DIVINA DE CAMPO - PAGE 34
Oct 2021 Scene magazine
D www.scenemag.co.uk T @SceneLGBTQ F GScene.Brighton I SceneMagazineUK Publisher: Scene Magazine Media CIC Editorial: firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising: email@example.com
ARMISTEAD MAUPIN - PAGE 28
Features Editor: Jaq Bayles News Editor/Design: Graham Robson Arts Editor: Alex Klineberg News team: Graham Robson, Eric Page, Rachel Badham, Catherine Muxworthy, Alex Klineberg E firstname.lastname@example.org West Midlands News Editor: Catherine Muxworthy E email@example.com
Cover: Model: SLAYTINA i www.instagram.com/slaytinaaaa
Photographers Jack Lynn, Chris Jepson, Simon Pepper, Nick Ford
14 TAKE IT ON THE CHIN!
More sex please, even though we’re British! By Jason Reid
16 MAKE IT RIGHT. OR PAY BACK, IN KIND Craig Hanlon-Smith on showing a little kindness
18 WHO YOU GONNA CALL?...
Jaq Bayles gets ghosted in the nicest possible way, introducing the theme for this month’s issue
Like your drag with extra bite? We raid through our cover star’s snaps © Scene 2021
All work appearing in Scene CIC is copyright. It is to be assumed that the copyright for material rests with the magazine unless otherwise stated on the page concerned. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in an electronic or other retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior knowledge and consent of the publishers. The appearance of any person or any organisation in Scene is not to be construed as an implication of the sexual orientation or political persuasion of such persons or organisations.
24 QUEER IN SPIRIT
Rachel Badham investigates the relationship between the LGBTQ+ community, paganism and witchcraft
26 AMBER CADAVEROUS
Catherine Muxworthy falls under the spell of the Birmingham-based drag act
28 ARMISTEAD MAUPIN
Alex Klineberg catches up with the legendary author to discuss Tales of the City, San Francisco, his latest projects and much more
30 DONNA SUMMER: I’M A RAINBOW
5 News 52 Birmingham News 54 Medway News
40 Arts Corner 46 Page’s Pages 47 At Home with Hootman 48 Classical Notes 50 Art Matters 50 All That Jazz
Dr Jennifer Otter Bickerdike tells us about her new book, which explores charismatic rock star Nico
39 Stuff & Things 39 The Little Big Life 40 Laurie’s Allotment 41 Craig’s Thoughts 42 Twisted Gilded Ghetto 42 Roger’s Ruminations 43 Rae’s Reflections 44 More to Me Than HIV 45 Turn Back the Pages
37 LOVE IS NOT AN IDEOLOGY
Get set for the re-release of the Queen of Disco's lost album
31 MIGHTY REAL
Alf Le Flohic and Josef Cabey reflect on iconic singer, Sylvester, and his connection with Brighton
34 DIVINA DE CAMPO
Jason Reid puts 10 questions to the seasoned British drag queen and Drag Race UK favourite
36 CHELSEA GIRL LOVE IS NOT AN IDEOLOGY - PAGE 37
SYLVESTER - PAGE 31
Simon Adams, Rachel Badham, Catherine Muxworthy, Nick Boston, Brian Butler, Craig Hanlon-Smith, Michael Hootman, Enzo Marra, Eric Page, Glenn Stevens, Roger Wheeler, Chris Gull, Jon Taylor, Alex Klineberg, Michael Steinhage, Jon Taylor, Jason Reid, Rory Finn, Nicholas Cousin, Alf Le Flohic, Josef Cabey
Zebra One Gallery in London to launch a new exhibition on Tuesday, October 5 to raise vital funds for Polish LGBTQ+ charity Federacja Znaki Rownosci
38 MARK FARRELLY
Brian Butler shines a light on the acclaimed writer and actor
44 Classifieds 51 Services Directory 56 Advertisers’ Map
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Brighton & Hove Frontrunners raises funds for Lunch Positive
) Bruno, Brett and Tommy from Brighton & Hove Frontrunners, the friendly, mixed-ability running club for LGBTQ+ people and their supporters, ran the Brighton Marathon for Lunch Positive last month, raising over £1,000 for the charity. Lunch Positive provides a welcoming,
supportive and peer-led HIV community space. The charity offers healthy and enjoyable lunches, evening supper groups, and plenty of opportunities to socialise with other HIV+ people across Brighton and beyond. D For more info on Lunch Positive, visit: www.lunchpositive.org
Relaxing Kneads Professional Massage raises £300 for LGBTQ+ charities LGBT Switchboard and the Sussex Beacon. The total amount was raised through treatment pledges, client donations and a personal top-up from the business. The business said: “The pledges and client donations were topped up by us to make £300, which these two invaluable local charities will share equally between them. Thanks again to everyone that helped us raise the funds for them. You’re all amazing!”
) Relaxing Kneads Professional Massage, which offers holistic massage D For more info on Relaxing Kneads services in Brighton, announced last month it has raised £300, which will be Professional Massage, visit: split equally between Brighton & Hove www.relaxingkneads.co.uk
Unisex Hairsalon 18 St Georges Road, Kemptown, Brighton BN2 1EB
01273 623 408
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New report on supporting trans and nonbinary survivors of sexual violence
way to helping us and other centres to ensure that trans and non-binary survivors are getting the level of care they deserve.”
makes a series of recommendations for services who support survivors of sexual violence and abuse.
) Trans and non-binary survivors of sexual violence should be able to safely access existing support spaces, as well as having specialised spaces, declare local organisations Survivors’ Network and Brighton & Hove LGBT Switchboard, which have jointly released a report summarising findings from a consultation and group run for trans and non-binary survivors of sexual violence in Sussex.
The recommendations are: 1. Trans inclusion in existing spaces; 2. Trans & non-binary specific spaces (never at the expense of access elsewhere); 3. Service user involvement;
The two organisations worked together, through joint funding provided by the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, to consult the local trans, nonbinary and intersex community on their needs and to seek to create a safe, supportive space for survivors to share their experiences and provide peer support.
The report details the project’s success, shares comments from group member’s feedback and
5. Staff training, development and recruitment.
The project was created to address trans and nonbinary people who have experienced sexual violence struggling to find appropriate, inclusive support, and sought to understand what organisations can do to improve access.
4. Wide ranging, flexible, accessible support not tethered to the criminal justice system;
Jay Breslaw, Survivors’ Network CEO, said of the project: “We are so proud to share this work with our fellow Rape Crisis Centres, who we know are passionate about ensuring that all survivors are made to feel supported, listened to and believed. We hope that the recommendations from this report can go some
Jacob Bayliss, Switchboard CEO, added: “This is an incredibly important piece of work that speaks to the need for truly inclusive services and models a community-led approach to shaping and improving provision alongside survivors. “Working with Survivors’ Network has been such a rewarding process and together we’ve learned so much that we hope we can share with any group or organisation wanting to hold a space for trans and non-binary survivors or simply to better understand the issues and ideas around inclusion.” The report highlighted the importance of the group that was developed within this project, and the impact that ending it due to funding expiring had on group members. Survivors’ Network is actively seeking funding for the continuation of this group. D To see the report, visit: www. survivorsnetwork.org.uk/wp-content/ uploads/2021/08/I-am-not-alone..pdf ) Rape and sexual abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, gender, race, religion, culture or social status. If you have experienced sexual violence at any point in your life then you can contact Survivors’ Network on 01273 203380, via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.survivorsnetwork.org.uk for more info on services. D For more info on Brighton & Hove LGBT Switchboard, visit: www.switchboard.org.uk
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MindOut plants Suicide Memorial Tree in Hove
) LGBTQ+ mental health charity MindOut planted a Suicide Memorial Tree in St Ann’s Well Gardens, Hove last month.
remembers LGBTQ+ people lost to suicide but is also a beacon of how important suicide prevention work is to MindOut.”
MindOut said: “This memorial not only
Terrence Higgins Trust launches World AIDS Day Ribbon Walk 2021
) This World AIDS Day, Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) is walking to remember, to end HIV transmissions and change people’s perceptions of HIV. THT wants everyone to know that HIV doesn’t have to stand in the way of doing anything you want to do. HIV has changed and effective treatment has transformed what an HIV diagnosis means and you can live a long, healthy life with the virus. THT said: “This year, we’re walking because HIV has changed - and the rest of the world needs to catch up!” Entry is £20 and THT will be walking for
10km in the following locations: • Glasgow: Sunday, November 21, starting and ending at Speakeasy. • Brighton: Sunday, November 28, starting and ending at the Charles Street Tap. • London: Sunday, December 5, starting and ending at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. D For more info and to enter, visit: www.tht.org.uk/take-action/worldaids-day/world-aids-day-ribbonwalk-2021
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City Council shares updated Trans Allsorts Youth Project seeks Inclusion Toolkit with schools LGBTQ+ Advocacy Worker ) Last month, Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC) announced it has shared an updated version of its Trans Inclusion Toolkit with all local schools. New content reflects feedback from a wide range of groups including parents, carers, and year 10 pupils who took part in a consultation exercise earlier in the year. The toolkit is one of several guides produced by BHCC around safeguarding, equality and anti-bullying policies that support the whole school community. Advice is for trans inclusion work to be applied within an equalities framework that prevents gender stereotyping and sexism. The kit was originally produced in 2013 to support children and young people whose gender identity did not align with their gender registered at birth.
CLLR HANNAH CLARE
Hannah Clare, chair of the Children, Young People & Skills Committee, said: “This is an important piece of work to ensure all pupils in our city’s schools feel safe and supported. “Supporting trans children is just one vital part of continued efforts to tackle any form of discrimination. “We want all pupils to feel comfortable in their own skin so they can make the most of all that education offers and flourish into being the very best version of themselves. “Many of our schools are already working to ensure that their environment and curriculum celebrates all children and their families. This toolkit provides guidance on how to ensure trans members of the community feel equally welcome, represented, and safe in our city”. Research by LGBTQ+ advocacy organisation Just Like Us found LGBTQ+ school pupils are twice as likely to experience bullying than their straight, cisgender peers. The study, conducted independently by Cibyl on behalf of Just Like Us, interviewed 2,934 pupils aged 11-18 (1,140 of whom identified as LGBTQ+) and 513 educators across the UK. It reports that schools with an inclusive culture also see a reduction in pupils’ suicidal thoughts and feelings, and have a positive impact on all pupils’ mental health, regardless of whether they are LGBTQ+ or not. Cllr Clare adds: “We’re proud to have trans guidance as part of our equalities practice. Sending positive messages of LGBTQ+ acceptance goes together with positive outcomes for all pupils. “This is an important, child-centred piece of work and much care has been taken in its development.” The toolkit has now been in the city’s schools for more than eight years. It offers practical advice about how to help vulnerable young people questioning their identity or who’ve identified as trans. Prepared in consultation with key partner Allsorts Youth Project and local schools, the guidance covers topics such as gender stereotyping, language, clothing, name changes, safeguarding, confidentiality, toilet provision, special educational needs, pronoun use and changing facilities for sports. A joint Notice of Motion about trans inclusion was agreed by Brighton & Hove’s Green, Labour and Conservative groups at a full council meeting in January 2021. D For more about Brighton & Hove’s Trans Inclusion Toolkit for Schools, visit: www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/families-children-and-learning/informationabout-our-trans-inclusion-schools-toolkit
) Allsorts Youth Project is looking to recruit an experienced and knowledgeable LGBTQ+ Young People’s Advocacy Worker in West Sussex to support LGBTQ+ children and young people to make important decisions about their needs and ensure their wishes and feelings are expressed and acted upon to improve their situation and to help them build a better future About the position: • Sixteen hours per week; • £25,481 per annum pro rata; • Application deadline:
Thursday, October 7 at 5pm. Allsorts Youth Project is a charity that listens to, supports and connects children and young people under 26 who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or exploring their sexual orientation and/ or gender identity. The charity offers: Youth Groups, One-to-One Support, Advocacy, Family Support, Schools Work, Training & Education, Resources, and more. D For full details, visit: www. allsortsyouth.org.uk/about/jobs
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Hull University announces scholarships for LGBTQ+ students JEREMY ROUND IN THE '80S
Jeremy Trevathan, Jeremy Round’s former partner, has part-funded the scholarships. He said: “I wanted to support this scholarship because of a period I experienced when I found myself alone, unable to talk with my family as I hadn’t come out to them, and was rejected by the new friends I thought I’d made at the beginning of my adult life.
) Ten new scholarships to support the LGBTQ+ community have been announced by the University of Hull. The Jeremy Round Scholarship, named in memory of the university alumnus, cookery writer and journalist, will award each recipient with £1,000 to support the costs of study.
“It was a tough time for me, but I found my way through. There are many types of isolation that all undergraduates can experience.
Those who are successful can use the funds to cover accommodation costs, living expenses, books and other educational equipment.
“I wanted to set something up specifically for LGBTQ+ students who may have particular experiences and who may need some financial support in particular.”
To be eligible, students must identify as LGBTQ+ and either have a household income of under £25,000, or a disability. The closing date is Friday, October 15.
D For more info, visit: www.hull.ac.uk/choose-hull/studyat-hull/money/awards/jeremyround-lgbtq-scholarship
Helen Jones, MindOut CEO, steps down SIMON FILLERY
Simon Fillery, chair of the board, added: “On behalf of the board I want to thank Helen for all her hard work over the past 20 years.
“She should be incredibly proud of the work she has done in establishing MindOut as a leading LGBTQ+ mental health charity.
) After 21 years with LGBTQ+ mental health charity MindOut and 10 years as its CEO, Helen Jones is stepping down. Helen said: “I have had the enormous privilege of leading a fantastic organisation for over 20 years! “I am very proud to be handing over a growing, effective, influential charity. MindOut holds a unique place in the LGBTQ+ and mental health sectors. LGBTQ+ mental health has never been a more important issue and we are confident we will find a great person to take MindOut to the next level.”
“Helen leaves an incredible legacy and an amazing opportunity to grow the charity, for whoever becomes our new CEO. “We look forward to welcoming some amazing applications to become CEO over the next few weeks.” D For enquiries about the post and the application process, visit: www.mindout.org.uk/jobs
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Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS, visits Brighton related illnesses in 1992. Winnie had the opportunity to meet the artist and discuss the inspiration behind the piece.
WINNIE VISITING BRIGHTON AIDS MEMORIAL
Winnie added: “Brighton has made significant progress in the fight against HIV due to their innovative approach. The HIV test vending machines have been fundamental in allowing individuals to take control of their sexual health and the local organisations there are the life force of people living with HIV. The work they have done over the past 40 years to build a community is invaluable. “Brighton’s success shows the effectiveness of political action combined with community-centred support in the fight against HIV. I feel enriched by everything I’ve learned from the city’s services. We will use lessons learned in Brighton to inspire our global response to the AIDS pandemic.”
In 2016, Brighton became the first city in the UK to join the Fast-Track Cities initiative, a group of cities from across the world that have pledged to work towards zero new HIV infections. The city has earned its reputation of being a world leader in HIV prevention and treatment by exceeding the initiative’s target of 90-90-90. Ninty-three per cent of people living with HIV know their status, 99% of those are on treatment and 98% of those on treatment are undetectable which means levels of virus in the blood are so low that they can’t pass on HIV.
WINNIE AT LUNCH POSITIVE
“In order to achieve this goal, we need to see more funding for opt-out HIV testing in A&E and primary care and make every blood test count. By normalising HIV testing in these settings, we can reach the undiagnosed.
Lunch Positive, which offers a welcoming, supportive and peer-led HIV community space, hosted a community lunch and HIV sector gathering last month for Winnie and guests, put together by volunteers, connecting people with HIV, its members and leaders from HIV organisations, including Frontline AIDS, Elton John AIDS Foundation and Terrence Higgins Trust (THT). Winnie said: “What can I say! Thank you Lunch Positive; thank you Gary and the volunteers you work with. You have built and you sustain a community of people living with HIV, fighting stigma, partnering with researchers and the council to spur prevention, testing and treatment innovations that work for people. Awesome!” The final stop of the visit was Tay, Brighton’s AIDS Memorial in New Steine Gardens, for a moment of reflection and remembrance. Created by Romany Mark Bruce, the sculpture was inspired by Paul Tay, Romany’s friend and soulmate who died from AIDS-
“HIV stigma and discrimination also remain a barrier to progress. In Brighton, our local organisations are working collaboratively towards a stigma-free city, however, we need to see a robust and fullyfunded HIV action plan from the UK government to ensure we can continue working to smash stigma and change perceptions of people living with HIV.” D For more info on Lunch Positive, visit: www.lunchpositive.org D For more info on THT, visit: www.tht.org.uk WINNIE OBSERVING JUBILEE LIBRARY HIV TEST VENDING MACHINES
During the visit, Winnie observed Jubilee Library’s HIV test vending machines. Installed by the Martin Fisher Foundation in 2017, these machines are a world-first and distribute free self-tests which give a result in just a few minutes. They have been instrumental in Brighton in improving diagnosis rates and destigmatising testing.
Marc Tweed, centre manager at THT Brighton, said: “Although we’re doing incredibly well here in Brighton, we have our sights set on achieving zero new cases by 2030 and must not be complacent.
During her visit, Winnie met with many local community organisations and other stakeholders involved in HIV prevention and care in Brighton, as well as local MPs and the leader of Brighton & Hove City Council to discuss the city’s successful approach to HIV prevention and treatment.
) Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS, visited Brighton last month as part of her UK visit to observe how the city has led the way in HIV prevention and treatment. Winnie is a global leader in the United Nations’ efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 and is a passionate and longstanding champion of social justice and gender equality.
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Free QTIBIPoC Mental Health First Aid Training course not QTIBIPoC but the training will be supported by Shona Raine and Ven Paldano (from QTIPoC Narratives) who are both QTBIPoC Mental Health First Aiders. There are 16 places available on the course, held on the following weekends in October (12 - 3pm each day): • Saturday 9 & Sunday 10 • Saturday 16 & Sunday 17 ) QTIPoC Narratives, the Brightonbased collective, creating workshops, art, zines and alternative mental health space, has announced it is supporting a free online Mental Health First Aid Training course for the QTIBIPoC (Queer, Trans and Intersex, Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) community this month. It is hoped this course will support in strengthening the QTIBIPoC community in holding safer space and protecting mental health. The course for QTIBIPoC people only is being offered free by Mental Health First Aid instructor Davey Shields. Davey is
To sign up to the course, visit: https:// tinyurl.com/QNmhfa Note: this course usually costs £300, so only sign up if you are sure you can commit to all the four dates.
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New study reveals main healthcare issues facing TNBI and QTIBIPoC communities
• Safe housing options should be available • All facilities should have gender neutral toilets • Better access to voice coaching, hair removal, fertility services, and sexual health services. All the findings were the result of focus groups and interviews held between January and June 2021 with TNBI and QTIPoC community members and charity sector workers who supported these communities. A final community consultation on the report was held in August.
) A new study has revealed that the main healthcare issue facing trans, non-binary, intersex and gender variant (TNBI) and queer, trans, intersex, black indigenous people of colour (QTIBIPoC) communities in Brighton & Hove and Hastings & Rother is a lack of knowledge, training and respect for them and their needs in primary care settings.
In an attempt to address the concerns raised, the report has made a number of recommendations, primarily training for healthcare providers in: TNBI community awareness; anti-racism and white allyship; and around anxiety and neurodiversity.
The Train and Treat community consultation report, authored by Josetta Malcolm, was designed and run by the Clare Project with funding from Brighton & Hove and East Sussex NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups. Among the key themes to come out of the consultation were: the need within GP surgeries for training, knowledge and respect; fear of accessing services; misgendering and binary record keeping; racism; access and waiting times for GIC; cancer screening, sexual health and fertility; intersex issues and mental health awareness and support. However, also highlighted were positive experiences of the Trans Health Hub and trans-affirmative care and it emerged that participants valued trusted TNBI services, such as the Hastings & Rother Rainbow Alliance (HRRA) TNBI project, which contributed to the planning of the report, Navigate and the Clare Project.
