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Billboards by artist Martin Firrell mark 50 years of gay liberation

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Martin Firrell: SEXUAL REVOLUTIONARIES
In 1967 The National Health Service made the contraceptive pill available to all women in the UK for the first time. Victorian attitudes to sex were swept away by self-determining women ‘on the pill’ who demanded the right to choose how they lived and loved regardless of the expectations historically assigned to them because of their gender.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, that allowed gay and bisexual men to have sexual relations without being automatically criminalised, artist Martin Firell has created six new works that will be displayed on digital billboards around the UK.

For the next month the Remember 1967 billboards will display the messages that were developed with the support of human rights and justice campaigner Peter Tatchell. Each design in the series refers to the demands made by activists in the 1960’s and are produced in black and white to reflect the monochrome appearance of TV and newspapers of the time. The headlines are set in Universe Extra Black Extended that was released in 1957 and was popular throughout the 1960s.

“No other human rights movement has seen so much progress in the space of 50 years. That is to be celebrated. And the activism that made that possible should be acknowledged,” says Martin. :But there is always more to be done. How we think about gender now will liberate – or blight – people’s lives for the next 50 years.”

Martin’s work uses text in public space to promote debate. His previous artworks have engaged with the peace movement, the women’s movement, LGBT+ rights, black history, and the progressive principles of equality, diversity and inclusion.

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(All captions by the artist)
Martin Firrell: EMBRACE LESBIANISM
The 1967 Sexual Offences Act did not apply to gay women. Lesbian sex was never taken seriously enough for the establishment to make laws against it. Lesbian feminists argued there were only two ways a woman could genuinely escape male control – the first was to embrace lesbianism; the second was to overthrow the social order that automatically places men at the top.

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Martin Firrell: MALE HETERO SUPREMACY
The Gay Liberation Front, a revolutionary gay pressure group formed in London, argued that the oppression of both women and homosexuals was a by-product of traditional gender roles because masculinity itself was historically associated with domination, oppression and violence.

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Martin Firrell: RENOUNCE THE MONSTER
Lesbian activists of the 1960s characterised dominant male behaviour as sub-human or monstrous. By lampooning patriarchal power, they aimed to lessen its impact and embolden people to renounce gender-based oppression.

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Martin Firrell: HOMOSEXUALS AND WOMEN
Gay activists and feminist groups agreed that genuine liberation could only be achieved by ‘eliminating the social pressures on men and women to conform to narrowly defined gender roles’.

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Martin Firrell: MEN STILL DOMINATE
1960s gay and women’s rights campaigners observed that British society was dominated at every level by men. 50 years later, British society in 2017 is still dominated at every level by men. The call for an end to the rigid gender-role system is as urgent today as it was 50 years ago.

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Martin Firrell: Remember 1967