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TWO WOMEN EMBRACING (1913) BY EGON SCHIELE. ORIGINAL FEMALE LINE ART DRAWING FROM THE MET MUSEUM.


SENSORY WORLD - PAGE 16

Sept 2021 Scene magazine

D www.scenemag.co.uk T @SceneLGBTQ F GScene.Brighton I SceneMagazineUK Publisher: Scene Magazine Media CIC Editorial: info@scenemag.co.uk Advertising: info@scenemag.co.uk

News team: Graham Robson, Eric Page, Rachel Badham, Catherine Muxworthy E news@scenemag.co.uk West Midlands News Editor: Catherine Muxworthy E midlandsnews@scenemag.co.uk

Cover:

Contributors

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, Richard Jeneway

Features

10 A QUEER SEX REVOLUTIONARY

Jason Reid on being totally in love with queer singing sensation Lil Nas X

11 NO SEX PLEASE...

Craig Hanlon-Smith shows sex workers a little respect

12 IT’S ALL ABOUT SEX Pucker up for our sex-themed issue

13 BART SENG WEN LONG – FEMBOYS

The photographer shares some of their work, which uncovers soft, tender, and erotic fantasies of fluid genders and contemporary attitudes

14 A JOURNEY THROUGH CHEMSEX

Richard Jeneway takes about his relationship with drugs and chemsex

15 STUDY: EXPERIENCES OF CHEMSEX New research into people’s experiences of chemsex

Photographers

16 SENSORY WORLD

Jack Lynn, Chris Jepson, Simon Pepper, Nick Ford, Tom Selmon, Bart Seng Wen Long, Sam Ireland

18 BURLESQUE EXPRESS

Tom Selmon talks about his new visual collaboration, Sensored Ebullient performer Violet Delights strips down the essence of the art

20 STAY SEXY

Catherine Muxworthy gets up, close and personal with Dominus Von Vexo

News

4 News 47 Scene in Birmingham 48 Medway Pride Radio

Arts

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.

24 TITANIA MCGRATH

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.

25 SAMUEL COUSINS

22 Around the World 32 Arts Corner 40 Page’s Pages 41 At Home with Hootman 42 Classical Notes 43 Art Matters 43 All That Jazz

26 FAN THE FLAME

Regulars

23 WHAT’S COOKIN’? © Scene 2021

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.

Jaq Bayles meets Woody Cook, whose new media company aims to ‘give back’ and create a community Alex Klineberg catches up with the ‘fiercely opinionated social justice warrior’ Brian Butler talks with the musical director of Actually Gay Men’s Chorus Alex Klineberg finds out more about new Dead or Alive box sets and a never-before-heard album

28 QUEER HETEROTOPIAS

Socially Engaged Arts Salon introduces a new exhibition at the Ledward Centre

29 THE ULTIMATE GAY ICON

QUEER HETEROTOPIAS - PAGE 28

VAL MCDERMID - PAGE 31

Model: Violet Delights i www.instagram.com/ itsvioletdelights Photographer: Zeinab Batchelor dwww.zeinabbatchelor.com i www.instagram.com/zeibatchelor/ Assistant: Katie Allen

VIOLET DELIGHTS - PAGE 18

Features Editor: Jaq Bayles News Editor/Design: Graham Robson Arts Editor: Alex Klineberg Art Director: Tom Selmon

WOODY COOK- PAGE 23

Editorial team

A new show delving into the life of Marlene Dietrich is to raise funds for the Sussex Beacon this month

30 SPOTLIGHT

Theatre producer Adam Blanshay talks to Brian Butler about taking the pandemic by the horns and the business behind the boards

31 VAL MCDERMID

The ‘Queen of Crime’ talks to Alex Klineberg about her latest project

32 34 34 35 36 38 39 44

Homely Homily Wall’s Words Stuff & Things Craig’s Thoughts More to Me Than HIV Hydes’ Hopes Rae’s Reflections Turn Back the Pages

Information

38 Classifieds 46 Services Directory


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Gala Launch of Pride at the Ironworks proves huge success PHOTO: CHRIS JEPSON

PHOTO: CHRIS JEPSON

Apertum on September 25; Bleach – Dan Ireland-Reeves on September 26; Screening of Vestida de Azul by Antonio Gimenez-Rico on September 29; Polari LGBTQ+ Literary Salon on September 30. With the ongoing challenges that Covid continues to bring, fundraising for essential local charities and community groups has never been more important. Pride at the Ironworks will allow Pride to continue to ensure that every ticket sold will include a charitable donation to the Brighton Rainbow Fund. ) Kicking off a sensational season of LGBTQ+ cultural events in celebration of Pride month, the Gala Launch night of Pride at the Ironworks supported by Tesco was hosted by drag sensation Felix Le Freak.

community, Pride at the Ironworks takes place throughout August and September at Ironworks Studios in central Brighton and features a glittering programme of showstopping cabaret, comedy, theatre, dance, film, activism and politics.

A spectacular array of cabaret, drag, live music and spoken word performances from some of Brighton’s best loved entertainers saw a line-up that included Billie Gold, King Sammy Silver, The Harlequeens, Brandy Bex, Lydia L’Scabies, Lorraine Bowen, Rhys’ Pieces, Dick Day and ‘the prince of UK drag’, Alfie Ordinary.

Forthcoming highlights include Crashing Waves – a screening and workshop with Emma J Gilbertson on September 4; The Cocoa Butter Club on September 5; Kate Bush: A Celebration with Paul Diello on September 9; Tim McArthur interviews Christopher Biggins on September 18; Duncan and Tim’s Big Camp Show on September 23; The Illustrious Blacks on September 24; The Lipsinkers – Clausus

Supporting LGBTQ+ artists and the wider

Since 2013 Brighton & Hove Pride has raised almost £1million for local LGBTQ+ and HIV charities, community groups, social impact organisations and cultural activities in Brighton & Hove, the vast majority of it distributed through the Brighton Rainbow Fund to specific LGBTQ+ projects that make a fundamental difference to the lives of hundreds of people in our communities. To make the cultural programme accessible to all members of the community, Brighton & Hove Pride will be offering a number of discounted tickets for every performance. Sign up to the Stage Door list to keep up to date with events and news from Pride at the Ironworks: www.brighton-pride.org/ ironworks-stage-door/


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Chris Sarson raising £2,000 for Ledward Centre and Brighton & Hove Sea Serpents

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Out to Swim South celebrates Pride in the pool

) Chris Sarson, local funeral director at Jefferies Funeral Directors, tells us about his fundraising challenge, which is to raise money for The Ledward Centre and Brighton & Hove Sea Serpents RFC with donations split 50/50. “I thought it time to remember my dear friend James Ledward in a way which he would enjoy by me yet again doing abseil number two. I remember him meeting me on my first abseil on Saturday, May 18, 2019. He turned up at 7.30am saying:

CHRIS SARSON IN 2019

) Out to Swim South, an LGBTQ+ inclusive swimming club, celebrated Pride in the pool last month at the Prince Regent Swimming Complex in Brighton.

