the first borough to have an openly gay mayor, it had the first openly gay MP, it had the first gay demonstration, the first gay march,” says one of the guides Karen Lansdown.
London’s tolerance may explain why many LGBT people choose to live in the capital. The office for national statistics says that 2.6 percent of its population identifies as lesbian, gay or bisexual. That is almost twice as many people as the national average.
We asked some Londoners why events that raise awareness about the LGBT community, such as LGBT History Month important.
One Islington shop owner said: “There is still homophobia and while there is homophobia we will need to constantly be raising awareness that homosexuality is as natural as breathing and that a percentage of the population is always gonna be gay. While there is hatred and fear of that, there will always be the need for education.”
“I think particularly the way certain parts of the world are going, it’s absolutely necessary to celebrate the rights that we have now,” says Janet Foster, also a guide for CIGA.
If you want to find out more about Islington’s LGBT history, contact CIGA and go on a guided walk next Saturday.