Aids: The Unheard Tapes is now available on BBC iPlayer
The year is 1982, and a man has just collapsed on the dance floor at the famous Heaven nightclub near London’s Embankment Station. That man is Terrence Higgins, a well-respected barman and DJ who brought the sounds of New York to the UK in the 1970s. Higgins was transferred to St Thomas’ Hospital, London, where he died of pneumonia and progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy on July 4th 1982. Higgins had died from Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID) and was one of the first of many in the UK to do so as the virus wrapped its hands around the United Kingdom before being renamed AIDS. Recognising the devastation about to unfold, Higgin’s friends Martyn Butler, Tony Calvert, Len Robinson, Chris Peel and his partner Rupert Whitaker initiated the formation of the Terrence Higgins Trust, a groundbreaking community-led charity dedicated to preventing the spread through awareness while supporting those with the disease.
READ MORE: IT’S A SIN
The 1980s and early 90s would see the heartbreaking and devastating loss of so many within our LGBTQ+ community and beyond. Yet, the government was initially slow to act, and society feared this deadly virus with no known cure. Here those suffering would not only find themselves battling a disease that ravaged their bodies and minds but also a society that ostracised them and called them ‘diseased faggots.’ Meanwhile, those who dedicated their lives to caring, campaigning and research would find themselves battling the disease and deadly discrimination. As the crisis grew, a small group of pioneering researchers began recording audio interviews with HIV-positive gay men and their friends to document how the crisis had impacted them and their community. Aids: The Unheard Tapes finally brings this oral history into the light after years of being stored away at the British Library.
READ MORE: BUDDIES
The result is one of the most important documentaries on the AIDS epidemic in Britain we have seen in the past twenty years. A documentary that is not only technically brilliant but emotionally raw. The testimonies we hear are poignant, fearless, funny and loving as men and women talk about their lives, fears, doubts and hopes. This is the story of a generation who fought like no other while losing their partners, friends and family. It’s the story of all those who died before sharing their light, love and talent with the world, and it’s a story of bravery, community resilience and hope.
This is the story of a generation who fought like no other while losing their partners, friends and family. It’s the story of all those who died before sharing their light, love and talent with the world, and it’s a story of bravery, community resilience and hope.