By reminding them ‘All the Nice Girls Love aSailor’ and ‘If you knew Susie like I know Susie’…. we could charm them into buying tickets for our performance. They would never have come to see a show about lesbians, but, there they were, enjoying themselves and joining in with the songs, because we provided them with a hook and, once in, they recognised a good love story when they saw one - that of forgotten lesbian variety stars Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney. We were achieving our ambition to normalize lesbianism for an over 50s mainstream audience by presenting a new paradigm of lesbian identity on stage: neither ashamed of, nor aggressively defensive about our sexuality: a rebuke to ubiquitous, commodified images of lesbian performance as pornography and a rebuffal of the stereotype of the dowdy, unrequited, sexually frustrated loner. We are returning to Edinburgh in 2017 with a similar strategy for marketing our shows ‘Deep in The Heart of Me’ - a lesbian ‘Shirley Valentine’ story and ‘Fall of Duty’ about a newly out middle aged lesbian academic and her adult son.


Participants in the group were supportive of the goals and methods we outlined and and we had a wide ranging discussion which drew people in during the session. The importance of narrative resonance was highlighted - how individual audience members can engage with different themes in a carefully crafted story that seem to speak directly to them, examples ‘East is East’, ‘Angels in America’. The question was raised, ‘How can we help non queer audiences understand queer sensibilities?

Some crossover was registered with the session questioning how healthy some cis gendered gay work is. There was broad agreement that the stories that we tell about ourselves are really powerful.

There was a discussion about using stories from the archives and making connections with and assumptions about queer stories from the past. Alex Webster mentioned Elizabeth Freeman and her concept of ’eroto-historiography'.

A scale was drawn of how audiences might range in their attitudes from queer friendly to homophobic, the danger of preaching to the converted with queer work and how to reach those who might not normally engage with queer work , ‘crashing WI meetings, ’bring a straight friend'.

There was a discussion of venues' willingness or otherwise to programme queer work that was LB and T, with mentions of the King's Head and Camden People's Theatre. Amy mentioned her upcoming ‘Come as You Are’ season.

After this we talked about the language and labels people use to identify their sexuality and gender identities. I felt that ‘lesbian’ has, regrettably, never had its day as a term and is now losing out to those who identify as queer or bi etc. Amy discussed the use of the word lesbian as an adjective and a noun and prefers to introduce herself on school role model visits as ‘I’m lesbian'. There seemed to be quite a lot of reluctance to embrace the term and strong rejection of the term from a woman in a relationship with another woman (but who firmly self identified as ‘bi’.)

Personally I think we need to reclaim and celebrate the word ‘lesbian’ as we have done with ‘queer’ and that this is a feminist issue within queer politics.


The consensus was that there is plenty of preaching to the converted in queer performance and that making queer work for non queer audiences is a worthwhile if challenging goal. There was a welcome for pieces, like ‘Mumburger ’ at Theatre Royal Stratford East that introduce lesbian characters without fanfare - they just are. We aim to do this in ‘Fall of Duty’

For Rosie and me this was a first D&G event and we found the organisation, structure and atmosphere conducive to supportive, constructive, inspiring conversations. We're grateful to all those who shared their ideas in this session and we found it extremely helpful and encouraging

Apologies to those instigators of strands of conversation I have not recorded here due to lack of accurate record keeping. Please feel free to comment.