The hate crimes that devastated the NSW gay and trans communities during the 1970s through to 2010 were an example of the deplorable level of indifference and injustice suffered by the LGBTIQ people at the time.
Many of the crimes, which include horrendous assaults and murder, remain unsolved. The NSW government has recently re-opened an inquiry into the crimes and is calling for submissions from anyone who has any experience of them.
Director, Shane Anthony and a troupe of actors have created a new work to help contextualise and promote knowledge of this egregious period in LGBTIQ history. Our Blood Runs In The Street uses interviews conducted in consultation with ACON to present a verbatim account by first hand witnesses in a moving and stylised form.
“I would say it is a play, there is a script that we’re working from, but it has heightened visual and physical elements to the piece,” explains Anthony.
He acknowledges the help of Michael Atkinson, Community Liaison Consultant from ACON, in helping with contacting and inviting people to be part of the project.
“It was difficult to speak to some people…there were definitely some individuals who didn’t want to speak, and so that was a challenge,” says Anthony.
“And actually for many people, it doesn’t have a final chapter. [It] was difficult to try and speak with those people.”
Among the people who were contacted were several ex-police officers and ex gay and lesbian liaison officers from NSW Police. While they were not actually involved directly in these cases, they acknowledged that a certain attitude within the force existed at the time.
“They definitely spoke about the culture in the police force that encouraged that violence,” says Anthony.
“There wasn’t any guilt on their part, but they talked about the culture that promoted transphobia and homophobia.”
Many admitted regret for not having spoken up more.
Anthony’s material came from a number of different sources.
“One of the things I was fortunate to come across was some undercover prison transcripts that were recorded with suggested alleged perpetrators talking about some of the murders they committed – so that’s made its way into the show. Obviously, we’re not naming people, but we are using that material verbatim.”
Cassie Hamilton is one of the performers and co-creators of the play. She is a trans woman and feels especially connected to stories of trans people who were virtually invisible at the time.
“One of the things that struck me personally as a trans woman was the absence of the names of trans women in the report,” she explains.
Of the 88 confirmed deaths, only two were trans women, which she finds an unlikely statistic. There was confusion at the time between terms like “gay” and “trans” which may account for the discrepancy to some extent.
The cast itself is a diverse mix of people including some straight performers and crew.
“Putting all this stuff together has been incredibly moving and it’s been a very emotional thing for all of this, especially for all the queer people in the cast,” says Hamilton.
“These people’s stories were so moving in their completion and we were given the very difficult task of sort of condensing these incredible interviews into…the monologues that make up the show. “
On Sunday February 23 ACON will hold a post-show forum featuring specialists in the field and including people who were interviewed. They have extended an open invitation to people who wish to share their own submissions for the enquiry.
“ACON has assisted us with the development of the work and really supported throughout the development of the project. So [Sunday’s show] is the show that those who have been interviewed will attend,” says Anthony.
“ACON has also gifted some tickets to the community as well. So we expect that that will be a particularly emotional evening.”
While he acknowledges the experience may raise issues, it might also prove cathartic.
“We’d love to share these stories with the community. That experience – and this has come up in several of the interviews – that experience of being able to dialogue and to speak, whilst might be challenging for some people can also be incredibly healing to have those voices heard.”
Feb 19 – Mar 21 at The Old Fitz Theatre. Tickets and details here. https://www.redlineproductions.com.au/our-blood-runs-in-the-street
Sun 23 Feb, 6.15pm at the Old Fitz Theatre (after the 5pm matinee)
Special post show event, co-hosted with ACON.
Panel discussion with interviewees and others affected by the crimes in question. They are also encouraging submissions to the Parliamentary Inquiry.
If you would like further info about submissions or the inquiry, please contact Michael at ACON: [email protected]
The event is FREE.
Please email [email protected] to secure your place. Places are limited.