THE LOG BOOKS
Season 2 Episode 0 - “Re-opening The Log Books”
Presenters: Tash Walker, Adam Zmith
Producers: Shivani Dave, Tash Walker, Adam Zmith
Music: Tom Foskett-Barnes
Artwork: Natalie Doto
[Nightclub music plays]
Richard: That was a big club, it’s still a big club. A three thousand capacity venue, and it was packed. I was largely in the cellar, which on Thursdays was leather only at that point. Amazing the number of waistcoats you can keep to slip onto mates who wanted to come in. We’d always have a way of letting our friends in if we really wanted to.
[Nightclub music plays]
And they had all sorts of people on, Bronski Beat, Eurythmics, all sorts of bands. There were New Romantics, there were Goths, but they all came together on the one night. It was London in the Eighties, at that point, where it was, you know, really fashionable and trendy, and the gay scene was at the heart of it and Heaven was, you know, right there.
TW: And we’re here, outside Heaven, that hotspot from the Eighties, which is currently closed due to the global pandemic of 2020.
AZ: But we’re standing right outside, in Richard’s footsteps, however many years, maybe forty years after he was here, describing that and it’s got a very, very, big bright rainbow coloured doorway.
TW: And a lovely shimmering sign.
AZ: And right here, outside Heaven, with the rumbling trains above us, of Charing Cross Station, above these brick arches, is where we start Season Two, of The Log Books.
[Nightclub music plays]
James: Well, Heaven opened, I seem to remember, in the late Seventies and it was there, one evening, in, I think it must have been the winter of ‘81, ‘82, that I saw on a noticeboard a reference to an outbreak of Kaposi's Sarcoma among gays in San Francisco, and this is the first reference I ever had to AIDS, or what developed into AIDS.
[Muffled chatter plays in background]
AZ: So Tash, what was known about this rare form of cancer that James mentioned, after seeing that notice in Heaven?
TW: Very little was known at this time, Kaposi's sarcoma, which was the main symptom, became a sort of AIDS-defining illness. But no one really knew anything. They knew it was affecting gay men, they knew it was especially to do with the Americans or people that had sex with Americans and people were starting to die.
AZ: And that it was such a high fatality rate and that had already been seen in America, and then, yeah, people started seeing cases here. It must have been really scary knowing that this was something that was affecting especially gay men, it seemed, more than any other group at the time and that people were dying, and young people, who were normally here in a nightclub on a Saturday night, dancing their tits off.
TW: Yeah, those that felt invincible, suddenly weren’t, so, what did people start thinking? They started asking questions, they started being really afraid, they needed to know answers and so one of the first places that people reached out to was Switchboard.
[Soft music plays]
AZ: That meant that there were so many calls to Switchboard about HIV and AIDS in the period that we’re going to cover in Season Two, which is Tash . . .
TW: It’s 1983-1991. So Adam, shall we go to Switchboard?
AZ: Are you going to take me to the Switchboard phone room?
TW: Well not actually Switchboard's phone room today, but Switchboard’s phone room back then, which was above Housmans Bookshop in Kings Cross. So before we re-open The Log Books for Season Two, let’s go back there and get an idea of what it must have felt like to hear the phones ringing off the hook.
[Multiple telephones ring]
[Footsteps on stairs, muffled chatter]
AZ: Yeah, so these are the stairs that volunteers, at the start of every shift, would have come up to get to the phone room.
[Keys jingle, door opens]
AZ: Here we go.
TW: Adam, welcome to Switchboard’s old phone room.
AZ: Thank you.
AZ: It’s a bit musty.
TW: For sure.
AZ: Or is that just me?
TW:: It doesn’t look like it did back in the period of time that we’re looking at but this was a super busy period of time for Switchboard. It was when they had their millionth call, the phones were ringing off the hook. The log books throughout this period are jam packed [mhm], I mean you’ve read them.
AZ: The current occupiers of this room are pretty familiar with lots and lots of paper being jammed together, so it actually gives you quite a good impression because there’s all these files and folders and you can sort of imagine what the log books would have been like on the shelves as well as all the information files, the accommodation files.
TW: The rustling, the bustling, [laughter], the phones ringing, the phones being answered [yup], the volunteers speaking to the callers whilst reaching across and grabbing a folder. Looking at the map which is sort of spread across the wall, covered in pins pointing out different places to go in London and the UK. It was a room full of information, full of information to help Switchboard volunteers hold the hands of the community.
AZ: It’s really just amazing to be in the old room where those log books lived and those volunteers worked and made all those notes that we’ve started looking through for season two. All of those notes that became our LGBTQ+ heritage.
TW: And these log books contain so much of that LGBTQ+ history, jam packed with notes from the volunteers of the calls they took and as always we’re led by the log books and will be breaking each episode up into different themes.
AZ: So let’s re-open the log books for season two and let’s start by going back into the studio Tash.
TW: Let’s go.
[Theme song plays]
AZ: Ahh it’s nice and cosy and warm in the studio and it’s good to be back in the studio with you Tash.
TW: Yeah, it’s so nice. These seasons have definitely taken longer than we thought with the pandemic but we’re really pleased to have still been able to make it despite all the challenges of 2020.
AZ: Yes, and, I don’t know, eighty five months ago when we started working on this season, we said that we just have to accept that the audio is going to be variable, you know, so we’ve interviewed some people in real life, some people on the phone or on the internet, that kind of thing, so we just have to deal with that.
TW: Some of the stories that we recorded are going to be quite hard to listen to, I know that we both found, you know, interviewing those people very emotional [yeah]. So we’re going to always add those content warnings at the start of each episode.
AZ: Yeah, and you know, we have to continue changing the callers names to keep the calls confidential.
TW: Yeah, and you know, even though the content is hard, it’s really important to us to record this heritage and we’re going to be here with the listeners. We’re going to try and keep it, keep it light while we go through these very complicated and difficult topics. But at the end of the day, people are amazing and you and I have loved recording all of these stories, and speaking to our contributors, because the strength that they show, you know, just the ability to be able to relive these memories and even joke in some of the darkest moments . .
AZ: Yeah, and we really want to make sure that their memories and their stories are collected and so that’s really what The Log Books is, and that’s what we’ve continued in season two.
TW: Yeah, that’s right. But if you’re actually new to us, go and catch up with season one, then come back to season two.
AZ: And if you’re returning as a listener, welcome back! [Laughs]. And it’s great for us to be back and we’re really grateful to have you back as listeners, so, let’s go!
TW: Yeah, let’s get to it!
AZ: The Log Books is produced by Shivani Dave, Tash Walker and Adam Zmith, in partnership with Switchboard, the LGBT+ helpline.
TW: If you think other people would like The Log Books, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. These ratings and reviews really help others to discover the show. You can send us your feedback, and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org or join the conversation on social media with the hashtag, #TheLogBooks.
AZ: Our music is by Tom Foskett-Barnes and our artwork is by Natalie Doto.
TW: Thanks to Stef Dickers and team at the Bishopsgate Institute . .
AZ: BFI National Archives . .
TW: The folks at ACast . .
AZ: MACE; the Media Archive for Central England . .
TW: Peter Zacaroli at West Digital . .
AZ: Content is Queen . .
TW: The staff and volunteers at Switchboard . . .
AZ: And all the contributors who shared their stories.
TW: Switchboard continues to take callers from 10am to 10pm everyday. If you’re affected by any of the issues in this podcast, or need to discuss anything to do with your gender identity or sexuality, you can call Switchboard on 0300 330 0630, email email@example.com or instant message via switchboard.lgbt, where you can also donate money, or time to help.