Three focus groups - one of which was QTIPoC only - were held, along with 14 further interviews. Of the 25 people who took part, 22 were TNB, two were intersex, three cisgender and LGBQ. Six were PoC and two migrant refugee asylum seekers. In conclusion the report states: “This consultation project has spotlighted the many issues and barriers faced by the diverse TNBI communities of Brighton & Hove, and Hastings. Respondents also wanted more affirmative TNBI healthcare, including access to services such as bridging hormones, more TNBI and PoC staff members; and for healthcare to be more GP than GIC led. Further recommendations were: • GP practices could sign up to TNBI pledge around code of conduct similar to Rainbow schemes • Need for specific intersex services and management frameworks • Information about accessing healthcare should be available in multiple languages and easy read formats • TNBI-led and TNBI-affirmative community organisations should be better resourced • A local GIC should be set up, which is primary care-led • TNBI-specific counselling and mental health support should be available
“The main findings were of a diverse population of people with a range of health needs being underserved and unsupported. The dominant theme was the woefully inadequate provision of trans affirming healthcare, which respondents revealed was causing high levels of frustration and distress, ultimately worsening their mental and physical health. “The widespread fear and discrimination experienced by this group can be addressed with training and awareness of TNBI needs and the subsequent improvement and development of primary healthcare services. This training and service development needs to take a wide-ranging intersectional lens that properly addresses accessing gender affirming and general healthcare, mental health support, intersex needs, racism and the exclusion of MRAS. “The recommendations are clear and the TNBI communities have called for swift and meaningful action to follow, led by and in collaboration with the community.”
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Brighton Half Marathon to take place on Sunday, October 10 This year’s event was postponed from its usual slot in February to October 10 due to the pandemic, and the organisers want to thank all the runners, charities and sponsors for their continued support during this difficult year.
) The Brighton Half Marathon, organised by Brighton-based charity the Sussex Beacon, which provides specialist support and care for people living with HIV, is to take place on Sunday, October 10.
This year’s race will be started by Jill Nalder, actress, activist and patron of the Sussex Beacon, best known as the inspiration behind the character Jill Baxter in the Channel 4 series, It’s A Sin.
Bill Puddicombe, chief executive of the Sussex Beacon, said: “The Brighton Half Marathon is a big day for the Sussex Beacon, but also for all the other charities, runners and volunteers who help out on the day.” The race starts for runners at 9am on Madeira Drive before winding its way around some of Brighton’s most iconic sites including the Palace Pier, the Grand Brighton, the Royal Pavilion, West Pier, Brighton Marina, and the colourful Hove Beach Huts.
Jill said: “It’s a real honour to start the Brighton Half Marathon and support the fantastic work the Sussex Beacon does for people living with HIV.
The Brighton Half Marathon, now in its 31st year, was started by a small group of individuals in the early 1990s and the money raised from that very first event was used to help fund the building of the Sussex Beacon. Today, the event is the biggest annual fundraising event for the charity, supporting a specialist HIV care centre in Brighton.
“Events like this are so important, not only as fundraising events for worthwhile charities, but also because they remind us all that HIV still affects many communities around the world. By coming together we can show our support and allyship with the people living with this condition today.” D For more info, visit: www.brightonhalfmarathon.com D More info on the Sussex Beacon: www.sussexbeacon.org.uk
The winds of change are afoot at Actually Gay Men’s Chorus Gavin said: “I’ve enjoyed being a member of the Actually family for three years now, and I would hope to continue the great work of those before me. Always respectful of the past and proud of where AGMC has come from over the past 15 years, I like to think that I’m forward thinking and am excited at the prospect of working with Samuel who has exciting ideas for the Chorus in the future.” ) Actually Gay Men’s Chorus would like to thank Nick Paget, Alan Kite, Andrew Whitlaw, and Patrick Bullock for their time and service on the board. At the Company’s AGM, the members voted in a new board for Actually CIC, with Ian Groves, Michael Prudence and John Brown being appointed directors, and Gavin Walker Mason-Bennett becoming Actually’s new chairman.
Actually is currently welcoming new members. It’s also working on its winter performances, including Actually… With Bells On!, a Christmas spectacular at Brighton St Mary’s on December 17 and 18. D www.actuallygmc.org Photo: Former chairs Alan Baser and Nick Paget passing on the crown to Gavin Mason-Bennett at the Bedford Tavern
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Because that’s how I changed my views. I’ll be totally honest, I was one of those annoying teen queens who sneered at kink and anything that wasn’t vanilla. But I didn’t know any better. Anal was mindblowing enough, at that time. Thankfully my views changed when I met more people and worked my way around the gay scene. I loved exploring. I now like to think of it as I’m always learning. Being willing to learn and not prejudge is vital, of course. To digress ever so slightly, because I think this next point applies to a range of topics; if we don’t afford people the chance to grow and learn from past mistakes, how do we think we will be able to evolve together as a society? Forever divided? And I don’t mean those who have a reputation of vomiting out terrible bigoted views. But the person whose innocuous tweets are dug up from a decade or so ago when their views were shaped by much less life experience. This trend that is only really prevalent online, to act as judge, jury and executioner, declaring people ‘problematic’ – a word that is so overused – over something that can be easily resolved is just not helpful. It divides us further. I tweeted this the other day, and I stand by it: “Some people want to be so right on dude and critique everything to within an inch of its life that they end up doing damage to the cause they are supposedly so passionate about.”
STOP BEING SO HORRIFIED ABOUT SEX; TAKE IT ON THE CHIN! By Jason Reid
) Don’t you just love
this time of the year!? When all the focus is on things that go bump in the night and having the willies put up you. And of course it’s my moral obligation to the gays to at least attempt to make a link, no matter how tenuous that may be. But seriously, it’s time to stop being so horrified about sex, and take it on the chin. That last part is absolutely meant as a double entendre. It wouldn’t be my style otherwise. Remembering when I first came out and started exploring my sexuality, it was like I’d be transported to another world of endless pleasure. A vast difference from the strict Catholic school where I’d spent 12 years of my life being indoctrinated into believing sex should only ever be between a man and a woman, for the sole purpose of procreation.
There was zero gay representation anywhere – not even a sniff of poppers. Apart from my fabulously camp drama teacher who I pranced around with in year 10 and 11 while pretending to be a tree. She knew. I could tell. Years later she got in touch with me on social media and confirmed both our suspicions. So there was a lot that frightened me when I began my gay sex journey. Fear of the unknown. And plenty of judgement, too, because that had been drummed into me. That’s why I can understand that there’s always a root cause to people being all twee and snooty about sex. I mean, first off we’re British so it comes naturally. Nervously laugh about it, and move on. It’s like a national sport. Overcoming that fear and judgement really is key. I have got to an age now where I try, as hard as it can be at times, to give people the benefit of the doubt, while at the same time trying to guide them down a more open-minded path.
I’ve come to believe this more and more of late. The more I use Twitter, in fact. A platform I really enjoy using. Which is… problematic. Back to the fear of sex… Like any kind of fear, I guess the best way to overcome it is to understand and embrace it. Pushing one’s boundaries ever so slightly to begin with, perhaps taking yourself somewhere you wouldn’t normally go. Maybe a sauna or sex club. That’s how I started.
“There was a lot that frightened me when I began my gay sex journey. Fear of the unknown. And plenty of judgement, too, because that had been drummed into me” Also, I’m not saying that the idea of being vanilla completely is wrong, no way, no one has a right to dictate that. If it works for you AND you’ve got an open-mind it’s a win win situation. But I do think humans instinctively enjoy new thrills and adventure. Eventually we all grow out of being fearful of monsters and vampires, instead embracing art that pushes us to the limit and tantalises our senses. In the same respect we really need to find a way to grow out of being ashamed to talk openly about sex, and tittering nervously when someone dares to bring it up. More sex please, even though we’re British!
My Transgender Date
We sit down with the founders of My Transgender Date, Cyril Mazur and Maki Gingoyon, as they tell us their journey of building the leading trans dating site worldwide ) How
did My Transgender Date start out? Cyril: Maki and I met in 2011. She is trans, I’m transoriented, so we both knew the challenges of dating for people like us. Online dating for trans women was all about sexualisation and objectifying them. Being an experienced web developer, I decided to build the first decent dating site for trans women. Then My Transgender Date was born. Why hire mostly trans women? Maki: No-one could better understand the issues of trans women than trans women themselves. Having a team of trans women is an edge because it makes our dating site more effective than others. We have the same experiences with other transgender
women when it comes to online dating, which helps us to identify problems and find solutions. What are the biggest challenges of a dating website? Cyril: Many people distrust dating sites, so we had to build My Transgender Date with the highest quality service, transparency and consistency to gain our members’ trust. It took time, but we are now the most trusted dating site for trans women. Maki: We have to be alert in weeding out unwanted profiles to ensure the safety of our members. Thankfully with our advanced system and moderators who work 24/7, we manage to keep the site clean, and deliver a quality dating experience.
Why change from My Transsexual Date to My Transgender Date? Cyril: ‘Transsexual’ is perfectly valid, but an increasing majority of trans women now prefer to employ ‘transgender’ instead. So we simply follow what our members want. Maki: I have been advocating for the term transgender ever since we started the site. As a trans advocate I observed that there are more trans women who are comfortable using the word transgender, even when it wasn’t popular back then. I personally believe that transgender woman is a term that’s more globally used by trans women. What’s next? Cyril: We will release our mobile app, which will have the same user base as the site and be the de facto #1 trans dating app. Second, we will expand to more countries, especially to the least LGBTQ+ friendly countries, because these are the trans women who need a safe and decent dating platform the most. D www.mytransgenderdate.com T @MyTGdate
Asians. Eventually in 1972 dictator Idi Amin expelled all Asians from the country, many of whom came to the UK where the government then offered them safe passage. Where is the understanding of the desperation of today’s migrants? Where is the empathy?
MAKE IT RIGHT. OR PAY BACK, IN KIND By Craig Hanlon-Smith ) Maybe it was
tougher before and so our skin was thicker. Perhaps we’ve never had it so good and so hiccups feel like mountains. Whatever our collective and individual context, we the LGBTblah blah might want to pull our heads out of our asses and wake up to the universe. You think it’s bumpy now? Buckle up. As a country we have been creeping more to the politically respectable right for some, the current government is just the next stage in this journey, but be clear about this, right is their direction of travel. We have as a nation, at the time of writing, aligned ourselves to an international military pact with a global superpower, which aside from stepping outside of the internationally recognised communities such as NATO is willy waving of the highest order. I am aware that suggesting the nation‘s behaviour is overly concerned with the praise of male genitalia could be misconstrued as sexist, but like sexism, willy waving and ball scratching on an international scale is stupid. And so is this country. We are part of this country, we the LGBTblah blah and are by definition no less daft than the rest of them. Perhaps even dafter on occasion as we believed the sands had shifted. Remember those halcyon days of progress when we leapt for joy at the introduction of civil partnerships? Of course, this was a vital step in our collective history and yet interesting as a leader of western democracy it was generally accepted that Britain wouldn’t stomach a move to full marriage equality so soon. Despite Spain, a dictatorship not 30 years prior and a celebrated state of
Catholicism, offering full marriage even before we had adopted our socially acceptable version. This is a conservative country and for those LGBTQ+ Tories among you, the majority of Conservative MPs voted against the introduction of Civil Partnerships. David Cameron claimed same-sex marriage as a personal victory of his time as Prime Minister, and yet that legislation was only passed because the coalition partners voted alongside all of the non-Conservative MPs, most of which voted against the measure. The voting statistics on these measures are a matter of public record. Look them up. The last strains of EU remainers have been removed from government in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s latest cabinet reshuffle, and while much has been made in the (increasingly right of centre) national publicly funded media of the amount of women in the new set, these are hardline Conservative politicians playing to the gallery. I feel the most empathy towards Priti Patel who it is clear hates herself. We should also understand more than most where she is coming from. All minorities have usually experienced some form of trauma during their early years, which if unaddressed plays out in adulthood. As a gay person I often feel the need to over-prove my worth in both work and the world, as if to show anyone who cares to listen, that the gayness doesn’t matter. We see this in the Home Secretary’s excessive hostility towards refugees, and it is excessive. Immigration is always a tough call and a discussion topic which often inflames. But sending in the warships? Using boarder control boats to dangerously nose-nudge packed dinghies into French waters, breaking international maritime law? Ms Patel’s parents fled Uganda in the 1960s, a country that was at the time hostile to
We see this level of disassociation in our own communities. Finding a level of champagne socialism that adores the finer things in life while conveniently forgetting the journey. I understand it’s painful and the separation of our former lives from our present is often a survival technique to not only live, but to just about hang on in there. Who wants to be reminded of the spittings, the beatings, the assaults, the humiliation, the aggression, the patronising half inclusion and it is likely Ms Patel and her family experienced many of these as have we in our own different minority journeys, whatever they may be. What was the point of all that suffering if it is not to ultimately turn it around and find some kindness for others?
“Life is about to get tougher for those who are different and those with the means will assimilate with our detractors in order to survive” We’ve all met those privileged gay and bisexual people who having found their often-financial success as a result stepped out of the frame. I once experienced a well-known successful gay businessman whom there is no need to name here, and his friends humiliate a homeless person who asked them for money. As day broke and the gay throngs amassed at a busy Soho pavement café they threw him a jacket exclaiming “because it’s fucked anyway”, and leapt into a taxi laughing heartily about their good fortune and his poverty. It was 20 years ago, and I have always remembered it. Sometimes we learn from our celebrated community leaders how not to behave. It’s a brave choice when that is the way the wind is blowing and make no mistake, that is the way it is blowing today. Life is about to get tougher for those who are different and those with the means will assimilate with our detractors in order to survive. Watch, learn and know that you don’t have to go with them. And the homeless guy? He chased that taxi, ripped a sleeve from the coat and threw it back at them. He had self-respect. Do you?
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The underwear brands that rocked summer ) I think the headline might be a bit deceiving
as I am not sure we can call the last few months summer. We still have a few weeks left till winter, so we have everything crossed for some final rays of sunshine. Here at esmale we had been looking forward to the summer, especially now that we have been let loose again and lockdown is over. We could finally be out and show some flesh, one of our favourite things about warm weather. Those that shop with us know by now that we are not just a gay sex toys store. We also have a massive collection of underwear, fetish gear and essentials that make your adult fun even more enjoyable.
Addicted Underwear This brand has been a bestseller on the gay scene for many years. Designed in Barcelona, the range is colourful and comfortable. At Addicted they have a great eye for detail and many of their items have accentuating features allowing you to show of all your assets. They also have a sub-collection called AD Fetish, which does what it says on the tin and caters towards a more hardcore look. Breedwell Jockstrap collection This brand is new to esmale but must have had some popularity in the UK as it started selling straight away. Like the AD Fetish range the focus is on the more adult side of underwear. Besides jockstraps, they have some great briefs as well. Some of their items have a very sexy removable pouch feature for easy access. We import this range from the US so you can get it here in the UK. Definitely a brand to watch and explore for all the naughty guys out there. We will be adding more styles soon. Bill and Brandon Underwear Third place was a close call as Pump Underwear was also a contender. As Bill and Brandon is a new underwear brand, we thought
it might be nice to highlight them. We also like the fact that they are UK-based. It is a great range and really very comfortable. This is one of those brands that you need to see on a man to discover how sexy it looks. The designs are simple but stand out at the same time. There you have it, the three ranges that were the most popular in our store during summer. It is nice to see some new brands in there. Another trend we saw was that customers are liking their underwear a bit more erotic at the moment. Backless briefs, enhancing underwear and easy access features are really in demand. Maybe this is because we have been ‘locked up’ for so long that all we want is to see and reveal some flesh, ready for action. You can check out these and many more ranges in our store and don’t forget to have a look at our other areas as well, especially now that the sale is on. This is also the case for our friends at Popper Super Shop for the best poppers in the UK. For any questions feel to contact us via www.esmale.com. With love, Team esmale
WHO YOU GONNA CALL?...
We all know the answer to that one, and none better than The Paranormal Finding Hauntings group. Jaq Bayles gets ghosted in the nicest possible way, introducing the theme for this month’s issue
PICTURE BY NICK FORD PHOTOGRAPHY
Scene 19 PICTURE BY NICK FORD PHOTOGRAPHY
) There’s an LGBTQ+ group for everyone, right?
Sports, history, literature, music, dancing… but what of those whose interests are more otherworldly? Well, there’s a group for that too. The Paranormal Finding Hauntings (TPFH) was originally established in 2010 by Hovebased Robert Murphy-Smith and is now an eight-strong team – very inclusive with the majority identifying as LGBTQ+ and several who are registered disabled – which investigates all things ghostly all around the UK. From castles to prisons, bunkers to pubs, woods to private homes, Robert and his team haul out their voice recorders, structured light scanner (SLS), cameras, infra-red lights and electromagnetic field meter (EMF)– often in the dead of night – seeking proof of life beyond the grave. And they have recorded evidence of their findings, which they offer up on their own YouTube channel. So how did it all begin? Robert has always had an interest in the paranormal, having heard tales from his mother – herself having Wiccan ancestry – about his own childhood home having been haunted, and decided to set up a ghost hunting group. His first foray into the practice was at Bramber Castle, where apparently there have been sightings of children begging for food. He and his sister, Nikki, armed only with notepads and torches, went to investigate the phenomenon. “The ghosts were supposed the be the children of an old lord who had upset the king and the king starved the kids and the wife to death, and I think he executed the lord.” That first trip didn’t go so well as his sister got scared and ran away. “I thought, ‘I can’t just go out with my sister’ and got in touch with a few old schoolmates because I’d heard they were into the paranormal.” Among them was Lisa Walker, who is the unique team’s longest-standing member and lead investigator and coordinator. She too has had her own paranormal experiences in childhood, and also appears to get the brunt on investigations. While mostly the team don’t find things until they begin reviewing their recordings, Lisa says: “Every time we go out on investigations it seems like it’s me who gets the raw deal. One castle we visited we were looking at this piece of wall and a block of it was chucked into my face. It was quite a big stone and it smacked me on my eye. That scared me and I don’t usually get scared. “And when we went to the Screaming Woods (Dering Wood in Kent), one minute I was all right then the next minute I felt sick. Then I was literally puking and I lost all my energy to the point where Dave had to practically carry me back to the car.” Robert and Lisa have since been joined by Robert’s husband and demonologist Richard Murphy-Smith; angel card reader and crystal healer, Saffron Hodges; team sceptic, David Walsh; paranormal investigator, Owen ‘OJ’
Luxford; cameraman and analyst, Noah Green; and psychic, Ben Alexander.
some are dust.” (Orbs are often the spirit of a loved one.)
Soon after setting up as a paranormal investigator, Robert went to a medium night where the medium singled him out among the crowd and told him: “You are covered by a lot of light, and from the darkness the light can be found. You also have started in the paranormal world, you must keep doing it because you are gifted.” This drove his determination to “know if there’s something out there, is there life after death. Why do people see these things?”
Why does Robert think so many LGBTQ+ people have experiences of the paranormal?
Robert continues: “There are so many people who see ghosts and things like that and other people that don’t. So I wanted to try to investigate if there was something or if they were just seeing things. “We’ve been to Bramber a few times and got evidence. We’ve got an apparition of a girl stood in a bushy area you can see in one of the pictures. Also a random mist we saw that just appeared from nowhere. We get a lot of orbs but
“I assume it’s because in the LGBTQ+ community they are more susceptible to things because of the hardships they go through growing up, having to learn to stand on their own two feet, being pushed out by their families. Usually spirits are attracted to troubled souls; that’s probably why a lot of LGBTQ+ people see spirits and get involved in the spiritual side of things.” The team does invite people to join them on some of their investigations, and this has proved popular. Robert, who suffers from fibromyalgia, says: “Having it as an LGBTQ+ group and with disabled people makes people feel more comfortable – it’s a safe haven, somewhere for them to go. “I had a couple last year ringing up in lockdown ) Continued over page...
