Queer Pasts, Queer Futures: Film screening of Derek Jarman’s Edward II at Somerset House

Derek Jarman’s Edward II is a postmodern take on the life of the medieval monarch, based on Christopher Marlowe’s play. The backdrop for Jarman’s film is the introduction of Section 28 (the law against “promotion” of homosexuality by local authorities) and the film shows Edward lead the attack against his queen with an army of gay-rights protestors.

This screening will reconsider the film in the context of the current debates around queer history and LGBT rights. One reason for the timeliness of this event is the current debate around the legalisation of gay marriage: as clerics and conservatives evoke ideas of the ‘sanctity’ and ‘history’ of marriage, we will ask what looking at histories of sexuality can really tell us about the present.

Jarman’s film proposes a queer look at history. This challenges both our understanding of the past as possible to film and narrate, and received ideas of heterosexuality and marriage as traditional, historic institutions.

Looking at queers in the past, and looking at the past queerly, this screening will open up new frames for the debate about sexuality in the past, and about how we should see it into the future.


Juliet Jacques is a freelance journalist who writes for the Guardian, the New Statesman and Time Out and elsewhere. She covers gender, sexuality, literature, film and sport.

Richard Maguire is Lecturer in Modern English Literature at Arcadia University and convener of the MA course on Representations of Sexuality at the Turn of the Century at King’s College London. His PhD thesis, ‘The Last of the Queer Romantics: Mourning and Melancholia in Gay Men’s Autobiography’, looked at the work of Jarman, Franko B and David Wojnarowicz.  

Peter Tatchell has been campaigning for human rights, democracy, LGBT freedom and global justice since 1967. He is a member of the queer human rights group OutRage!, and the left-wing of the Green Party. Peter is also the Green Party’s spokesperson on human rights. Through the Peter Tatchell Foundation, he campaigns for human rights in Britain and internationally.

Co-sponsored by CLAMS and Queer@King’s.