James Ley, who helped form the Village Pub Theatre, has won an award to write a new play about LGBT bookshop founders Bob Orr and Sigrid Nieslen.
Orr and American-born writer Nielsen started selling books out of the cloakroom of Fire Island, the legendary Princes Street night-club. In those pre-internet days they were selling books and literature that wasn’t available in mainstream bookshops.
James Ley. Photo: David Monteith
By 1982 they had moved to Forth Street, having made enough money to secure a bank loan, and opened what was Scotland’s first LGBT bookshop: Lavender Menace.
Five years later, they moved “from side street to high street” as Orr has described it, securing premises on Dundas Street and changing the name to West and Wilde – for Vita Sackville West and Oscar Wilde. They staged readings, performances and adaptations during the fringe and became a very visible presence.
Ley is the recipient of the LGBT History Month Scotland’s Cultural Commissions Award, and his script – not yet titled – will be performed during LGBT History Month in February 2016.intriguing and magical
Speaking of the award, Ley said: “I recently met with Bob and his partner Ray who generously shared Bob’s story with me. I want to take the audience back to the atmosphere of this intriguing and magical bookshop that was so important to the LGBT community and to the Edinburgh community as a whole for more than a decade.
“I want to explore what we’ve lost in the last two decades, what we’ve gained and what’s stayed the same. I’m fascinated that there was a gay club on Princes Street that was in-your-face, provocative and countercultural, as I question whether that could exist now in a more corporate, buttoned-up city.”
Fergus McMillan, Chief Executive of LGBT Youth Scotland, who co-ordinate LGBT History Month Scotland, said: “We’re really excited by James’s proposal. His commission will be the first theatre piece we have had and will capture an important and unexplored part of Scotland’s LGBT history for posterity.”
More information on LGBT History Month and previous cultural commissions is available at: www.lgbthistory.org.uk