MORE ABOUT THE PARANORMAL FINDING HAUNTINGS TEAM ) The Paranormal Finding Hauntings (TPFH)
group tries to cover all bases in the complex world of the supernatural with the individual talents of its team members, with the newest recruit being psychic Ben Alexander, who believes the seeming ‘accident’ by which he found the group was actually meant to be. A gay man with visual impairment, Ben was recently online seeking a new cane to assist with guiding him. He had for some time been praying to find a psychic development circle and when he put his home town and equipment requirements into his search engine, an article about TPFH from Pink UK popped up.“Obviously because I’d been praying for help to find a psychic development circle this came up. You could say it was by accident but it was meant to be.” Praying to his higher power and the universe is a big part of Ben’s life – he is not religious but has a “very high spiritual belief” as he tries to help people less ‘sensitive’ than he navigate the spiritual world. He has known he is psychic from a very early age, seeing shadows and apparitions and sensing discord in others. “For me it’s about having a sixth sense,” he says. “We are all psychic anyway but some people are more open than others and I’ve just been granted a gift. It can be a curse at times if I’m honest.” By this he means that not everybody appreciates the insight his sensitivity can and saying they don’t go out anywhere, don’t go to pubs and clubs, don’t make any friends, don’t like to go out on the scene. So it’s nice that people can come with us on events, feel comfortable and can get stuck in. We’ve done quite a few events – the old Brighton Prison Cells, Lewes Priory, Dering Woods in Kent, which is also known as the Screaming Woods. “A lot of people struggle to talk about their experiences because others usually say, ‘Shut up, you’re imagining it’ and it gets brushed off. So coming to our events, it’s a place for them to share their experiences of the paranormal world.” Lockdown put TPFH’s events and investigations on hold, but also gave the team time to think more about what they wanted to do and where they wanted to go, which resulted in the rebranding, along with buying new and better equipment. And this year they have also investigated and “cleansed” a couple of private homes. Robert expands on this: “Some people are absolutely petrified of living in their homes because things are being moved, they’ve been pulled out of bed, they’re hearing bangs and voices.
“Obviously, part of our investigation is to make sure they haven’t got any mental health problems or might be hearing things because of an underlying illness or something, so we cross reference and interview them before we go and investigate in their house. When we get to their house we do a walk-through with the camera and get them to explain to us what’s gone on where so we can decide where want to set up the cameras and SLS.” The “cleansing” begins with smudging – the burning of sage – around windows, doors and walls if there have been sightings of something moving through a wall. From there is a process of “politely” asking the spirits to “leave the home, leave these people alone”. Robert continues: “The second stage of that would be putting salt across the front door and all the doors around the hallway, which is meant to stop the spirits being able to cross over.” (In case you’re wondering about practicalities and housekeeping, the salt only has to remain for 24-48 hours). “Then the third approach is slightly more aggressive, telling them to leave and being more forceful.” This sees a return to the Wiccan ways Robert inherited from his mother. “I have my Wiccan book and I give a protection spell which they
bring. But more often than not he has brought comfort to the people he does readings for and has surprised even the most sceptical with the accuracy of his descriptions of loved ones who have passed away, or even of existing situations about which he should have no knowledge. Ben’s favoured method for readings is psychometry, or ‘object reading’, in which he uses a personal belonging of the person he is reading for, often keys, to get his sense of what is going on. Of course, many are sceptical of psychics and often with good reason, as Ben admits there are more than a few imposters who take advantage of people’s longing for contact with lost loved ones. Speaking of sceptics, TPFH’s own Dave Walsh – another recent recruit who also runs Pink UK – is the grounding force when it comes to investigations. Robert Murphy-Smith says: “He gives us reasons for why something might have happened. For example, if there’s a spike in the EMF, he might say someone’s mobile phone was near the video. But he’s starting to believe more now after the private investigation we did a couple of weeks ago.” Among longer-standing members of the team are Saffron Hodges, who joined in 2011 and has been reading Angel cards for many years, has crystal healing experience, and brings the team together safely with her protection prayer, opening and closing prayers. And Robert’s husband Richard is a qualified demonologist, he watches out for signs that there could be demonic entities during the team’s investigative activities. [the home owners] wrap in tissue or whatever they want to wrap it in, then they have to hide it around the house somewhere no one will find it. If someone finds it the spell will be undone, but if it remains hidden your home will remain protected. “As my mum’s a Wiccan I’ve got a bit of Wiccan in me. I love all my crystals. I’ve got my drawer with all my wands and pentagram stuff so I am very much starting to get into that side. My granddad was a warlock and my mum, auntie and sisters all cast spells.” While there’s a serious side to what the team does, there’s a real element of fun too. “We do have quite a laugh. If it’s a private investigation obviously we are really serious, but when we’re doing castles and abbeys and that we do have a laugh and giggle with the team.” And there’s a chance that further fame is on the way as Robert has been contacted by Discovery+ channel about a potential show. So if you’re plagued by moans and groans and things that go bump in the night – outside your normal expectations! – you know who to call. As Robert says: “Have a Spooktacular day!” D www.findings-haunting.com
SLAYTINA I www.instagram.com/slaytinaaaa
Like your drag with extra bite? Scene raids through the crypt of SLAYTINA, the Philippines-based nonbinary drag artist and CEO of make-up brand DOPE, who was recently picked by local media as one of the most sickening queens they’d most like to see on the forthcoming Drag Race Philippines.
SLAYTINA I www.instagram.com/slaytinaaaa
more apparent on social media, with popular bisexual musician Princess Nokia sharing her bruja practices with her 900k+ Instagram followers. So how did queerness become so heavily intertwined with paganism and spiritual practices? With an extensive knowledge of the history of magick and a PhD in the Anthropology of Religion, there is perhaps no better person to answer that question than university lecturer and YouTube creator DR ANGELA LUCA
Dr Angela Puca (YouTube: Angela’s Symposium). Speaking to Scene, Dr Puca explained the historical connection between the LGBTQ+ community and paganism: “Paganism was particularly prevalent in the US in the early gay and women’s liberation movements – it then reached back to Europe through that lens, and having attended the pagan community in Italy for over 10 years, I have noticed that the overwhelming majority of self-identifying pagans are LGBTQ+.”
QUEER IN SPIRIT
Rachel Badham investigates the relationship between the LGBTQ+ community, paganism and witchcraft ) Queerness, the spiritual religion of paganism
and the practices of magick and witchcraft have long been companions. Historically, the diverse pagan community has provided a space for the marginalised, with contemporary paganism consisting of a rich array of traditions, alongside newer movements such as Eclectic Wicca. The intersection of queerness and spirituality is explored in the book Becoming Dangerous: Witchy Femmes, Queer Conjurers and Magical Rebels – a collection of personal essays in which those who identify with any kind of spiritual movement explain how they offer a kind of freedom that other religions do not. With many modern pagan subcultures actively rejecting hetero and cisnormativity, it’s no
wonder that LGBTQ+ people continue to be drawn to the notion of spirituality, whether that be identifying with the pagan religion or practising magick without any religious connotations.
“[The] witch community attracts people who are already rejecting binary notions of gender and heteronormativity” This phenomenon can be seen in pop culture, perhaps most notably in LGBTQ+ fan-favourite Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which combined queer representation with the practice of witchcraft. Similarly, the presence of spiritual religions and practices is becoming ever
Through her extensive research into paganism in Italy, Dr Puca has found that LGBTQ+ people have a very large presence within the pagan community and suggested that paganism may hold a certain appeal for queer people as its “world view tends to be more in line with a non-heteronormative way of looking at society”. While LGBTQ+ people often find themselves marginalised by dominant religions and movements, spiritual alternatives have provided a space for the queer community. Dr Puca says it is this marginalised state that often leaves LGBTQ+ people in a “liminal stage” where they are not fully part of society “due to patriarchal and heteronormative structures”. As a result, many queer people are both drawn to and identify with the societal and metaphysical liminality of alternative religions and/or spiritual practices, which, according to Dr Puca, can help marginalised groups of people affirm their sense of agency in a society where it is often denied. Today, practising magick continues to be a source of ‘empowerment’ for many queer people, with Dr Puca saying that this can be seen in “more recent ways of engaging with witchcraft and magick that are not necessarily practical – you can see people engaging with witchcraft on social media more in terms of
the aesthetics and embodying that.” She notes that even by just aesthetically embodying this archetype, it can possibly “help people who feel disempowered” by transforming their appearance into a symbol associated with the empowerment of marginalised groups such as the LGBTQ+ community. When it comes to witnessing the relationship between queerness and spirituality in the modern day, self-proclaimed feminist punk witches Dream Nails (consisting of Anya, Lucy, Leah and Mimi) are a fabulously riotous example of how practising witchcraft can provide a space of agency for LGBTQ+ people, with the collective now using their platform to address oppressive heteronormative structures. While members of the London-based band do not identify with paganism or Wicca as a religion, drummer Lucy explains that she identifies with the history of witches in folklore, and what “these figures represented in society”, with lead vocalist Leah adding they find empowerment in “reclaiming” the witch identity. Anya, the band’s guitarist, first discovered witchcraft at 19 and was “stunned by the incredible stories of real witches in the UK historically, and the level of persecution witches have always experienced”. She considers these witches, who often lived without a male partner, to be the first punks, adding: “We always say that we write hexes, not songs, because we feel that our collective power speaks to and draws from the power of women and LGBTQ+ people on the margins of society”, much like the witches who were also excluded from society. Descended from two great grandmothers who were spiritual healers, Leah feels that witchcraft is “ingrained” within them. They suggest that the “witch community attracts people who are already rejecting binary notions of gender and heteronormativity”, and provides an alternative community for those who feel or have been actively rejected from society. Noting that witchcraft is a deeply personal practice, Leah, who identifies as non-binary,
says that being a witch helps to assert “ownership of yourself and body”, adding: “For me that’s a very trans experience. Taking control and allowing yourself to live freely and truthfully.”
“We always say that we write hexes, not songs, because we feel that our collective power speaks to and draws from the power of women and LGBTQ+ people on the margins of society” Much like the witch community, punk as a subculture, genre and aesthetic is known for rejecting contemporary societal norms. Lucy says there are “huge parallels” between the Dream Nails definition of punk, which she articulates as “an attempt to construct a community, safe spaces, and music that is at once powerful, joyful and vengeful for people who are marginalised and negatively affected by patriarchal society”. Anya affirms that quite a few Dream Nails fans are practising witches, with music acting as “a vehicle” for the band’s message to ride in.
Dream Nails has a strong focus on LGBTQ+ liberation and human rights, with the band dedicating the sales of their Vagina Police EP to the Abortion Support Network. Anya says she has found the witch community to be “super-inclusive”, with the band’s message of equality and liberation appealing to many practising witches. For anyone interested in witchcraft, Anya says there are plenty of ways to discover more about magick, such as rituals that can be done with friends or spells that can be found online. She highlights that while the queer community and practising witches are “not homogeneous by any means”, there are many characteristics that these groups share, with the “rebellious spirit” and “rejection of the mainstream” being a key part of both. So, as many queer and marginalised people seek to affirm their individuality and existence in a society which has historically denied them such rights, their communities have colluded with paganism, witchcraft and magick in a way that can be witnessed today. While paganism and witchcraft isn’t exclusively for LGBTQ+ and marginalised people, it is the inclusivity of the community that seems to appeal to those who are searching for an alternative way to navigate the self and the world around us. For those who follow paganism or actively practise witchcraft, such as Dream Nails, spirituality has provided a much-needed space for resistance against the norm, while also allowing for the creation of a like-minded community. Leah explains this phenomenon, saying: “We all search for community and when you live in a cishet society that rejects you, you want something that allows you to tap into your power without rules and restrictions.” And it seems for many LGBTQ+ people, spirituality has offered this sense of empowerment that they have been denied for so long. D Angela’s Symposium: www.youtube.com/ channel/UCPSbip_LX2AxbGeAQfLp-Ig D Dream Nails: www.facebook.com/yourdreamnails
PRIMADONNA GIRL OF THE UNDERWORLD By Catherine Muxworthy
) Amber Cadaverous is an international
visual artist, based in Birmingham, who specialises in drag performance as well as photography and film. She has travelled the world with her drag, performing in Rhode Island, Chicago, Milwaukee, as well as up and down the UK.
“In drag, I’m really drawn to female characters in horror movies. There’s a power and an ‘otherness’ encapsulated in the hyperfemininity of the characters of the horror genre that really resonates with me. With my drag, I want to focus on that otherness and femme power I embody, and harness it.”
Amber explains that her drag persona is an extension of herself, describing her as “a goth brat diva, a primadonna girl of the underworld. She embodies the juxtaposition between overt, camp, feminine aesthetics – cute bows, pink lingerie, everything that screams ‘girl’ – and rot, bugs, horror and punk. I want to be adored and disgust you at the same time!
Amber also describes herself as a drag witch, a term that came from “the OG drag witch”, her drag mother, China. “Drag for me is almost spiritual,” Amber explains. “It can be like therapy, the art itself is very healing. Doing drag is much like witchcraft, there is an inherent otherness that comes with being queer that makes witches so relatable. Drag is
“Drag is much like witchcraft, there’s an inherent otherness that comes with being queer that makes witches so relatable”
like magic, with the transformative properties, and with drag you cultivate, you make crafts, you create from nothing. Being a drag witch to me is being an alternative drag creature that deviates from the norm and having a very tactile hands-on relationship with my craft and with my community, being very nurturing and making things from scratch.” Amber admits that her favourite witches from pop culture are The Hex Girls, from Scooby-Doo; “When I was younger they were everything I wanted to be. My mom never lets me forget I would dress up as Thorn year-round and tell the other kids’ parents that I wasn’t a witch I was a Wiccan, quoting the movie. They are my favourite because even now as an adult I think they are absolutely iconic!”
“I will never stop being vocal about the struggles of misogyny, racism, transphobia faced both internally in the community and in the wider world…” Amber started doing drag at the age of 16/17, experimenting with make-up, wigs, and corseting in her bedroom. During a college art course, her research led her into the world of drag queens and club kids of the 1980s/90s New York, and she “fell in love with the visuals of the club scene and ballroom culture”. “To me, going into drag artistry felt like a really natural progression, because I’ve always been an artist and have always had a more extreme look in the way I choose to express myself with clothing and makeup, so it always just felt really right and where I was meant to be.” Seven years later, make-up is still Amber’s favourite aspect of drag. “I love painting for the back row and curating a look so much, fine detailing, stones, props, one-of-a-kind creations, custom work, I just love it. “I love to create numbers around horror movies especially. Some of my favourite characters to drag up as include Tiffany (Bride of Chucky), Beetlejuice, The Corpse Bride and Samara from The Ring. I love bringing these characters to life with that added element of queerness and glamour.” In her performances, Amber likes to mix together horror, glamour, and comedy, and she reminisces on one of her favourite numbers from a tour with Adore Delano. “I specifically curated a girl-power mix that celebrated women and poked fun at misogyny we face even within our own community,” Amber says. “The number was a call out to misogyny in RuPaul’s Drag Race and society, which combined girl-power anthems with quotes including Kennedy Davenport’s Fuck My Drag.” After the number, Amber took the opportunity to take the mic and address an audience of predominately teenage girls, telling them that they were the only ones stopping themselves from doing drag. “Drag is for everyone and we all deserve to take up space and be respected in our own community,” Amber declared.
Two years later, Amber still gets messages from people who have finally given themselves permission to do drag. “So many people said they’d never seen a woman in drag before to even know it was possible that they could too. “Representation is so important. It doesn’t always make me the most popular but I will never stop being vocal about the struggles of misogyny, racism, transphobia faced both internally in the community and in the wider world… Seeing other artists and young queer people inspired to make art and start their own journeys because of seeing me do my thing and stand up for us and take up space makes me fall back in love with it all over again. It feels like I’m doing something right and that the misogyny I faced so frequently when I was younger was worth it.” When Amber first hit the drag scene, she was one of only two female drag queens in Birmingham, which unfortunately came with misogyny and difficulties. She explains that it’s been rewarding to be one of the artists who’s helped shaped today’s scene. “Lacey Lou and I paved the way for that change and fought hard to change misogynistic views, and if I am proud of anything, it’s helping to shape the scene and encourage that growth. We really both stood our ground and didn’t allow ourselves to be pushed out or bullied, even when we had to put up with a lot of sexual harassment and mansplaining in our spaces.” Starting DragPunk, a group currently consisting of Amber, Lilith, Tacky, Suzi Looz, Melancholy, Glitter King, and Effy Raine, “really changed the alt drag scene in
Birmingham and made the first all-alternative queer shows. My main goal personally with Dragpunk was to create safe spaces for people like me, the party I wish existed for me to go to. When I first went out on the scene there was nowhere really that was both emo/goth and queer-owned to party at and we changed that. “In alt drag, we have carved out a space for ourselves, a space that doesn’t have rules and you don’t have to be pretty. It’s very freeing to be able to exist in this space.” Touring as a drag collective with Adore Delano put them on the map outside Birmingham but it’s not just the performances that are an integral part of the group. “Being part of a chosen family like this is invaluable truly, I don’t know what I would do without these angels,” Amber says. “I think everyone should have this kind of relationship, queer family is so important. Things are so much easier when you’ve found your tribe, it’s so comforting to know that whatever I do I’m never alone or unsupported.” You can expect to see Amber Cadaverous and DragPunk at a variety of shows including; I’m Not OK – the UK’s emo drag show and party at The Nightingale on Friday, October 22, and the DragPunk show Pop Destroyers at The Fox on Saturday, October 23. Amber also recently got engaged to her soulmate, Steph (@the_Craft_MUA) so alongside organising tours, shows, and art projects, she will be busy planning a wedding. “I have the biggest aspirations for us as a couple, we are both so artistic and driven and nothing feels impossible together.”
TALES OF ARMISTEAD MAUPIN
Alex Klineberg catches up with Armistead to discuss Tales of the City, San Francisco, his latest projects and much more. He’ll be appearing in London and Brighton in October ) Armistead Maupin found fame in the
1970s as the author of Tales of the City. San Francisco, his adopted city, had become a gay mecca but it was something of a mystery: no one was really writing about it. Armistead was one of the first authors to bring LGBTQ+ characters into the literary mainstream. The books are very much of their time but they’ve never gone out of fashion. New readers keep on discovering the bohemian world of Anna Madrigal, Michael Tolliver and Mary Ann Singleton. The characters are so vivid they may as well be real people. What can we expect from your upcoming live events? “In London I’m being interviewed by Russell Tovey, and for the Brighton event I’m being interviewed by Graham Norton. So you tell me what to expect! I’m very excited. I l ove both of these guys and I think we’ll have some fun.” Although Armistead is the Bard of San Francisco, he’s lived in London for several years. “My husband lived in London 25 years ago and loved it. I’ve visited many times – I have English relatives. We just wanted a new adventure and London is a great city, there’s no denying it. Sometimes if you ask a Londoner they will deny it.” “We’ve done this before. We moved to Santa Fe about seven years ago for a new adventure. We didn’t last there for very long and moved back
to San Francisco. And then we decided to take the leap – it keeps life interesting.” Which character would you consider to be the key protagonist of Tales of the City? “If I had to name one it would be Anna Madrigal. The very process of writing it was about shifting my view from one character to the next, so each character gets their moment. It’s really up to the reader to decide.” The bohemian world of the Castro had become notorious but no one was really writing about it. When you chose this as your subject, did you feel like you had a unique story to tell? “That’s exactly what I felt. It proved to be right – all these years later the story has survived. I knew that if I was bold enough to do it I could make it work. My own publishers at Harper Collins told me to tone down the gay stuff. I didn’t and I think it paid off. When you know you have a good story to tell, you tell it. That’s what every writer must do.” The books are very funny. Did you always know Tales would be a comic story? “I knew it would be to a certain degree, but I didn’t see what was coming. I didn’t know that we would be in the middle of an epidemic and that I would have to write about that too; within the context of comedic work. “I recently went to see My Night With Reg, my first play since lockdown. It was fascinating to see the things we’ve forgotten about that time.
PIC CHRISTOPHER TURNER
What it felt like. The combination of humour and even lust, which did survive through AIDS although with serious modifications.”
“The dream I had that queer stories would become ordinary is coming true” Armistead met Rock Hudson in the early stages of his career. Did that encounter offer a glimpse of what the previous generations had lived through? “It was exactly that and I wanted Rock to find a way out. The night we met I said to him, ‘I want to write your biography. There’s no reason you can’t claim the dignity of your life.’ Even his partner said ‘Not until my mother dies!’ I thought, if I was fucking Rock Hudson my mother would be the first to know. And I did fuck him, in fact, and I did tell my mother. So there you go.” Was she impressed? “A little horrified but yes, she loved him. I did see us as being representative of two diametrically opposed versions of queer. I came out pretty early in my career. And there was someone who was locked in the closet and had been suffering for many years. Rock had a groove in his fingernail. It was a deformity he created by rubbing his forefinger against his thumb. To me that represented the torture he was feeling. He had a good time though. He was a happy gay man in some ways. He had the resources and he had the goods!”
UNITED STATES FIRST EDITION COVER OF THE FIRST BOOK IN THE TALES OF THE CITY SERIES
become ordinary is coming true.” Armistead helped to make it happen. “I did, but thank you.” Younger generations continue to discover Tales of the City – people who weren’t even born in the ’70s. That must be very gratifying... “It’s the biggest thrill of my life. It tells me that I was first and foremost telling a good story. We can go back and read Dickens because he’s really writing about people, not the peculiarities of Victorian London.”
