Peter Tatchell

Date published: February 06, 2019

PhD Playwright to debut Peter Tatchell Play

HOMOPHOBIA at the heart of Westminster is being outed in a striking new play written by PhD English student Stephen Hornby.

First Rumours, about Peter Tatchell’s struggles as an openly-gay candidate for Member of Parliament in the 1980s shows this Sunday, February 10 at the People's History Museum, Manchester.

It centres on the controversial 1983 Bermondsey by-election, for which Tatchell stood as the Labour parliamentary candidate, and which went down in political history for the homophobic abuse received by Tatchell and the way in which the by-election was reported upon.  The subsequent win by the Liberal Party remains the largest by-election swing ever.

Stephen, whose PhD is about playwriting and sexual histories, is Playwright in Residence at the People’s History Museum.

Fresh revelations

He began researching for the play with a detailed study of the Labour Party archives and the the personal papers of Tatchell and Labour leader Michael Foot, all of which are held at the museum.  Stephen has also carried out a series of interviews with Tatchell himself.

Stephen said: “It’s been an amazing opportunity to have access not just to the origina Labour Party papers on the Bermondsey by-election, but also to Peter.  He’s been so generous in giving me his time and some fresh revelations about this episode in his life.  I was genuinely stunned by some of the things that Peter has told me and that I’ve discovered.  

“I think we’re ready now to reassess the politics of the early 1980s, to fully acknowledge the vile homophobia that was present in some parts of the Labour Party then for the first time, and to learn some fresh lessons that are relevant to the Party today, and in politics more generally.”

Tatchell,a long-time campaigner for LGBT+ rights will be in attendance at this first rehearsed reading of the one act play, and will take part in a Q & A.


The Museum’s Playwright in Residence in a project supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through the North Weston Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership (NWCDTP).  

Jenny Mabbott, Head of Collections & Engagement at People’s History Museum, said: “Stephen’s work demonstrates the opportunity that history gives for learning, progression and reflection. Peter Tatchell’s story is a fascinating and shocking one that should be forever remembered, and we are delighted that through Stephen’s fresh and original research it will be told at the home of ideas worth fighting for."

Follow Stephen's playwriting blog at

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