When it comes to LGBTQ+ creative work, the stories we tell can often look back on our history as a community – reflecting a desire to make parts of our collective story, parts that have been buried or forgotten over the years, known to the world.
The One Fifty Marchers podcast attempts to track down the 150 people who took part in the UK’s first ever LGBTQ+ march. Taking place on Highbury Fields, London, in November 1970, this march to protest the treatment of gay people is described as “the spark which began the UK gay rights movement”. However, as creators JD Stewart and Frazer Flintham tell us, this march isn’t an event that’s often mentioned when it comes to accounts of LGBTQ+ history – which is exactly why they wanted to create the podcast. “I was reading about [the first] Pride, and found out that this march happened two years before that,” JD explains. “So I messaged Frazer, who didn’t know about the march either. We had a chat, and we were going to do something theatrical because we’re both playwrights – but then the world turned upside down. Half-jokingly, we suggested a podcast – and then a snowball became a very fast avalanche.”
“Not only are you in the closet as a young person, but your whole history is in the closet as well. And then it feels like this door has been opened.”Frazer Flintham
For JD and Frazer, embarking on the podcast has been a learning experience for them both. “We made sure to be honest at the very beginning and say [to guests] that we don’t know everything, we’re not an authority on it – tell us what happened,” Frazer says. The gaps in their own knowledge when it comes to queer history, they say, has allowed them to approach the podcast with a fresh perspective, and educate themselves alongside their listeners. “My whole adolescence was under the shadow of Section 28; not only are you in the closet as a young person, but your whole history is in the closet as well. And then it feels like this door has been opened,” Frazer explains. “We just want listeners to hear the people who were on the march, and know their stories – to know how much they did, and how hard they fought. Because there’s a lot of ignorance, and I include myself with that – it’s sort of inevitable, because we’re just not given the information, so why would we know?”
“We’ve both grown a lot through doing the podcast,” Frazer acknowledges. “Not only in terms of our knowledge, but I also feel like I’ve changed in terms of feeling really enthused and empowered by what we’ve discovered on a personal level, which I didn’t expect.”
JD adds that the podcast hasn’t only taught the duo about events of the past, but has called attention to similarities with the present. “It’s fascinating how much it’s highlighting parallels to what’s going on now in the trans community, and the way that gay men were vilified then is the same thing that’s happening yet again,” he notes.
As the podcast is digging into a largely unexplored part of history, there is a sense of “great responsibility”, JD and Frazer say, in bringing these stories to light. “It’s been very emotional. There were certain interviews that we did where it was just harrowing and heart-breaking,” JD says. “That obviously adds a layer of responsibility, to portray those stories and convey them in an authentic way for people who are listening; and to honour them through that.”
“The responsibility has been quite advantageous, because I think there was a real urgency to what we’re doing,” Frazer points out, when it comes to hearing the stories of those who attended the march. “With these people, in another 20 years you wouldn’t be able to speak to them.”
The podcast has had a fantastic reception so far – from being shared on Twitter by Sir Ian McKellen on launch day, to reaching 2500 downloads by its ninth episode. The positive response has come not only from listeners but from guests, particularly those who had never before been given the opportunity to speak publicly about the march. “I think something that you find, especially with older LGBTQ people, is that they’re just so excited someone wants to listen, and someone’s taking an interest,” JD says. “For some interviews, we have hours and hours of people just talking because they’ve gone off in so many different directions, which just adds to the beauty of the whole thing, and it shows us that they don’t talk about it enough. I think for them it’s important that it’s remembered.”
The One Fifty Marchers also features interviews with current LGBTQ+ campaigners in the UK, and looks at other sections of queer history. JD and Frazer hope that their discoveries on the podcast will evolve into other creative projects. “If we can prove success, whatever that means, through this story in this way, then hopefully that might lead to other avenues – whether that be a documentary, or a book, or a film or television or theatre production,” JD says.
“This isn’t necessarily a story about tragedy, so that poses another problem for people because they love watching us suffer,” he adds. “I would like to think there are multiple forms that it could take. If those happen that’s a lovely thing, but our main goal was always to just share this story and have it as a resource for people.”
You can find out more about The One Fifty Marchers podcast here: theonefiftymarchers.buzzsprout.com
You can follow the podcast on Twitter and Instagram at @150marchers.
Listen to the first episode below: