A new show from Belfast theatre company Kabosh takes its inspiration from historic events in the north’s battle for LGBTQ+ equality. David Roy spoke to writer Dominic Montague about bringing A Queer Céilí At The Marty Forsythe to the former Turf Lodge social club which played a key role in this remarkable story
SET in 1983 Belfast and based on real newsworthy events, A Queer Céilí at The Marty Forsythe is set to transport audiences back to a time when homosexuality had just been decriminalised in the north – much to the chagrin of Ian Paisley and his supporters – a mere 15 years after the equivalent Sexual Offences Act 1967 was passed in Britain.
Delegates arriving at Queen’s University Belfast from all over Ireland and Britain for the first ever National Union of Students Lesbian and Gay Conference to be held in Northern Ireland were confronted by around 150 placard-waving protesters from the Save Ulster From Sodomy campaign – prompting some student activists to create T-shirts and badges emblazoned with the slogan ‘Save Sodomy From Ulster’.
In the face of such external pressures combined with strife within the weekend-long conference where the NUS executive was attempting to enforce a ‘no politics’ rule on delegates’ discussions under threat of expulsion, it was a fairly tense time for those involved.
Thus, an unexpected invitation of a night out in west Belfast away from the QUB-based pressure cooker offered those at the conference a welcome chance for attendees to blow off some steam.
On Saturday October 22, a convoy of black hacks arrived at the university to transport delegates to the Martin Forsythe Social Club in Turf Lodge, where they were able to savour their first proper experience of Irish hospitality.
Now, Belfast theatre company Kabosh are preparing to stage a dramatisation of these historic events at the former site of ‘The Marty’ – originally named after a 19-year-old IRA man shot dead after planting a bomb in 1971 and now The Trinity Lodge Restaurant – as part of the Imagine! Belfast Festival and LGBT History Month.
“It came about through our work with an organisation called OUTing The Past which runs LGBT History Month,” explains Dominic Montague, Kabosh project facilitator and writer of A Queer Céili at The Marty Forsythe.
“Jeff Evans at OUTing The Past was also a member of the delegation at the Lesbian & Gay Conference. He came to us with the idea of it being included within LGBT History Month as a bit of theatre that explored an unknown story from Northern Ireland.”
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