CAGS — Croydon Area Gay Society

For other local LGBT groups, see LGBT Croydon.

Book cover "Rid England of this Plagiue" Press Release: Police Purge Homosexuals

6 February 2007

A homosexual couple was interrogated by two police officers on Monday night (5th February). The enquiry was part of a play reading at the Warehouse Theatre, Croydon, but it was a real event, and took place in 1954 when the author Rex Batten was aged 24 and living quietly with his partner. The evening was presented by CAGS (Croydon Area Gay Society) as part of LGBT History Month 2007.

Rex Batten, introducing the readings, said “In the early 1950s the Home Secretary, Sir David Maxwell Fyffe, claimed he would ‘Rid England of the plague of homosexuality’. Paradoxically the reaction to the ensuing purge of homosexuals led to the setting up of the Wolfenden Committee when the first steps were taken to get rid of the plague of homophobia.”

Answering questions from the audience, Rex Batten admitted that his novel Rid England of This Plague, from which the reading was taken, was based extremely closely on his own life and experiences, and the police questioning in particular was exactly as he remembered it. The stress of being under suspicion by the police almost split the couple up, but they found that their relationship was more important to them than anything else, and remained together until Rex’s partner, John, died nearly 45 years later. Asked about the differences between gay life then and now, Rex said “In the 1950s you had to be very discreet: people wore a suit and tie to go to the gay pubs. But you found ways of making contact with other gay people, and there was less of the instant rejection that happens these days when people have contacted each other via the Internet.”

The second half of the evening took the story of gay liberation forward to the 1990s: homosexuals no longer have the threat of prison hanging over them, but young gay men still face difficulties with coming out their families and the risk of bullying at school. The reading consisted of three scenes from Beautiful Thing, the award-winning play by Jonathan Harvey, telling how two teenagers on a London council estate gradually come to accept that they are gay, and begin to re-make their relationships with their parents and families.

David Page, Chair of CAGS, who directed the play readings, said “We’re very happy to have had Rex here with us in person to introduce the evening, and to be able to use the splendid space of the Warehouse Theatre to commemorate 50 years of gay history.” He urged everyone present to sign the petition to keep the Warehouse Theatre open.

Ian Stewart of Paradise Press, publishers ofRid England of this Plague, said “It’s very encouraging to see so many people here. There’s been a lot of interest in the book, and we’ve sold quite a few copies this evening. Croydon is very lucky to have a place like the Warehouse Theatre.”

At the end of the evening, a collection was taken in aid of the Warehouse Theatre, and raised £113.87.

Anyone interested in CAGS is invited to phone David on 020 8686 1550 or Geoff on 020 8651 0292, or look at the CAGS web site,

For more about LGBT History Month, see

For more about Paradise Press, see


For more information on this press release, e-mail

For LGBT groups and events around London, see LGBT London.
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