“My own publishers told me to tone down the gay stuff. I didn’t and I think it paid off. When you know you have a good story to tell, you tell it. That’s what every writer must do” What did you think of the new Netflix adaptation of Tales of the City? “We did things we didn’t get to do in the first series. We had an out the closet actor playing Michael, which had always been my dream.” The original TV adaptation from the early ’90s was not without incident. “PBS knew where we were going with it and they were terrified of the Christian right in America. There were bomb threats in Chattanooga the night it first aired. Tales of the City – that sweet little story. Bomb threats because there were two men kissing. “The dream I had that queer stories would
Does writing get easier with the passage of time? “No god dammit, it doesn’t. I found that lockdown hasn’t been helpful for my writing. At the beginning of this experience I thought, I’ll sit in my room and write. But my mind has always been stoked by things happening on the outside. By other people, parties, places I’ve been: writing grows out of that. It was true during Tales of the City. I’d go out to a club and some guy would pick me up because I was wearing penny loafers, so I could get a joke out of that. “I’ve been trying to write another novel called Mona of the Manor. It’s an interstitial novel that would fit into the Tales series as it currently
exists, in the year 1993. It’s been tough, it’s been kicking my ass, I have to admit.” Is the old San Francisco still there? “I’m sure it’s still there but we were having a hard time finding it. That’s one of the reasons we left. It’s no longer a bohemian city. Whatever that means – I didn’t think of it at the time as bohemian. You hear the wrong stories in cafes now. You hear about work and work is boring to my mind. It’s very expensive, even more so than London. We have a much better living situation in Clapham than we did in the Castro, and Clapham isn’t cheap.
“There were bomb threats in Chattanooga the night it first aired. Tales of the City - that sweet little story. Bomb threats because there were two men kissing” “I’m so proud to be associated with that city and that time. I’m so glad I got to record all of that in my work. It will always be there for anyone who wants to know what it was like to live in San Francisco at the end of the 20th century. So that’s a feather in my cap I’ll always show off. “I’m lucky because I’m very in love with somebody and I have been for 17 years. We share life together; we make life happen together. We always have the agreement that if one of us wants to do something, we would talk it through and do it. It’s very easy to move to another place if home is always with this one person.” What do you think of Brighton audiences? “I had a great crowd at the Theatre Royal the last time I was in town. Brighton audiences are kind of rowdy in a nice way, don’t you find? Nothing perks me up like getting a laugh from a real audience, so I’m hoping to provide some.”
PIC CHRISTOPHER TURNER
) An Evening with Armistead Maupin
(interviewed by Graham Norton) takes place at the Brighton Dome on Tuesday, October 12. For tickets, visit: www.brightondome.org/ event/27623/an_evening_with_armistead_ maupin/ D www.armisteadmaupin.com
30 Scene “It’s a lesser-known album. Just weeks before it was supposed to be released, Geffen Records felt it wasn’t the right album for that time. I don’t know the reasons or if there was any politics involved. A couple of the songs did end up on soundtracks. Romeo was on Flashdance in 1982. Not many people know the song came from those sessions. Flashdance knocked Michael Jackson’s Thriller off the top of the charts. It became a phenomenon. “I asked Donna’s husband if we could cut the album from its original 18-track format to a 10-track album. That way we could remix the entire album. The new versions show you how great those songs were.”
DONNA SUMMER: I'M A RAINBOW
Alex Klineberg talks with Michael Neidus from Demon Music about Donna Summer’s post-disco phase and the re-release of I’m A Rainbow, her lost album from 1981 ) Queen of Disco Donna Summer recorded
some of the best pop records of all time. I Feel Love all but gave birth to the electro sound of modern pop. Her take on MacArthur Park was ingenious and beyond camp. She also had an operatic vocal range. How did your working relationship with Donna begin? “I noticed that her post-Casablanca period was conspicuous by its absence from so many compilations. You didn’t see much from 1980 onwards. I made contact with her attorney to find out about those later records. We then entered into conversations about looking after her catalogue from that period for her. Negotiations went on for about a year. “Donna and her husband Bruce came over to London for a private event. We met and decided what we were going to do. In the few hours we had together, we prepared a whole presentation of where we saw the market and how we could release the albums. We had lunch and talked it all through. That was May 2011.” Michael had just one meeting in person with Donna. There would have been more, but a year later she passed away. She was only 63. “I called the attorney to offer our condolences. He said it had been expected for some time but they kept it very private. About a year and a half went by and we were asked to look at the catalogue again. “That started what is now a long relationship with her later recordings – around seven of her albums. We’re the worldwide custodians and licensees of those records, which is something we’re very proud of. “We make sure it’s not perceived as the smaller part of her career. She was such a phenomenal success in the ’70s, when she moved on and changed direction it was never seen as
favourably as that earlier period. And yes, it was a golden period but she was developing as an artist. She wanted more creative control.” Michael oversaw the 40th anniversary re-release of Donna’s album The Wanderer, which featured some amazing remixes – the modernised versions made the songs sound brand new. Was it important to include remixes along with the original recordings? “Definitely. There are a lot of myths about unreleased recordings. Back in the ’70s, Pete Bellotti himself said they recorded what they wrote and that was it. But when you get to the mid-’80s onwards there’s always going to be additional material. “I was looking at anniversaries and 2019 was the 30th anniversary of Another Place and Time, the album she made with Stock Aitken Waterman. We uncovered unreleased mixes that we were able to release.” For The Wanderer, all the material had already been released. They needed something new to release with the deluxe edition. “I looked at the song Grand Illusion, it’s very ethereal and I figured it would be great for summer. We worked with Le Flex on a remix of that track and it did really well on streaming.” They chose another three tracks, working with Figo Sound on more remixes. Most notably their take on Looking Up – they may well have produced something better than the original. It’s also a very modern sound. The new versions of the songs received far more streams than the originals. “We discussed all of this with Donna’s husband in 2018. The next anniversary would be I’m A Rainbow in 2021. It was recorded in 1981 and shelved. There was a limited release of I’m A Rainbow in 1996.” It wasn’t really promoted and fell by the wayside.
“They saw her as a great vocal artist, not just a disco singer. She could sing rock, pop, gospel, anything. They didn’t want her to be pigeonholed. She was one of the greatest singers of all time” Looking back at her peak period as the Queen of Disco, she had one of the greatest runs in all of popular music. “The first song I heard was Love To Love You Baby in 1975. It was on the radio and then suddenly it was banned because of the connotations of that song! Of course, when you’re 12 or 13 that makes you want to hear it even more. The next one I heard was Could It Be Magic. Again, some broadcasters didn’t feel it was appropriate to play.” The unedited versions of either song would still sound controversial on the radio today. Her sighs are more than suggestive. “The first album I bought was her Greatest Hits album in 1977. I got hooked. In the summer of that year I watched a lot of cricket. In the pub by Lords the three songs you kept hearing were Hot Chocolate, Three Degrees and of course Donna’s I Feel Love.” It was indeed the Donna Summer of 1977. “Disco exploded, for good and for bad. Great times, great music, but Donna was the constant throughout that period. “Years later when I was having lunch with Donna I had this out-of-body experience. A younger me looking at an older me, having a conversation with this icon. I never envisaged that would happen in my life. “By the time The Wanderer came out in 1980, it didn’t get as much airplay as her previous records. But you kept hearing her classic tracks, even after the disco backlash. Donna was always on the radio.” How important was Giorgio Moroder to her disco era? “He was an absolute genius working alongside another genius, Pete Bellotti. They wrote together, they wrote with her and they wrote for her. They saw her as a great vocal artist, not just a disco singer. She could sing rock, pop, gospel, anything. They didn’t want her to be pigeonholed. She was one of the greatest singers of all time.” ) Donna Summer: I’m A Rainbow: Remixed
and Recoloured is released on October 8.
Visual artist Josef Cabey reflects on both the musical and personal influence that iconic singer Sylvester had on him as a young gay black man, while local historian Alf Le Flohic shares a few memories and tracks down Sylvester appearing in Brighton during the 1980s
32 Scene hit themselves with It’s Raining Men. Sylvester had more UK chart success in early 1982 with Do Ya Wanna Funk, co-written with his friend and electronic dance music pioneer Patrick Cowley. They had been on a world tour together the previous year, and Patrick had complained of feeling ill. In November, just as he was about to go on stage at London’s gay superclub Heaven, Sylvester was informed of Patrick’s death from AIDS. He told the crowd what had happened and performed the song in his honour.
SYLVESTER IN BOLTS IN BRIGHTON IN 1984 - PHOTO BY BILL SHORT
Sylvester also made appearances in Brighton during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, at venues with great names like Sloopy’s and Coasters. In 1984 he appeared at Bolts, the gay night at Sherry’s, 77 West Street. Photographer and local resident Bill Short interviewed Sylvester for October Gay Times. He remembers: “After the show, which was at a straight club in my hometown, he asked me to take him out on the gay scene.” Sylvester had found his appearance criticised by sections of the gay community over the years and commented during the interview: “When I first was a hit over here, I used to wear sort of dresses because that was the sort of drag that I was into at the time – we all wear drag whether it be dresses or leather or jeans.”
MIGHTY REAL By Alf Le Flohic
) I first became aware of falsetto icon
Sylvester in 1978 with the success of You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), and the video being shown on Top of the Pops. Filmed at the Embassy Club in London, Sylvester changes outfit several times (naturally), moving from statement suits to sparkly robes, accessorised with earrings, eyeshadow and an ever-present fan.
BOLTS IN BRIGHTON ADVERT (GAY TIMES 1985)
I was fascinated but at 13 I was already aware that men were not supposed to look, act or sound like this. I was quietly gutted the following week when Top of the Pops dropped the video and the all-female studio dance troupe Legs & Co bobbed around to the song instead. Looking back my reactions were a rather massive clue about my developing sexuality... but enough about me.
Sylvester was born in Los Angeles in 1947 and his family were devout Pentecostal Christians. This was great for singing gospel songs at church, not so much when you’re a rather obviously gay young boy. He stopped attending church at 13 and left home at 15. He fell in with a group called the Disquotays, young black gay men who liked cross-dressing and partying, before moving to San Francisco in his early 20s. His talent was recognised while performing with the drag troupe The Cockettes. That was followed by the formation of Sylvester & the Hot Band, who found themselves as the support act for a young David Bowie one night. Sylvester became known as ‘the Queen of Disco’ in the late ‘70s, with his back-up singers Two Tons O’ Fun (Izora Rhodes and Martha Wash). As The Weather Girls in 1982, they had a huge
Sylvester also appeared at the Beverly Hills, 54-55 Meeting House Lane in October 1985. To quote a review of the venue that year by Peter Burton for Gay Times: “The centre of town’s main attraction has to be the recently opened Beverly Hills. This elegantly designed nightclub has developed the reputation for being the week-round place to go. A gallery furnished with sofas and chairs surrounds the bar area and dance floor and offers a handy and cruisy vantage point. Cabaret – fairly unusual in Brighton – is a regular feature.” The cabaret, for example, had been Miquel Brown on Friday, August 2, famous for her 1983 Hi-NRG anthem So Many Men, So Little Time. Phil Monteiro-Sampson remembers: “I saw Sylvester twice in Brighton, at Bolts and Beverley Hills. He was a lovely guy. I was resident DJ [Beverley Hills]. Sylvester was FANTASTIC. The manager was annoyed as he didn’t arrive for a sound check but within 30 seconds he was sounding fantastic. To cover the cost we had to charge £4 entry, so turn out suffered as no one ever wanted to pay entry fees, which seems crazy now.” UK label Dominio Records must have sensed the love for Sylvester here, as a Brighton Summer Mix of Do You Wanna Funk hit the record shelves in 1986. Sylvester’s boyfriend Rick Cranmer died of AIDS in September 1987. Just over a year later Sylvester died of AIDS, aged 41. He left all future royalties from his recordings to two HIV/ AIDS charities. Our own gay falsetto singer Jimmy Somerville paid tribute with a cover of Mighty Real in
MEMORIAL FLOOR TILE, SAN FRANCISCO. PIC: JOSEF CABEY
1989. The video features images of Sylvester and people dancing in the cosmos – which seems like the perfect way to imagine Sylvester evermore.
DISCO HEAT By Josef Cabey
Like many who were into pop music at the time, I first encountered the powerhouse of fabulousness who was Sylvester James in 1978, when the disco anthem You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) went to number eight in the UK. For my 13-year-old self, seeing Sylvester on TV evoked mixed feelings. As a young black boy with relatively little experience outside of the specific community I grew up in within Hackney, I pondered, why does this man sometimes wear a dress and make-up? However, I also thought: Wow, this person is fascinating, I really like him! Plus, those two amazing big women that he sang with could easily have been my aunties.
“[Sylvester] was a trailblazing black gay man who radically played with gender in a way that was really very risky for a performer at that time, and in doing so created space for others to more freely explore their own black queer identities today”
too, not quite to the fabulous gender nonconforming lengths of Sylvester, but I certainly remember in particular a wraparound garment that I had created for myself that prompted my mother to shout: “You are not going out of the house in a dress!”
Fast forward a few years into the ’80s and I certainly now knew what had ‘panged’ in me when I first saw Sylvester. I was now out as a young gay man doing my thing, and very much a big Sylvester fan. After Mighty Real and his only other UK top 40 hit Dance (Disco Heat) I discovered some of his earlier material, some of which were better than the hits. I also discovered his incredible role as one of only a few black performers in ’70s radical drag troupe The Cockettes. I was going out and shaking my stuff at clubs like Heaven to his HiNRG tracks like Do Ya’ Wanna Funk and Menergy and buying all the 12“ singles, remixes and albums. Sylvester became a real role model as someone who looked like me and was really out there being publicly and unapologetically gay at a time when this was uncommon, especially for black singers. By then I was at art school and had begun to express myself more visually
I was devastated when Sylvester died of an AIDS-related illness in 1988 and certainly didn’t realise just how fully the same disease would impact on so many of my friends and acquaintances too as the next decade rolled on. In much later years I visited the AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco and seeing Sylvester’s name definitely brought a tear.
JOSEF CABEY'S VINYL COLLECTION
AIDS MEMORIAL GROVE, SAN FRANCISCO. PIC: JOSEF CABEY
At that time my own sexuality had not yet surfaced in any meaningful way. However, there was something, just something, that drew me towards this flamboyant man with the soaring voice and the same skin tone as myself. I knew I loved the record, in fact at that time I loved all things disco and still do. I had always felt slightly different to the kids I hung out with at school, but I was also obsessively creative and ‘arty’, and artist types were always considered kind of weird so that had to be it. Anyway, I continued to bop away to Sylvester and be in awe of that video where he descends the stairs of the club looking amazing. In hindsight yes, I
did notice all the scantily clad men that were in the video too!
I think it's very important that the impact of Sylvester is neither forgotten nor underestimated. He was a trailblazing black gay man who radically played with gender in a way that was really very risky for a performer at that time, and in doing so created space for others to more freely explore their own black queer identities today. Indeed, I sometimes wonder how Sylvester might have identified today had he survived. When Joan Rivers once referred to Sylvester as a drag queen, the response back was: “I’m not a drag queen, I’m Sylvester!” Sadly, the most disappointing thing for me as such a big fan is that, somehow, I never saw Sylvester perform live. I’m not certain why this is, as I did see so many of his contemporaries. However, Sylvester will always remain an inspiration to me. I live in Brighton now, and as I sit here surrounded by my wonderful collection of vintage 12” vinyl, I can only say thank you to Sylvester for being there and making such a difference.
PIC BY KELVIN LEE GRAY - OH MY MEDIA
the LGBT. It’s no surprise that there has been an astronomical rise in hate crimes against gay people after we’ve had three to four years of concerted vilification of trans people. Bigots don’t care about your identity, they just care that you’re different. What’s happening is, you are making us all a target. All of us! Which queer person from history would you most like to have met? I think I would like to have met Freddie Mercury. An apologetic bisexual icon. What advice do you think Drag Race fans need to hear? The advice that the Drag Race fans need to hear is that… it’s an entertainment show! A SHOW! It’s not reality. People on the show are just doing their thing. You can have your feelings and thoughts about it, you can even put those online, what you don’t need to do is tag those people or write negativity on their posts. You don’t need to put that out into the world. It’s not that serious, it’s drag.
10 QUESTIONS WITH... DIVINA DE CAMPO
Jason Reid puts 10 questions to seasoned British drag queen and Drag Race UK favourite, Divina De Campo – a consummate queen through and through who is currently part of a star-studded UK tour of Chicago: The Musical. They’ve also proven time and time that they’re much more than just a red wig and a silver dress with their outspoken views on politics and LGBTQ+ issues ) Congrats on the Chicago gig! Apart from
the essentials, what will you keep in your dressing room? It’s an actual dream come true for me. In my dressing room I will keep a steamer, my brush roll, some lemon and ginger teabags, and a LOT of moisturiser. I don’t really have a great deal of mementos/keepsakes; I’ve got my wedding ring, a Tiffany bracelet that my husband Paul bought me, and a little Hounds for Huntington dog which raises awareness of Huntington’s disease. I take that with me wherever I go and take pictures with it. How does your art intertwine with your activism and do you ever feel like you have to rein in your activism?
My art absolutely intertwines with my activism because most of what I’m making is about queer people and our experiences in the world… and also just a bit of filth and fun. I do have to rein in the activism side of stuff from time to time because otherwise people think oh she’s just gonna be a boring miserable cow, whereas most of what I put onstage is about having a good time. In your opinion, what are the greatest challenges facing LGBTQ+ people today, and how can we overcome them together? The biggest threat to LGBTQ+ people at the moment is the concerted effort from the mainstream media and from the evangelical church and far right, to separate the T from
“I do have to rein in the activism side of stuff from time to time because otherwise people think oh she’s just gonna be a boring miserable cow, whereas most of what I put onstage is about having a good time” Who are your living role models? Kristin Chenoweth and Dolly Parton. Most of my role models are personal ones; my singing teacher from school, my dance lecturer, and a few other teachers – those are the people who have done amazing, incredible things in my life and then been really generous with their time. If there was a general election tomorrow, how would you vote? At this moment, honestly, I don’t know. There is such a swathe of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment in so many of the parties right now, and I don’t see that much clear leadership from those at the top. The people who are supposed to come in and tear apart the corrupt system that’s currently in charge have not done that. I just don’t see any of that happening with who’s there at the moment. So, I don’t know who I’d vote for. Not Tory. What are the three most important things that you think politicians need to focus on in order to create a fairer and more equal society? OK, this is hard. I think the first thing that needs to happen is tax reform, and by that I mean we need to tax people who earn lots and lots more money than people who don’t. Whenever anyone talks about America’s
person but now and then I have this spiral of negativity about myself. The Secret just helps to reorientate that for me, and remember that those things are not real and to think about the things that I want rather than the things that will go wrong. My film would be Lord of the Rings – it’s got Sir Ian McKellen, wizards, elves, beautiful people, and bits of comedy. The album choice is really hard because I’d like to say a Kate Bush album, BUT it will probably be Stripped by Christina Aguilera – it’s a brilliant album, crafted perfectly. How would you like to be remembered? Hopefully as someone who used their voice for good things. I’m not always right and I’m more than happy to hold my hands up and admit when I get something wrong, and take accountability. I think taking accountability is super-important. And a filthy cow who was always up for a laugh.
“The biggest threat to LGBTQ+ people at the moment is the concerted effort from the mainstream media and from the evangelical church and far right, to separate the T from the LGBT” Then for society to be fairer, once there is evidence that a politician has lied – and it’s not a one-off – they should be removed from office. And it should be a an independent body that is in charge of that, rather than the Prime Minister being in charge of the Ministerial Code (of conduct). The reason it should be an independent body is so that when people like the Prime Minister lie they are actually held to account. At the moment that’s not happening. We have people who are not held to account at all, and they’re shitting over the rest of us. If you could only read one book, watch one film, and listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would you choose and why?
My one book would be The Secret by Rhonda Byrne – sometimes I have a lot of negative thoughts in my head. I’m not a negative
) Divina De Campo stars in the UK tour of
Chicago until November 20.
