London gay history capital

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In the next week, Oscar Wilde Tours will announce its Europe season for 2017, with Gay London/Gay Paris (August 14-22), followed by our first gay history tour of Amsterdam (August 22-25), and then our new Gay Gods and Heroes package, consisting of two back to back tours of the gay history and art of the Classical world:  Gay Greece, Homeland of Same-Sex Love (September 7-19) and Gay Italy, from Caesar to Michelangelo and Beyond (September 20-29).  There will be lots to tell when we make the announcement, including for instance our first visit to Northern Greece, where we will explore the life of that ultimate gay hero, King Alexander the Great.  But first I want to talk about what a great year it is for the Gay London/Gay Paris tour, because London is the gay history capital of 2017!

With the rise of anti-LGBT forces in the U.S. and the Brexit vote, you might think it was a bad moment for LGBT rights in the U.K.  But quite the opposite!  First of all, you should all know about a momentous event that took place 10 days ago in the U.K.  In 2013, Queen Elizabeth gave a posthumous royal pardon to the great hero Alan Turing (whose amazing life we learn about during the Gay London/Gay Paris tour on our excursion to Bletchley Park).  Shortly thereafter a campaign, led by Benedict Cumberbatch and Oscar Wilde Tours’ great patron Stephen Fry, started up to get a pardon for all the 75,000 men, living and dead, convicted for homosexuality in the U.K.  Many objections were raised, but on January 31, 2017, this pardon passed into law.  This will have many ramifications, particularly for victims who are still living, but for the moment, we want to point out that this pardon also applies to our patron spirit, Oscar Wilde.

But there is more.  2017 is also the 50th anniversary of the first law that decriminalized homosexuality in England and Wales.  Many of England’s cultural institutions have chosen to celebrate, so this is a banner year for gay history exhibits throughout England.  There are gay history exhibits in Liverpool and Manchester, a large exhibit at Benjamin Britten’s house in Aldeburgh about being gay in England in Britten’s time (under the gross indecency law), and special tours at many National Trust historic houses (about which our U.K. guide will tell us, as he is participating).

There will also be two major gay history exhibits in London this summer, one at Tate Britain, about gay British artists, and the other at the British Museum, about the history of same-sex desire through the many cultures reflected in the BM’s vast collections.  Our tour will include one of them, and give you the chance to see the other.  Our London tour always includes a stop at the BM, to see some of the museum’s most famous holdings—such as the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Marbles—as well as its chief LGBT glories, the paired statues of the Roman emperor Hadrian and his lover Antinous, and the Warren cup, the marvelous Greco-Roman silver cup with male-male sex scenes on both sides.  This year, these pieces will be the center of an exhibit including pieces from such distant cultures as Classical Persia and Edo-period Japan.  We will take the time to see the exhibit thoroughly.  The show at Tate Britain will open with a moving object:  the door from Oscar Wilde’s cell, C-3-3, in Reading Gaol.  The show will focus on gay British artists such as Duncan Grant (about whom we will learn a great deal on Gay London/Gay Paris day 3, on our excursion to the Bloomsbury country retreat, Charleston Farmhouse) and David Hockney.  Our time in London includes a free afternoon, and those who want to see the Tate show will be able to go with Professor Lear to see it.

In short, London, Paris, and Amsterdam—the city of the first gay marriages!—are among the great gay cities, and they are always among the top places to visit to see the gay past.  Our London/Paris tour always includes a fascinating series of gay history and art tours, of places like Westminster Abbey, the National Portrait Gallery, Père Lachaise cemetery, and the Louvre.  But there has never been a year like this for a gay tour to London, so hope you will come enjoy the gay history capital tour in 2017!

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