A Goldsmiths alumnus and LGBT+ activist - who played a key role in changing campus culture in the 1970s – will join the university’s delegation at Pride in London 2019.
Geoff Hardy was a teenage political campaigner during the 1960s and after moving to London in 1971 at the age of 21 to attend Goldsmiths went to his first Gay Liberation Front meeting.
“I found my family, I found my people at last. At that time there was nothing, no switchboards, no contact lines, it was a very different world. And here I was suddenly finding my people. I remember crying and laughing and feeling at last that I belonged,” Geoff explained.
“The big message of GLF was no more shame. You have a right to be who you are, you owe it to yourself to come out and walk tall, and you owe it to every other gay person. It fitted very well with my wider politics – our struggle was the same as anyone being hit by oppression, and together we’re powerful.”
He came out at his halls of residence and faced a hostile reception from his housemates. But by “turning up the volume” on his personality, helped by his friends at GLF, Geoff stood up to bullies and gained more respect. He started to connect with other supportive gay men at Goldsmiths, and wrote a call-to-action in the student magazine to end prejudice on campus.
Geoff co-founded the Students’ Union’s first Gay Society, with the group organising their first Freshers Fair stall and Gay Disco on campus. Having made surveys to leave on tables in the refectory, they waded through numerous insincere responses to find genuine messages from other LGBT students reaching out.
In an interview recorded earlier this year, Geoff remembered difficult times as one of the first students at Goldsmiths to talk openly about his life and be visible as a gay man. But with each year the number of students joining the society grew, leading to a distinct change in attitudes and a different experience for LGBT+ students.
Geoff became an English teacher after graduating with a Certificate in Education in 1974 and also spent decades as an LGBT+ campaigner.
In 1975 his picture was published in a local newspaper’s coverage of a picket at Lewisham Concert Hall against the comedian Larry Grayson, with protestors arguing that he was perpetuating negative and harmful stereotypes.
Despite being new to teaching and worried for his future, Geoff made the decision to come out to pupils and colleagues. He experienced respectful and inquisitive questioning and support from his young students, but a mixed response elsewhere, including ‘under the desk’ discrimination.
He joined the London Gay Teachers' Group (a precursor to the current Schools OUT UK) shortly after it was founded by Paul Patrick, a teacher in Brockley. In 1984, after securing funding from Greenwich Council, the Greenwich Lesbian and Gay Centre was set up by the Greenwich Lesbian and Gay Rights Group, of which Geoff was part. Geoff was one of the Centre’s first four job-sharing workers.
He met his civil partner Peter Roscoe in 1978 after spotting him on a bus wearing a Gays Against Fascism badge. Now retired, they live in Shropshire and remain active campaigners, and founded the Shropshire Rainbow Film Festival in 2006. Geoff received a Lifetime Achievement Award from gay lifestyle magazine Midlands Zone in 2013.
In 2017 Goldsmiths became the first university in the world to launch an MA in Queer History. In 2018 Geoff was invited by course convenor Dr Justin Bengry to open the year’s speaker series with Glad to Be Gay at Goldsmiths - a talk on his life, career, activism and memories of being a proud and visible gay student.
Geoff recalled memories of the first Pride in London, then known as Gay Pride, which took place on Saturday 1 July 1972. An action by the Gay Liberation Front, it marked three years since the Stonewall uprising.
In need of some fabric, he took the bedding from his student residence, and painted the words ‘homosexuals are nature’s children’ on it in foot-high letters.
“I went back to college feeling empowered. There’s nothing like being with a group of people like you, standing proud, to empower you. And I knew then that I was in for a lifetime of activism.”
“We had no idea how many people would dare to come, the risks you would take with your jobs, you could still be sacked from your job. In those days if you were under the age of 21 you could be arrested. You couldn’t show affection in public. You could be arrested for holding hands, let alone kissing. In gay clubs you could dance together but not too close.”
“We got to Trafalgar Square and there were some people there, more than expected, but gradually more came and then more and some people got up on the plinth. There were banners saying Gay is Good, Gay is Angry. People stood on the plinth holding hands, arms around each other. It was an incredible feeling.”
This summer Peter and Geoff will be joining a 70-strong contingent of Goldsmiths staff, alumni and partners taking part in their second Pride in London march under university banners – which are now a little more professionally produced!
The Pride in London parade takes place on Saturday 6 July from 12pm and this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the modern LGBT+ movement. Read more on the Pride website.