D www.divinadecampo.com PIC BY KELVIN LEE GRAY - OH MY MEDIA
golden age, when society was booming and people’s life chances were good, taxation was higher – more like 70%. It was a lot. But those people at the top can afford to pay more, and that’s how society is built. You build a society through a fairer wealth distribution. And what’s happened in the last 10 years or so is those at the top have got exponentially richer while those at the bottom have got exponentially poorer. So taxation needs to be first. Feeding on from that, I would say a universal basic income is going to become essential in the coming years, especially with the rise of machines and algorithms. Lots of people’s jobs just aren’t gonna be there. Without a universal basic income we will see a lot of people on the streets starving. That’s the reality.
36 Scene Nico is sitting there knitting. She’s all dressed in black. The sensibility is very different from anything else at that time period. Nico certainly had affairs with some of the most high-profile figures of the day, not least Jim Morrison... I’ve heard different things from different people in terms of who the love of her life was. In terms of which way she went, I think she used her sexuality to get ahead. I think she used sex to find comfort and belonging. Later in life she would have been happy to have a relationship with a man or a woman. Someone who accepted her for her. I think to love someone else you have to love yourself, and Nico never really loved herself. Nico washed up in Manchester in the ‘80s. She was broke, as ever, and she began a new phase in her life... A guy named Alan Wise books her to play in Manchester. He was in the Factory Records scene. Alan was captivated by her.
Alex Klineberg catches up with Dr Jennifer Otter Bickerdike, whose new book explores charismatic rock star Nico ) Nico was one of the most original and
charismatic rock stars of the post-war era. She starred in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, fronted The Velvet Underground, and unleashed a series of dazzling, and at times terrifying solo albums. Dr Jennifer Otter Bickerdike is a rock & roll cultural historian and author. Her latest book is a biography of Nico – who has become a semimythical figure since her sudden death in 1988. How did you discover Nico’s music? It was that scene in the Royal Tenenbaums where Margot Tenenbaum gets off the bus and These Days by Nico is playing. It’s so beautiful, so perfect, and so dysfunctional and it ticked every box for me. I then got the Chelsea Girl album. I’d be lying if I said I could listen to a Nico album all the way through. I find the records really, really intense. Was The Velvet Underground a logical destination for her, or did she stumble into it by accident? Nico was a woman of two sides; she said: “I always get there too late or too early.” At the same time she always found the right people. I don’t know if The Velvet Underground was meant to be, but Nico did have an excellent way of figuring out the people she needed to get to the next step. Remember, she came from war-torn Nazi Germany. Her whole life was about trying to shrug off that identity. Nico had little singing experience before she joined the band – she’d recorded records in the UK but never performed in the US... Nico is thinking this is my backing band. So there was a massive communication clash from the beginning. In all the newspaper clippings from that time it’s Nico & The Velvet
Underground. This made Lou Reed very jealous and you can understand why. Her first solo album was Chelsea Girl, do you see that record as an anomaly in her catalogue? Yes, she didn’t write any of the songs on that album. They were all given to her by other people. There was a folk rock artist called Judy Collins at the time. I think they were trying to craft Nico into being the next Judy Collins. You know, it’s like saying we have Pearl Jam so now let’s have Soundgarden. Nico hated it. I don’t think she even knew that she could be an artist in her own right until she hooked up with Jim Morrison. They were equals. He unlocked her songwriting. The Marble Index is one of the strangest and most unnerving albums ever recorded. John Cale from The Velvet Underground produced the album... The album clocks in at just under 30 minutes. The legend goes that Frazier Mohawk – the other producer – and Nico were very high on heroin for most of that album. You hear some of that tension of addiction and darkness, and also what it means to be a woman in rock and roll at that time.
“She shows that you can make records on your own terms; that’s her legacy” Iggy Pop mentions in the book that you have these two weirdo Europeans in America making music. Iggy describes when he first met Nico. John Cale was producing an Iggy & The Stooges record and Nico was there. He said they were like Mr and Mrs Munster. John Cale has this crazy black cape with pink velour lining and
He convinced her to move to Manchester and became her agent. She swapped heroin for methadone. She got a band together, made more albums and toured extensively. I think it was the first time in her life that she found people who really cared about her. Although she cleaned up her act slightly, she never really got past drugs. She fell off her bike in Ibiza and passed away aged 49 from a brain injury. She had gone out to score hash... She was never straight edge. I don’t think she was on the road to destruction, but she’d drink and have hash. Nico wasn’t clean when she died. She’s now an unlikely pop culture icon. How would you sum up her legacy? Nico made art because she had to make art. She was a poet and she had to get these ideas out. To me that’s the most inspirational thing ever. She said her only mistake was not being born a man. Hello, you could say the exact same thing now. It’s been a long time since she passed away but she shows that you can make records on your own terms, and that’s her legacy.
Shocked by the plight of Poland’s LGBTQ+ community, London’s Zebra One Gallery and artist/activist Lapinus Morgan will launch the Love Is Not An Ideology (LINAI) exhibition on Tuesday, October 5, raising vital funds for the Polish charity Federacja Znaki Rownosci. They tell us all about it...
The President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, pledged in his recent campaign to “fight LGBT ideology” in Poland, referring to the LGBTQ+ community as a “Rainbow Plague”.
NOT QUITE BOB
“Love is real. It’s not important who you love, but that you love.” Nearly 70% of the LGBTQ+ community in Poland has been subjected to physical, sexual or verbal violence and less than 4% of these people felt safe enough to report such incidents to police, leaving 70% of teenagers within that community grappling with suicidal thoughts. Half of Poland’s municipalities have declared themselves “LGBT-Free Zones” and violence towards these communities has dramatically increased. MADONNA BY PURE EVIL
) The show features works by artists including
David Hockney and Andy Warhol as well as pieces by a host of contemporary artists, including Pure Evil, Not Quite Bob and Ben Youdan, standing together in support of Poland’s LGBTQ+ community. The images will be sold via the Hampstead gallery’s website (www.zebraonegallery.com) with 100% of monies raised going to the charity, which provides psychological and legal help, arranges support groups, cultural events and works to integrate the LGBTQ+ community in Poland. Hollywood legend Sharon Stone has also thrown her weight behind the LINAI campaign, saying:
LOVE IS LOVE BY BEN YOUDAN
LOVE IS NOT AN IDEOLOGY BY GRAZIE
LOVE IS NOT AN IDEOLOGY
The Polish Minister of Education and Science, Przemyslaw Czarnek, has compared LGBTQ+ people to Nazis, saying: “There’s no doubt that LGBT+ ideology grew out of... the same root as Germany’s Hitlerian National Socialism, which was responsible for all the evil of World War II.” The activist behind this LINAI project, Lapinus Morgan, said: “Love is not an ideology. People are not an ideology. “I was born in Poland, and was subjected to homophobia, but I was lucky enough to start a new life in London, where I was welcomed and shown that being gay is nothing to be ashamed of. “Realising that I could do something from London, I decided to work with Zebra One Gallery on a charity art show – since funding is not existent from the state – to raise vital funds for the charity and awareness of what is happening in Poland. “The overwhelming response from diverse artists to this project shows the LGBTQ+ community in Poland that they are not alone. We are starting a movement to fight for the human right to love without fear.” Gabrielle Du Plooy, Zebra One Gallery owner, added: “This show will celebrate love in all of its forms and all of the money raised from it will allow that love to continue, without shame, terror or persecution.” ) Love Is Not An Ideology at Zebra One
Gallery, London NW3 1QX from Tuesday, October 5. D www.zebraonegallery.com i @love_is_not_an_ideology
was staggered by his story”. Going back to Howerd he says: “I couldn’t play him because I can’t do him,” opting instead to play Howerd’s secret lover Denis. “The play is a metaphor for failing to acknowledge the important people in our lives. I was interested in our endings and how we handle them.”
“My writing came out of realising I could like myself – and I learned how to be vulnerable on stage. My aim was for work which really connected and touched people”
SPOTLIGHT ON... MARK FARRELLY By Brian Butler
) Mark Farrelly toured North America at 21
as Hamlet and seemed destined for a great mainstream acting career. Surprising then that he tells me: “I was a reluctant child performer. My English teacher tried to persuade me into the annual school play. I went into a small part in The Merchant of Venice and got a lot of laughs. There began the great delusion: that acting is a great way of avoiding myself.” This remark in our interview didn’t make its full impact until later in our conversation.
But he soon became horrified how difficult it was to make a living acting. “I was 24 when I left uni and I didn’t want to go through another three years’ training, and I was getting gigs so I thought: let’s just do it.” Tours for impresario Bill Kenright and playwright/ director Alan Ayckbourn followed and then a lead role opposite Matthew Kelly in the West End in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?. It seemed success was assured but Kelly had to leave for another contract and the show folded. “There were two problems underneath. I attached my sense of self-worth to getting a job. When I didn’t have a job I thought I was worthless.” This feeling led to a breakdown in his
A whole year went by without work, and a good actor friend hanged himself. “I had a few ideas about solo work and wrote a play about playwright Patrick Hamilton – The Silence of Snow.” It’s a typically robust and openly honest piece of theatre about a man who was phenomenally successful in his 20s with plays like Rope and Gaslight but who in late life descended into alcoholism. He also penned a piece about queer icon Quentin Crisp. On his mental wellbeing, he admits: “I tried therapy, and then tried it again”. He is open that it was a painful and slow process to come to understand himself. “My writing came out of realising I could like myself – and I learned how to be vulnerable on stage. My aim was for work which really connected and touched people.” Going back to his uni friend James Seabright, he asked for advice on his two plays and Seabright agreed to produce them in Edinburgh and then on tour. Later he was to become his own producer. He has now clocked up more than 130 performances as Quentin Crisp and more than 80 as Hamilton. “What fascinated me about Crisp was why he dealt with life in the way he did, and how he was persecuted. And when I wrote a play about comedian Frankie Howerd – Howerd’s End – I couldn’t find a producer,” and the play rested for nearly 10 years before being performed recently. On his new play about queer film-maker Derek Jarman, he tells me: “I read his diaries and
Asked to give his young self advice, he thinks for a while and then says: “I wrote a letter to my younger self eight years ago. I said first of all: it will be all right. Don’t despair. Keep going even if you can’t see the destination, and I said I love you. It’s good to keep checking in with yourself. I listen to the words of my shows every time I say them.” ) All four shows are currently being
performed. To find out Mark’s busy show schedule go to www.markfarrelly.co.uk. SILENCE OF SNOW. PHOTO BY STEVE ULLATHORNE
Anyway, Mark read English at Cambridge. ”The drama scene was absolutely fantastic – like the Edinburgh Festival all year round. I decided I wasn’t going to be a funny person because being funny is about defeat.” In his final year, student friend James Seabright – nowadays an established theatre producer – invited him to tour North America for a month playing Hamlet, sometimes performing to 1,000-seat theatres. ”I thought: this is what I want to do for my life,” he tells me.
confidence and in his mental health. He went home to Sheffield for six months. “Acting is about revealing a huge amount about yourself: it’s not a place to hide.” Kelly, who had stayed a friend, advised him: “He said you have to be vulnerable and exposed far more than you think”.
Going back to the Jarman piece he adds: “It’s in the spirit of Jarman rather than just a tribute piece. It’s a very stripped-down production in the style of how Jarman worked.” He admits it’s the hardest thing he’s done, with its ornate, rich mercurial language. Having seen it recently at Above The Stag, Vauxhall, I can vouch for its power and directness and the openness with which Farrelly treats the material and the man.
STUFF & THINGS
THE LITTLE BIG LIFE
Halloween & Supernatural
) Never been bothered with Halloween. Never been ‘a thing’ in my life. Didn’t have any Halloween parties as a youngster, well, no one did actually, and doing nothing about it has become a traditional annual non-event. The only time I’ve had anything to do with it was when I worked in Sainsbury’s and was responsible for stocking the shelves with all the costumes and dreadful tat that they sell for it. Black cat made out of tinsel anyone? No, I didn’t think so... But it does seem to be another reason for us gays to have a party, drink lots and not wear very much. But when did we need an excuse to do that?
) When I was little, I used to pretend-play that I was a mutant. No, not with two heads or green scales or too many fingers, but a cool one! One who can do telekinesis or read minds. I’d get a job working for MI5, moving secret dangerous stuff with my mind, beyond thick, sealed vault doors. Or I’d be a super-mediator and solve divorce problems as well as cross-continental wars in an instant, by letting people read each others’ thoughts. Or flying, without a cape or an aeroplane. But flying ranked lower than the other powers because, well, there’s aeroplanes. Oh, and not to forget about shooting laser beams from my eyes. They’d have special glasses to control that at MI5, like in the comics. Alright let’s not lie. When I was a kid? I still do.
BY JON TAYLOR
“Who’ve you come as?” (Bloke only wearing the smallest pair of white hot pants ever): “A ghost.” Ghosts though. Love a ghost story. They’re so moody and atmospheric. But ghosts themselves are all a bit of nonsense aren’t they? I don’t believe in ghosts. If they exist, there should be ghosts everywhere, all the time. Stood in the middle of McDonald’s on a busy Saturday; walking down the street of a Wednesday afternoon. We should all have a ghost in our homes. They shouldn’t just be appearing in a spooky dark house where people with torches are slowly wandering around in a heightened state of nervousness. When people say they’ve seen ghosts I think they believe they have. They’ve seen something I’m sure but it’s probably not a ghost ‘cause they should be in abundance. How many people have died since the world began? That number is definitely more than the current number of people living on Earth so we should be bumping into them all the time. Mediums are another weird thing…
“Black cat made out of tinsel anyone? No, I didn’t think so... But it does seem to be another reason for us gays to have a party, drink lots and not wear very much. But when did we need an excuse to do that?” “There’s someone here with a message for a Daniel… Danielle… Damian. Yes, Madam? You knew a Davina? It must be them… The message is look behind the dresser for a letter I left you. You don’t have a dresser? Wardrobe? Chest of drawers... must be your bedside table.” The famous spiritual medium Derek Acorah died last year. Of all the people we should be hearing from, shouldn’t we be hearing from him? I do love the films that appear around Halloween though. I watched Hocus Pocus for the first time last year as it’s got quite a bit of a gay following but wasn’t too impressed. Lots of costumes and funny voices but not much else! The Woman In Black, The Others and Hereditary are my favourites. There’s dozens of schlocky supernatural films on Netflix though – some of them so bad they’re dreadful. There’s nothing better than sitting back with wine and chocolate, lighting some candles for a bit of mood lighting and pointing out the dreadful plot points and ropey special effects. This is exactly what I’ll be doing this coming Halloween unless, of course, someone wants to invite me to a booze-filled party? I’m sure I could find something appropriate to wear...
BY MICHAEL STEINHAGE
I read somewhere that we only use 5% of our brain, and all such abilities may well lie there, latent, waiting to be unleashed, could we but access just 10%! The plain reality however, on the average Monday I barely use 2%, so mind reading or laser eyes won’t happen anytime soon. And yet… Could I be a superhero? Absolutely! In fact, I already am! I’m super every day because I get up and get out of bed, despite all the chaos and confusion life has thrown at us all for the past near two pandemic years. These days, facing the world is no less a feat than facing an army of menacing creatures (possibly with two heads) from another dimension. And if you get out of bed too every morning, and carry on, you are super too! We can all be superheroes. We can all make the world more super, as soon as the day starts. Giving way to someone in traffic, without a grumble. Smiling bright at the receptionist when you walk into work, even though you’re not a morning person. Not standing in the way, chatting, on a busy narrow pavement. Buying your bus ticket on the app before you board. Getting your change out before you get to the coffee counter. You can be super out there in the big scary world, or even at home! Cutting the grass out front. Putting on clean bed sheets every week. Helping out without being asked to. Making sure you change the toilet roll when it’s done, or squeezing the toothpaste from the back.
“Could I be a superhero? Absolutely! In fact, I already am! I’m super every day because I get up and get out of bed, despite all the chaos and confusion life has thrown at us all for the past near two pandemic years” And then there’s super-super, where I hold my hand up (not quite Superman style) to admit I don’t always possess these... Not losing your patience that’s been tested for two years. Keeping calm. Being the bigger person in an argument and letting go of grudges. Understanding those who have lost their superpower of getting up and out and facing the world, and being their reason to try. Saying sorry first. You can do that? Then you’re not just super, you’re extraordinary, and the world needs more superheroes like you!
Iris Prize Film Festival 2021
) The Iris Prize LGBTQ+ Film Festival has unveiled its full programme celebrating global diversity and its £30,000 Iris Prize, which is supported by the Michael Bishop Foundation.
) It has been a strange year weatherwise on the allotment with unusual periods of rain and then dry spells, which doesn’t really sound strange at all but if they don’t come in the order and quantity that I require then I feel I have the right to call it ‘strange’.
WITH BRIAN BUTLER
BY LAURIE LAVENDER
Nineteen countries, including Iran, Brazil, the Philippines, Bulgaria and South Korea are represented. As well as live screenings, the festival promises music workshops and panel discussions. Now in its 15th year, the festival runs from October 5-10 and online until October 31.
Other films that caught my eye were: Lara Zeldan’s new short A Beautiful Form To See, which celebrates the female body, and Matthew David’s Skinny Fat, which looks at a gay man who confronts his belly fat in a shop changing room, reigniting memories of his abusive past relationship. It also features Welsh acting icon Ruth Madoc. D For tickets and the full programme, visit: www.irisprize.org
On the ‘potential’ front we have raspberries, leeks and sweetcorn.
The UK documentary Rebel Dykes offers a celebration of a punk lesbian collective, who fought for LGBTQ+ rights in the ’70s and ’80s, taking in the peace camp at Greenham Common and the abseiling into the House of Lords. The film will be the centrepiece of a day of related activities.
Swan Song stars legendary German actor Udo Kier and Dynasty diva Linda Evans, alongside Michael Urie. A retired flamboyant hairdresser is paid to give one last hair-do to a dead woman. It’s outrageously funny.
This is the first year we have filled up harvested beds with green manure which you just plant, grow and dig back in.
I watched a couple of trailers to sample what’s on offer. Saint-Narcisse is a gloriously sinister movie starring Canadian actor Felix Antoine-Duval playing identical twins, separated at birth and unaware of their past history until their meeting creates... well, watch it to find out.
Our courgette plants continue to produce at an alarming rate and the beans are just getting into full swing.
Screenings will be in the Chapter and also for the first time at Premiere Cinemas in the heart of Cardiff’s queer night-life. Iris director Berwyn Rowlands told me: “This year’s festival offers those who are ready to reconnect and meet like-minded people to watch amazing films in person a lot of choice”. But he also said that last year’s online access will continue for those not yet ready to meet face to face.
Our herbs are doing well, we have basil, parsley, chives and sage, not to mention a selection of mints and thyme.
There are also 15 filmmakers nominated for the Best British Short Film prize, supported by Film4 and Pinewood Studios. This year the gender balance of makers is 50/50 and includes trans and non-binary individuals. Hove-based Channel 4 senior executive Tim Highsted is chair of the judging panel. He told me: “The first year of the Iris Best British Shorts has been a resounding success. I can’t wait to see this year’s new line-up at the festival to be reminded of the singular talent working in British short films”.
The crop that has suffered the most because of this is our non-existent tomatoes! Nerry a one! We have, however, had success elsewhere and have further potential successes to share.
The insects seem to be pleased with our flowers which is always a good sign although we are hoping to get some ‘Goat’s Beard’ because on a recent trip to Scotland we noticed that the bees were mad for it, but more about Scotland in our next article. My thanks to Tina Thyme for photos etc.
inspired by the pandemic, not that visibility should be about putting ourselves at risk from a virus that is either biological or social. We are here, we have a right to be so.
Dig Deep. Or Never Hide the Pride. .. By Craig Hanlon-Smith @craigscontinuum ) As you read the October edition of this magazine the first time it has appeared in print for some 18 months, summer may well have truly slipped off for its annual break if it ever really arrived. Desperate for recovery, retailers will be smacking us around the face with treats of Christmas to come, and organisers of LGBTQ+ Pride events will already be prodding us with promises of early bird discounts if we part with our too-scant cash, months ahead of events we were never really sure if we enjoyed very much anyway. I write this as I gaze out to semi-gloomy skies, undecided as to whether to attend Worthing Pride as a frumpy faggot or sequinned Shanelta. And it’s not that I’m not looking forward to the event, I very much am. I’m slightly ashamed to say this is the first time I’ve attended what some may call a provincial Pride and the uncertainty of what lies ahead reminds me of the Prides I attended almost 30 years ago.
