Allison Janney, David Walliams, Orla Kiely, Denise Lewis, Jennifer Saunders and Stormzy
BBC Radio 2

Run Away

Assistant Producer

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Week 12: and in the space of a fortnight it’s all become a bit saucy on The People’s Songs; firstly looking back at the attitudes to sex in the late ‘60s and then examining that night when David Bowie and Mick Ronson blew the nation’s minds on Top of The Pops one Thursday night in 1972.

But this week we take a look at the more serious implications of life outside the sexual mainstream back in the ‘80s. While Bowie and his ilk may have opened our eyes to the possibilities of sexual experimentation it was still an oppressive society if you were young and gay.

While the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 had decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men, both of whom had to have attained the age of 21, it wasn’t until 1994 that the age of consent was lowered to 18. This meant that to be a teenager and gay in those dark days was still often a stigma and something to be kept secret from your peers.

Hence this week’s choice of Bronski Beat’s classic song, ‘Smalltown Boy’ (from which this post’s title is taken): The tale of a young man forced to flee his provincial hometown sums up perfectly how difficult life could be and how only the lure of big city life and a more cosmopolitan sensibility could keep hope alive.

As always the episode is filled with some remarkable listeners’ memories of what it was like to be alive at the time and to have experienced the prejudice. What’s more, as you can hear in this clip from contributor Steve, the problem of dispossessed kids fleeing the disapproval of others is still with us. 

Contributor Steve talks about how things haven't necessarily changed for young gay people


As ever, if you have any memories of those times, specifically of what it was like to be young and gay in the ‘80s, we’d love to hear from you.

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