Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP, Neale Hanvey, has been interviewed for a much-anticipated documentary on radical campaigner, Kath Duncan, who spent fifteen years as a schoolteacher in the Lang Toun during the 1910s and ‘20s.
The documentary makers were keen to interview Mr Hanvey, not only as the MP representing Kath Duncan’s adopted home, but also because he is the first out gay MP for the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath Constituency. Recent research has shown that Duncan was a lesbian and used her London home to create a safe space for lesbians and gay men during a period when homosexuality was illegal across the UK.
In a wide-ranging interview, the local MP drew on Kath Duncan’s story to discuss the current divisions in the LGBT movement as a consequence of the approach taken to advance transgender rights by the Scottish Government and its impact on women’s and LGB rights. Mr Hanvey spoke about his personal experiences as a gay man in the 1980s and the support the gay community received from women during the AIDS pandemic. He said that he feels a “solidarity with women trying to protect their rights” and pointed to his mother’s trade unionism and work supporting victims of domestic abuse as having a significant influence on his politics.
Neale being filmed with documentary maker, Ray Woolford
Kath Duncan has been described as the “most important civil rights campaigner of the last century”, having been involved at the highest level in campaigns such as the 1920s hunger marches, the fight against Oswald Mosley’s fascists and her connection to the Suffragette movement. Despite her years of successful campaigning, she is not a household name in Kirkcaldy or anywhere else in the UK, and this is something that playwright, author and documentary maker, Ray Woolford, aims to change.
Following up on his well-received book about Duncan, ‘The Last Queen of Scotland’, Woolford’s documentary seeks to bring the Kirkcaldy radical out of the shadows, using her story to explore modern themes of poverty, power and politics, and also current issues connected to the LGBT movement.
Filming is due to finish later this year, with the film set for release during LGBT History month in February 2022.
Commenting, Neale Hanvey MP said:
“It’s sad that Kath Duncan’s powerful story is largely unknown, but it would have been a travesty if her outstanding achievements had been lost in the mists of time. Ray has rescued this amazing woman’s story and I am deeply honoured to play my part. She is exactly the sort of person that should be taught in schools – a name that should be connected to Kirkcaldy and celebrated no less than Adam Smith.
“That’s why I wanted to take part in the documentary and why I think we need to honour Kath in some other way – perhaps through a statue or street name. We’ve got one of the most important civil rights campaigners of the last century connected to our town, yet she’s not recognised in any way.
“The breadth of issues that Kath campaigned on reminds us that LGBT campaigning was going on long before Stonewall, and that of course all civil rights movements are fundamentally intertwined. There is much more that unites us than divides us. I think we need to be mindful of that in current debates around how we protect and respect transgender rights and women’s rights.
“Kath stood for solidarity, for community, for fairness. These are principals I see woven through our town today and it is fitting that Kath is finally getting recognition for a life of dedicated service to advance the rights of others.”