This is not a statement on the dangers of Worthing per se, but on the daily life of people of minority groups in the UK in 2021. I did say it feels like the Prides of 30 years ago, and the violence is not contained within smaller towns part of the red wall or blue trench or forgotten masses. Like any cancer, it has spread everywhere. Ramjith Kankanamalage was murdered in a London cemetery, in what police are describing as a homophobic hate crime, his post-mortem confirming the cause of death as a blunt force trauma to his head. The murder took place in a well-known cruising area, and it is thought his attackers were in deliberate wait. Ramjith and I are gay men of the same age. It feels as though the past 30 years have not happened.
As does the entertainment line-up. However talented or terrible, I cannot tell you the excited joy I feel at the list of cabaret artists, predominantly drag, although not all, considered to be the main draw of the day. Artists who have entertained locals all year round, no coming together at the annual event of community celebration.
It did. And we must not allow ourselves to be pulled back. Provincial towns up and down the country now hold their own Pride events and, where possible, we must support them. Visibility is a significant step in our peaceful march against the spread of violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, all over the world and especially for us, here at home. And this country is our home and the home to those who wish to settle here in the name of collective freedom, peace and true democracy.
I’m also slightly apprehensive. Although a mere 10 miles from the small city that was my home for 20 years, I know very little about the town but I am familiar with the stories of recent assaults on people perceived to either be gay or trans in the area. The victims of these assaults actually neither, but the real and true identity of those subjected to these attacks is not relevant to someone hell-bent on doing them harm.
We also need now, more than ever, to dig deep and find our individual resilience. Every one of us has a tried and tested method of overcoming adversity and standing tall, whether actually or metaphorically. Whether because of our gender, our sex, our sexual orientation, our ability limitation, health, the loss of a loved one, a career, whatever it may be. Now is not the time to retreat and continue a pattern of comfortable hiding
The tone of our country has changed in the past five years and I need say little more about a national political direction. Yet, make no mistake – this has been instrumental in emboldening those who are seeking out our difference for assault. Now is the time for faggots and sequins and so much more than ever. We should paint our nails, wear our heels, strap up our army boots and just turn up in whatever floats your bath toy, but not turning in cannot be an option. There are those who have kept faith and worked tirelessly with and for our communities these past 18 months. We should celebrate the teams providing Pride celebration opportunities by other means. Ticketed events of any kind are in many ways exclusive in that there will be those who are unable to access them. This is one of the many reasons drag has always been so vital to our local communities in bringing us together for the price of a pint or less.
“Visibility is a significant step in our peaceful march against the spread of violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, all over the world and especially for us, here at home” The production of this magazine has continued throughout the past 18 months, online and now back in print. Information sourced, researched, written, discussed, argued about, challenged, edited, designed and (you might suggest of course I would state so) I have always considered Gscene, now Scene, to be vital to the local communities of Brighton & Hove. Whatever our future, Pride events will return in some forms that are familiar or perhaps not. Though Pride is not a concert, a party, an event outside or framed in a more sedate and sophisticated seated arena. It does not belong to a money making organisation whether it contributes to charitable foundations or not. It is neither provincial nor massively metropolitan. Pride is within, it belongs to us all as individuals and to hide the pride is the true sin. Army boots or sequins, more than ever before, the time is now.
TWISTED GILDED GHETTO
Waves of Silence
) Annwfyn and I had grown up together, been born on the same day. Living in the Welsh valleys there was endless opportunity for adventure and for rain. The lush deep green of the mountains and riverbanks caught this verdant opulence from the frequent rains drawn down from the Atlantic clouds by the mountains, which curved around the valley, walling us in, in our soft, green prison. Annwfyn and I had spent that summer building dens, weaving towered bracken and laying down a thick carpet of pine needles that we’ve carried across the stream from the scented darkness of the forest.
) Suddenly it’s autumn, not many people had a summer holiday, not that there was much summer weather. But we can now all start planning foreign holidays, but it isn’t going to be very simple. The ill-fated traffic light system is flashing all sorts of colours. We are advised to avoid all red list countries, but they can change colour overnight. The rules governing vaccine passports are confusing, but it is a good plan to get an NHS Covid Passport, but not all countries accept them.
BY ERIC PAGE
This was the ‘70s; behind the green curtains the old industrial waste lands of South Wales were breathing their last rusty groan. Coal mines, steelworks, rolling mills, quarries and huge fantastical mechanical monsters which shuttled the raw materials in buckets the size of buses along the cables stung across the valleys. Now gone, the soft ghosts of heritage have taken their place, the river runs with trout, not coal dust, the mines are museums, the rolling mill sill, the quarries filled with their own bones and forested over for 40 years, the steel works replaced by gleaming hospitals built on the only flat land for miles. It’s this silence which always startles me when I return, the churning, clanking, clanging, blasting noise only exists in my memory, the only industry now the busy bees. Annwfyn had pinched some rope; we’d climbed to make a swing in one of the huge old oaks hugging the steep slopes. Early October, still warm enough, the hedgerows full of nuts and huge sweet blackberries. We climbed the tree and tied the ropes when the rains came in. Shrieking under the sheets of water we dashed into one of the old mine openings, dark solid openings in the granite, long disused, often home to toads and bats and curtained with glistening cobwebs, there were shelters. We obviously knew not to go too far inside, knew the danger of the endless abandoned industrial scars going back before the Romans. It rained on, the path turned to a brown slurry of leaves, twigs and flowers, our flowers floated in slow circles in the puddle, our faces streaked with rain, laughing at the torrents when the grumbling started, the deep dissatisfied groan of slagheap and shale shifting. Within a moment Annwfyn and I were chest deep in cloying sludge, trapped by the sucking mud. Fear froze the moment into my mind, I can see her looking at me, trying not to panic, holding my hand. The rain stopped, for hours calling, crying, getting very, very cold, then night came... I’d never been so scared in all my life. Annwfyn sang to me to keep my spirits up, and then sleep took us. A hard slap woke me, the light burning my eyes, strong arms reaching, pulling me up, blankets, towels, wiping, wrapping me, thrown onto a blanket I was carried down the mountains. We’d been missed, the dogs had been sent out, searching all night. Cwn Annwn had sniffed us out, the hound of Annwfn we called it. Annwfyn’s huge dog led the frantic rescue party to us, or so I’d thought. In the yard my mother stood holding Annwfyn’s mother, weeping. They’d found her body first, she’d been swept away by the torrent before the toxic slurry closed around me. Drowned. She’d never been holding my hand all through the night, keeping me safe, singing soft songs to keep me awake, telling me everything would be OK, that we’d be found soon. I’d felt her hand in mine all through that long night, told the policewomen who looked away sadly at Annwfyn’s mother. “Shhhhhhhhh,” she said, “you hit your head, imagination, she was never there”. At her funeral that cold October morning, my arm in a heavy plaster cast, I heard a snatch of song from across the valley, coming from deep in the darkness of the pines and a giggle. I smiled to myself and learned to be exquisite and never explain.
BY ROGER WHEELER
Conflicting reports are arriving from all over Europe of some airport staff vigorously checking every bit of documentation, particularly in Easten European airports, whereas in Germany and some parts of Spain no one is particularly interested. Some people are getting through airports faster than ever before, Gatwick in particular. There’s no rhyme or reason. Arriving in Gibraltar en route to Spain, the carefully prepared online entry forms for Spain are waved aside, the airport authorities now want an entry form. Gibraltar has now effectively become part of the Schengen Area although part of the UK, which in effect means that flying to Gib technically allows you access to virtually all of Europe. But don’t try it, a border guard somewhere won’t like it.
“It is impossible to predict if international travel will ever fully recover, but in the meantime, so long as you carefully and fully research what various protocols, if any, exist, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t go wherever you would like” No doubt we are all upset by the news that the EU has banned all travellers from the USA as well as several other countries. The British are very welcome in France and most if not all the European countries. The EU updates its travel recommendations every two weeks, based on Covid-19 infection levels. To be considered ‘safe’ a country needs to have no more than 75 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the 14-day period. The good news is that most tour operators, holiday companies and travel agents are now offering fully flexible options meaning that there is a very low deposit and it is all fully refunded if you decide not to travel. Although the EU speaks on behalf of all its member countries their opinions are not binding on any of the national governments. Denmark, France, Germany along with many other EU countries have abolished nearly all controls for fully vaccinated visitors from the UK. But you need to check each government’s website as they will all need some sort of declaration of your vaccine status. Canada has now relaxed their restrictions, so long as you have been fully vaccinated you can now enter the country with no problem. The view of the World Tourism Network is that no one knows what the world of tourism will look like in six months, a year, or two from now. It is impossible to predict if international travel will ever fully recover, but in the meantime, so long as you carefully and fully research what various protocols, if any, exist, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t go wherever you would like. Health warning: All these notes were correct at the time of writing, September 1, but be prepared for changes.
my point of reference when considering developments over the past decade. The first 'out' LGBTQ+ celebrity I felt an affinity with was definitely Hayley Kiyoko after discovering her in 2015. She was first femmepresenting queer woman I had ever seen in the media who talked so openly about their sexuality and sapphic identity, and it surprises me that this was only six years ago.
"While my personal journey has been mostly positive, working as a writer means that every day I see reports on the increase in hate crimes and the rise in antitrans hostility that has made trans kids in particular into a target for abuse"
2010s vs 2020s: A Retrospective on the Decade of my Queer Awakening. By Rachel Badham ) In 2011, I was in my
first year of secondary school, and had absolutely no idea how I identified as a person, who I wanted to be, or what my life would look like in 10 years’ time. So for me, the past decade has been characterised by a lot of questioning, coming out several times, and learning about a whole world of queer culture that was unknown to me 10 years ago. In terms of the rise in mainstream queer representation and visibility, the 2010s-2020s have been perhaps the most eventful years the LGBTQ+ community has seen. On both a private and public level, the decade has been highly eventful, in both the best and the worst of ways. So, how much has really changed in this short yet pivotal space of time? Seeing as the majority of the past decade has been spent in education, changes in the schooling system and young people’s attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community have been some of the most notable aspects of the past several years to me – particularly the changes to how sex education is taught in schools. As a young queer person, having access to LGBTQ+ sex ed would have made the world of difference to my confidence and understanding that sex is so much more than penetration. My education experience undoubtedly lacked teaching about sexual health, consent, and
what sex means besides reproduction. We had a couple of sex ed classes, were shown a bizarre cartoon of a man and woman having sex while looking very unsatisfied, and were told that only cisgender men could commit rape. And this was less than 10 years ago. In 2020, it became law that public schools include LGBTQ+ education within the curriculum, after years of campaigning from Stonewall. Exploring your sexuality and/ or gender identity as a young person can be difficult, no matter what your environment is like, but I think that my personal journey would have been considerably easier had my school been more aware of the impact that queerinclusive education can have on young LGBTQ+ people. I suppose that only the young LGBTQ+ people who are actually in primary and secondary education can be the judge of whether schools have become more inclusive over the past decade, but it is evident that efforts are being made to transform the system that has failed generations of queer youth. Seeing as school proved unhelpful at best when it came to understanding my identity, the majority of my knowledge about queer culture in the 2010s came from representation in the media and out LGBTQ+ celebrities who I followed. Growing up in a small and fairly undiverse town, I had little awareness of anything outside the mainstream for most of my teenage years, and so this has been
I’m sure that part of the reason why I’ve noticed an increase in LGBTQ+ representation over the past five years or so is because I have been immersing myself in queer pop culture more, but there is also evidence to suggest that representation is increasing in general. GLAAD’s 2020 annual Studio Responsibility Index report found an increase in major Hollywood films that featured an LGBTQ+ character, with queer characters also being given more screen time. On the surface, everything appears to be moving in the right direction, and I undoubtedly feel more comfortable in my queer identity because of the positive changes that the past decade has witnessed. However, that’s only a very small part of the bigger picture. Every few years a new wave of moral panic related to the LGBTQ+ springs up and spirals out of control as false narratives are perpetuated by authority figures and mainstream media. While my personal journey has been mostly positive, working as a writer means that every day I see reports on the increase in hate crimes and the rise in anti-trans hostility that has made trans kids in particular into a target for abuse. From the blatant homophobia seen during the AIDS epidemic of the late 20th century to today, there continues to be forms of very public hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community. There’s no denying that improvements in representation and education are a great step forwards, but it is not enough just to see ourselves on screen or hear abstract discussions of queer identity. We all have to been seen and heard in as many ways as possible, and demand to be respected instead of just accepted. It certainly feels like a long way to go. But, collective activism has gotten us this far and is sure to continue propelling us forward. Hopefully, when we reflect on the past decade in 2031, things will be a lot brighter for every member of the LGBTQ+ community.
44 62 Scene Gscene
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Don’t fear ) We all know that at the end of October is Halloween, in many countries, a time for remembering the dead and now more commercially associated with the supernatural, horror and ‘trick or treat’. Some people love to be thrilled by a sense of fear, it certainly gets the blood pumping when goosebumps send you the shivers. But real fear is no joke, it is one of the strongest emotions we experience and can have dramatic effects on our behaviour. The HIV information campaign produced by the British government in the ‘80s used fear as a motivating tool. The images of tombstones and icebergs created a fear of HIV in the general population and marginalised communities where HIV was prevalent. The aftershocks of those campaigns are still affecting people today some 40 years later. Fear of HIV can dissuade people at risk from getting tested. This is particularly sad, as treatment is so effective now that there is ZERO risk of a person with an undetectable viral load passing on the virus to somebody else through sex. We use the mantra Undetectable = Untransmittable, or U=U for short.
“The HIV information campaign produced by the British government in the ’80s used fear as a motivating tool” For people living with HIV the greatest burden of this fear is stigma. Stigma makes people fear being discriminated against, or treated differently in their relationships, communities, workplaces and services such as the NHS. The best way to combat this fear and stigma is through educating people that HIV is controllable and people living with it can now lead healthy lives. Living in an age of Covid, we know that HIV is simply a virus, and that fear and misinformation can cause people to make irrational decisions that may even increase infections, (think of anti-vaxxers, and not getting tested for either virus). There is nothing supernatural about HIV. In its education campaigns, the Martin Fisher Foundation tells us that HIV isn’t scary anymore. We have known about HIV for over 40 years, and it is time to put the stigma and fear of the 20th century behind us. We can’t move forward if we are stuck looking backwards. The Sussex Beacon’s Peer Mentoring service can help people living with HIV develop skills and strategies for sharing information about their status. Visit www.sussexbeacon.org.uk to find out more. In our project More to me than HIV, we are fighting this fear and stigma by normalising living with HIV. We will show a wide range of portraits of people, all of whom are living with HIV, but contrary to the images of fear, are living ordinary and sometimes extraordinary lives, just like anybody else. Our participants will be professionally photographed by Angus Stewart, and the images will be displayed at an exhibition in the Jubilee and satellite libraries in the city of Brighton & Hove. If you’re living with HIV, and would like to show that world that there is nothing to be scared of, please visit www.moretomethanHIV.life.
While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of statements in this magazine we cannot accept responsibility for the views of contributors, errors, or ommisions, or for matters arising from clerical or printers errors, or an advertiser not completing a contract
TURN BACK THE PAGES
Gscene has been published every month for over 27 years, and is a rich chronicle of the history of our LGBTQ+ communities. Chris Gull raids the archives… and, again, little has changed, except that our LGBTQ+ communities are even more disproportionately affected by social isolation, loneliness, physical, emotional and mental ill health, and financial insecurity. Note also that, at the end of the article, James points out that the report only covers LGB, and that Stonewall does not campaign on behalf of transgender people. That is no longer the case.
the Gscene archive with this report from October 2006. The most recent Albert Kennedy Trust report into young LGBTQ+ homeless (reporting before Covid) people indicates that there have been few positive changes in 15 years.
Conservative Equalities spokesperson Brian Pidgeon said: “The findings of this report are striking and highlight not only that LGBT homeless people face specific problems, but also that there appear to be common causes of LGBT homelessness which need to be tackled at several levels. LGBT organisations in the city are awaiting the council’s verdict on the report, and we shall be pushing hard for some answers.” ) Moving on to another current hot potato...
social care. Since this report and its recommendations, we’re all 10 years older,
BRIGHTON PRIDE RAISES £100,000 FOR LOCAL GOOD CAUSES ) Paul Kemp, Pride’s director, said: “I’m thrilled to announce we’ve broken our fundraising target for 2016 and matched the record fundraising of our 25th anniversary year in 2015. “It’s been a challenging year for Pride. Money raised from Parade collection buckets (£1,670.00) and contributions towards fundraising from local businesses is much lower this year. With many businesses across the city benefiting commercially from the influx of Pride visitors it remains disappointing that more don’t help with our fundraising efforts.
Pride cost £1.5 million to stage this year and 70,414 tickets were sold for either the street party or the main event on Preston Park generating £70,414 for the Rainbow Fund. Official Pride parties raised £3,282, while the Pride buckets generated a disappointing £1,679 from people watching the free Pride Parade.
The report, entitled Out On My Own; Understanding the Experiences and Needs of Homeless Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, was compiled by local community workers and Brighton University academics. After interviewing 44 LGBT homeless people in Brighton & Hove, the report revealed: 67% of interviewees suffered homophobic bullying at school; over two-thirds had contemplated or attempted suicide; nearly every interviewee had suffered from mental health problems or substance misuse; 20% had either sold or exchanged sex; 30% had been sexually assaulted; interviewees had even been abused and assaulted in their supported accommodation.
“This year the Pride Parade had the biggest number of participants ever and there were new festival sites across the city. The Pride Festival on Preston Park has received the best feedback ever from visitors while Brighton & Hove Pride is recognised as the UK’s biggest Pride Festival bringing in an estimated £18 million to the local economy”
) We´re starting our regular look back through
TORIES HELP HOMELESS ) Local Conservative councillors are pressing Brighton & Hove City Council for an urgent update on actions taken to address the findings of a report into LGBT homelessness.
local LGBTQ+ organisations and projects. The necessary cancellations of Pride in 2020 and 2021 have impeded the ability to raise such large amounts, but the total raised since 2013 when the current organisers took over is nearly a million pounds now.
CARE ‘TIME BOMB’ AS BRITAIN’S ONE MILLION OLDER GAY PEOPLE AGE ) Lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Britain are far more likely to end up living alone and have less contact with family in later life than heterosexual people, according to new research published by Stonewall. The research, Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual People In Later Life, raises significant questions for how Britain responds to the needs of one million LGB people over the age of 55. Ben Summerskill, Stonewall chief executive, said: “This pioneering research confirms what many LGB people know anecdotally, hundreds of thousands are growing older lacking family and support structures that straight people frequently take for granted. We’re also facing a care time bomb of institutional ignorance about how to serve our community properly.” Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual People In Later Life contains wideranging recommendations for bodies such as the Department of Health and the Care Quality Commission as well as for frontline service providers. Stonewall does not campaign on behalf of transgender people. ) In 2016, Brighton Pride announced it had
raised £100,000 to distribute to local good causes, mostly through the Rainbow Fund to
In addition to Pride’s continued commitment to fundraising for the Rainbow Fund, in 2015 they also established a Social Impact Fund from Pride’s additional activities. Pride will continue to work with community organisations to develop projects and ideas that could be of social benefit to wider communities across the city. £90,000 will be donated to the Rainbow Fund, who make grants to LGBT organisations that provide effective frontline services to LGBT people in the city. £10,000 will be donated to the Pride Social Impact Fund.
