Site-Specific Performance of A HAUNTED EXISTENCE Will Unearth Forgotten Gay Histories In The West Country

A Haunted Existence will be staged at Bristol's Old Police Station at The Island from 13-23 September. Live Artist Tom Marshman has collaborated with historian Jeanie Sinclair to create the performance. Audiences will also be able to explore a specially created installation made with local young people in the old police cells before the show.

After the recent Pride celebrations saw more big-name brands and politicians than ever demonstrating their support and allegiance with tie-in promotions and personal appearances, it would be all too easy to forget that until 1967 homosexual acts were illegal in the UK, and countless gay people were prosecuted. This September, Bristol-based live artist Tom Marshman - working with historian Jeanie Sinclair and drawing on an incredible true story that happened in the local area in the 1950s - will present A Haunted Existence.

Staged in the atmospheric setting of the Old Police Cells beneath Bristol's The Island, the performance will bring to life some of these forgotten personal histories and ask searching questions about Britain's all-too-recent shameful past before the 1967 Sexual Offences Act decrimimalised homosexuality.

In 1954, Geoffrey Patrick Williamson, made approaches to a fellow passenger in the train. The passenger was a railway policemen. On arrest, he gave the names of a number of other men he had been involved with, resulting in the arrest and prosecution of a number of others, including a decorated war hero who tragically used a cyanide capsule to end his life while in the police cells awaiting interview. Tom Marshman has unearthed these stories, weaving together history and hearsay, to pay tribute to these men and ensure they are not forgotten. Using vinyl music, creative technology and projection, he will highlight the turmoil, stigma and heartbreak as he retraces these men's footsteps.

Speaking about the performance, Tom Marshman said, "We have been working out what happened to all of the men through looking a records on ancestry and various archives, there are lots of stories and although it is heavy stuff there is also lot of happy endings in some ways. All of these stories have really got under my skin"

Jeanie Sinclair, the historian who has been working with Tom, has said said "This has been such an exciting project to work on. Ordinary people have extraordinary stories, and it's been a fascinating journey that has taken us to places that we hadn't expected."

Audiences attending the performance will also be able to experience an installation artwork including contributions from students who have taken part in Tom and Jeanie workshop that explores life in England before Decriminalisation.

Tom Marshman is a performance artist who transforms everyday accounts into theatre by weaving together stories worth telling. A Pervasive Media Studio Resident, he has created over 20 projects over the last ten years in a wide range of mediums including performance, photography, installation, publication and film. Previous work includes Kings Cross (Remix), based on the testimonies of those who lived and loved in the notorious London district in the 1980s, and Move Over Darling, which explored the personal and social histories of gay and lesbian adults living in Bristol. He has presented his work in a variety of venues including Bristol Old Vic, Arnolfini (Bristol), Oval House, Chapter Arts Centre, Battersea Arts Centre, Basement Brighton, Colchester Arts Centre, Exeter Phoenix and within Festivals including National Review of Live Art, Inbetween Time, and White Nights.

Jeanie Sinclair is a historian who works with archives and oral history, exploring hidden and alternative histories to tell stories of people who have been often been ignored or written out of history.

Tickets via
Venue website:

Wheelchair accessible.
All performances will be captioned.

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