‘I wouldn’t get up early for anyone but as it’s you I have.’ “I have chosen two good causes with the proceeds of the fundraising to be shared 50/50. “The Ledward Centre will open to provide a community and cultural centre for use of Brighton & Hove’s LGBTQ+ communities and our allies and to promote our culture and values. The Centre will address the disproportionate levels of loneliness and social isolation within our communities and promote inclusion and integration; raise awareness of our communities’ needs and aspirations; work in partnership with others to address the barriers and problems encountered by our communities.

“Brighton & Hove Sea Serpents is Sussex’s first fully inclusive rugby club, encouraging gay, bisexual, and trans guys to learn, experience and play rugby in a non-judgemental atmosphere. The club welcomes anyone who shares their vision. “The funds will help those less financially able to attend the international gay rugby event The Bingham Cup in Ottawa in August 2022. “Jefferies is proud to be sponsors of the rugby club based at Hove Rugby Ground.” The BA i360 drop will take place on Thursday, September 9 at 8.40pm. Chris added: “You’re all welcome to see me fall from the skies again, ha-ha.” D To donate and for more info visit: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/christopher-sarson?utm_ term=GPVZ5r97d

Out to Swim South, a group of sociable LGBTQ+ swimmers who swim for fun, fitness or competition, is open to all with a positive attitude and provides a friendly environment for those who prefer the social aspect. Members share an enthusiasm to improve with like-minded people and be part of an LGBTQ+ inclusive club. Out to Swim South said: “We may not

be in the park, but we marked the day with Pride.” D For more info visit: www.outtoswim.org/brighton

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Majorities in 10 countries ‘support legal protections for trans rights’

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Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus return to performing at i360’s fifth Birthday

pic cap

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) A series of reports from the Williams Institute at the University of California has found the majority of people in the US, China, Mexico, Peru, South Korea, Malaysia, South Africa, Turkey, Serbia and Poland support the notion of non-discrimination policies for trans people and the right to genderaffirming surgery.

Mexico showed the highest percentage (83%) of participants who supported non-discrimination policies for trans people, with an additional 67% of Mexican respondents saying they want their government to do more to support trans citizens. In the US, 71% said that they believe the country is becoming more accepting of the trans community, with the same percentage saying that trans people should be allowed access to gender-affirming surgery.

ARI SHAW

Meanwhile, in South Africa, 58% showed support for trans people having access to gender-affirming surgery, with a further 20% saying that they know somebody who identifies as transgender. Sixty-one per cent of Polish respondents agreed that trans people should be able to update their IDs to reflect their gender identity, with respondents under 35 being less likely to show support for improved accessibility to surgery. Ari Shaw, director of international programmes at the Williams Institute, described the reports as “promising”, adding: “There is a great deal of variability in socio-political climates among countries around the world, which may contribute to variations in attitudes toward transgender people and their rights. While attitudes vary between nations and among different populations within a country, the overall support for nondiscrimination protections is a promising finding.” To see the reports, visit: https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla. edu/?s=Public+Opinion&post_type=publications

MindOut Trans 101 training ) MindOut, the LGBTQ+ mental health charity, is hosting Trans 101 training on Wednesday, September 15 from 9.15am, which is advertised as an essential introduction to trans awareness with an aim of helping participants to develop more trans-inclusive practice. The Trans 101 course will help increase knowledge and develop inclusive practice around: • The intersection between gender, sexuality, sex and gender presentations; • The basics of social and medical transitioning; • Trans mental health awareness; • Challenging transphobia. D To book your place, visit: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/trans-101-tickets-156910334033

) Brighton Gay Men's Chorus performed for the first time since the pandemic began at the British Airways i360’s Fifth Birthday last month. The performance, which took place in blissful sunshine, was a warm-up

for the Chorus' show, Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus presents: We’re Back!, which took place The Warren on the Beach at the end of August. D To keep up to date with events and new members’ evenings, visit: www.brightongmc.org/

Allsorts’ #StillProud fundraising campaign raises £400 campaign, which was launched to support its specialist youth services as the charity eased its way out of lockdown. Allsorts said: “A huge Allsorts thank you to everyone who donated to our #StillProud campaign and got involved in our online auction. Together, you raised over £400!” ) Allsorts Youth Project, the D For more info on Allsorts Youth Sussex-based LGBTQ+ youth charity, Project, visit: has raised £400 from its #StillProud www.allsortsyouth.org.uk

The Brighton & Hove AIDS Memorial gets spruced up! ) Tay, the Brighton & Hove AIDS Memorial in New Steine Gardens, returned to its former glory last month after Rainbow Hub volunteer Dan gave his time, and elbow grease, to remove graffiti from the sculpture. The Rainbow Hub in St James’s Street is for LGBTQ+ people seeking up to date help, information or guidance, in a safe, non-judgemental environment. Volunteers provide a welcoming drop-in space to help individuals and where necessary refer them on to one or more partner organisations for further support. D For more info, visit: www.facebook.com/ RainbowHubBrighton


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Reclaim Pride marches through Brighton city centre

Vaccination THT - Chemsex champions Awareness needed Training & HIV Awareness Training

) Reclaim Pride, a queer affinity group, marched through the streets of Brighton last month.

• Module 3: HIV Stigma & Discrimination on Wednesday, September 29. Content: Impact of HIV stigma and discrimination; hear the personal experience of someone living with HIV; case studies.

) HIV/sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) has announced it is hosting free online Chemsex Awareness Training and HIV Awareness Training sessions this month and next. Starting with speeches at The Level, the march travelled through Brighton with those at the front holding a banner reading ‘Queer Existecnce is Resistance’, a slogan which was also chanted during the march. According to organisers, the purpose of Reclaim Pride Brighton was to “take Pride back from corporations, cops and banks. “And fighting for radical queer liberation, as exemplified by our housing, healthcare, home safe chant.” Photos courtesy of Donna Edmead.

Super Sunday cabaret marathon raises £600 for Sussex Beacon ) Legends Brighton, following its glittering Super Sunday cabaret marathon, donated a fantastic £600 to the Sussex Beacon, which is over and above what customers donated, via bucket collections on the day - in excess of £400!

• Optional Extra Module on HIV & Black Communities on Wednesday, October 13. Content: The differences within Black communities from a sexual The Chemsex Awareness Training is a health and HIV perspective; insight i to new one-module training session, which the ways in which Black communities are affected by HIV and sexual health; why do will cover what chemsex is; breakdown healthcare disparities exist and the impact of the different drugs that are used during chemsex; findings from chemsex of stigma in Black communities. survey carried out by THT, Buzzfeed and If you haven’t done the training before, Channel 4; the impact of chemsex on you will need to complete the first three individuals; and guidance around support compulsory two-hour modules that make that can be offered to people involved in up the normal ‘one-day HIV Awareness chemsex. Training’. You are then welcome to add on The training is free, and will be delivered interactively via Zoom on Thursday, September 2 or Thursday, September 16, 10am–1pm. HIV Awareness Training, all sessions 11am–1pm on Zoom: • Module 1: Introduction to HIV on Wednesday, September 15. Content: Current snapshot of HIV in the UK and worldwide; definitions of HIV and terminology; HIV transmission.