Book Reviews by Eric Page ) Shon Faye The Transgender Issue (£20, Allen Lane). Trans people in Britain today have become a culture war ‘issue’. Despite making up less than one per cent of the country’s population, they are the subjects of a toxic and increasingly polarised ‘debate’. This short book takes us outside of this fabricated ‘culture war’ and into the hearts and lives of trans people living today and looks at that experience and asks why it is that trans communities experience things in the way they do, from accessing health, to dealing with the police, from sex work, to violence, oppression, bigotry, to homelessness to fertility and education. Faye uses a wide range of research to underline their conclusions and bring some authentic light to a subject so often presided over by selfappointed cis experts or non-trans authors. Consistently and carefully the spotlight is pulled back on to the lives of people who are affected by these issues; trans lives, trans people, by keeping the focus clear and refusing to be drawn into poisonous and dead-end shrill arguments, the author allows a liberating idea of change to flow through the book. Suggesting it’s a wider issue of societal change, about power and who gets to wield it, about control and who gets to benefit from that, about patriarchy and capitalism and about how we, all of us, need to honestly be the change we want to see in the world. The book is a manifesto in how to build a radically different, fully inclusive world for all people to live in, but one which cherishes, nurtures and enables trans communities to thrive and recognise the contributions they give to wider culture and community. It’s not always an easy read but for the cis reader, who wants to learn more other than the rot produced by mainstream media, this book is a must. Faye take the time to make sure they platform, quote and share stories and experiences from a wide range of different trans people and communities and this is one of the strongest parts of the book. Reflecting and recognising the different ways that class, colour, faith, education, money etc impact on trans lives. Keeping the emphasis on change, clearly detailing the harm caused by the current toxic situation but keeping the attention on hope, on what could and should be done by everyone interested in real equality to achieve it by working in solidarity. This is a book which offers us a way onward, to a better future. ) TJ Klune Under the Whispering Door (£16.99, Jessica Kingsley). Klune’s stories are fun, frivolous, he seduces you with the raw charm of the word and they heft some seriously emotional narratives in with the froth. In this book we meet the deeply unpleasant Wallace, a wretched man who’s just died, so we meet him as he’s collected by the Reaper at his own funeral and then taken to a tea shop – run by Hugo – in a village called Charon’s Crossing. He’s given one week to pass through the door to the other side, so sets about living a lifetime in just seven
off, freed from historical bindings and moving on. In this case very literally. Wallace develops feelings for Hugo. Hugo works as the Ferry Man, getting souls ready for their journey. He himself is bound by habit and convention as he preps souls for the next stage in their existence, stepping through the mysterious Whispering Door. This tender, challenging love story is perfectly handled, and although problematic, like all true love is, the hope of love’s recovery is tremendous. Klune leaves enough mystery hanging around to make this world believable and is tender in his daftness, in a kind of Douglas Adams way, which makes space for the heavy stuff. The book explores the stages of bitterness, anger and grief in an offhand but guided way, but that’s not the drive here, it’s about people finding ways to make the most of the time they have, and finding the power to enable themselves to change, and love being worth the risk of huge
change. Throw in a ghost doggy, an impish spectral grandad and a rather swish tearoom at the end of existence and this is an uplifting, inspirational tale, shot through with a solid gold sea of queer love, guaranteed to bring a smile, even to the hardest of hearts like mine. days. A charmingly crepuscular ) Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé Ace start to a rather touching tale of of Spades (£8.99, Usborne). Our the value of second chances and narrators Chiamaka and Devon making the best of the time we are queer, black, Muslim, women, have left. This is queer redemption, gay, although these are how other a song of opening up, a plea for people perceive and treat them, living, even though you might to each other they are friends be dead, and a soft but careful who share. The plot follows the exploration of grief, although threats and sabotage of these two this is done sotto voice while brilliant students by the shadowy the plot loudly does all the fun Aces, who hunts down indiscretions heavy lifting to keep us occupied from their pasts, posting them turning the pages and laughing. publicly to try to drive them out. It’s a love story, a story of change, They are the only two students of daftness and about seeing the of colour in this otherwise all chains that bind us, following white, and very rich academy. them to their anchors and casting The powerful storyline takes a
solidly intersectional viewpoint of the institutions, narrative and characters, allowing us to feel the pressure and positioning of our two main protagonists as they cope with the situations they find themselves in. It’s a story not just of jealousy and privilege, but also of bigotry, targeted hate, entitlement, fear and exposes the deep secrets of the British prestigious educational institutions – here presented as the fictional academy Niveus. Its successes are rooted in systemic oppressions of black people, and who benefited from slavery, colonialism, Empire and the continued silences of the privileged moneyed classes who maintain their hold on society and were complicit in that historical exploitation. Think Get Out mixed with Gossip Girl. If that sounds heavy, it is, so step up, but this thrilling narrative – which is one of the fastest paced books I’ve read in a while – will genuinely grip you. If you like books about sinister powerful elitist organisations who use all sorts of nefarious tricks to keep their holds on power you’ll love this book, but look in the mirror as it’s not a conspiracy thriller but the fictionalised narrative of institutionalised racism and individual prejudice focused against brilliant students told by a loud, proud, queer black voice. The twist is audacious, and the writing keeps you close to the thudding heartbeat of this electrifying plot. Àbíké-Íyímídé is a tour de force; her explorations of friendships and gay and bi relationships are done with a tender honestly. Although aimed at teenage readers, this is a book for anyone with an appetite for authentic British queer voices who combine passionate, thrilling narrative with a vibrant intersectional social conscience. More please!
WITH MICHAEL HOOTMAN ) JOHNNY GUITAR (Eureka Blu-ray). Few films have been open to as much interpretation and re-evaluation as Nicholas Ray’s operatic Western. On its release, Americans found it a laughable misfire while the French New Wave critics adored it. In the interim, it’s been seen as a camp classic, a critique of McCarthyism and capitalism, a mythic fairytale and a
his first feature, Love is Colder Than Death, and the film adaptation of his play The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, which focuses on the loves, losses and lamentations of the eponymous Petra, a successful fashion designer with two marriages behind her and an estranged daughter. The Ulli Lommel-directed Tenderness of the Wolves is produced by Fassbinder and is based on the crimes of serial killer Fritz Haarmann, who committed the sexual assault and murder of boys and young men in ’20s Germany. ) VEN VR ADVENTURE (Monologic Games). The first thing to say about this game is that it’s easily the best-looking I’ve yet seen on the Quest. Its sizeable 7.8GB allows for incredible detailing, richly constructed landscapes and sweat-inducing vertiginous depths. It’s a platformer in which you control Ven as he jumps around these amazingly beautiful/terrifying worlds, collecting incredibly cute little baby versions of whatever species he’s a member of. Ven is the first VR character I’ve really taken to, he’s like a fox version of Errol Flynn with a cheeky – God help me I almost said ‘sexy’ – smile. Like any good game you slowly learn how to master its more complex tasks. Though it took me about a week to conquer one level, where you have to run off a moving platform and somehow jump round a corner mid-air to avoid three consecutive barriers, it was worth it for the adrenaline rush that made up for the not inconsiderable amount of frustration (and sweary shouting) that accompanied each previous attempt to finish the level. It’s hard to imagine anyone not being captivated by this challenging and constantly inventive game. VEN VR ADVENTURE
Freudian story of sexual repression. Early on John Carradine says of saloon owner Vienna, played by Joan Crawford, “never seen a woman who was more of a man. She thinks like one, acts like one, and sometimes makes me feel like I’m not”. Well, that’s a gender studies monograph in those two sentences. The plot, unusually for a Western, revolves around two female antagonists, the other being Mercedes McCambridge as Vienna’s rival, though the exact cause of their enmity is deliberately ambiguous. Vienna is in love with the eponymous musician played by Sterling Hayden, but she’s also had an affair with the Dancin’ Kid, the latter seems to be very attached to the prettiest and youngest of his gang of hoodlums – plus his name is hardly the butchest in Western history – so I think we can throw homosexual subtext into the mix. The dialogue is full of snappy one-liners and razor-sharp retorts, sometimes overly so,
with the characters occasionally sounding as if they’re in a sophisticated Broadway drama. But then the world of Johnny Guitar is not one of gritty realism. On first viewing I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it, but mulling it over I now can’t wait to see it again. ) PROFONDO ROSSO (DEEP RED) (Arrow Bluray). This revered slasher from Dario Argento is given a lift in stature from the presence of David Hemmings as a jazz musician who witnesses a murder and then gets embroiled in an increasingly bizarre plot. The prowling camera and the compositions are fantastic: where most directors try to make sets look like real locations, Argento reverses this and makes Turin look like a sound stage. It’s not perfect and the characterisations are thin: Hemmings does as best he can but can’t find any inner life to Marcus, who perhaps doesn’t have one. Daria Nicolodi’s crime reporter seems to belong to a
screwball comedy, which might have succeeded if she’d had some flair for either comedy or acting. But you don’t watch a giallo to learn about the human condition. For its baroque plot and its ability to see beauty even in violence Deep Red is a sensual masterpiece, not an intellectual one. ) FASSBINDER VOLUME 1 (Arrow Blu-ray). This is an essential selection from the enfant terrible of the New German Cinema. It includes
48 Scene written for the great oboist Leon Goossens. After a warm string opening, the oboe launches into a winding, sensuous melodic line, and immediately the warmth and incredible smoothness of Daniel’s tone is apparent. The middle movement’s quiet, folk-like melody emerges on the violin over rich harmonies. The oboe eventually enters, darkly improvisatory, and with uneasy string textures, Daniel’s effortless birdlike melismatic interesting rhythms. The slow movement is somewhat unsettling, lines soar. A joyful jig concludes proceedings, with oboe and violin with low, gently pulsing rumbles taking turns, and the pizzicato from the piano, over which the strings having great fun here. The lyrical violin melody rises serenely. harmonies get darker and more The finale is perhaps where unsettled, however, and calm is Voríšek’s weaker invention shows never quite convincingly restored, up the most – less melodically inventive, with expected harmonies despite the flourish to finish. Next comes Gerald Finzi’s (1901-1956) on the whole – yet it brings single movement Interlude. This for proceedings to a fun conclusion me is the highlight here – Daniel overall. The Archduke’s Sonata and the Dorics capture perfectly again has a dark, turbulent Finzi’s darkly introspective and opening, soon swept away by a nostalgic mood, right from the virtuosic, ebullient allegro, with atmospheric string opening. As a rippling piano part. The slow movement that follows is expressive with much of Finzi’s instrumental music, there is an expressiveness and heartfelt, with freer invention that occasionally breaks the surface and harmonies that rock back and with full passion, but the lid always forth. Brüggen’s piano textures goes back on, and the players are warm and rich here, and judge this perfectly here, allowing the Duo find a perfect nostalgic the music to ebb and flow. The sweetness. The minuet and its two final pulsing bars under the high Trios is playful if not particularly revolutionary, but the finale is great sustained violin are enchanting. fun, with flourishes of fantasia-like For somewhat lighter relief, they follow this with Vaughan Williams’ piano episodes between returns (1872-1958) Six Studies in English of the punchy theme. The Duo Folksong, originally for cello set off at a pace, and play with and piano, but here in Robert great drive and energy, with some blistering playing from both in the Stanton’s 1983 arrangement for cor anglais and string quartet. All final gallop. Ultimately, neither using original folksong tunes, they of these works can compete with allow Daniel to shine on the mellow Beethoven’s ethereal calmness, cor anglais, and by and large, the but they have much to offer nonetheless, especially given these strings play a supporting role. Aside from the last of the set, they are highly engaging performances. all quite leisurely, with Vaughan ) Doric String Quartet British Williams’ trademark strolling Oboe Quintets (Chandos CHAN20226). The wonderful Doric rhythms. Daniel plays with an open simplicity, allowing the tunes to String Quartet has joined forces speak for themselves, before they with oboist Nicholas Daniel for a all then play with the final spiky glorious collection of British Oboe jig, before even that dies away Quintets. They open with Arnold to nothing. Then to Arthur Bliss’ Bax’s (1883-1953) Quintet. Like (1891-1975) Oboe Quintet. An most of the works here, this was intriguingly mysterious violin duet sets the tone for a darkly uneasy opening movement. In the slow movement, Daniel’s long sustained oboe lines are incredibly even, all the more impressive given the slithery string chords shifting beneath. The finale by contrast has immediate driving string energy, and the oboe picks up the pecking, virtuosic material as they lead into the jig – Connelly’s Jig
CLASSICAL NOTES BY NICK BOSTON
) Duo Brüggen-Plank Sonatas for Violin and Piano: Beethoven, Voríšek, Archduke Rudolph of Austria (Audax ADX13727). The Duo Brüggen-Plank are German pianist Henrike Brüggen, and Austrian violinist, Marie RadauerPlank. For their first recording with Audax, they have decided to place the last of Beethoven’s violin sonatas – the Sonata No. 10, Op. 96 – alongside a sonata in the same key, Op. 5, composed by Jan Václav Hugo Voríšek
(1791-1825). Both works were dedicated to Archduke Rudolph of Austria (1788-1831), a great musical patron, and piano pupil of Beethoven, and the Duo also include a sonata by him here too. The Beethoven Sonata is beautifully calm, yet no less challenging for that. The first movement is full of delicate conversation between the two instruments, and here, RadauerPlank’s sweet tone is matched by beautifully warm and smooth runs in the piano part. Brüggen then gently opens the second movement with its hymn-like idea, with the violin joining in with a rocking countermelody. The brief scherzo dances by, before the final set of variations on a cheerful theme. The Voríšek Sonata is very different in atmosphere, right from its mysterious, dramatic opening leading into a totally contrasting galloping allegro. The movement is bright and melodically inventive, and Radauer-Plank is particularly sweet at the top of the range. An energetic, scampering scherzo follows, with sudden halts and
to be specific. The playful dance is dovetailed with the darker opening energy, and the Dorics give an edge to their string playing as things get wilder, almost chaotic. After a brief quieter section with pizzicato strings and fragments of melody passed around, there is a frenetic coda to finish, topped by a spiky flourish from the oboe. The disc concludes with two arrangements of Two Interludes from Frederick Delius’ (1862-1934) final (and unsuccessful) opera, Fennimore and Gerda. Here, Daniel is privileged to play Goossens’ own instrument, and the tone here is noticeably different, with a warm, quavering vibrato and open resonance. Both Interludes are gentle and expressive, with Daniel again demonstrating those lyrically expressive long lines, particularly in the serene second Interlude. All in all, this is a very special recording of some glorious music, and Daniel and the Doric String Quartet excel throughout. ) Dmitry Smirnov J S Bach, Bartók, Schneeberger (First Hand Records FHR117). Russian violinist Dmitry Smirnov has paired Bartók’s (1881-1945) Sonata for Solo Violin with Bach’s Partita No. 2 for his debut recording with First Hand Records. He has performed both works together live, interspersing the movements, but here they appear separately – although of course you could experiment with playing the tracks in a different order. There is a kind of logic to this – it’s hard for any solo violin sonata not to have some heritage line back to Bach, and Bartók’s opening movement, written in the style of a chaconne, although not strictly following its form, links with the final great chaconne of Bach’s Partita. Bartók composed his Sonata for Yehudi Menuhin in 1944, and of course it is highly virtuosic, with fiendish scale passages, use of harmonics and rapid trilling. Smirnov is darkly evocative in the opening movement, with great dynamic contrasts, and an eerily quiet slither towards the movement’s conclusion. Dynamics are key in the second movement’s spiky fugue, and Smirnov expertly brings out the contrast between the different fugal lines. He then
) The London Philharmonic Orchestra returns to Brighton to perform Brahms’ Tragic Overture and his Symphony No. 4, conducted by Robin Ticciati, along with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, with pianist Leon McCawley (7.30pm, Saturday 9, Brighton Dome). Tickets: 01273 709709, RANDALL GOOSBY
) Brighton Early Music Festival, October 20-24. After a successful outing with its first Midsummer Season, BREMF is back with a short series of live concerts.
www.brightondome.org. ) They also visit Eastbourne, this time conducted by David Murphy, to perform Sibelius’ Finlandia and his Symphony No. 2, as well as Chevalier de Saint-Georges’ Violin Concerto, with Randall Goosby on violin (3pm, Sunday 10, Congress Theatre, Eastbourne). Tickets: 01323 412000, www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk. ) The Baroque Collective Singers, directed by John Hancorn, perform Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, with Nancy Cooley on piano and Nicholas Houghton on harmonium. Soloists are Alexandra Kidgell (soprano), Rebecca Leggett (mezzo soprano) and Simon Madge (bass). There will be two performances at 6pm & 8.30pm (Saturday 2, St Michael’s Church, Lewes). Tickets: www.thebaroquecollective.org.uk
More info For more reviews, comment and events, visit: D nicks-classical-notes.blogspot. co.uk T @nickb86uk E firstname.lastname@example.org JOGLARESA
and the life of Hercules. From Marais, they give us Theseus’ battle with the Minotaur in the labyrinth, and they also perform virtuosic instrumental works by Leclair and Rameau (7.30pm, Friday 22, St Martin’s Church, Brighton). ) As with every BREMF, the showcase of new and emerging young ensembles, BREMF Live! is an event not to be missed. Many directs, and Clare sings, with The previous participants, including Telling providing Elizabethan the Marian Consort, Spiritato!, tavern, street and courtly music. the Fieri Consort and Ensemble And the audience get to vote on Molière to name but a few, have Dowland’s fate, and how the show gone on to great things, so it’s should end (7.30pm, Wednesday fascinating to be in at the start 20, St George’s Church, Brighton). with such talented musicians and ) BREMF Consort of Voices groups. This year, three groups will returns, directed by Deborah be showcasing their work – the Roberts, with an expanded version Arculo Consort of Viols, Lilium of their summer concert celebrating Convallium, and the Swan Consort two renaissance composers who (4pm, Saturday 23, St Martin’s died in 1521. Josquin & Fayrfax Church, Brighton). 500 explores the richly scored ) And finally, the wonderful polyphony of these two composers, Joglaresa return to tell us tales one English and one pan-European, of weird and wonderful miracles in as well as elegies on Josquin Five Marian Legends. Murderous by Vinders and Gombert. After and wrongly imprisoned knights are a successful outdoor concert, it rescued and cured of their lusts, will be great to take this music and their programme also includes into the resonant acoustic of St dance songs and reflections on our Martin’s Church in Brighton. (8pm, own temptations and mortality. Thursday 21). If you have never seen Joglaresa ) Early music trio Canzona are perform, they are not to be missed. joined by bass-baritone Stuart Directed by Belinda Sykes, they O’Hara for Myths & Legends are also joined by the BREMF of Classical Antiquity, with Community Choir (7.30pm, elegant French baroque music by Sunday 24, St Martin’s). Tickets: Rameau, Clérambault, Marais and www.bremf.org.uk. Leclair. In the miniature dramas of Clérambault and Rameau’s Cantates, they explore the abduction of Orithie, the courting of Thétis by Jupiter and Neptune,
ARCULO CONSORT OF VIOLS
BRIGHTON EARLY MUSIC FESTIVAL
) The festival opens with the welcome return of former cofounder of the festival, Clare Norburn, with her new ‘concertplay’, I, Spie, following the life of renaissance composer and lutenist John Dowland in the murky world of espionage in Elizabethan England – ‘think Spooks, 16thcentury style’! Nicholas Renton
BREMF CONSORT OF VOICES
deftly winds the spooky melody of the third movement through the full range of the instrument, ending with wasp-like trilling, leading to the buzzing finale. Smirnov’s Bach took me a little while to get used to, however. It is quick, especially the final chaconne, and while you can’t argue with the incredible virtuosity he demonstrates, occasionally these rapid tempi lead to a tendency for elements to feel a little throwaway. The overall approach is light, even playful, as in his delicate ornamentation in the allemande. Again, he brings that lightness to the final mammoth chaconne. As a result, it doesn’t have the profundity of some performances, and yet the mesmerising arpeggios and whirlwind runs are highly impressive, and it is a refreshing contrast to many weightier interpretations out there. He then concludes his disc with a Sonata for Solo Violin by the Swiss composer Hansheinz Schneeberger (1926-2019), with whom Smirnov studied in his final years. Schneeberger was a highly successful violinist, and he premiered Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 1, as well as recording Bach’s Solo Sonatas & Partitas. So there is a clear line here, and one can hear the influence of both composers in his sonata here. Following a cadenza-like emphatic opening, the highly virtuosic material winds and twists, with some highly lyrical moments too – Smirnov’s tone here is beautifully sweet. Throughout the work, chromatic ideas slide, defying harmonic clarity, and yet there are also occasional flashes of diatonic brilliance, particularly in the central allegro. The final movement’s constant movement is given a flowing energy by Smirnov. An effective work, performed here with great precision and virtuosity, bringing Smirnov’s display to a strong conclusion.
