From the collections of the National Museums Liverpool
This theatre programme from the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool dates from 1951. When it was made, all sexual acts between men were illegal in the UK and could be punished by time in prison. Even holding hands or chatting each other up could be interpreted as so-called 'procuring' and 'soliciting' by the police, and could lead to arrest. Despite this, LGBT+ people found unofficial places to meet and one of the most popular in Liverpool in the 1940s-1960s was the bar of the Royal Court Theatre.
In the middle of the 20th century, theatres were often far more tolerant of LGBT+ people than other places, and the Royal Court Theatre welcomed closeted LGBT+ performers to its stage. The theatre (still standing today) became part of a growing, but still unofficial ‘gay quarter’ in the centre of Liverpool, around Queen Square. This included the Adelphi and The Stork hotels which are advertised in the inside of this theatre programme. As well bars and pubs, there were also certain seats within the local cinemas which if were known places to meet other men, while many women would meet at folk clubs.
In 1967 the Sexual Offences Act decriminalised ‘homosexual acts’ in England and Wales only, in private between two men only, both of whom had to be over the age of 21. However many men were still arrested following 1967 if they were accused of having sex under aged (the age of consent was not lowered to 16, the same as for straight people, until 2001), in public, or even if there were other people present in the building, which could still be interpreted as not ‘private’. Many men were also arrested for ‘procuring’ or ‘soliciting’ sex between men, crimes that remained illegal until 2003.
|Credit||Images reproduced by permission of National Museums Liverpool|
|Source||Entry in the National Museums Liverpool Catalogue|