Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Flared Brightly, Died Young - The AIDS Generation

BBC Radio 2 logoA two-part documentary recalling the gay culture of Thatcher's Britain and the emergence of HIV and AIDS.

In 1979, Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister and AIDS was incubating. At the same time, a whole generation was 'coming out' to the world and announcing they were gay. But, for so many, their brief time was running out as the spectre of AIDS became a deadly, daily reality.

Had they lived, many of the young victims would now be in their fifties and sixties – including Terrence Higgins, who died at the age of 37 on 4 July 1982, in St Thomas' Hospital, London. He was among the first people in the UK to die of AIDS. Terry's partner, Dr Rupert Whitaker, who was 19 at the time, says: "I don't know why I've lived so long. Virtually everyone from those early days has gone."

Red ribbonAll over the country, ordinary people's lives would be cut short, leaving families and partners bewildered and destroyed. Survivors describe the feelings and emotions when reality dawned. The programme asks if the gay community protected their own or shunned them as unclean, looks at the social backlash when a victim started to show signs of the illness, and explores how the music and entertainment business, the media and politicians played their part. It also asks if the AIDS pandemic was used as a political and religious tool.

This documentary is a sobering look back to a terrifying time which could, once again, be just around the corner. Early warnings are coming over from the US once more as a new breed of dangerous 'recreational' drugs hits the streets which are fatal for the immune system.

The programme is written by Russell Davies, presented by Alan Cumming and includes the voices of Paul Patrick, Ned Sherin, Peter Tatchell, Jeremy Norman, Nick Partridge, Rupert Whitaker, Donald Atchison, Gillian Lynne, Boy George, Ian McKellen, Andy Bell and Paul Gambaccini.

Flared Brightly, Died Young - The AIDS Generation
Tuesday 10 & 17 July
BBC Radio 2

Listen to the first part here (opens BBC player) - 1 hour.

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