A personal tribute to John Hein, publisher of ScotsGay and SGFringe
  • By Pete Shaw
  • |
  • 27th Dec 2020
  • |
  • Edinburgh Fringe

I can’t remember exactly which year I first met John Hein, but it was in an age before Google and Facebook when nerdy folk such as myself would put the handsets of their rotary phones into suction-cupped devices that allowed you to connect to the Internet at the heady speed of 150 bits per second. To those of you reading this over a 64 mbps connection (that’s the average in the UK at the moment, apparently), you’re on a 64,000,000 bits per second connection. How times change.

He liked his ale. As long as it was Real Ale.​

It was through this medium that I stumbled upon John. The trickle of data didn’t allow for images, let alone video. Our communication was strictly text-based on a platform called Compulink – possibly the oldest ISP in the UK having started nearly 40 years ago in 1983. John was a frequent poster to the bulletin boards on Compulink, including the gay special interest group that I had kicked off. We were a tight community and often met offline, and John would rarely miss a drinking session in London despite having the farthest to travel from Edinburgh.

When I founded Broadway Baby back in 2004 I reconnected with John. As publisher of ScotsGay he was a very vocal member of the Fringe Society and a welcome familiar face as I found my own feet in Edinburgh’s Festival elite. ScotsGay covered the festivals, and as Broadway Baby grew the two publications worked together on many projects and shared resources often. My yearly pilgrimage to the Scottish capital would not be complete without sharing at least one pint with John. He liked his ale. As long as it was Real Ale.

So on learning of his death this Christmas I am deeply saddened. Not least because the events of 2020 meant I could not have that final pint with him this year, but also because John Hein was pioneer of technology and gay rights in Scotland – and also an irascible bugger at times. I’ll certainly miss him.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this article has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now