LGBT play inspired by Walt Whitman coming to Burnley Library

It was an encounter with a literary genius which forced this Lancashire man to confront the reality of his sexual identity.

Tuesday, 29th January 2019, 11:01 am
Updated Tuesday, 29th January 2019, 11:36 am
The cast of The Adhesion of Love, to be presented by Inkbrew Productions at Burnley Central Library. (s)

The Adhesion of Love tells the extraordinary true story of how an architect’s assistant from Bolton crossed the Atlantic in 1891 to meet the visionary queer poet Walt Whitman.

The tale, to be presented by Inkbrew Productions at Burnley Central Library, is the brainchild of Stephen M. Hornby, the award-winning playwright in residence to LGBT History Month.

In 1885, John W. Wallace, a working-class man, set up a book group called Eagle Street College, in celebration of Walt Whitman’s poetry.

But when John meets his hero six years later, he is forced to confront the true nature of the intimacy sought by his fellow college members and find a way to express his new sexual awakening within the conservative confines of Victorian England.

Stephen, the artistic director of Inkbrew Productions, said: “Throughout the past lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans narratives have been ‘hetero-washed’ and omitted from official accounts – I’ve lost count of the number of ‘spinsters’ and ‘ageing eligible bachelors’ there are in literary history!

“As an openly gay playwright with a keen interest in history, it’s my aim to queer the past and uncover what really went on behind closed doors.

“Bolton’s connection with Walt Whitman, whilst surprising, is well documented and celebrated in Lancashire.

“But the true nature of the intimate meetings of men at the Eagle Street College has been kept hidden from view.

“The Adhesion of Love attempts to reclaim ‘comradely love’ as what I believe it really was – men attempting to express their true desire for one another in a sexually repressive society – as well as posing the question: if LGBT people had been able to write their own history, what would it look like?”

The production is this year’s national heritage premiere for LGBT History Month.

Professor Sue Sanders, chair and founder of LGBT History Month UK, said: “George Orwell said: ‘The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.’

“I founded LGBT History Month as LGBT people in all their diversity were still invisible, especially in the past.

“Theatre is a crucial part of LGBT History Month and enables people to learn through the heart as well as the head.

“I’m thrilled that Stephen is back dramatising new and surprising LGBT history for our celebrations in 2019.”

This year also marks the bicentennial of Whitman’s birth and this full-length play offers new insight into his work and influence on the UK.

It follows on from the success of previous National Heritage Premieres, including the The Burnley Buggers Ball and Burnley’s Lesbian Liberator, which were presented at the library in 2017.

Matt Cain, journalist, author and patron of Bolton Pride and LGBT History Month, said: “The Adhesion of Love is a gripping and fascinating play about a group of characters whose stories aren’t widely known but very much ought to be.”

Saturday, February 9th, 2pm. Tickets are free to book via