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LGBT+ History Month:One story from Harrow

John Leverton

& The Harrow Gay Unity ClubAn Interview between John and Laura held on 22 Jan 2021

John was born at UCL hospital in London. His family moved to Wealdstone when he was 3 months old and lived in the same area until he was in his 30s. John lived in Harrow during the 1950s/60s. His house overlooked the Kodak Factory site. He remembers the "Duck Pond" (most probably the moat at Headstone Manor), and would often go feed the ducks with his mum.

John was on the cusp of coming out as a gay man, and so looked up the Harrow Gay Unity club, at which point he realised it was on his doorstep as he lived on Harrow View! He felt there could be no excuses for him not to go, with the club being based upstairs at theGoodwill To All pub.

Goodwill To All Pub during the 1950s

Harrow Gay Unity was a social group, and one of the longest lasting in the London area. It was based around having speakers from different voluntary organisations. There were also occasional get togethers with other Gay Unity groups, Windsor, for example. The event with Windsor club was a disco, with John’s home stereo providing the music! The first time John went he almost changed his mind as he wasn’t exactly sure where in the pub the meeting was taking place. However, he saw some young men going up the stairs and followed them to the right place!

The club did not have an overt politicial aim, however, people talked amongst themselves about which Politicians may have sympathy towards the gay cause. The club was primarily social. John helped the club by getting the newspaper printed. He also designed items like the Christmas party tickets! When the pub was refurbished, the club met in John's front room - back then the group averaged 20/30 members so it became very crowded!

The club was a big deal for John and other local gay men. It gave him the courage to be open and stop “pretending”. He couldn’t believe the meeting was being held so close to his house. He still has a friend from the club he has stayed in contact with ever since.The club made John feel much more confident. John feels there’s not really the same need for clubs like Harrow Gay Unity today as technology and apps have made it so much easy for gay people to meet and society is much more accepting.

Discover this object from the Harrow Gay Unity on Speak Out London:Speak Out is a call to action to put LGBTQ+ lives and experience back into the historical record. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Speak Out London volunteers assisted by London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) have created a community archive using oral histories and memorabilia to complement and, where necessary, challenge more formal collections held at the LMA

With Thanks toJohn Leverton &Laura Coughlin

Do you have a story to share with us? If so, email collections@headstonemanor.org