Amiable Warriors: A history of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and its times. Volume One: A Space to Breathe

With Foreword by Paul O'Grady

The Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) was the largest LGBT organisation ever in the UK. It had over 5,000 members and 150 local groups, from St. Ives to Sunderland, from Swansea to Norwich. For twenty years (1970–1990) it campaigned ceaselessly for the human rights of LGBT people. It provided a social network, support, counselling and encouragement to ‘come out’ for tens of thousands of LGBT people all over the country. For people living in smaller towns it was often the only form of support and socialising that was available.

The story of CHE is the story of courage in small things, as ordinary lesbians and gays battled to get their voices heard in their communities. It’s also a story of humour and anger, ruckus and rumpy-pumpy, told with wit, elegance and style by a journalist [Peter Scott-Presland] who has interviewed many of those involved, and knew many more. A monument to a generation of activists which is also a thundering good read.


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Some comments on the book

From Charles Upchurch, Associate Professor of History, Florida State University

In Amiable Warriors, Peter Scott-Presland draws much-needed attention to the work of Allan Horsfall, the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, and the grassroots organizational efforts that took place across Britain in the postwar decades. Thoroughly researched and engagingly written, this is an important work that deserves a wide audience.

From Jeffrey Weeks, Research Professor, Arts and Human Sciences, South Bank University

I enormously enjoyed it. Reading it was a bit like being immersed in a great Victorian novel, with intense detail and vivid character sketches, and a gently unrolling plot. I genuinely found it quite gripping, even though I knew many of the cast and the general outline very well. The author's grasp of detail is astonishing, and his energy in both doing the research and in developing the narrative is very impressive. And entirely convincing. Although I lived through much of this, and have done a lot of research myself since, I learnt quite a lot of new things, especially about the enormous energy of grass roots initiatives. ... It’s a very important achievement, and a major contribution to LGBT history. I am looking forward to the future volumes.

If we forget the past we may find ourselves reliving it. Memories are the ways we keep hold of the past in order to make sense of the present and give us strength for the future. This landmark book remembers a crucial but partly forgotten history, of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, the largest grassroots LGBT organisation we have ever seen in Britain.

In fine detail, with wit and compassion, Peter Scott-Presland documents the ways in which key individuals, working at first in intense isolation, bit by bit created the spaces which allowed dozens, then hundreds, and ultimately thousands of LGBT people to find their voices, create their identities, and to build the future. If we seek their monument, look around us.

From Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

If you want to understand how we won LGBTI law reform in the UK, read this history of the pioneering Campaign for Homosexual Equality – and remember with pride the CHE campaigners who trailblazed the equal rights we now enjoy.

From Ken Plummer, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Essex

Amiable Warriors is a magnificent achievement. Peter Scott-Presland has given us a wonderful gift that future generations can cherish. In this richly documented, meticulously crafted and beautifully written study we are shown the earliest days of struggles to bring about a more human world. I look forward to more volumes to come. …

From Jeff Evans, Director of Academic Affairs, Schools Out/ LGBT History Month

Spanning the years before and after the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, Amiable Warriors provides a remarkable and seminal contribution to our understanding of the beginnings of the British grass-roots Human/Gay Rights campaign. The origins of many campaigns and organisations that today are respected and ‘mainstream’ are revealed in Peter Scott-Presland’s History of CHE. He tells the extraordinary story of pioneering endeavour using extensive oral and written testimony from those directly involved; it is an impeccably researched piece of work. It is however, not an uncritical reading of those heady early years, it is grounded in the practical realities faced by those pioneers of the first popular democratic ‘homosexual’ reform movement. We wait eagerly for Volume Two.

From Dr Matt Cook, Senior Lecturer in History & Gender Studies, Birkbeck, London University

Through exhaustive research and by taking local and individual lives seriously, Scott Presland captures the extraordinary reach, range and impact of the CHE. He deftly connects the growth and shifting fortunes of the organisation to social and cultural change since the sixties and rightly insists on its significance in the daily lives and politics of thousands of lesbians and gay men in Britain. Engaging and rich in detail, Amiable Warriors is both a great read and a fantastic resource.

Physical copy

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Book Specification: 
640 pages
February, 2015

Peter Scott-Presland is a writer, actor, playwright and director who runs the gay theatre company Homo Promos. Having performed as a cabaret artist at many CHE events, and known many of the participants personally, he brings a quirky dramatist's and journalist's eye to animate a subject which is far, far more than a series of campaigns.