You are not logged in. Signup to contribute or login! Not recieved your activation email? Click here to send it again.

Karen Barrett

February 2008

Karen Barrett, born 1959


Karen is a 47 year old lesbian, in this interview she discusses her difficult childhood and how difficult it was to grow up gay in the 1960s. She talks about running away to the gay centre at 14, in 1973. Later she discusses not being able to be open at work in the 1970s. She also talks about the male dominated gay scene in the 1970s and gives her thoughts on Pride.


Homophobic bullying - 30
Childhood Abuse – 10 20
The Gay Centre (Digbeth) - 40
Homophobia at work - 50
1970s Gay Scene – 70 80 90 100
Larry Grayson and Noelle Gordon - 100
Male orientation of the gay scene – 110
Pride – 120
Transsexual - 70 90
Women’s access to bars – 80
Nightingale (Camphill) - 80
Laurie Williams - 70
Jester - 70
Viking - 90
Licencing laws (underage drinking) - 70 100
The Grosvenor Hotel - 100

10 Childhood

“I had a bad, bad childhood, no real bad problems with my family but they never appreciated the way I felt. In those days there was no one to talk to as it (homosexuality) was not accepted. It was a taboo situation.”

20 Childhood abuse
“During my childhood my brother abused me for over twelve years, that was very difficult and I tried to tell my older sister but she later denied I had told her.” Karen did not tell anyone but her sister until five years ago.”

30 Bullied at School

“I never did much schooling, I was bullied as the other children thought I was gay.”

40 Running away to the gay centre

When Karen was 14, she says she ran away from home to the Gay Centre (Bordesley Street, Digbeth), (though she may have been older as the gay centre didn’t open until 1977.) “There were lots of people there and it was on Allison Street and the people there were a lot older than me, they accommodated me there for three days until my dad fetched me back. They tried to sort the situation out but had no luck. My father said, ‘You can’t be doing this your mother’s worried sick about you.’”

50 Homophobia at Work

Karen went on a course for fifteen weeks and started a job as care assistant in Sutton Coldfield, she trained further to become a social worker. The places she worked in looked after the older people. She says you did not disclose your sexuality “If you did you would get your head kicked in, because of the homophobic situation, I knew lots of people who were gay in the job but you could not come out”.

60 Leaving work

Karen left work in 1981 to care for her mother who was ill with cancer and in 1988 she had a severe motorcycle accident and has not worked since, she was told she would end up in a wheelchair, but she managed to walk again.

70 The Gay Scene

Karen found out about the gay scene as she had a lot of friends. Laurie Williams and his partner Lionel used to let her go to the Jug, although she was still very young when she went there, in the 70s. She also met her first transsexual there.

Karen lists the gay venues she frequented in the 1970s; the Jug in Albert Street, Albert’s Wine Bar, Nightingale, The Troc(adero), Peacock in the Imperial Hotel, The Jester, The Victoria, The Crown,

80 First Club

“My first club was the Nightingale at Camp Hill, it was an old house and you went up some stairs, women were allowed to go one night a week on Fridays.”

Karen lists the gay venues she frequented in the 1970s; the Jug in Albert Street, Albert’s Wine Bar, Nightingale, The Troc(adero), Peacock in the Imperial Hotel, The Jester, The Victoria, The Crown.

90 The Viking

“The greatest place I ever went to was the Viking, up the top by Odeon Queensway, a drag artist called Martin used to drink in there and he had a full sex change, he died afterwards which was a shame”

100 The Grosvenor House

Karen remembers that Larry Grayson and Noelle Gordon were always in the Grosvenor House Hotel in the late 1970s, she was under age but her friends used to sneak her in.

110 Male orientated scene

Everywhere you go is male orientated apart from the Fox but she does not like drinking in there. There is nothing for women. “I would like to see the occasional group for women and more social events.”

120 Pride

“I don’t go to Pride, it’s too expensive and I can’t afford it. It’s free to go but a drink costs £4. I went to the first Pride in 1997 and it was great. It’s not a social event anymore it’s a business and I don’t like that, its too commercialised. I would like to see drinks at a reasonable price instead of everyone making a kill out of us. I regularly march for HGL and previously BOSS though.”