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Remembering Bedsitterland: Rex Batten, Carl Marshall and Alan Louis

  • Matt Cook
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)

Abstract

This chapter looks at the ways in which three gay men tell their stories of coming to London penniless in the 1950s and finding ‘home’ there. Their testimonies suggest ways in which the city and particular areas within it could accommodate and shape queer lives in different ways. They also suggest shared concerns about making home which relate to the social and cultural positioning of homosexual men in the postwar years. Rex Batten (b.1928) gathered his memories of the 1940s and 1950s in a fictionalised memoir, Rid England of this Plague (2006). There he describes his rural working-class upbringing and his first love affair with a middle class man called Ashley; his move to London to take up a scholarship at RADA; and his life in a bedsit in Camden, where he and his boyfriend John experienced a frightening brush with the law. I contacted Rex after reading his book and interviewed him at his current home in East Dulwich which he shared with John until his death in 1994. The novel, he told me then, was 90 per cent autobiographical.1 Alan Louis (1932–2011) got in touch with me after I advertised for project participants with older gay men’s groups in London, and I interviewed him in 2010 in the common room of his sheltered accommodation in Hackney. This for him did not feel like home and he reminisced chiefly about his ‘camp’ life in various houses in Notting Hill in the 1950s.

Keywords

Family Home Domestic Life Sheltered Accommodation Basement Room Irish Labourer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    J.W. Scott, ‘The Evidence of Experience’, Critical Inquiry 17, no. 4 (1991): 773–797.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See: Elizabeth A. Kensinger, Emotional Memory across the Adult Lifespan (New York: Taylor and Francis, 2008).Google Scholar
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    Heather Murray, Not in this Family: Gays and the Meaning of Kinship in Postwar North America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  5. 12.
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    Matt Cook, London and the Culture of Homosexuality, 1885–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), chap.2.Google Scholar
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    See: Summerfield, ‘Women in Britain’, 60; Ronald Fletcher, Britain in the Sixties: The Family and Marriage (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962).Google Scholar
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    On the significance of non-domestic spaces as ‘home’ see especially: Les Moran, ‘The Poetics of Safety: Lesbians, Gay Men and Home’, in Crime and Insecurity: Governance and Safety in Europe, ed. Adam Crawford (Devon: Willan3, 2002)Google Scholar
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    In their report for SIGMA research, Peter Keogh and his colleagues found that Lambeth’s ‘LGBT’ people were more than twice as more to live alone. Twenty per cent said they had no one to call on in a crisis (ten times higher than the general population). Keogh, P., R. Reid, and P. Weatherburn, Lambeth LGBT Matters: the needs and experiences of lesbians, gay men, bisexual and trans men and women in Lambeth (London: Project SIGMA, 2006), 11.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Matt Cook 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matt Cook
    • 1
  1. 1.Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonUK

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