The Decision to Split

In 1977 Gay Sweatshop made the decision to split into two companies. Although the company had worked together on Jingleballs, creative and political differences between the men and women in the company had become apparent. This decision was made to allow the two groups to deal specifically with their respective issues.

As the company had started as an all male company the women felt they struggled to gain autonomy in the decisions that were made. A similar split had taken place in the Gay Liberation Front, where it was felt that women shared greater experience of their oppression with other women as opposed to other men. Michelene Wandor commented on this split in her book Carry on Understudies:

‘One of the consequences of this was to be seen in a conflict between theatrical styles, in that men drew upon an already familiar camp and drag tradition, which they both celebrated and tried to stand on its head, whereas the women leaned more towards the newer agit-prop, documentary-based styles, as a means of showing hitherto unexpressed experience as it really is. The problem of male-dominance in the group and the clash of styles was acknowledged on both sides, and the plays done in 1977 reflected the divergence of emphasis.’

Despite the new circumstances, all policy and work conditions were still decided by a central collective of 7 people, who remained committed to the collective ethics of the company. The collective members were: Alex Harding, Sara Hardy, Drew Griffiths, Gordon McDonald, Alan Pope, Jill Posener and David E Thompson.

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