I love the art gallery in Oldham. I know the Turbine Hall, say, is a wonderful space, and they do good stuff in it, but I used to love when walking along Union St looking up at that third floor gallery, north and south walls all glass. The twenty-foot steel dandelion seeds in particular were visible from the street. There has been an art gallery over the library for decades. They get out their Turner and their Gainsborough occasionally or their collection of Chartist or Suffragette memorabilia and show impressive and beautiful touring exhibitions, and there was a large expansion in the 1990s.
When the BNP were doing their worst in Oldham, seeking to foment support by building suspicion and self-pity and resentment (they never got a single councillor) and people expressed to me their misery and anger- “They come here and They get everything and we get nothing”- the Gallery helped sustain my hope. The one single art work which did this more than any other was a picture of two men kissing, and as I looked at this celebration I felt my own queerness might have a place in the World.
Peregrine Worsthorne writes in the Spectator that gay men kissing in public inspire revulsion, and that gay sex scenes in books might provoke a straight backlash. So I asked some straight friends, who agreed that a hetero couple making out can provoke irritation or disapproval too- Get a Room! He thinks that the kissing couple would be assaulted, were it not for “politically correct culture imposed from above”, and I think they are protected from assault by basic English courtesy and decency, as the different-sex couple are. If you want to see a British way of treating a gay couple, watch The Great British Bakeoff.