ART MATTERS BY ENZO MARRA
) This month I’m going to be rounding up some of my recent creative activities over the last few months. I have been curating and touring a group show of paintings in Salford and Middlesbrough, which is set to travel to Swansea in 2022. The exhibition was titled Stand Close and Breathe Me In and was shown at Oceans Apart in June and July, and Pineapple Black in August and September. Stand Close and Breathe Me In is a group exhibition of paintings which explores the collective spirit of small-scale imagery within the context of a painting-viewer relationship. These paintings draw you in. They initiate an intimate response and engage the viewer in the act of looking. They arrest us at close quarters via the smallest of painterly activities and devices. Each painting punctuates the next and radiates into the space and into each other. They converse and mingle, sending out messages like invisible rays. They enter the body through the eyes and remain there as propositions, questions and after-images. These paintings remind us that ‘size isn’t everything’. Up close, we’re able to scrutinise content and the manner in which the paintings were made. We experience the surface as a consequence of process, feeling each painting’s meaning through its distinctive mode of making. At a distance, we witness the bigger picture, where the paintings converse silently at arm’s length, collaborating as dots and dashes and through repetition and strength in numbers. Approaching these paintings, they begin to reveal and conceal themselves simultaneously. Clarity is administered in their obscurity and abstraction before we back away to achieve a sense of perspective in the collective. The exhibiting artists were Julian Brown, Kena Brown, Ruth Calland, Andrew Crane, Jeff Dellow, Lisa Denyer, Rosalind Faram, Susie Hamilton, Alex Hanna, David Lock, David Manley, me (Enzo Marra), Gideon Pain, Alison Pilkington, James Quin, Dan Samuel Thomas, Katie Trick, Rhys Trussler, Grant Watson, Lily-Ella Westacott, Casper White and Dylan Williams. I am also one of the judges for the Lido Open 2021, which is set to result in a group exhibition of shortlisted artists and a solo show in 2022. This is a new gallery space directly opposite the iconic Margate Lido and entries will still be accepted until October 12. No entry fees, just participation fees for the selected artists. If you’re interested or tempted, you just need to email a biography and artist statement (300 words max), and up to three images complete with their titles, dimensions, materials, price and date of execution to email@example.com. The other judges are gallery owners Kristen Healy and Emma Curtis. If you have suitable 2D wall-based works, which don’t exceed 22 x 30cm, we look forward to looking through your entries very soon. I will be exhibiting in the Lido Stores between September 16 & 26 in Sugar Cube, a group show, beforehand.
ALL THAT JAZZ BY SIMON ADAMS
) XHOSA COLE K(no)w Them, K(no)w Us (Stoney Lane Records). Twenty-four-year-old saxophonist Xhosa Cole is a great young black musician, a proud native of Birmingham with a fine Brummie accent to go with it. And he is an equally proud member of the LGBTQ+ community with a real social conscience: when I last saw him live at Brighton’s Verdict club, many yonks before Covid, he talked passionately about the scourge of street homelessness. What’s not to like? His debut album celebrates the music and heritage of seven great African-American composers and improvisers through a contemporary Black British lens. Guesting with his quartet are two more great Brummies: saxophonist Soweto Kinch and pianist Reuben James. Together they pack a joyous punch, Cole’s driving saxophone lines leading the charge. This is the sort of debut that any young musician must dream of. Just listen! ) JAIMIE BRANCH Fly or Die Live (International Anthem). Jaimie Branch is an American trumpet player, one of the few women to play the trumpet, and one of the few of any gender to play it so well. Caught live at a club in Zurich in March 2020, playing a repertoire road-tested after extensive touring, this lengthy set features cello, bass, drums, thumb piano, and tuned percussion as well as Branch’s explosive trumpet, giving many of the tracks the feel of a carnival or a street dance rather than a traditional jazz performance. What results is joyous music from start to finish, ebullient, thoughtful, and often surprising in its sudden shifts and turns. Branch herself is a magnificent trumpeter, leading from the front. If only circumstances would allow us to hear her play live. ) MATT RIDLEY The Antidote (Ubuntu). The Antidote, as in an antidote to the troubles facing the modern world, troubles that obviously concern leader Matt Ridley. He wants his music to unite, not divide, to heal and not harm. His own antidote predates the current coronavirus crisis, but is all the more valid for it. Ridley is an accomplished bass player and composer, now on his third album as leader. He likes to blend jazz with rock and folk music, delivered in places with symphonic grandeur, producing an album of sonic contrasts and some surprise. The improvisation is dynamic, each piece well thought out, though some will object to the prog-rock postures that tend to dominate. But it is still worth a listen.
SERVICES DIRECTORY LGBTQ+ Services l Allsorts Youth Project Drop-in for LGBT or unsure young people under 26 Tues 5.30–8.30pm 01273 721211 or email info@ allsortsyouth.org.uk. www.allsortsyouth.org.uk
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l Brighton & Hove CAB HIV Project
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l LGBT+ Meditation Group Meditation & discussion, every 2nd & 4th Thur, 5.30–7pm, Anahata Clinic, 119 Edward St, Brighton. 07789 861 367 or www.bodhitreebrighton.org.uk
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Sussex HIV & AIDS info service 01403 210202 or firstname.lastname@example.org Money, benefits, employment, housing, info, advocacy. Appointments: Tue-Thur 9am-4pm, Wed 9am-12.30pm Brighton & Hove Citizens Advice Bureau, Brighton Town Hall. 01273 733390 ext 520 or www.brightonhovecab.org.uk
l Clinic M Free confidential testing & treatment for STIs including HIV, plus Hep A & B vaccinations. Claude Nicol Centre, Sussex County Hospital, on Weds from 5-8pm. 01273 664 721 or www.brightonsexualhealth.com
l Lawson Unit Medical advice, treatment for HIV+, specialist clinics, diet & welfare advice, drug trials. 01273 664 722
Lunch club for people with HIV. Meet/make friends, find peer support in safe space. Every Fri, noon–2.30pm, Community Room, Dorset Gdns Methodist Church, Dorset Gdns, Brighton. Lunch £1.50. 07846 464 384 or www.lunchpositive.org
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Inclusive, affirming space where all are invited to come as they are to explore their spirituality without judgement. 01273 515572 or email@example.com www.mccbrighton.org.uk
HIV self-testing kits via digital vending machines available from: The Brighton Sauna, Prowler, Marlborough Pub and The Rainbow Hub. www.martinfisherfoundation.org
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advice only (no assessments), Fri 10am-12pm & 1pm-3pm. • Gary Smith (LGBT* Support) 07884 476634 or email firstname.lastname@example.org www.pavilions.org.uk/services/treatment-recoveryoptions/
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Design of Birmingham HIV/AIDS Memorial revealed
the other in contrasting rusted red. The memorial has been designed by Garry Jones, while the artistic impressions of what the mural might look like were created by Jacob Kirkwood.
) The Birmingham HIV/AIDS Memorial (BHAM) was conceived by artist Garry Jones, Birmingham Pride co-founder Phil Oldershaw and owner of the Fox Pub, Andrew King, after watching Russell T. Davis’ It’s a Sin and deciding that there should be a dedicated mural in the city to commemorate those affected by AIDS and HIV within Birmingham. Several fundraising activities were successfully implemented to fund the mural, while behind the scenes, designs and plans for it were being researched. Planning permission was submitted in August, showing further details of the proposed memorial. The site address for the BHAM is land on Hurst Street, outside the bubble tea store Happy Lemon City, which is the gateway to the LGBTQ+ village. The location of the mural would previously have conflicted with the public highway and cycle lane as they are currently. However, work has already been approved to enhance the area, as previously reported in Scene magazine and, therefore, the mural will be fully pedestrianised.
Garry added: “The Memorial will commemorate those we have lost but who will never be forgotten. It will also be a symbol of hope for the future, at the heart of our city and for all to see. It will show how far we have come but remind us how far we still have to go to end stigma and discrimination.”
As part of the planning permission, the design of the mural has also been revealed. Garry Jones explained that his initial idea for the mural was to show two figures comforting and supporting each other. His research, however, took him in another direction.
The artist chosen to produce the memorial is Black Country-raised Luke Perry, whose work includes the Stronger Together mural, which was unveiled in Victoria Square earlier this year to celebrate under-represented people.
He said: “After researching imagery from the history of HIV and AIDS in Birmingham, a recurring and powerful symbol was the ‘red heart ribbon’. This symbol was adopted and used by the Birmingham World AIDS Day committee from 2008, the heart being chosen to represent love and to reference Birmingham’s position in the heart of England.
Stronger Together was created as part of Sky Arts TV series Landmark, which showcases artists from across the UK as they compete in heats, unveiling local public art pieces. The winning artists from each heat will then take part in the final during which they will pitch for a national landmark which the overall winner will be commissioned to create. The final landmark will be on display in Coventry, which is UK City of Culture for 2021.
“We decided to use the heart-shaped ribbons to represent the figures. These are entwined as if embracing and supporting each other. The two ribbons also represent the dual entities of HIV and AIDS, the past and the future, remembrance and hope.” The mural will be roughly five metres high “to show that we will no longer be hidden or overshadowed”, and it will be formed of two interlocking metal heart ribbons. One of the ribbons will be finished in red;
People can donate to the JustGiving page for the Memorial via this QR code.
Local drag act debuts familyfriendly queer shows
) Adam Carver, aka Birmingham drag act Fatt Butcher, is a creative producer and theatre maker. They are also the artistic director of the newly launched Fatt Projects and its first project is Big Fatt, which is a programme of queer-positive, family-friendly performances starting with the pioneering PALAVER!. Fatt Projects said: “PALAVER! will create a disruptive, messy, joyful, and celebratory season of inclusive performance programming for children aged three to eight and family audiences, supporting the development of high quality performance that provides essential representation, space, and dialogue celebrating queer identities for children and families.” PALAVER! will combine three strands of activity, first: “Delivering a series of three facilitated artist-development labs at Cambridge exploring the radical potential of queer work for young audiences through up-skilling and empowering six of the UK’s leading queer artists to start developing new performance work.”
Birmingham Bulls RFC announces new sponsorship deal Birmingham Bulls RFC stated: “We’re looking forward to work[ing] together over the coming season with lots of events in the pipeline, including our 10th anniversary celebrations. Sponsorship by one of the longest established LGBTQ+ venues in Birmingham will help keep us at the heart of the community we come from.”
) Birmingham Bulls, an inclusive rugby team in Birmingham, is “always ready to welcome new players to join us at any time, regardless of experience, age or orientation”. It was founded in 2011 and competes in the Greater Birmingham Merit League, as well as playing friendly matches with other LGBTQ+ and inclusive rugby clubs across the country.
The club added that the bar would feature on the team’s kit, and will be the home of the Bulls after matches, on nights out, and for its upcoming anniversary. David Cumpston, club chair, said: "We are overjoyed to have the support from the Village, allowing us to remain in the centre of Birmingham’s LGBTQ+ community."
The Village Inn added: “We are absolutely delighted to be the official team sponsors of Birmingham’s allinclusive rugby team Birmingham Bulls The club, which also hosts the annual RFC for the season 2021/22! We’re really Touch My Brum touch rugby tournament, and in 2023 will be hosting excited to work with them over the next year and wish them amazing success this the Union Cup, was proud to reveal a season.” new sponsorship deal for its 2021–22 season with one of the city’s longestD For more info, visit: standing LGBTQ+ venues, the Village www.birminghambullsrfc.com Inn.
Birmingham LGBT agrees new premises These development labs will “include producer support, production and development resources, and test performance opportunities. Each lab will be followed by additional development time, culminating in the creation of six performance extracts ready for development into full-scale productions”. The second strand of PALAVER!’s objective is the audience-focused one that offers the public a programme of family-friendly queer performances that will take place at Cambridge Junction this month. There will be three Sunday morning PALAVER! parties on October 3 and October 17, “bringing together disco, drag, dress-up, games, and scratch performances of work created on development labs.” This part of the project will then culminate in the PALAVER! Festival that takes place during half-term on Thursday, October 28. This will be “a day-long celebration of inclusive programming celebrating the potential of queer positive performance work, including a showcase of the six new performance works developed over the project”. The final strand of PALAVER! is to invite producers, programmers, artistic directors, venue managers, artists and independent creatives to the PALAVER! Symposium on Wednesday, October 27. This is “a day-long event of interactive workshops, panel discussions, LGBTQ+ awareness training, and open conversations on artist development, emotional labour, marketing, and venue accessibility.” PALAVER! is supported by Cambridge Junction through its Vision Mixer’s programme, Marlborough Productions, and Arts Council England. ) Tickets for all the events are on sale now from www.junction.co.uk or contact email@example.com for more info.
) Birmingham LGBT, a registered charity working with the city’s LGBTQ+ community, has agreed on a relocation to a new home in the Southside District.
home of the centre for years. However, with the lease on our offices coming to an end, and the building potentially being redeveloped, we needed to look for new premises.
The new premises, part of a new development on Lower Essex Street, in the heart of Birmingham’s LGBTQ+ village, will “occupy more than 5,000 sq ft in a ground-floor commercial unit facing a new public square, which will link Hurst Street with Lower Essex Street.”
“As a charity delivering services to the LGBTQ+ community, we really want to stay in Southside as it’s important we are located within the community. The new purpose-built centre in Lower Essex Street will mean our future in the area is secure.”
D For more info, visit: Steph Keeble, director of Birmingham https://blgbt.org LGBT, said: “Southside has been the
54 Scene DR BEVERLY BALLCRUSHER. PHOTO BY SOPHIE ELIZABETH
in a riot of rainbows, and after the usual speeches, the acts got underway. The crowds were treated to classic hits from ABBA and Chic. Local singer/songwriter Gary B Lucas showed why he is a Medway Pride Radio favourite, Elberace, aka Gay Elvis, brought the party to a whole new level and got the entire festival on its feet, Amrick Channa kept the party going before Kelly Wilde and Sammi Brooks took it home with some crowd-pleasing favourites.
MEDWAY AND GRAVESHAM PRIDES 2021 By Shea Coffey from Medway Pride Radio ) August was the month for Prides in Kent,
with the first ever Gravesham Pride held on August 14 and the first ever Medway Pride the following Saturday. Gravesham Pride was held in the stunning Fort Gardens, originally designed to defend London against an enemy fleet. It is now a beautiful park with architectural features from the last 300 years. The main focus was the stage, which was set up on the bandstand where we were treated to acts as diverse as Maybe Gaga, for whom no stage would have been big enough and who was rapidly dancing with the crowd; Ronnie Stone and their amazing fire-eating set; a Kylie tribute act; Jayne Snow with her own songs; and compere Miss Dot Com. Blazing hot sunshine drove many to the bar and, as alcohol and music worked their dependable magic, the Kings of Dhol took to the stage with a drumbeat born of bangra but set to chart music the crowd knew. The next 40 minutes were an East meets West danceathon, and even the security teams strutted some very funky moves, and I have the video to prove it! Gravesham organiser Helanna had given me many reasons for creating a local Pride, but as I watched the crowd just enjoying being together after 18 months of isolation, I could not help but reflect that she was right when she said “everyone has their
own tribe, their own people”. The seven days between Prides saw quite a few spin-off events, from local performances and quiz nights to karaoke, and even a guided tour of the LGBTQ+ history of Medway with Rob Flood cheekily named Carry On Up The Khyber (if you want to know why, take the walk next time it’s on!). There really was something for all.
“The day belonged to the community for whom the wait to get back to Prides was long and the long-held promise of a local Pride finally became a reality” The following weekend it was the turn of Medway Pride and we were aware just how high Gravesham had set the bar. The gates opened at 10.30am; people from across the community headed to the Riverside at Doust Way to be greeted by Kent Police, Kent Fire Service, NHS nurses, loads of charity stalls, the ubiquitous food and drink vans and Pride merch stalls. There were also some you might not expect, such as a comedy tent from the folks at Much Laughter, and our own Medway Pride Radio stand where we had Rob Flood fresh from his walks on hand to talk about the amazing history of the LGBTQ+ community in Medway. Despite the grey day, Pride-goers flocked through the gates and settled on the grass
It was the drag queens that brought the glamour. Dr Beverly Ballcrusher worked the crowds with style and panache I have seldom seen, Chai Latte (a name to watch) very nearly stole the show with a fabulous set, but it was River Medway and her entourage that the crowds were waiting for, and they were not disappointed. Ultimately, the day belonged to the community for whom the wait to get back to Prides was long and the long-held promise of a local Pride finally became a reality. Walking among the revellers I heard one thing said 50 different ways: “It is so nice to meet you finally in real life.” It’s a reminder that in the last 18 months a whole community has developed online through Zoom, Teams, and various social media platforms and Medway Pride, like Gravesham Pride the week before, was a chance for friends to meet in real life. They met, they danced, and they celebrated finding their pride. There was one couple that had more to celebrate than any other. In the Chalk Gallery, which was as much fun for adults as children, was a marriage proposal... and an answer, of course it had to be... YES! After a county-wide search that included local papers, the couple from Canterbury were found and will be talking to Medway Pride Radio in the coming days. Elberace has offered to perform at their wedding. Hats off to Hilary and Helanna for organising two incredible local Prides that are both certain to grow in coming years, but my final thanks have to be to all the volunteers, whether you volunteered on a stall, at a spinoff event, or for Gravesham and/or Medway Prides, you contributed to an incredible few days. I’ll let both committees have a short rest before suggesting we do it all again next summer! All photos courtesy of Sophie Elizabeth
AMRICK CHANNA. PHOTO BY SOPHIE ELIZABETH
CHAI LATTE. PHOTO BY SOPHIE ELIZABETH
GAY ELVIS. PHOTO BY SOPHIE ELIZABETH
RIVER MEDWAY. PHOTO BY SOPHIE ELIZABETH
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31-34 Marine Parade, BN2 1TR 01273 624462 www.legendsbrighton.com 21 Marine Tavern mm 13 Broad St, BN2 1TJ 01273 681284 22 Nautilus Lounge m 129 St James’s St, BN2 1TH www.nautiluslounge.com 23 New Steine Hotel & Bistro mmm 12a New Steine, BN2 1PB 01273 681546 www.newsteinehotel.com 24 Nice ’n’ Naughty m 32 St James’s St, BN2 1RF
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www.nicennaughty.co.uk 25 Paris House mm 21 Western Rd, BN3 1AF 01273 724195 26 Prowler m 112-113 St James’s St, BN2 1TH, 01273 603813 www.prowlerpoppers.co.uk 27 Queen’s Arms m 7 George St, BN2 1RH www.theqabrighton.com 28 Railway Club m 4 Belmont, Dyke Rd, BN1 3TF 01273 328682 29 Regency Tavern mm 32-34 Russell Sq, BN1 2EF 01273 325 652 30 Revenge m 32-34 Old Steine, BN1 1EL www.revenge.co.uk 31 Three Jolly Butchers mm 59 North Rd, BN1 1YD 01273 608571 32 Trading Post & Cup of Joe’s mmm 28 St George’s Rd, BN2 1EE 01273 698873 33 Velvet Jacks mm 50 Norfolk Sq, BN1 2PA http://tinyurl.com/VelvetJacks 34 Lé Village mm 2-3 High St, BN2 1RP 01273 681634 35 Zone m 33 St James’s St, BN2 1RF www.zonebrighton.co.uk ARDEN S
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14 Curzon m m 7 Brighton Birdcage m 7 Rock St, BN2 1NF, 01273 697054 35 Gloucester Rd, BN1 4AQ www.facebook.com/CurzonBarBrighton/ 01273 624010 15 Dental Health Spa m 8 Brighton Box m 25 Dukes Lane, Ship Street, BN1 1BG, 14–15 Queens Rd, BN1 3WA 01273 710831 01273 722 036 www.dentalhealthspa.co.uk 9 Brighton Sauna m 16 Engleharts m 75 Grand Parade, BN2 9JA 49 Vallance Hall, Hove St, BN3 2DE 01273 689966 01273 204411 www.thebrightonsauna.com www.engleharts.co.uk 10 Brighton Tavern m 17 Fallen Angel m 99-100 Gloucester Rd, BN1 4AP 24 Grafton St, BN2 1AQ 01273 680365 18 Grosvenor Bar m 11 Bulldog m 16 Western St, BN1 2PG 31 St James’s St Mews, BN2 1RF 01273 438587 12 Camelford Arms mm 19 HITZone Hove m 30-31 Camelford St, BN2 1TQ Unit 23, Waterside House, Basin Rd 01273 622386 13 Charles Street Tap mm N, Hove, BN41 1UY, 07832 022002 www.facebook.com/hitzonehove/ 8-9 Marine Parade, BN2 1TA 20 Legends Bar, Club & Hotel 01273 624091 mmm www.charles-street.com
1 Affinity Bar m 129 St James’s St, BN2 1TH www.facebook.com/AffinityGayBar/ 2 Amsterdam Bar & Kitchen mm 11-12 Marine Parade, BN2 1TL 01273 688 826 www.facebook.com/amsterdambarbrighton 3 Bar Broadway m 10 Steine St, BN2 1TE 01273 609777 www.barbroadway.co.uk 4 Bar Revenge m 5-7 Marine Parade, BN2 1TA www.revenge.co.uk CHU RCH 5 Barber ST Blacksheep m 18 St George’s Rd, BN2 1EB 01273 623408 wwww.barberblacksheep.com 6 Bedford Tavern mm 30 Western St, BN1 2PG 01273 739495
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