Public art will be world’s first to celebrate codebreaker Alan Turing’s life

MPMC Alan Turing
MPMC Alan Turing

The world’s first work of public art to recognise Alan Turing as gay has been commissioned in Bletchley, close to the world famous Bletchley Park where he famously cracked the wartime Enigma Code.

The commission has been announced by the owners of Milton Keynes-based venue and nightclub, Pink Punters to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia which was celebrated on Saturday, May 17).

The stunning work will be unveiled at a ceremony on Turing’s birthday, June 23, and be placed outside Pink Punters’ clubhouse alongside the busy Watling Street, the old main road to London where Turing himself would have passed by on many occasions.

A team of artists in Yorkshire are now working on what will be a significant piece of public art capturing the life and fate of a man persecuted in the 1950s for his homosexuality. This year marks the 60th anniversary of Turing’s suicide from cyanide poisoning at the age of just 42. Two years earlier he had undergone chemical castration as an alternative to prison after being prosecuted for the crime of being a homosexual. Last December the Queen granted Alan Turing a Royal Pardon.

Pink Punters co-founder and director, Frank McMahon, said: “The work of Alan Turing at Bletchley Park, just a short distance from Pink Punters was instrumental in saving thousands of lives.

“But as he was doing his best for Britain’s war efforts, Alan was fighting his own personal battle with his sexuality. He was not ashamed of being gay, though in the 1950s it was a criminal offence.

“We are creating a fitting tribute recognising him for what he was as a mathematical genius, codebreaker and human being, who just so happened to be gay. There are tributes to him around the world, but this will be the world’s first public work to recognise Alan as a gay man.

“The work will have pride of place here in Watling Street, alongside the road, for all to see and admire.”

Pink Punters’ project co-ordinator, Gayle Dallas, said: “We already have an Alan Turing room at Pink Punters celebrating his life and his amazing work.

“We felt it important, particularly to the younger generation, to learn about his life, not only as a scientist, but his personal life. The work we have commissioned will recognise and celebrate Alan’s life. Details of the art work are being kept unwraps until it is unveiled on his birthday.”

Frank McMahon added: “Here at Pink Punters we have a corporate and social responsibility programme, working closely with LGBT communities and strategies across the UK. We aim to tackle prejudice and ignorance by integrating all sections of society, regardless of their sexuality. We have developed a strong relationship with our local community here in Milton Keynes and Bletchley.

“We want today’s generation to know who Alan Turing was, an ordinary man with an extraordinary mind that saved countless lives during the battles of WW2. Privately however, he had what was considered at the time to be an unusual sexuality and one that would ultimately take his life having lost his own private battle with the UK government of that time. We hope our public art work will encourage people to learn more about this remarkable man.

“We want him to be an inspiration to people who may themselves feel persecuted by their sexuality.

“The world has changed in the past half century and now there is far more acceptance, but there is still an amount of prejudice in society. Our way of tackling such views at Pink Punters is to be open about our work here.”