Gay rights activist Jonathan Blake was joined by writer and curator Lou Stoppard to discuss his long involvement in activism, and his life since becoming one of the first people to be diagnosed with HIV in the UK.
Blake was diagnosed with HTLV3 (now known as HIV) in October 1982, at a time when the virus meant terminal illness. He turned 69 this year.
In the early 1980s, Blake began to participate in political activism, joining the ‘Gays for a Nuclear Free Future’ campaign on Greenham Common (1983), and the ‘Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners’ campaign (1984). The latter was fictionalised in the film Pride (2014), with Blake depicted by Dominic West. In addition to Blake’s careers in acting and costume wardrobe, he continues to be active, volunteering for HIV and AIDS charities. In 2015 Blake was given Attitude magazine’s Pride award for his work in the LGBTQ+ community.
Jonathan Blake is an actor, costume designer and activist. Blake trained at Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance, London (1967-1970), and worked as an actor for over a decade. He later trained as a tailor at the London College of Fashion (1984–1987), working as a tailor and costume maker for the English National Opera (1988–1996) before he was medically retired. Since then, he has volunteered with various HIV drop-in centres, including The Landmark in Brixton / Tulse Hill; Lighthouse South London; The Food Chain; and the Terrence Higgins Trust, where he was the face of the Trust’s first safer–sex poster campaign aimed at gay men. He recently returned to performing, taking the role of Barney in Patrick Cash’s HIV Monologues from 2016-2018.
Lou Stoppard is a writer, curator and broadcaster with an interest in how fashion garments and images communicate broader aspects of society, politics and culture. She served as Editor of fashion platform SHOWstudio for seven years, working closely alongside Nick Knight. She is a Contributing Editor at GQ and writes regularly for titles including The Financial Times and various international issues of Vogue. She has curated a variety of photography and fashion exhibitions, including, most recently, North: Fashioning Identity, an exploration of visual representations of the North of England, at Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool and Somerset House in London. Her first book, Fashion Together, an exploration of collaboration in fashion, was published by Rizzoli in 2017.
Image credit: Working Class Movement Library