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From gay conspiracy to queer chic: the artists and writers who changed the world

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For years gay people were tolerated in the arts – and were then accused of taking over. Gregory Woods traces the networks of writers, artists, intellectuals and film stars who transformed 20th-century culture

Last week, the poet laureate joined the three judges of the Ted Hughes award to hand this year’s winner a cheque for £5,000. They then posed together for photographs: Ali Smith, Jackie Kay, Andrew McMillan, along with Carol Ann Duffy herself, who funds the prize. As someone with more than a passing interest in lesbian and gay culture, my attention was drawn to the potential for bias in this cheerful scene … But hang on a moment, something was not quite right. They had given the money to David Morley, a straight man.

What kind of racket did they think they were running? How could this decision possibly benefit the international gay conspiracy that has been so flagrantly running the arts for so long? Why, they might just as well have been straight themselves! And so, just when you thought the Twittersphere might be about to explode with homophobic abuse about misplaced special interests, there was nothing to complain about.

Related: From Proust to Ellen DeGeneres, 10 gay works that changed the world

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