Culture& Reviews: The Logbooks

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The text "THE LOG BOOKS" in different typefaces overlays a pink image

Hosts and co-producers Tash Walker and Adam Zmith bring us through recent LGBT history using the logbooks as a guide. The logbooks are notes taken by volunteers who worked for Switchboard in the 1970s. Season 1, which was released in 2019 covers 1974-1982 in their first season and reflects on what it meant to be LGBT when being gay was considered a crime.

Switchboard is the second oldest LGBT+ helpline in the UK and is still in operation today. This podcast, The Logbooks, uses former volunteer notes as a guideline to provide a central focus for each episode in the season. The podcast blends voices from the past and present to weave an ever evolving tapestry of the LGBT experience. Through this tapestry, we are able to see the different ways the past affects the present, and the consequences that are still ongoing today.

It’s critical to reflect on the various rights and freedoms members of the LGBT+ community have now, and remember the struggles faced not even 50 years ago.

The episodes are more than just reading through the logbooks. Walker, Zmith, and co-producer Shivani Dave interview a variety of members from the LGBT+ community that offer a broader look at what life was like and how it compares to now like for the community.

This weaving between old stories and current struggles, makes the podcast feel like a montage of experiences, highlighting the discrepancies and nuances within the community itself. One thing I really admired about the podcast is that it does not shy away from explaining discrimination within the LGBT+ community, such as discrimination against transgendered individuals and bisexual individuals, which was more common in the 70s.

One episode that has still stuck with me is the fourth episode called, “Pretty policeman.” This episode explains the complications that arose with “decriminalising” homosexuality and how members of the LGBT+ community were still prosecuted following the change in legislation.

This episode is the most tapestry-like, if we’re still going along with my metaphor. A wide range of individuals are interviewed including a lawyer who repeated the legal advice he had given to people in the 1970s, an individual who was at the heart of a movement, and a former police officer who was actually tasked with entrapping LGBT+ individuals and arresting them.

The reason this episode is so memorable to me is because as someone who has grown up in the 21st century, I have had little exposure to the former-criminalization of LGBT+ individuals. I remember gay marriage becoming legal, but I had no context for why that was such a big deal, or the history leading up to that moment.

This is such an important podcast because they do not shy away from these terrible truths, and they speak to individuals who are still alive and can personally attest to what being LGBT+ was like in the 1970s, in addition to reading off volunteer’s notes.

The podcast covers a wide variety of topics, such as being disowned, gay clubs, protest, and the lonliness of being a gay individual before the LGBT+ community became more accepted. The episodes offer empathy to all those interviewed with Walker and Zmith occasionally offering their own opinions on what is being discussed. It’s a podcast that encourages you to reflect as history and the present merge into one.

By: Ashley Clemens

The Log Books Podcast, Apple Podcasts, © Shivani Dave, Tash Walker and Adam Zmith.

Image description: a person holding a telephone in pink and white wash, with ‘The Log Books’ text overlaying the image in black. Top-right hand corner sticker reads “British Podcast Awards, Gold, 2020”.