Dandelion: Shining a light on life under Section 28

All-female theatre company Paperclip's Adriana Sanford on LGBT+ theatre, new play Dandelion, and women's experiences of life under Section 28



DIVA's Danielle Mustarde catches up with Adriana Sanford, Creative Director of Paperclip Theatre Company, an all-female theatre company telling stories that need to be told.


Here, Adriana tells us about her background in theatre, what's next for Paperclip, and their take on remembering the women who lived under, and fought against Section 28*.


DIVA: Adriana, first of all, tell us a little about your background in theatre.

Adriana: I stumbled into writing and directing in university. I was going through my "creative self-exploration" phase. I was inspired to a write about my maternal grandmother and her life. The script wasn’t great, but the intent of the play was to explore female choice and that felt very powerful for me. Fast forward (almost) ten years later, and here I am an Oscar-nominated actress!


Just kidding. Instead I founded my own all-female theatre company, Paperclip Theatre Company, last year, and it's been one of the best experiences of my life. I’m working with funny, unapologetic, and fearless writers and actors.


At the moment, we’re about to put on a show at the Kingshead Theatre called Voices From the Deep. It’s a night of four shorts set in Shakespearean verse, all following women’s stories pre-21st Century, which is on from 7 May. Hello, shameless plug. 


What's different about Paperclip?

Our ethos is in exploring LGBT+, BAME, and working class female experience. Plus, we only employ women and all of our male characters are played by women. Whaddup Shakespeare! 


It’s a riot. It is so freeing to write and create what we want. ...which brings me to our first full-length play, Dandelion, which will be going up at Kingshead Theatre this August as part of their LGBT+ season.



Tell us more...

Dandelion was inspired by two things. Firstly, my desire to see an LGBT+ play go up on stage that focused on the experiences of the L and B in the LGBT+ acronym. The experiences of lesbian and bisexual women are rarely seen on stage, particularly in a way that’s not been overly sexualised - usually through a straight man’s eyes. 


Secondly, I was very much inspired by the women involved in protesting Section 28*, and as this year marks thirty years since Section 28 was enacted in the UK, I went to one of my brilliant writers, Jennifer, and asked her if she wanted to write a play on the subject, and thankfully she did! 


We’ve had the best time - and the privilege - of being able to interview women who were instrumental in the protest movement against not only Section 28, but for women’s and LGBT+ rights more generally.


Is Dandelion based on your own experiences as a young person living under Section 28?

It’s not, no. The play begins in 1988 and follows two female protagonists living in northern England dealing with the fall-out of Section 28. One of the protagonists is a 16-year-old girl and the other a teacher in her 40s. The play follows these two women’s experiences of navigating a society that enforced silence, oppression, and the denial of individual personhood through the creation of that clause.


It ends in 2009 with Cameron’s apology to the LGBT+ community, we did this because we really wanted to show the ripple effect of Section 28, rather than it being something that only had an impact during a certain time period.


Why do you feel it's important to shed light on the experiences of those living under Section 28?

For so many reasons. I’ve thought about this a lot and, for me, it boils down to wanting to expose the way in which the clause effected the lives of everyday individuals who were a part of the LGBT+ community. It stifled the lives of young people in the education system - both LGBT+ and allies - and it worked to create divides within the LGBT+ community and society generally. It was a conscious decision by the government to pass a clause which would create an "other" in society and those "others" were the LGBT+ community. 


Myself and Jennifer wanted to celebrate the everyday heroism of those who tried to work within the strict confines of oppression, and to make people aware of queer history - Section 28 was only repealed in 2003 - but also to say that people all over the world still live in environments of oppression, and that has to change.


On a happier note, many of the activists we spoke to told us that Section 28 was in many ways a unifying event for the LGBT+ community. Everyone wanted to tackle the same thing, and that brought the community together in a way it hadn’t before. For that, we really wanted to show the solidarity in the community as well.


Why now, for you personally?

I just really wanted to create a play that focused on a female-focused, LGBT+ narrative. I’m a firm believer that I stand on the shoulders of the women who came before me and fought for both women’s and LGBT+ rights. It was important for me to be part of bringing a piece to the stage that not only acknowledged those women, but celebrated them.


Where are you at with the play at the moment?

We’ve just finished the first draft. We expect the Olivier Awards to be giving us a call any day. Move over Hamilton!


Finally, how can people help to bring Dandelion to the stage?

As Virginia Woolf so rightly proclaimed, "a woman needs money and a room of her own in order to write". We need to be able to fund rehearsal space, source props, pay our actresses, writer and crew. Equally important is getting our name out there and letting people know that this play exists, garnering support for the work. If anyone would like to help support us you can get in touch at papercliptheatre@gmail.com, and follow us at @PaperclipTC on Twitter!


Anything else..?

We would love to see as many people as possible come to support the play in August! 


To find out more about Paperclip Theatre Company or to help bring Dandelion to the stage, visit papercliptheatre.com


*Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was a controversial amendment to the UK's Local Government Act 1986, enacted on 24 May 1988 and repealed on 21 June 2000 in Scotland, and on 18 November 2003 in the rest of the UK by section 122 of the Local Government Act 2003. 


The amendment stated that a local authority "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". To learn more, click here.



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