Mr Sebastian, Operation Spanner, and the Queer Histories of Body Piercing
This heavily illustrated talk will present the life and work of Alan Oversby, better known as Mr Sebastian, and present the queer histories of piercing. In the 1970s, Alan opened the first professional body-piercing studio in Britain, in Wandsworth, South London (As a trained art teacher, the presence of tattooing in this shop also marks him out as the first artistically-trained tattoo artist in the country). By the late 1980s, he was hailed by Genesis P. Orridge as someone who had “taken tattooing into a higher art” and who was “a poet and philosopher and historian all at once”. Caught up in the sweep of the infamous Operation Spanner, which prosecuted gay men for consensual sadomasochistic sex acts, and initially apparently charged for piercings carried out on his customers, in 1990 Oversby plead guilty – to having pierced his lover’s penis. Other men caught up in the case, eventually known as R v Brown, served prison sentences for these acts.