Gay Sporting Icon and Olympic Gold Medallist Honoured With Blue Plaque
One man’s determination to revive the reputation of a gay sporting icon and Olympic gold medallist has paid off with the news that the forgotten hero is to be honoured by a prestigious Blue Plaque.
In 1976, Birmingham-born John Curry made figure skating history at the Winter Olympics taking home two gold medals for team GB and becoming a sporting hero, winning BBC Sports Personality of the Year. But in the years that followed, Curry slowly slipped out of the public consciousness after he was famously ‘outed’ in the German tabloid press, and his untimely death in 1994 left a generation completely unaware of his achievements.
Actor and writer Tony Timberlake embarked on a personal journey to change this, first through his one-man show, Looking for John, which premiered at Birmingham Repertory Theatre last November and secondly by nominating John Curry, with the support of The REP Theatre to be honoured with a Blue Plaque in his home city.
The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Cllr Carl Rice and John Curry’s brother, Andrew, unveiled the Blue Plaque, awarded by Birmingham Civic Society, in honour of John’s achievements on Monday, May 15th. John grew up in Acocks Green, Birmingham and the plaque will feature on the house where he was born at 946 Warwick Road, now Arden Lodge Residential Home.
Tony Timberlake said.
“Getting recognition for John Curry has been a labour of love. Watching him win Olympic gold forty years ago had a huge impact on me as a youngster and it’s never left me. My play Looking for John made me think about John’s legacy – how he changed the world of figure skating and how he never denied who he was in his personal life. I felt he deserved to be remembered and celebrated again in the city where he was born and then died. I’m thrilled that John Curry will be celebrated once more and remembered forever in this way.”
John Curry OBE (1949 – 1994) was a world champion ice skater and gold medal winner at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games. He was born in Acocks Green and first learnt to skate at Solihull Ice Rink.
Gavin Orton, Chairman of Birmingham Civic Society said,
“Towards the end of last year the Society received a nomination from Tony Timberlake and the Birmingham Rep for a Blue Plaque to John Curry. The REP were about to premiere a play, Looking for John, directed by Tessa Walker, an Associate Director at The REP, and written and performed by the actor, Tony Timberlake. This nomination was supported by the Lord Mayor and we are delighted to be honouring John’s achievements today.”
The Birmingham Civic Society has been responsible for erecting Blue Plaques in the city since 1953 and there are currently over 80 around the city. The society receives several nominations every year and there’s currently a waiting list of over 20 years. To be honoured with a Blue Plaque, a person must have been born, lived or worked in the city and have achieved greatness, by, for example, making a significant contribution to their community or by excelling in their career.
Tony Timberlake’s play – Looking for John will be at The Assembly, Edinburgh as part of the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe from 3 – 20 August 2017.
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