John Roman Baker

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John Roman Baker
John Roman Baker2008.jpg
Born England
Occupation Poet, playwright, novelist
Nationality British

John Roman Baker is a British poet, playwright and novelist mainly associated with the work of Aputheatre (formerly AIDS Positive Underground Theatre). Winner of the Brighton Festival award for Best Theatre in 1990 for his play 'The Ice Pick'. As a playwright his work is characterised by a focus on contemporary issues presented from a homosexual point of view.


His first play 'Limitations' launched the first season of the Gay Sweatshop Theatre company.[1] In 1989, due to his association with the Sussex AIDS Helpline (aka Sussex AIDS Centre[2]) one of the UK's first voluntary organisations established to campaign for and assist those affected by HIV and AIDS, he founded AIDS Positive Underground Theatre – a cultural response to the AIDS crisis with the aim of reaching a wider audience with images and situations relevant to the time.

Performed plays include:[3]

  • Crying Celibate Tears, 1989
  • The Ice Pick, 1990
  • Freedom to Party, 1991
  • The Crying Celibate Tears Trilogy, 1992[4]
  • Easy, 1993[5]
  • In One Take, 1994
  • The Last Century of Desire, 1995
  • QueerBashed, 1995
  • Russian Roulette; 1998
  • The Pornographic Wall; 1998
  • Heroes, 1999
  • The Prostitution Plays, 2000
  • The Club Beautiful, 2001
  • Sexually Speaking 1+1, 2001
  • The War Fuck, 2002
  • East Side Skin, 2003[6]
  • Things Happen, 2004
  • Romophobia, 2005
  • Prisoners of Sex, 2006
  • Touched, 2008

Adapted work by other writers:

Unperformed plays include:

  • Gala, 1990
  • Ibsen’s Ghosts, 2004

His work has been produced in many countries. From 1990–1996 the Brighton and Edinburgh Festivals often saw the first performances of his new plays. He was the first dramatist to adapt the work of American artist David Wojnarowicz for the stage. 'Close to the Knives' was performed at the 1993 Brighton Festival[7] with the role of David Wojnarowicz played by actor Simon Merrells. In 1994 the success in Edinburgh of 'In One Take'[8] led to performances at Teatri di Vita,[9] Bologna, Italy. Since then, his work has continued to be popular in Italy and has been seen in Firenze, Modena, Forlí, L'Aquila, Reggio Emilia, Roma[10] and Milano.[11][12] His most popular work 'The Ice Pick' has been staged on multiple occasions in the UK and Italy as well as in the US at the Celebration Theatre, Los Angeles in 1993.[13]

He moved to Amsterdam, the Netherlands in 1997, where he continued the work of Aputheatre until 2008. During this period the focus of his work shifted and began to focus on the personal and social effects of pan-European migration following the collapse of communism.

In 1999 he updated and reworked 'The Ice Pick' for 2 characters under the title 'Heroes'. 'Heroes' was toured by Aputheatre around the Netherlands before being performed in Warsaw as part of the 1st Polish Gay Pride festival. 'The Prostitution Plays' was premiered for Warsaw Gay Pride in 2000 and in 2001 his play 'Sexually Speaking 1+1' was presented in Kiev, Ukraine.

Following its Amsterdam premiere, his play 'Prisoners of Sex' was translated into Italian by Antonio Serrano as 'Prigionieri del Sesso' and has been performed in Milan and Rome.[14][15][16]


Published works include:

  • 'The Dark Antagonist', Unicorn Bookshop, Brighton, 1973.[17] An unusual, mystical novel of a sexually repressed young man who encounters angelic forces.
  • 'No Fixed Ground', Wilkinson House, London, 2011.[18] A vivid, hallucinatory novel that explores a young man's experience of friendship, sex and obsession amid the sexual liberation of mid-1970s England.
  • 'The Sea and the City', Wilkinson House, London, 2012.[19] Rich in symbolic imagery THE SEA AND THE CITY follows a young man's quest for salvation in a parallel reality.
  • 'The Paris Syndrome', Wilkinson House, London, 2012.[20] A dark exploration of illicit desire, madness and paternal responsibility.
  • 'The Vicious Age', Wilkinson House, London, 2014.[21] Set in Amsterdam, The Vicious Age explores the painful realities of life in a city that has become more materialistic and vicious in its constant need to renew itself.
  • 'Brighton Darkness', Wilkinson House, London, 2015.[22] Brighton Darkness is a collection of 17 stories that mostly relate to the city of Brighton & Hove. The stories span the decades from the 1950s to the present day and explore the many contradictions and quirks that define the city’s unique character. Gay life in the city runs as a theme through many of the stories, while the author’s experiences of other cities, Amsterdam, Paris and New York add a global context to the book. Another recurrent theme is that of return.
  • 'Nick & Greg', Wilkinson House, London, 2016.[23] Part One of the Nick & Greg Books, introducing the characters Nick and Greg: two gay teens growing up in 1950s Brighton.
  • 'Time of Obsessions', Wilkinson House, London, 2017. Part Two of the Nick & Greg Books, focuses on Greg's life after he leaves home and attempts to find his place first in Brighton and then in London. Set in the early sixties and featuring the iconic Chelsea LGBT clubs Le Gigolo and Gateways Club.

Personal life[edit]

John Roman Baker spent his childhood and much of his adolescence in Brighton, England. At the age of 19 he moved to Paris, where for several years he worked at the British Institute. His poetry was encouraged by the then director of the British Institute, Francis Scarfe. Later, in 1974 a volume of his poetry "Poèmes à Tristan" was published in French by Gérard Oberlé.[24] He has always considered himself foremost a poet and a vein of poetry continues in his plays.

In 1970 he moved from Paris back to Brighton, where he lived with his partner Graham Wilkinson, the Director of the Sussex AIDS Centre, until his death in 1990. His poetic novel 'The Dark Antagonist' was published by the Unicorn Bookshop, Brighton in 1973.[25]

Unwelcome notoriety was achieved when in 1976 he appeared with Tony Whitehead (later to become the first chairperson of the Terence Higgins Trust[26]) in a Southern Television program[27] about Gay Rights. They were pictured together kissing as one of them met the other off a train at Brighton station. As a result of this, Whitehead was immediately fired by his employer British Home Stores. A national outcry galvanised the gay rights movement led by CHE (The Campaign for Homosexual Equality) and GLF (Gay Liberation Front).

In 1997 he left Brighton for Amsterdam, where he lived and worked for 17 years, mainly writing and directing for the theatre. In 2014 he moved back to Brighton.

His concern for gay rights and its expression through literature remain paramount in his life.


  1. ^ Gay Sweatshop; Gay Knitting circle; retrieved on 22 November 2007
  2. ^ Gay Brighton and Hove Services
  3. ^ Playwright's Database; retrieved on 22 November 2007
  4. ^ Brighton Ourstory; retrieved on 22 November 2007
  5. ^ The Independent
  6. ^ Film: East Side Skin (2003);
  7. ^ Poster: Close to the Knives;
  8. ^ Pulse Magazine; retrieved on 22 May 2009
  9. ^ Teatri di Vita; retrieved on 22 May 2009
  10. ^ review;
  11. ^;
  12. ^;
  13. ^ Online Archive of California; retrieved on 22 May 2009
  14. ^ review;
  15. ^;
  16. ^;
  17. ^ Catalogue #2 Homophile Studies;
  18. ^ Wilkinson House;
  19. ^ Wilkinson House;
  20. ^ Wilkinson House;
  21. ^ Wilkinson House;
  22. ^ Wilkinson House;
  23. ^ Wilkinson House;
  24. ^ Bibliothèque nationale de France; retrieved on 16 January 2017
  25. ^ The Male Homosexual in Literature: a bibliography, Ian Young, Scarecrow Press Inc. Metuchen, N. J. (1975)
  26. ^ THT: About Us; retrieved on 22 November 2007
  27. ^ Southern Report: Coming Out (Feb 1976);