About upstart Publishing?

Mission Statement:upstart publishing” is a Gay community publication which provides support across all ages, all social levels, all genders, all ethnic communitieSeand all faiths.


In 1982, Se n McGouran, and David (Terry) McFarlane took over as the editors of NIGRA (the Northern Ireland Gay rights Association)’s publication Gay Star, following in the foot steps of previous editor Peter Brooke and Brian Gilmore(who had produced a photocopied update’ for Belfast GLF, and edited NIGRA NewSeand Northern Gay). It was felt that the community had already outgrown the need for a news bulletin. They and many other creative Gay women and men in out (then) catchment area needed an outlet for their talents. These included memoirs, articles about every possible aspect of Gay life from leather’ to nudity to religion (and irreligion). There was much poetry, and a solid input over years of cartoonSeand illustrations, articles to free standing and distinguished graphic material.



A fair number of contributors rode their favoured hobbyhorses in both Gay Star and upstart, from the general superiority of human culture anywhere on mainland Europe to those of the Islands of the North Atlantic (in particular Ulster’) to the total lack of anything like a Gay culture’. There was also nudism and leather’ (and drag’), Thomas Mann’s sexuality, (and that of Roger Casement), the singer-songwriter Diamanda Gallas (and the English poet John Gallas) and Benjamin Britten.



Our catchment area’ broadened out from the Six Counties of Northern Ireland to include contributors from all of Ireland, all of the British Isles, and as far afield as Denmark and all over the



The two journals covered all the trialSeand tribulations of the Gay community (everywhere, in so far as it was possible) and the many and various campaigns of NIGRA. These ranged from the administering Jeff Dudgeon’s case at the European Court of Human Rights which led to Thatcher’s government having to extend the relevant elements of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act to the region. This was described by NIGRA at the time as inherently homophobic but it led to a position where all Gay people in the UK State were equally oppressed. (We could have campaigned together to demand equal citizenship, NIGRA organised a conference in 1984, to attempt to get an all-UK organisation off the ground but it failed in that respect). The Dudgeon Case’ had been used frequently in the past, in the Supreme Courts of Columbia and Romania, and in national assemblies as far apart as Azerbaijan and



Other campaigns included many clashes with the police, they were resolved, – we thought – by the RUC’s response to a number of phenomena. One was NIGRA’s monitoring of the law courtSeand visits to RUC barracks which had been involved in purges’ of men engaged in sex in the open or in public conveniences. Most of the Superintendent’s in charge of the stations were amenable to plain talk. We told them that the response was often hugely out of proportion to the crimes committed. That the men arrested could take their own lives (and this has become more prevalent, by the objects of moral cleansing’ by paramilitaries). And that families break up and divorce can ensue from what is usually very low level law breaking.



They in every single case told us that any such arrests were due to complaints from the public. This destroyed a long-cherished Gay urban myth’ which the police go out and arrest people in cottages’ and cruising areas, to boost their arrest targets.

Germane to the above were two campaigns, one on the murder, in July 1979, of Anthony McCleave, which the police claimed was not a gay-bashing killing. That was probably to spare’ the family the shame’ of owning up to Tony being queer. The family, which had lost a brother in the early 1970s, in a sectarian assassination, were determined that the case remain open’, even though there was little hope that the killer, or killers would ever be caught.



The other campaign had to do with the use of the Portsmouth Defence’ (or homosexual panic defense’) whereby men can plead that they killed other men because they allegedly made sexual advances to them. These killings were (and are) usually appallingly violent and, despite the sheer horror of being the objects of sexual advances by another male theft plays a part in many such killings. NIGRA fought mightily to get this matter onto the agenda of the Gay movement and it was taken up by many in the legal profession. The Portsmouth Defence’ is for all practical purposes a dead letter not just in the

UK but in all common law’ countries. (This is also due to the great change in the legal perception of Gay women and men women were victims of this same legal perversion.)



The RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary now the Police Service of Northern Ireland-PSNI) attended the major conference in

Manchesterin 1995, ‘Policing Diversity, An agenda for change’. In 1997 NIGRA commenced a series of seminars for students at the police college in Carnerville. For some reason the RUC unilaterally changed this arrangement, in 1999. The PSNI made a series of disastrous decisions about policing male sexual activity in various venues all over the region in 2006. This led, like all the other purges in the past, to suicides, family break-ups, men losing their jobs and social difficulties for their spouseSeand children. A sinister aspect of this particular crack down’ was the involvement of the UVF in the harassment of the men accused of very low level crimes. The behaviour of the Belfast Telegraph, the region’s largest selling journal was as bad, if not worse, than it has been for the past twenty years. The editor appeared to be condoning the vigilantism of a quasi-criminal paramilitary organisation, which has not surrendered up one bullet, twelve years after the original ceasefires’.



The journalistic queer-bashing of the Telegraph (aka Bellylaugh) and its stable mate Sunday Life has been the object of vigorous campaigning by NIGRA. This included pasting up a Wanted’ poster about a particular journalist in 1995. An article about this matter was published in Fortnight, and the journalist in question, in an interview in the Irish News, said that the person he was persecuting would have been treated better if he had played ball’. The Belfast Telegraph group had accused NIGRA of attacking press freedom, with a handful of yellow A3 posters! Yet here was the perpetrator of a publicity stunt that could well have ended in at least one suicide glorying in his power over other’s lives. The other papers are editorially liberal in regard to Gay women and men (but the Irish News still refuses to publish Cara-Friend’s advertisements), the New Letter has taken a liberal line since the early 1970s. The Sunday World and the now defunct Sunday News tried to outdo each other in tabloid’ silliness, but essentially did little harm. But NIGRA took the decision not to facilitate them for a number of years in the 1980s.



The ban’ was lifted when the Gay Pride festival got off the ground in 1991. The LGBT Pride is going from strength to strength (and has been a free-standing organisation since 2000). The police presented themselves for questioning in 1998, and there were a number of debates on ethics involving people as diverse as Brian McClinton of the Ulster Humanist Association, Michael Harnack an American queer Catholic’, and Bishop Pat Buckley. In 1999 UTV (

Ulster television) made a half hour programme on LGBT Pride. 1999 was also the year a Pride Reception was held in Belfast‘s City Hall. This video (donated by the makers*) was shown at the InterPride (the international organisation for LGBT Prides) held in Glasgow that year. Delegates from Mexico were particularly impressed by the fact that a bishop graced our Pride, and by the City Hall Reception. (Ours is a genuinely supranational movement this is not the first time a tiny region like NornIrl’ has affected the general movement in other parts of the world. A showing of a half hour video has almost certainly spurred those delegates on to more ambitious things.)





This publication was started in 1984 for a number of reasons GS was a quarterly and a regular news sheet was necessary for a number of reasons. NIGRA held its InterInsular Conference to attempt to get an all-UK Gay law reform movement off the ground, and tell our friendSeand allies in the Republic {of Ireland} about the proposed purge of workers by the Eastern Health and Social Services Board (one of the biggest employers in the region) which might have become relevant to them (fortunately it has not but many activists in the Republic realised in listening to Lawrence Pimley of NIPSA (the NI Public Service Alliance), who addressed the Conference, that they had solid allies in the trade union movement. This iSeanother example of cross-fertilisation within our movement the

UK‘ aspect to the event was not a success.



There was also a very widespread purge by the police all over the region we printed a guide to what not to do while in police custody. This was re-printed three times over the next twenty yearSeand produced as a bust card’ in A1 fold over format. As demonstrated in 2006, even the most widespread and regular activity is not always successful. 1984 was also the year the NI AIDS Helpline was set up after a conference in the Carpenter Club. It used the Cara-Friend men’s line for most of the year, until the Helpline got its own premises.



The publication had a number of titles, Belfast Gay News, update (which developed into a printed sheet with a rather elegant masthead designed by Gary Ho. upstart was a serendipitous slip of the tongue by a reader it seemed very apt at a time when the people producing it were out of office’ and could write what they liked. This is what we hope to do with this e-zine’



(part II of this article to follow soon, covering areas about our sponsers, links to other publications etc.)

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply