Praise be! It is the 52nd anniversary of Mary Whitehouse, Malcolm Muggeridge, Lord Longford and Cliff Richard’s ‘Festival of Light’ launch at Westminster Central Hall, which brought about this splendid headline in the following day’s Yorkshire Post:
The movement was founded by two missionaries who returned to Britain after four years in India and were appalled by the “moral pollution” they saw around them “eroding the moral fibre of this once great nation”.
This extract from Paul Willetts’ The Look of Love: The Life and Times of Paul Raymond, Soho’s King of Clubs, tells us more about them:
The Responsible Society’s concerns were given a more strident tone by Peter and Janet Hill, a Baptist missionary couple who, in mid-July 1971, announced the Nationwide Festival of Light, a demonstration in support of ‘love and family life’ and against ‘pornography and moral pollution’. The event, scheduled for late September, already had the backing of Lord Longford, Mary Whitehouse, Malcolm Muggeridge, Cliff Richard and the actress Dora Bryan. It was due to begin with 200 beacons being lit all over the country, intended to ‘alert Britain to the dangers of moral pollution which is now eroding the moral fibre of this once great nation’. Two days after that, there would be a rally in Trafalgar Square, followed by a five-hour gospel music concert in Hyde Park. The overambitious organisers predicted that 100,000 people from across Britain would attend this display of moral indignation.
Who could possibly want to disrupt such a wholesome thing? Well, there’s a clue in the phrase ‘family life’, a thing heinously threatened by such horrors as… er, people of the same sex loving each other. Enter stage left the recently formed Gay Liberation Front.
It may have been sudden, but it wasn’t unprompted. Getting onto the subject of homosexuality, Muggeridge had said “I don’t like them.” In the words of GLF member Peter Tatchell, “the feeling was mutual”.
Tatchell may have some opinions which… don’t stand up to scrutiny, but I think that one could be described as reasonable.
There are some wonderful pearl-clutching turns of phrase in the report.
…and more fun was had by Martin Corbett, another GLF organiser, by the simple, time-honoured method of pretending to have authority and therefore being granted it.
There’s more about the disruption — which included releasing mice, same-sex kissing, and a fake bishop preaching “keep on sinning” — in the excellent (and very balanced) Banned! The Mary Whitehouse Story:
BBC Two - Banned! The Mary Whitehouse Story
The story of a Midlands housewife and her 30-year battle to save Britain's morals.
And this was not, of course the last the nation heard of Gay Liberation. Whatever you may think of Peter T, he once wrote this sentence about Martin Corbett’s prop-making work, which I would argue is unimpeachable
…and if you like the headline at the top of this thread, you may enjoy reading more about the University of Essex library’s National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association Archive:
Library & Cultural Services: National Viewers' and Listeners' Association Archive: National…
A guide to the archive and history of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association
…which includes such gems as this letter from a Tory MP who wasn’t keen on porn (something of a novelty even today), and who saw this as an opportunity to blame Europe for their tide of filth:
There’s also this, in which — O! halcyon days — the Prime Minister’s office wrote to someone complaining about a broadcaster to say “it would not be appropriate for the Government to intervene”:
Well, this is going off at a weird tangent
It’s also the 78th anniversary of a moth being found in Harvard’s Mark II computer, giving rise to a story that this was the origin of the phrase ‘debugging’ a computer, but it isn’t.