CAROLINE FROM LEGENDS (L), BILL PUDDICOMBE FROM SUSSEX BEACON (C), LUKE FROM LEGENDS (R)

• Optional Extra Module on HIV & Ageing on Wednesday, October 6. Content: Specific considerations around ageing and HIV; the impact of diagnosis before medication; personal experiences of over 50s living with HIV.

one or both additional modules that focus on specific issues around HIV & Ageing or HIV & Black Communities. If you have already attended HIV Awareness Training, either online or in person, then you can book to do the extra modules in HIV & Ageing or HIV & Black Communities. All training is free, and delivered interactively via Zoom. It is important that you are able to attend all the modules in the correct order to ensure you get all the information.

• Module 2: HIV Treatment & Prevention on Wednesday, September 22. Content: HIV prevention methods; HIV To sign up to any of these courses, email brightontraining@tht.org.uk treatment overview.

Sussex Beacon said: “It was a blustery old day, but it didn’t stop people from flocking to the event from afar. Thank you again to the superb performers, who kindly continued to mention us throughout the entire event and particular thanks to Luke and Caroline from Legends Brighton, who are pictured with Sussex Beacon chief executive, Bill Puddicombe.” Legends Brighton added: “The venue felt blessed, by our amazing performers - Alfie Ordinary, The Cheeky Girls, Miss Jason, Jamie Heward, Mrs Moore, Miles Elliot, Lola Lasagne, Jennie Castell and Davina Sparkle – and by the stellar Legends team, including our door security and DJs who went above and beyond, more so given one or two operational curveballs. “But the biggest thanks goes to our gorgeous customers whose good-natured understanding, humour, and support made what seemed impossible only a few months ago possible.” D For more information on the Sussex Beacon, visit: www.sussexbeacon.org.uk

Jamie Steele walks 16 miles for THT Higgins Trust (THT) last month, raising £160 at the time of writing. Jamie said: “I am so proud to have raised money for such a incredible charity as THT. They do incredible work. Time to now put my feet up, that’s if I can move them!” ) Jamie Steele, wellbeing officer at University of Suffolk LGBTQ+ Society, his husband Sam, and other members of University of Suffolk LGBTQ+ Society, walked 16 miles for HIV/sexual health charity Terrence

D To see Jamie’s fundraising page, visit: https://tinyurl.com/39ty79ya D For more info on THT, visit: www.tht.org.uk


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Trans Swimming Sessions at St Luke’s Swimming Pool in Hanover from 8.30 - 9.30pm.

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Queer in Brighton to host Queer Walking Tour of Brighton

St Luke’s Swimming Pool is based at St Luke’s Terrace, Brighton BN2 9ZE and there are lots of discounts available for people in receipt of benefits such as PIP, Jobseekers and Child Tax Benefit. ) The folk at St Luke’s Swimming Pool in Hanover run a Trans Swimming session every Wednesday

D For more info, visit: www.freedom-leisure.co.uk/ centres/st-lukes-swimming-pool/ leisure-card

Win tickets to Bleach city of unreachable deposits and zero hour contracts. Follow his journey from small town boy to big time fuck-up in this high octane production.

) Bleach, a new one-man show, written and performed by Dan IrelandReeves, is showing as part of the Pride at the Ironworks festival on September 26, and Pride is offering a lucky Scene reader two free tickets through a prize draw. For your chance to win, enter at www. brighton-pride.org/win-tickets-tobleach/ About the show: When a misguided rent boy finds himself taking the starring role in a snuff film, he’s forced to question whether living in London is really worth the cost of rent. Bleach is a visceral and moving story reflecting a generations struggle to stay afloat in a

About the writer: Dan Ireland-Reeves trained at Birmingham School of Acting before going on to form one half of the critically acclaimed company Exist Theatre. Dan was selected to attend the Hightide writers’ bootcamp, where he honed his writing skills and was one of six writers to have their work performed as part of Sell a Door’s new writing festival. Bleach premiered at the London Theatre and has been touring the international fringe circuit ever since. This critically-acclaimed production has been award-nominated at numerous festivals, including winning the Write for the Stage award for best new writing at the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival 2017. It has also enjoyed independent productions in both Australia and New York.

Unisex Hairsalon 18 St Georges Road, Kemptown, Brighton BN2 1EB

01273 623 408

) Queer in Brighton is hosting a free queer walking tour of Brighton, which includes entry to Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, on Sunday, September 26 from 12pm. The LGBTQ+ group will be bringing its monthly LGBTQ+ History Club across the streets of Brighton and into Brighton Museum & Art Gallery to see the Queer The Pier exhibition and the Rock ’n’ Roll with Me Bowie/MacCormack exhibition with local guide Ric Morris. The tour and museum visit are free, but spaces are limited in line with social distancing guidelines, so it’s asked that if you only book if you know you can attend. Session one: Meet Ric on Regency Square, near the statue at 12pm. Walk the streets of Brighton with Ric and arrive at Brighton Museum at 1.30pm. Enter the museum at 1.30pm and visit the Queer the Pier and David Bowie exhibition. Session two: Meet Ric on Regency Square, near the statue at 2.30pm. Walk the streets of Brighton with Ric and arrive at Brighton Museum at 4pm. Enter the museum at 4pm and visit the Queer the Pier exhibition. D To book for one of the two slots, visit: https://tinyurl.com/53a7hzr8

Queer Bloomsbury: Juno Dawson’s ‘Lovely Trans Literary Salon’

) Bestselling author Juno Dawson is to introduce readings from transgender or non-binary writers at Charleston, Firle, on Saturday, September 11 from 4pm. This event is in partnership with the Coast is Queer Festival and is hosted by Queer in Brighton.

In this special edition for Queer Bloomsbury, Juno is joined by writer, presenter and cabaret comedian Shon Faye to discuss her new book The Transgender Issue. In the book, Shon considers the way in which trans people in Britain today have become a culture war ‘issue’, despite making up less than one per cent of the country’s population, and explores how we can have more productive conversations about rights going forward. In reclaiming the idea of the ‘transgender issue’, Shon uncovers the reality of what it means to be trans in a transphobic society and calls for justice and solidarity between all marginalised people and minorities. D To book, visit: https://tinyurl.com/yyer75r2


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The Clare Project drop-in update Vaccination Bi Pride to champions take place this needed month! and Celebration for Julia

) The Clare Project, a self-supporting transgender support and social group based in Brighton & Hove, has announced it is trialling a drop-in in its previous ‘no booking required’/open-door format. This month, the in-person drop-in takes place on Tuesday, September 7 at Dorset Gardens Methodist Church, Brighton BN2 1RL.

