Mansel Stimpson was born in Lincoln in 1937, but moved to Eastbourne, where he still lives. Training initially as a solicitor, he was later able to pursue his passion for cinema and has had a distinguished career as a film critic and writer. He came out at the age of 40, at the Edinburgh Film Festival, and was an early member of what was then GCM. His book about his experiences as a gay man in the 1970s, was published in 2015, alongside an impressive list of publications on the subject of cinema. He has been Chair of Eastbourne Film Society since 1955.
“Within Gay Times there was a reference to counselling services and I thought because I felt so positive, naturally I didn’t need to go for counselling. But there was this body mentioned called the Albany Trust which happened to have an office the solicitors that I was with at that time as a partner in Westminster. I went there really just to say, what ideas have you got about who I might contact in that I’d like to make contact with other gay people who have an interest in the arts and so on, to share some of my interests because that seemed a reasonable basis to start from. The woman there, Margaret Branch, she was their most experienced therapist, immediately said to me, oh I think you should come in and see us. So although I hadn’t intended it, I had six sessions with her, and she went into my past history. Although at first she seemed to have pulled the rug from under my feet, by saying you’re saying you’re gay but we’ve got to find out if you are, and by then I already felt confident. Before the end of the six sessions she was saying, yes, I’m sure you are gay.”
“In terms of finding a way ahead she’d realised from what I’d told her that I had Christian beliefs, and she said, well, there is this group called GCM which has been going for a little while now but not that long, but in view of what I’ve learned of you I think that would be a good contact. So she sent me to St Botolph’s to speak to Malcolm Johnson who was a leading figure in that movement at the time. So I saw him, and he suggested initially that I might go to the Saint K group, at St Katherine’s in the East End….which was a sort of social set up. Again, significant of that period in 19878 that they didn’t actually say where it was, you had to be taken there for fear that other East Enders might rough people up if they knew what was going on there. You were told to be limited in what you could say, although I gather this is no longer the case!”
You can listen to Mansel’s interview in full here.
You can find out more about Mansel’s book No Drum to Beat: Self-Discovery in the Seventies here.