Gay Birmingham, Back to Back (2010-2012)


Building on the success of Gay Birmingham Remembered, the ‘Gay Birmingham, Back to Back’ project researched as far back as the 1850s up until the 1970s. The project looked at the social, political and personal circumstances of LGBT people in these time periods.

After a period of research, project partners Women & Theatre developed a series of site specific performances at the National Trust Back to Back Housing on Hurst Street, Birmingham. We uncovered and characterised the lives of real life gay men Charles Record and Fred ‘Jester’ Barnes and through a series of reminiscences and interviews created characters representing the lives of lesbian and bi women during World War 2 and the experiences of Black lesbians during the 1970s.

The intimate, immersive performances were a sell out and excellent reviews.

Short films of two of the performances can be viewed on our YouTube Channel below.

Schools Work

The Back to Backs schools project started in June 2012 and from here resources were planned and developed based around two plays performed by Women in Theatre. Fran and Leila are two women who both identify as Lesbian. Fran is an exhibit from 1970’s Britain and resides within the Back to Backs as a Ghost and Leila is from West Heath, Birmingham and is from the 21st Century. They share their experiences, similarities and differences throughout this light-hearted and well-structured play. From music to television and to their experiences growing up in Britain, the ways that they came out to their parents, their personalities and their journey to ‘find others like themselves’. This thought provoking and inspiring play gives students an insight into LGBT history. These women’s stories are based on information found during the ‘Back to Backs’ Archival Heritage project that explores Birmingham’s LGBT History.

The second play is set in 1940’s Birmingham and whilst the children are evacuated to Wales and her husband John is at war, the central character Annette falls in love with Rose – her lodger. Both work at Birmingham Small Arms Factory and they slowly fall in love and tell their love story throughout the play with humorous anecdotes and serious speeches. Annette has more to lose than Rose should they be found out, not only would she lose her freedom but also her children as she risks being sent to All Saints Asylum should their relationship be discovered. The play eventually climaxes when John comes home from war and Rose has to leave.

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