JULIA TRANGMAR

There will be an option to sit inside on the ground floor, or outside (you can borrow chairs etc) if preferred. Clare Project will still be asking attendees to wear masks when not seated, unless exempt. You will still be asked to sign in under any name, but with a phone number or email address so organisers can contact you regarding any contact with Covid. The Clare Project has also announced a Celebration for Julia, which will be a chance for members and loved ones of Julia Trangmar to get together on the evening of Tuesday, September 14 from 6pm at the Brighton Tavern, 99-100 Gloucester Rd, Brighton BN1 4AP. Organisers are just waiting on a few booking details before creating a formal invite, but for more info, email info@clareproject. org.uk. D For more information on the Clare Project, visit: www.clareproject.org.uk

MindOut seeks Office Manager ) MindOut, the LGBTQ+ mental health charity, is seeking an enthusiastic, experienced office manager to run its office systems, manage and support its admin team and ensure service users get the best from the charity. The successful applicant will be required to work 28-35 hours a week and the salary is £27,306 per annum (pro rata for part-time). Closing date is Tuesday, September 14 at 5pm; interviews will be held on Tuesday, September 21. D For more info and to apply, visit: https://mindout.org.uk/jobs/

) The UK’s biggest event for celebrating the bi, pansexual and queer community is back with a bang, and this year is due to be better than ever, with a free virtual event on Saturday, September 18. Although Bi Pride is a relatively new organisation, with the first-ever Bi Pride march being held in 2019, it has already been awarded charity of the year, and works all year round to promote bi inclusivity within the LGBTQ+ community. Although bi, pan, and queer people make up a large proportion of the LGBTQ+ community, there is a long history of biphobia within the community itself, as well as the wider world. While bisexual people often face homophobia, there are unique challenges that this community

encounters as they are often excluded from LGBTQ+ spaces. According to Bi Pride, its mission is to create safe spaces “where people who experience attraction beyond gender can be freely visible and celebrate themselves and their identities.” Organisers realised that it was “not enough” to just be “‘welcome’ at a Pride”, and decided to create a dedicated event to celebrate the vibrant and diverse bi+ community. This year’s event can be viewed on Twitch, YouTube or Facebook Live, with more information about what the event will entail being released in the coming weeks. D For more info, visit: www.biprideuk.org


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I think he passed the point of caring about what they think when he made out with the devil in MONTERO. How hot was that! You only have to glance at his Twitter timeline to see that he is unafraid of calling out bigoted views. Replying to a tweet that stated: “#LilNasX isn’t fighting for gay rights. He’s marketing the sexual irresponsibility that’s causing young men to die from AIDS”, Lil Nas X said, “Y’all be silent as hell when n***** dedicate their entire music catalogue to rapping about sleeping with multiple women. But when I do anything remotely sexual I’m ‘being sexually irresponsible’ & ‘causing more men to die from AIDS.’ Y’all hate gay ppl and don’t hide it.” When I think back to growing up in the ‘90s and ‘00s, I can’t recall seeing any mainstream gay music artists openly celebrating their sexuality in this way. Of course there were instances when gay sex was alluded to, mostly in videos that were fronted by female artists like Madonna and Kylie; or on the odd occasion I’d catch sight of some European musics artist tucked away late at night on Channel 4. I was obsessed with Eurotrash.

A QUEER SEX REVOLUTIONARY By Jason Reid

) I’m totally in love

with Lil Nas X. I mean, who isn’t, right? Though what I’m in love with more than anything is the fact that when it comes to his art he is defiantly gay, vigorously queer, proving a point some might say. In an industry that still stifles gayness. His determination to portray his sexuality in all of its raw and beautiful glory – as seen in his recent music videos, MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) and INDUSTRY BABY – has left many frothing at the mouth, apoplectic that a gay musician dare to do what his heterosexual counterparts have been doing for as long as most of us can remember. As gay people we’ve heard it all before: Well… sure we don’t MIND you being gay, but don’t force it down our throat *nervous laughter*. Which always translates to: Please don’t ever mention your sex life, that’s far too much for us to cope with (even though we shoehorn straight sex into songs at every given opportunity). Straight sex – good, gay sex – bad. It’s homophobia, pure and simple. I say keep

shoving it right down their throats. They can froth harder. And get used to it. Let’s be clear, what Lil Nas X is doing benefits us all. It benefits young gay people because when they see someone similar to themselves (among the never-ending tsunami of straight, sexualised music videos) who is rightfully unapologetic about his desires, they feel a kinship. It benefits heterosexual people because so many of them are still inexplicably terrified at the slightest mention of gay sex. Time to face those fears head on, lads. Lil Nas X is pushing that envelope, seeing how much they can handle, probably more than any mainstream gay music artist has done before. He is not compromising on who he is one iota for the sake of appealing to the masses. He is standing up to the critics and defending his right to be an open sexual being. That makes him – in my opinion - a formidable 21st century queer sex revolutionary. I’m glad that the music industry now has a sex-positive queer role model because it’s been a long time coming and such role models are incredibly important and needed. My only concern is that I hope the backlash from the religious far right in America – which sadly wields far too much power – doesn’t throw him off course. Having said that,

“[Lil Nas X] is standing up to the critics and defending his right to be an open sexual being. That makes him – in my opinion – a formidable 21st century queer sex revolutionary” The first music artist I remember being really openly gay was George Michael. The Outside video (2006) was and still is groundbreaking. I think if George was still with us he’d be a big fan of Lil Nas X’s music and attitude. I’m under no illusion that for heterosexual people who have been radicalised into thinking that anything gay equates to evil incarnate, it must be galling to see sexually proud gay men dancing naked in videos and not only accepted by the majority of society, but celebrated. Perhaps that should give them pause for thought. I don’t find Nicki Minaj videos objectionable because I’m gay. I merely believe that if it’s good for one, it should be good for all. And I find prudishness very tiresome. If people want to celebrate their sexuality and it’s within the letter of the law, let them. It’s time to grow up. Hopefully the success of Lil Nas X, who started out as a sweet country musician from the south and shrewdly morphed into a writhing icon, will herald another turning point for queer sex positivity. I can only imagine what his mainstream presence means for queer music artists around the world. That visibility is priceless. I’m happy that the days of gay people being the butt of the joke, tokenised and desexualised in media and music, is coming to an end. We’re better than that. We deserve more. We are empowered. And Lil Nas X is leading the queer sex revolution in music.


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the full pelt, that would have given the site £360million. Even if the figure was half that, it is an astonishing amount of money. Money already processed through these banks who now want it all cleaned up. There are individual sex workers on the site earning in excess of £50k a month. That is not a typo.

No sex please, we’re Westernised... (but we will shoot you in the foot) By Craig Hanlon-Smith ) And so pornographic

site Only Fans announced it was to change its content model from October, banning all material containing “sexually explicit conduct” to focus upon more “mainstream content”. Like Tumblr before it. This should perhaps not seem such a surprise, as Facebook and Instagram – the same company – have banned such content for a number of years now. It is part of a not-so-secret cleaning up of the most popular forms of online communication. Cleaning up in terms of sex and nudity that is. Not cleaning up in matters of political misinformation, minority group humiliation and all forms of extremism, from bomb-making how-to guides, to misogynistic women-blaming for home-grown masculine inadequacies. Such as the online postings of the mass murderer in Plymouth last month. No willies, bums or other bits please, but threats of violence and murder are to be encouraged. Within a week, Only Fans did an about turn, perhaps because it realised its very existence is porn driven.

