Actor Russell Tovey (L) and Wandsworth Mayor Leslie McDonell | Photo: Supplied
The site of a vicious homophobic attack against Oscar Wilde has become home to a plaque commemorating the celebrated writer.
Actor Russell Tovey unveiled the Rainbow Plaque commemorating Oscar Wilde on Platform 10 at Clapham Junction Station.
People subjected Wilde to homophobic abuse at platform 10 of Clapham Junction Station for 30 minutes. The event was deeply traumatizing for Wilde, as he detailed in his 1897 autobiographical letter, De Profundis.
‘Schemes like the Rainbow Plaque are so important in reclaiming LGBTQ+ history, and it’s wonderful to be a part of this. Oscar Wilde’s talent, wit and courage has inspired so many, including myself, and it’s wonderful to see the community coming together like this,’ Tovey said.
The Rainbow Plaque is a national scheme that identifies key moments and figures of LGBTI history. This is the second plaque of its kind, the first commemorated Anne Lister, diarist and same sex marriage pioneer, at the Holy Trinity Church in York.
Remembering the good and bad memories
Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum conceived of the idea for the Oscar Wilde campaign during a screening of Rupert Everett’s The Happy Prince at monthly queer film club, Out at Clapham. The group then crowdfunded for the plaque alongside Studio Voltaire of which Tovey is patron.
‘As a community forum we felt we had to respond to this historical wrong,’ said David Robson, Chair of Wandsworth LGBTQ+.
‘The Rainbow Plaque is a wonderful scheme through which we can use culture to make our hidden histories (good and bad) visible.
‘It’s also an opportunity to reflect on how far the LGBTQ+ movement has come and honour those who have suffered.’
Extract from De Profundis
On the 13th November 1895, I was brought down here from London. From two o’clock till half-past-two on that day I had to stand on the centre platform of Clapham Junction in convict dress, and handcuffed, for the world to look at. I had been taken out of the hospital ward without a moment’s notice being given me.
Of all possible objects I was the most grotesque. When people saw me they laughed. Each train as it came swelled the audience. Nothing could exceed their amusement. That was, of course, before they knew who I was. As soon as they had been informed they laughed still more. For half an hour I stood there in the grey November rain surrounded by a jeering mob. For a year after that was done to me I wept every day at the same hour and for the same space of time. – Oscar Wilde, 1897.