Founding Stonewall

Duncan came out in 1987. He subsequently wrote on issues of equality, and about the circumstances of the Aids epidemic of the era.  In 1988, Duncan was one of the six original founders of the human rights and equality group Stonewall, along with actors Sir Ian McKellen and Michael Cashman. 

The Stonewall group was formed after the notorious and now repealed Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act became law.

Action against the proposed law began in January 1988. Arts, media, medical and other anti-clause groups formed. Organised groups included the Arts Lobby (Ian McKellen and others), the Media Group (Matthew Paris, Lance Price, Rose Collis, Simon Fanshawe, Duncan Campbell, and others) and the Medical Campaign (Dr Peter Rivas and others).

The groups co-operated to generate, fund and publish a full-page newspaper advertisement in the Independent on 1 February 1988 prior to the House of Lords debate on Clause 28. Matthew Parris and Ian McKellen wrote the text for the advertisement, published under the heading “A Sense of Alarm”. 280 people signed the declaration.

On 16 February 1988, at a meeting at Ian McKellen's house in Limehouse, Doug Slater (a gay civil servant working as a House of Lords clerk) privately briefed the groups on how best to operate in the parliamentary environment. Out Conservative MP Matthew Paris was present and said he would approach Peter Mandelson to join in campaigning (he didn't).

The Bill, and Clause 28 (thus becoming Section 28) passed third reading on 24 May 1988.

Ian McKellen continued to work with the Arts Lobby and reconnected with some of the group who had worked on the advertisement in the summer of 1988, proposing further meetings. The first meeting, of six people, was 11 September 1988. Ian suggested the group bond with statement of common purpose and intent should mark the day. Duncan typed the agreed declaration on his computer, and printed copies for everyone to sign. This was the "second Limehouse declaration".

Section 28 was finally repealed in Scotland in June 2000 and eventually in England & Wales in September 2003.

Below you can find copies of the original Stonewall documents and press releases.

Draft declaration calling for a new equality campaign

Prepared by the Stonewall founding group in September 1988

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Original Stonewall Founding Declaration

Signed by Ian McKellen, Michael Cashman, Duncan Campbell, Dr Peter Rivas, Douglas Slater and Simon Fanshawe in September 1988.  It was later dubbed the "Second Limehoue declaration "

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Stonewall launches


By April 1989, the Stonewall Group had expanded to 14 (6 women and 8 men).  This notice announced the launch of the group to the lesbian and gay press.

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"Financing the long-term defence of lesbian and gay culture"

Analysis by Paul Dickinson of financial needs for setting up a long term campaigning equality organisation. (3 November 1988)

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"Re-reading Duncan's paper, it strikes me that the main thing that is necessary for a  successful defence of our culture is money. Once it becomes law, Section 28 will lead to a cash crisis for a number of lesbian and gay organisations that depend on local government funds."  

Politics of the Achievable: Stonewall's first manifesto

Stonewall's planned structure and ambitions for an equality campaign were first drafted on 15 October 1988.  

Stonewall's first targets were defensive; far more was achieved in the first 15 years, by 2004 than any of the founders believed possible when they created Stonewall.

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Stonewall’s launch and first year plan

After nine months of meeting, planning, fund-raising Stonewall was ready to go public, get a director appointed and start work.

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The Iris Trust

The Iris Trust was planned at the same time the name Stonewall was selected, in homage to the start of the modern gay rights movement after the Stonewall riots in 1968

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"An ode to Limehouse", by Simon Fanshawe

Memoir of founding Stonewall published by The Guardian, 27 January 2006.

"The first draft of our intentions was headed "The Politics of the Achievable". "There are three phases to political campaigning" we wrote. "The first is action on the streets. ..."

We committed ourselves to legislative and social equality, and although we set no end date, most of us have been staggered at the speed of our progress."

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Stonewall Group meets before launch, April 1989


Planning the final steps to incorporate the Stonewall Group as a company and to register the linked charity the Iris Trust. And why it could not originally be called just "Stonewall".  

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The day we had to act -

"A sense of alarm"

In January 1988, the publication of Clause 28 the Thatcher government's Local Government Bill provoked alarm and anger. It took 25 years to undo the harm in England and Wales, so as to give gay and lesbian kids a fair chance. The first step was a full page advertisment published in the Independent on 1 February 1988.

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Angela Mason appointed as Stonewall director

From Diva Magazine, June 1994 

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Stonewall's website

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Stonewall is now the largest lesbian and gay equality organisation in Europe, employing 75 staff and with a budget of £4 million. Ruth Hunt was appointed Stonewall's Chief Executive in July 2014.

Stonewall announces first executive director

After incorporating in August 1989, the Stonewall Group appointed Tim Barnett as its first Executive Director. (18 August 1989)

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The front page news report from Capital Gay is here


History of the creation of Stonewall

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