“Only Fans’ success rocketed in lockdown, and it now has over 130 million subscribers. Those of us who have kept our jobs or enjoyed the luxuries of furlough and government subsidies may want to pause for thought.” Websites, publishing any kind of material, should be subject to checks and balances, and pornographic sites in particular have become notoriously easy to upload to, with zero administrative processes examining the source of the material. We live in an age of so-called ‘revenge porn’ and child sexual exploitation and these sites need to step up to take responsibility for the material they

host. Without question. That said, the initial announcement of the banning of all material of a type is concerning on a number of levels. Does a total ban indicate that it is not possible to filter appropriate material? Are these highly advanced technical companies - which regularly listen in to our online conversations then advertise our children’s ‘Dear Santa’ lists back to us, as if spontaneously - incapable of such sophistication? No. This would require investment and a combination of human and technical resource would not come cheap. Let us not forget here that the pressure on Only Fans, as with Tumblr and Facebook before it, comes from their financial interests and partners. Banks and financial processors, themselves under scrutiny from their own boards and trustees, have threatened to stop supporting them if such content is not removed. Of course these banks have, in each separate case, waited until these high-flying tech companies have established themselves financially before making such threats. In short, we were fine with turning a blind eye before, now we’ve got all the money it is time to reveal our puritanical core. Utter hypocrisy. That there has been a U-turn is confirmation of hypocrisy: “Oh – we’re about to lose the money – the sex is fine after all.” Only Fans’ success rocketed in lockdown, and it now has over 130 million subscribers. Those of us who have kept our jobs or enjoyed the luxuries of furlough and government subsidies may want to pause for thought. Millions of people did not have any work or means of income. Some of those who did had their earning potential more than halved. If during that time, some of those people took advantage of the online opportunities available to them, so what? Only Fans hosts tens of thousands of sex workers providing explicit content to subscribers, who can earn up to £36k per year with the company taking 20% of their earnings. If there were 50,000 sex workers earning

Disappointing but not unexpected was the online response from some in our own community to the initial shift in policy. Vitriol not aimed at multinational financial institutions, nor the CEOs of these advantageous tech companies. You can guess it. Blaming those creating the content – the sex workers. LGBTQ+ people (and of course not) earning money during the pandemic. Sex work is work, and in my book the only work more valuable than any other is those of the medical professionals inserting a ventilation pipe down your throat to keep you alive. All other work is on the same level and should be respected as such. We should also be mindful of the puritanical creep. These movements begin with a whisper and start from the outside in. Our so-called civilised societies stare in shock and awe at events and regimes across the world. We gasp at the march of autocracy in far-flung lands, at their obvious oppressive approach and yet ignore the warning signs in our own front garden. In March of this year three advisors to the government on LGBTQ+ issues resigned citing a hostile environment for LGBTQ+ people in Number 10, the seat of government in the UK. I am not linking a pornographic website to the LGBTQ+ community as Only Fans runs the spectrum for all. I am connecting a creeping puritanical and judgemental society to the infringement on our way of life in the long term. Since 2016 we have seen how our civilized Western cultures are extremely polarised and when the chips are down, aggressively so. LGBTQIA-YMCA-D.I.S.C.O-OPP ‘Yeah You Know Me’ rights will not be at the top of the agenda in a society whose main concern at the beginning of the pandemic was toilet paper. There were fights in supermarkets over the last packet of Andrex. Just think about that for a minute. Human kindness or toilet paper? Section 28 was introduced in this country over concerns that we were indoctrinating our children into the ways of homosexuality. Jenny Lives with Martin and Eric was considered to be a scandalous publication that would infiltrate the minds of children and suggest that a gay family was a normal family. This is a book no one in government had read, let alone the public. A book that was not freely available and actually quite difficult to get hold of. Yet it inspired legislation that meant generations of young people were met with silence on matters of LGBTQ+ understanding. Silence. The puritanical creep is real. You need to see it, notice it, and speak about it. The rest is just toilet paper.


The Matter of Sex A topic close to the hearts (and other body parts) of many, sex is the theme of this month’s issue, which includes on the following pages features on the art of burlesque, the issue of chemsex, and a visual feast of representations in artistry and photography, from Bart Seng Wen Long’s Femboys to Tom Selmon’s new Sensored magazine and a selection of imagery that hints at the wide diversity of the LGBTQ+ gaze. And of course, our columnists, as ever, offer their personal witty, insightful and thoughtful takes on the theme. Enjoy!


Scene 13

Bart Seng Wen Long “In recent years, rigid categories of masculinity have found potent ruptures in exactly its apparent binary opposite – femininity. Femboys have become a culturally assimilated notion, an abstract portmanteau that has become a solid identity for many. In 2013, it was given concrete sexual certification by PornHub as a new porn category chasers could easily search for. But of course femboys aren’t just sexual objects, they have inner lives too and some even have inner beauty (as much as we’d much prefer their outer adorability). In this short series, we go in search for the secret lives of femboys, and to no surprise, it is a life enmeshed within soft, tender, and definitely, erotic fantasies of fluid genders and contemporary attitudes.”

Photographer: Bart Seng Wen Long www.antibart.com www.instagram.com/antibart/ Models: Pink maid’s dress: Luigi: www.instagram.com/umlui/ Posing with Luigi: Petite: www.instagram.com/petite_pretzel/ Wearing yellow dress: August Sombatkamrai: www.instagram.com/augustisrising/


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Psychology of addiction

A JOURNEY THROUGH CHEMSEX Richard Jeneway takes about his relationship with drugs and chemsex ) Despite the

Office for National Statistics and an article in The Guardian making claims that since the high point in the ‘80s, drug use among the population has dropped from 1520% to around 9% in modern times, places like Brighton continue to be hotspots for continued substance abuse and chemical-induced sex. I often meet and mentor people who are regular substance abusers for a range of different social and economic reasons. Although today the number of users may be lower, habits from my own time still exist. My own journey with drugs started when I was 16, just smoking dope with my mates from school, which moved on to trying LSD (or acid) as a hallucinogenic drug. As a young adult I moved away from regular drug use, with the exception of a joint from time to time. When we were clubbing in the ’70s, we would use an amphetamine called Do-Dos – then available over the counter and mostly legally sold for conditions like bronchitis. Speed was a drug of preference; it was cheap and kept us going all night, but could inhibit sex play due to erectile dysfunction, so mostly a cocktail of other substances like cocaine and alcohol was required. In the ’80s ecstasy hit the scene. It was not only great for dance and clubbing, but great for sex, although I personally found that it did not work with my comedown for work on Monday morning. I refrained from using ecstasy fairly soon but for many of my friends it was their weekend drug. Then came ketamine, which is a drug associated with equine veterinary work.

In the ’90s cocaine became my drug of choice, however coke is habit forming and addictive at worst. Supply back then was easy but expensive. I lived in West London, mixing with groups who used cocaine regularly for long evenings of dance, conversation and sex again, like in the fetish and group scene. As my sight declined, I stopped smoking cigarettes and joints, preferring hash to weed, but principally for health reasons. In 2004 I stopped altogether of my own accord. The chemsex scene is active here in Brighton and I meet with people in my voluntary capacity who still use drugs for sex and other reasons. My concern is that, despite Covid, this scene has thrived with plenty of supply locally and nationally. Nowadays crystal meth, or ‘TINA’, seems the most widely used and easily accessed drug which, like most leisure drugs, offers extreme pleasure during sex. I am fully aware that, for many, drugs are part of their routine for sex but as a species humans can have an addictive nature; it is the way some brains are wired, so recognition of a problem is vital for anyone wishing to change their habits and way of life. There are, of course, various other support networks offering counselling, rehab and more. Drug use has changed over the decades and even the habits behind it, but the issues remain. I am not preaching big changes and many will need to find their own path with their substances of choice, yet, if my own experience has shown me anything, it is that the continuing decline in the number of users and frequency of that use can only be a good thing for healthier lives. Friends and family echo this trend and find their own children do not follow the drug or even alcohol habits of their generation. Perhaps this is something to be thankful for when other problems in society still rise.

