Benjamin Britten’s home has become a museum of his life

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Photo courtesy of the Britten?Pears Foundation, www.brittenpears.org. BPF archive catalogue number PH_03_0036A.

The home that renowned composer Benjamin Britten shared with his partner of nearly four decades is set to be opened for an exhibition aimed to celebrate the decriminalization of homosexuality. Earlier this year, the government granted landmark status to a number of sites due to their significance to the history of British LGBT movement.

One of them was Red House, the Suffolk home that composer Benjamin Britten and his partner, the tenor Peter Pears, shared from 1957 until Britten’s death in 1976. Pears continued to live there until his death in 1986. The Red House, which is now operated by the Britten-Pears Foundation, today announced a new exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 decriminalisation of homosexuality. Throughout nearly all of Britten’s life, homosexuality was illegal and socially stigmatised.

The exhibition will explore the social climate of the 1950s, as well as drawing comparisons between the experience of Britten and Pears with other high-profile figures who found their personal lives at odds with the law of the time. Letters by Alan Turing, manuscripts and edits of EM Forster’s homoerotic novel Maurice and photographs of Noël Coward and his long-term companion Graham Payn will be displayed. The exhibition will also feature a 7-metre timeline charting Britten’s significant relationships, his ‘queer’ compositions and the progress of LGBT rights from the 1900s to the present day.

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