A rainbow plaque has been unveiled in memory of an LGBTQ+ attack that happened to a celebrated author at a train station, by Kate Dennett.
Years and Years actor Russell Tovey helped community group Wandsworth LGBTQ+ to unveil Clapham Junction’s rainbow plaque in memory of Oscar Wilde.
It is only the second rainbow plaque in the country, and commemorates when Wilde suffered homophobic abuse at Clapham Junction in November 1895.
A jeering mob stood there laughing and verbally attacking him.
He was being moved from Wandsworth prison to Reading jail at the time.
The plaque can be found on platform 10 – just across from trains that travel to Brighton.
Jody Dobrowski was more recently attacked at Clapham Common. He was tragically beaten to death by two men in 2005.
The unveiling comes after a same-sex couple were attacked on a bus in May this year.
Chairman of the Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum, David Robson, said: “We thought have a plaque to commemorate the bad as well as good is a way to stop things from being erased out of history. I would be so saddened to see another Jody situation for real changes to be made.”
Wandsworth LGBTQ+ campaign for queer equality and hosts support groups and film clubs for the LGBTQ+ community.
Wandsworth LGBTQ+ thought of the plaque in a screening of Rupert Everett’s The Happy Prince at its monthly queer film club Out at Clapham.
The film tracks the final years of Wilde’s life.
Studio Voltaire launched crowdfunding at the exhibition The Oscar Wilde Temple, honouring Wilde as a pioneer of gay liberation.
Patron of Studio Voltaire, Russell Tovey, used to live in Old Street, Islington, and enjoys walking his dog Rocky along the South Bank.
Mr Tovey was honoured to unveil the plaque alongside Wandsworth Mayor Leslie McDonnell. He also read extract from Wilde’s letter De Profundis.
He said: “Schemes like the Rainbow Plaque are so important in reclaiming LGBTQ+ history, and it’s wonderful to be a part of this.
Oscar Wilde’s talent, wit and courage has inspired so many, including myself, and it’s wonderful to see the community coming together like this.”
‘For A year after I wept every day’
Oscar Wilde wrote De Profundis during his time in Reading jail.
He wrote it for Lord Alfred Douglas – or ‘Bosie’ – who he began an affair with in 1891.
The letter describes the deep trauma he felt after the Clapham abuse.
He said: “On the November 20, 1895 I was brought down here from London.
From two o’clock till half-two on that day I had to stand on the centre platform of Clapham Junction in convict dress, and handcuffed, for the world to look at.
“I had been taken out of the hospital ward without a moment’s notice being given me. Of all possible objects I was the most grotesque.
“When people saw me they laughed. Each train as it came swelled the audience. Nothing could exceed their amusement. That was, of course, before they knew who I was.
“As soon as they had been informed they laughed still more. For half an hour I stood there in the grey November rain surrounded by a jeering mob. For a year after that was done to me I wept every day at the same hour and for the same space of time.”
Oscar Wilde lived from 1854-1900, when homosexuality was illegal in Britain.
Wilde sued Douglas’ father for libel after he accused Wilde of being homosexual.
He was convicted for gross indecency with men and sentenced to two years’ hard labour – the maximum penalty.
Wilde wrote a string of popular comedies, including Lady Windermere’s Fan and The Importance of Being Earnest.
He married Constance Lloyd in 1884 and they had two sons together. Wilde’s family moved to Switzerland after his conviction.
Wilde was released from prison with his reputation ruined and his health declining.
He spent the rest of his life in Europe and published The Ballad of Reading Gaol two years before his death.
Wilde is still remembered as a pioneering figure of gay liberation.
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