The psychology of addiction is highly complex, with much debate around possible causes. Examples include biological/genetic vulnerabilities, lifestyle factors, adverse childhood experiences, and socioeconomic demographics. The term ‘addiction’ often assumes physical dependence and withdrawal. However, behavioural addictions such as gambling can have the same negative consequences, but without the physical issues faced by those with an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Following the ‘high’ of engaging in the chosen behaviour, there may be a combination of negative emotional states, including depressive symptoms, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness, guilt and shame. For some, these states can trigger a cycle of repeating the behaviour to ‘feel better’, even if only in the short term. Everyone is driven to achieve a range of basic human goods to optimise emotional wellbeing, including ‘relatedness and connection to others’, ‘happiness and a positive sense of self, ‘mastery of life experiences and gaining knowledge or skills,’ and ‘inner peace and good emotional coping’. Some people may not obtain these goods in healthy ways due to internal (eg depressive symptoms) and external obstacles (eg lack of support networks and financial instability). But the desire and drive to achieve these remain. To ensure survival, some resort to potentially harmful means, if they believe there are no alternative methods or resources available (eg cocaine alters negative mood states; use of substances during sex increases self-worth). The pandemic has significantly impacted on the personal, economic and social elements of many people’s lives and presents a complex set of external and internal obstacles that may, to a greater or lesser extent prevent some people obtaining human goods healthily, given the magnitude of psychological and lifestyle adjustment. Andi Myles-Wright CPsychol AFBPsS, British Psychological Society Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow in Psychology


Scene 15

STUDY: EXPERIENCES OF CHEMSEX

Emil Thornton, clinical psychologist from Canterbury Christ Church University, tells us about their research into people’s experiences of chemsex

) I came into clinical psychology as an LGBTQ+

person who did not see many people like me in psychology. Clinical psychologists try to make sense of individual and group behaviour and offer evidence-based interventions, such as talking therapies, and also try to find out new ways of understanding people’s mental health.

Throughout much of the history of psychological research has been done to LGBTQ+ people, rather than with or by them. This can lead to perspectives that are othering and can miss out important information from people’s lived experiences. Work about LGBTQ+ people can also be neglected and left out of the picture by mainstream psychology. I think it is important that people can tell their own stories and conduct research themselves about things that concern them.

During the 1990s a researcher called Paul Flowers developed a new research method called ‘Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis’ in order to learn from research participants themselves. He has undertaken important work investigating health and romance in gay men and has found there are many differences in the way gay men themselves think about sexual activity and romance, and the way psychology and health services assume they think about it. Here, there was an alternative story from a different perspective that was being previously missed. I think now more than ever it is important for people who are from minority groups, such as LGBTQ+ people, to be a part of the research that is about them and to do research that is relevant to issues they are facing. One such often overlooked issue is that of chemsex, a phenomena affecting primarily gay

men. Although some progress has been made in terms of understanding chemsex from a sexual health perspective, research considering the psychological aspects of it are lacking. There is an absence of research specifically addressing how people themselves make sense of their experiences of being involved in chemsex and what chemsex means for them. I would like to address this by asking people to tell their stories. I hope to amplify voices who may not be heard and make space for a full range of experiences to be understood. In this way, I hope I can be a part of clinical psychology reclaiming itself from some of its dark history to be used by, for and within the LGBTQ+ community to improve our lives. EMIL THORNTON

Historically, clinical psychology has a troubled history with LGBTQ+ people. Along with the criminalisation of homosexuality until 1967 in England, it was also classified as a psychiatric disorder. This began to change from 1973 onwards when it was removed from the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’, however there was still widespread pathologising of homosexuality. Even today current attempts in the UK to ban conversion therapy remain controversial and have been stalled in parliament for several years.

So, does clinical psychology have anything to offer us as LGBTQ people? There are some approaches which are more helpful. Liberation psychology is an approach that aims to address the oppressive socio-political structure in which we live. Through developing theories around issues such as ‘minority stress’ – the stress caused from stigma, prejudice and discrimination – we can better address the difficulties we face.


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SENSORY WORLD

Tom Selmon talks about his new visual collaboration, Sensored, and how he came to create the project ) Photographer Tom Selmon was driven by a

perfect storm of censorship and short attention spans to create a glossy tribute to the art of explicit erotic imagery, featuring work by himself and contributors from around the world. Sensored, which is released on September 1, is 112 pages of artwork, written stories and photography dedicated to sex in all its glorious

diversity and available only in printed format to invite the gaze to linger. “It’s essentially one big reaction to how much censorship is happening nowadays,” says Tom, who is Scene’s art director. “It’s my way of getting control of imagery again – I think imagery should be appreciated properly. This Instagram culture of looking at an image for

two seconds and then moving on was really starting to frustrate me as a photographer. I wanted to bring back a sense of slowing down and enjoying imagery in print again.” There was no single moment that defined his decision to launch the project, rather the constant bombardment of “you’ve gone against our community guidelines” popping up his Instagram. “Sometimes it wasn’t even that explicit an image, but the computer had recognised it as, say, a hand gesture that was potentially sexual. Let’s say someone was putting their hand in


their underwear, which is not actually explicit, they would still censor it down, so it was really frustrating.” With complete control of his own work, Tom wasn’t restricted by other publishers’ guidelines and could set the tone and choose the featured works himself. “I wanted the tone to be quite fun and flirtatious. I want people to go into it and be lost in story after story, whether that’s with writing or with imagery.” To give an example, one contributor has written about an acid trip at the Whole Festival in Berlin, which Tom describes as “real” but “fun to read about”, while he himself has contributed a piece “exploring gay sex but not through penetration, breaking the stigma of top and bottom and all that comes with it”. There is also an aim to get exposure for the artists in the magazine, and Tom is keen to emphasise that “there’s all different genders in the magazine, not just gay men”. So the target audience is “anyone who enjoys nude photography – and who doesn’t enjoy nude photography?”. He continues: “My audience could be anyone from someone who’s experiencing this type of imagery for the first time, and gets excited or intrigued by what they are seeing, to someone who’s really into erotic photography. It’s quite broad. There are some nude stories, some nonnude stories, some erotica.” There are 10 contributors in all, some of whom have done original work for Sensored and some whose work has been selected from an existing body, and they come from all over the world – including South Africa, Taiwan and Germany. “I’m not trying to angle it as a queer magazine, more as ‘everyone’s welcome’,” says Tom of the contributors. “I don’t care as long as your imagery is good. I’m happy to have straight sex in there. I wanted it to not be boxed into one type of thing.” D www.sensored.uk


18 Scene “I really enjoy exploring typically what you would expect from women and femininity and turning it on its head. There’s definitely a queer aesthetic to what I do. The drag aesthetic inspires a lot of what do – I wear a lot of big drag wigs. “Before burlesque was what you’d expect it, as from Dita Von Teese – the glamour, the striptease – way before that it was very political and satirical and had a lot more to do with the queer community than you’d expect, and now it’s definitely going that way again. “The cabaret scene generally is really so intertwined with the queer identity – cabaret sort of belongs to the queer community.” Burlesque performers tend to adopt a variety of personas along with the costumes to fit (Violet doesn’t make her own costumes, preferring to “leave it to the professionals” but does do a lot of customising, particularly with rhinestones). Among her personas has been a ‘50s housewife, although she has shelved that one, so how does she decide what depictions of femininity to portray?

