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Fears Snape Maltings and Britten-Pears merger erases important LGBT story

PUBLISHED: 15:45 19 April 2019 | UPDATED: 15:45 19 April 2019

Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears standing in front of the recently completed Snape Maltings Concert Hall - 1969

Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears standing in front of the recently completed Snape Maltings Concert Hall - 1969

Archant

The two organisations are set to merge in 2020 under the name The Benjamin Britten Foundation.

However, a petition has been launched in opposition to the name change, with supporters saying it removes recognition of the couple's homosexual relationship.

Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears were a couple from 1939 until the composer's death in 1976, a relationship that continued before homosexuality was decriminalised.

Julian Tooke, who grew up in Suffolk, said the couple's story had always inspired him.

“The reason it got me is I am a Suffolk boy originally and left in the late 1980s. I still come back often, I have family in Suffolk.

“But I had to leave in 1987 because I was gay and Suffolk felt like a homophobic place to live back then. There weren't many examples of LGBT relationships and the Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears story was important to me.

“It was forward thinking that both names were mentioned.
“I think it is important that the story is still told now.”

Ben Baglio, from Aldeburgh, who launched the petition added: “Britten and Pears' relationship meant a huge amount to gay people everywhere.

“They were an 'out' couple in an era where it was illegal. It seems a bizarre decision to me.”

Roger Wright, chief executive of Snape Maltings, and Sarah Bardwell, chief executive of the Britten–Pears Foundation said: “Peter Pears will continue to be celebrated through the use of his name and as an equal partner in much of our cultural offering in Aldeburgh and Snape.

“Pears' name will continue to be used extensively on buildings and in our activities, including the Peter Pears Recital Room, the Britten–Pears Building, the Britten–Pears Young Artist Programme, and the Britten–Pears Orchestra.

“We also have the Britten–Pears Archive and the Britten–Pears art collection. Building on our 2017 Queer Talk exhibition we have plans to develop further the focus on Pears in the Red House permanent gallery spaces to celebrate him, his career and his relationship with Britten, as well as a temporary exhibition focusing on his artistry, life and work in the coming years.”

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