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I AM ME was a rich, engaging and inclusive programme of events exploring gender and identity, which took place across the whole of 2017 at the Gallery. The programme aimed to spark ideas, encourage space for dialogue and reflection, encourage creativity and expression, and celebrate diversity and equality.

The season explored gender and identity, taking inspiration from the figures in the Gallery’s Collection, the exhibitions and displays programme and the key anniversaries of 2017. It aimed to engage all audiences including families, young people, schools and adults.

Advisory Group

To drive the strategic planning, coordination and delivery of I AM ME, the Gallery established an Advisory Group. The group explored and discussed intellectual ideas to support and inform the work we did to deliver best practice and an inclusive offer for all visitors on-site and online.

The Group guided and made recommendations to strengthen the public offer and ensure the Gallery could explore key issues and develop a stronger collective understanding which could be applied to the programme and Gallery activity.

Membership of the group included cross-departmental Gallery staff covering curatorial, learning, communications, exhibitions, visitor services, archive & library, digital programmes and the national programme. External Gallery advisors invited to join the group included artist Sadie Lee - the Gallery’s Queer Perspectives host and a regular contributor and adviser to the public programme and Gallery; Tim Redfern – artist and regular contributor and adviser to the public programme at the Gallery; Clare Barlow – Assistant Curator of British Art 1750 – 1830, Tate Gallery and Professor Matt Cook – Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck.

Why 2017?

2017 was the 50th Anniversary of The Sexual Offences Act 1967
2017 marked the 50th Anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexual behaviour in England and Wales. (It decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men over 21 years old.) It did not cover the Merchant Navy or the Armed Forces. Homosexual acts were decriminalised in Scotland in 1980 and Northern Island in 1982.

Despite its limited scope, the new legislation was a major step forward for the gay-rights movement in the United Kingdom, and reflects a moment when sexuality and gender were being questioned and attitudes transformed.

2017 was the 60th Anniversary of the publication of The Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, known as The Wolfenden Report 1957
he Wolfenden committee investigated homosexuality and prostitution in the mid-1950s, and included on its panel a judge, a psychiatrist, an academic and various theologians. The context was the rising numbers of prosecutions. The committee concluded that criminal law could not credibly intervene in the private sexual affairs of consenting adults in the privacy of their homes. The position was summarised by the committee as follows: ‘unless a deliberate attempt be made by society through the agency of the law to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private that is in brief, not the law's business.’

The Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (the Wolfenden Report) was published on 4 September 1957.

There was no political impetus after the publication of the Wolfenden report to legislate on the matter but in the 1960s, Leo Abse MP and Lord Arran who sat in the House of Lords put forward proposals to change the way in which criminal law treated homosexual men by means of the Sexual Offences Bill 1965. Lord Arran drew heavily upon the findings of the Wolfenden Report.

By 1967, the Labour government in office supported Lord Arran and considered that criminal law should not penalise homosexual men and the Sexual Offences Act 1967 was passed.