VIOLET DELIGHTS. PIC BY ZEINAB BATCHELOR

“I really enjoy exploring typically what you would expect from women and femininity and turning it on its head. There’s definitely a queer aesthetic to what I do.”

BURLESQUE EXPRESS

Big wigs, lavish costumes and plenty of skin in the game. Ebullient burlesque performer Violet Delights strips down the essence of the art for Jaq Bayles ) Burlesque is a performance art form that,

according to its most famous advocate Dita Von Teese in Burlesque and the Art of the Tease, has its origins in Ancient Greece as “bawdy satirical satire”, and was also popularised in the States where it was otherwise known as striptease. Today it most commonly offers some sort of combination of satire or comedy, highly stylised character creations, song and dance and lavish costumes, which, of course, are most likely to be shed along the way. And it’s growing in popularity, with burlesque nights established across the UK. But what attracts people to the notion of getting their kit off in front of an audience – something which is the stuff of actual nightmares for many – and why is it so attractive to queer audiences?

Violet Delights has been performing burlesque since 2019 when she joined the burlesque society at Nottingham Trent University with a view to taking it up as a hobby and meeting new people. But she got “bitten by the bug” and it’s become a much bigger part of her life. So how did that tentative step into an unknown world evolve into a full-blown act? “At first you think ‘I could never do that, I could never get on stage’ – then you want to do it all the time. I moved to London and the burlesque scene was so welcoming and I was able to develop my burlesque personality. I like to combine the traditional glamour elements of classic burlesque and incorporate the drag elements, then also put a bit of a comedy twist on it.

“Throughout my life I’ve found it quite hard to feel sexy or feminine and had a quite complicated relationship with my body where I didn’t really like it. I didn’t realise how much burlesque would change that. Burlesque is so good for making you appreciate every single body, including your own. So many of the massive names in burlesque don’t have the typical body you would see on TV or in magazines. My acts really celebrate female sexuality in all its forms. I have an Eve act, from Adam and Eve, looking at how a woman was blamed for something a man did and it’s sort of an FU to that basically, Eve reclaiming her sexuality and becoming the snake, becoming the sinner and not caring.” Among new personas in the pipeline is an ode to the ’90s runway models who projected “such a powerful, strong personality”. Violet adds: “I always try to find ways to explore femininity and sexuality in different ways in my act. I really enjoy looking at women in the sense they can be powerful, vulnerable, they can be demure, they can be innocent, they can be a siren – they can be all of that and more.” A “typical” burlesque audience from Violet’s point of view is “people looking to have a good time and a lot of fun”. And many from the cabaret community can be always be found in the audience. “They always support each other, so you get burlesque dancers, pole dancers, drag queens. I’d say if you want to break it down to groups and their identities, it’s a lot of girls out with their friends, a lot of the queer community. The smallest portion would probably be straight


VIOLET DELIGHTS. PIC BY ZEINAB BATCHELOR

men and they are usually just there supporting their girlfriends. “Some shows are specifically for the queer community. There is one called Greedy just for bisexual performers – I think it’s a great turn on the name.” With drag having become so mainstream now, is burlesque going to go the same way? “Burlesque ebbs and flows depending on what’s happening politically and socially in the world. It kind of goes underground and above ground in the same way that drag does really. In the 2000s it became bigger again and now it’s massive – nowhere near as celebrated as drag is at the moment, but at a lot of drag shows you’re likely to find burlesque too. You also get burlesque performers that are drag queens – it’s called draglesque and they are as much drag queen as they are burlesque performer. Some acts might do drag and not burlesque and some are really burlesquey – usually it’s a great blend of the two and it’s amazing.” How would Violet define burlesque? “Obviously it’s got its roots in the striptease element, but it’s really difficult to define because it sort of transcends all the categories of being a dancer or being a performer – it kind of blends everything. Depending on the kind of performer you are, you might do comedy and almost no dancing, you might perform with no stripping, or you might do just stripping and no dancing. Typically there’s an element of shedding garments.” Does it cover all age ranges or is it mainly the preserve of younger performers? “It does cover all ages and like anywhere in society you’re going to get ageism and ableism and that sort of thing. But there so many great areas of burlesque that have been carved out by older generations or disabled performers to really cater for them and make sure they’re seen. It’s a super-inclusive community. There’s a really great show in Hastings by Pupin Devert called the Solid-Gold Silver Show for performers over 50, and they are just as incredible if not more incredible then the younger performers because they might have been doing it for ages.” For her day job, Violet works at Coco de Mer adult boutique – so is there a crossover with her love of burlesque and her work? “Definitely. It’s my attitude towards sexuality and my own sex positivity. My opinion when it comes to sex is if you like it do it, if you don’t, don’t – as long as you’re not hurting anybody, go for it. My own attitude towards sex definitely informed me wanting to work at the store and I enjoyed taking control of their social media and putting that message out there on their behalf. What sort of messages have you been putting out? The company is very much for women by women and we are all about women owning their sexuality, so we recently had a collaboration with Helena Christensen, the ‘90s model. She’s a photographer these days and she’s now 50 years old and still looking as gorgeous as ever. We wanted more older, middle-

aged representation in lingerie because you almost never see it. We got her to self-shoot a campaign to try to capture the ultimate female gaze. The messaging was about that and that women should be wearing lingerie for themselves over anyone else and owning their sexuality over anyone else. Your relationship with yourself is the one you’re going to have the longest.”

to get involved from the comfort of your own home. So yes, anybody can do it but not everyone would want to – it’s getting naked on stage, so it’s a lot of people’s worst fear.” ) Violet Delights is appearing at Infinitease

Burlesque on Saturday, September 18 (@infiniteaseburlesque) and Clandestine Cabaret on Sunday, September 19 (@clandestinecabaretlondon).

