What Gay Did For Art

Programme Length: 60 mins

Broadcaster: BBC 2

Broadcast date: TBC

This film invites a stellar cast of interviewees from across the arts to reflect on the contribution of lesbian and gay people to British cultural life since the decriminalisation of male homosexuality 50 years ago.

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Ranging broadly across popular culture, the visual arts, literature, theatre and film, the programme celebrates how the British arts, before 1967 and since, have been a haven to those growing up creative and gay.

The film considers how artists’ sexuality might have shaped their art, often giving it a unique outsider’s perspective on British life, and a sometimes subversive sense of wit and style. Artists produced sophisticated work that excited audiences with its “otherness”, bringing new types of characters to television and film, gender ambiguity to pop music, and glimpses of bohemia in the visual arts.  These have remained driving forces for British art to this day. But the film also asks whether growing acceptance has been to some extent a double-edged sword for artists themselves. Has homosexuality’s move towards the mainstream made the exploration of queer themes less urgent and less interesting? Now that there’s a wide range of gay lifestyles on show in British culture, the question of how much an artist’s sexuality really matters to their art has become inescapable.