Author, journalist and Polari-founder Paul Burston has called out Stonewall for their failure to acknowledge the bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub on the 23rd anniversary of one of the most infamous events in British gay history. On 30 April 1999, three people – Andrea Dyke, 27, who was pregnant, John Light, 32, and Nik Moore, 31, – were killed with a further 76 injured, some to a devastating, life-changing degree.
Anyone old enough and with even the merest knowledge of gay history will know where they were: I was a couple of miles away in my office in Camden Town at the time, preparing to pop over the road to The Black Cap to meet friends, when the “have you heard?” call came in from Mike Ross, publisher of The Pink Paper. Paul Burston, then LGBT editor of Time Out, was even nearer…so close, in fact, that he could hear the explosion.
Writing in his blog on 2 May, Burston commented, “Two days after the anniversary, ‘our’ rights organisation Stonewall hasn’t even acknowledged it. Not a word of remembrance for those who died. Not a show of solidarity with those who survived. Not a mention.
“They have been active on Twitter, posting about other events and issues – Lesbian Visibility Week, Eid, IVF and the row over the ban on conversion therapy.
“But what about this event which many gay Londoners remember only too well, and which left profound physical and psychological scars on our community? Nothing. Nada. Zilch.”
Stonewall has faced a torrid time over recent years, with many former supporters distancing themselves from the organisation and dozens of public bodies withdrawing from the charity’s Diversity Champions programme, with some people alleging that their championing of “gender” over “sex” is detrimental to same-sex-attracted people.
Speaking exclusively to OutNewsGlobal, Burston said, “I received a very pleasant email from [Stonewall CEO] Nancy Kelley and a further email from Robbie de Santos, Director of Communications. Both offered their apologies and thanked me for drawing attention to their oversight.
“To be honest, I was expecting them to make a similar public apology. Instead they tweeted about the anniversary 3 days late, without any apology or explanation for the delay. Judging by the replies, many people thought this was too little, too late. I really think they missed an opportunity to build bridges, which is a shame.”
As far as we’re concerned, we understand that Stonewall has to move on and, with gay people equal under the law (although let’s not pretend that homophobia, anti-LGBTQ hate crime and discrimination have gone away…they haven’t) it is perhaps understandable that there is now more of a focus on the rights of people who identify as trans, non-binary, asexual or intersex. But, at the same time, it is important that the country’s best-known LGBTQ-rights organisation does not sideline our history. Like Mr Burston, we shall be watching closely.