“I really enjoy looking at women in the sense they can be powerful, ) You can find her online @itsvioletdelights on Instagram and Facebook. vulnerable, they can be demure, they can be innocent, they can Violet’s pick of LGBTQ+ burlesque shows be a siren – they can be all of to look out for: that and more.” What have been the biggest sellers recently? “In the same way that bums are very big right now in body aspirations and in the media, so are anal toys. Plugs were very popular and over lockdown we saw a massive spike in vibrators and toys generally for women, so that was a big boom for us. I guess it’s not surprising when people can’t have casual sex any more they’re thinking ‘I’ll do it myself’.” And finally, can anybody take up burlesque? “When people find out I do burlesque – because you wouldn’t know it from knowing me in regular life as I’m fairly normal and unassuming looking – they are always excited and the first thing they say is ‘oh I want to do that, I wish I could do that’, and I just say go for it, why not? You can do online classes – in the pandemic they became quite popular, a stress-free way

• Dolly Trolley’s Cabaret Sauvignon, @dolleytrolley • Bar Wotever, @barwot

• What’s Good Cabaret, @whatsgoodcabaret • Cocoa Butter Club, @thecocoabutterclub • Bitten Peach, @bittenpeachuk • Greedy (with bi performers), @greedycabaret • Shenanigans Cabaret, shenaniganscabaret@gmail.com And her top Brighton-based shows are: • Cabaret Lab, @cabaret-lab • Showlesque, @Showlesque • Proud Cabaret Brighton, @proudbrighton


DOMINUS VON VEXO - PRIDE SERIES PIN-UP

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STAY SEXY

Catherine Muxworthy gets up, close and personal with Dominus Von Vexo, the Birmingham-based, award-winning burlesque and drag perfomer whose House of Allure is stomping all over the West Midlands ) Dominus Von Vexo’s (they/them) work

“aims to entertain, inspire and empower those around me enforcing the empowering agenda: You Walk With Thunder”. They also work as a choreographer, producer, creative director, and instructor, but took some time out to talk to Scene about their work and plans for the future after being awarded funding from Arts Council England. Over the years of their career in drag and burlesque, Dominus has worked at countless

events and festivals, including Birmingham Pride Festival, Worcestershire Pride Festival, Cherries On A Cloud in Gloucester, Elsker in Oslo, and Glitterbug Burlesque in Leicester. They have also received critical acclaim through various awards, including Wicked Wonderland winner – June 2020, Midlands Zone LGBT Outstanding Contribution 2020, and Birmingham Live’s 30Under30. This year, they also débuted an act inspired

by the film The Emperor’s New Groove (much parodied in the drag community), made up as the film’s villain Yzma, at Yshee Black’s Church of Yshee lip-syncing contest which is held on Sundays at The Village in Birmingham. At the time of writing, Dominus has progressed to the finals, bypassing the semi-finals all together. Dominus found their love of performance as a teenager and began dancing at the age of 16. “I watched the movie Step Up and knew


DOMINUS VON VEXO - DADDY DOMINUS

I wanted to start dancing. So, I went to a ballroom and Latin class.... not sure where the join is between a street dance film and then a ballroom class,” they joke, “But that is where I started! “As the years rolled on I went to uni and immersed myself in the queer community more and it was here that I started doing burlesque and drag. I immediately fell in love with the rich culture and history of these two art forms, and loved the power it gave me and others to feel strong and expressive.” While at university, Dominus also co-founded a burlesque society that included classes and group trips out to see other burlesque shows. It was as a result of this experience that Dominus decided they wanted to produce and creatively direct productions in Birmingham’s LGBTQ+ village.

“I always like to push myself and try new things. I aim to produce quality shows that showcase a diversity of performers, opening the public’s eyes to different styles of burlesque and drag” Dominus soon founded a group of performers called House of Allure, a Birmingham-based burlesque and cabaret group. “We are a diverse group that puts on cabaret, drag, and burlesque shows,” Dominus explains. “I felt there was a lack of diversity in the entertainment scene, one that celebrated a variety of bodies, a variety of art forms, different sexualities, races, abilities, neuro abilities, genders. So, I made it my mission to build that space. We have gone on to be nominated for different awards and winning some, selling out all of our shows and becoming a celebrated collective in the local community.” In the future, Dominus would love “to see House of Allure travel outside of the city more and continue producing the stellar shows that we do”. In 2021, Dominus applied for funding from Arts Council England for the very first time. They say that “it was a real mix of stress and excitement. I hadn’t really considered funding as an option before. But it allowed me to dream bigger and reach further as an artist. So, I definitely encourage any artists to try and apply. Even if you don’t get the funding, it is a great way to think outside the box”. They were successful and were awarded funding for Developing Your Creative Practice, from Arts Council England. “This [is] mainly focusing on developing yourself as an

artist, so conducting research, mentoring, creating new work, exploring. It is a fantastic funding opportunity. I will be focusing on performance and choreography and using this time and funding to explore that, refine it and launch it to new heights,” Dominus says.

“I felt there was a lack of diversity in the entertainment scene, one that celebrated a variety of bodies, a variety of art forms, different sexualities, races, abilities, neuro abilities, genders. So, I made it my mission to build that space” When asked what we can expect to see from Dominus and how they will use the funding to further their career, they reply: “I always like to push myself and try new things. I aim to produce quality shows that showcase a diversity of performers, opening the public’s eyes to different styles of burlesque and drag. Creating a space that is both entertaining and educational. It is paramount to me to continue fighting for queer issues... so I aim to keep pushing that.”

Dominus shares with us some of their biggest aspirations in drag and burlesque performance. They say: “To inspire and positively impact those around me. I aim and aspire for my shows and classes to help people feel more empowered to make their own decisions and feel confident to express themselves in all they do. “As a queer performer I believe I have a responsibility to continue contributing to the legacy of queer entertainment,” they continue, “producing quality work and helping support those that come next. On a practical level, I am unsure how this will unfold... but I am excited to see what happens.” Dominus Von Vexo wantss to remind readers to “Stay sexy,” and find them on Instagram: www.instagram.com/dominus_von_vexo and Facebook: www.facebook.com/ dominusvonvexo where you will be able to find out more details and book tickets for their upcoming gigs, and, of course, follow their creative journey over the coming months and years. D www.thebrightonbox.com


Photograph/words: Sam Ireland. Country: Southampton, UK D www.samirelandart.com i www.instagram.com/samirelandart/ Throughout my life and career I have struggled with mental health, a theme that often translates into my work. This and my own identity as a gay man is something I explore throughout my drawings, merging ideas of intense male sexuality with the vulnerability that often lurks behind it. The road to making my work public has been a long one, and my style continues to evolve as my understanding of the world shifts and matures on an almost daily basis. My drawings are mostly figurative, working primarily in pen, charcoal, inks and watercolour; exploring the strange juxtaposition between fragility, beauty, depression and the sometimes ugly truths of being vulnerable and alive.


Scene 23 But now: “I know where I’m going in my life, it’s a stepping-stone on a longer journey. I don’t mind if people go ‘Oh it’s Fatboy Son’ or ‘lightning doesn’t strike twice’, because I’ve got stuff cooking that’s very unlike what my dad makes, all behind the scenes, it could take a couple of years to come out. I’m playing the long game.” Woody is passionate about uniting people through his company, putting musicians together with other musicians and producers, to ensure they make the most of their talents, especially for his “lost generation”. “Truth Tribe is about getting in touch with community events and giving back. So many people are lost – we’re the lost generation. Social media is making us all less social; my aim is to reunite as many people as possible. Everything we do in our society is dismantling community. We used to be on football teams, clubs, and there’s nothing anymore, everything is stripped back. We live in houses on our own, sometimes we don’t even talk to neighbours. We’re meant to be tribes, hence Truth Tribe. Western society has taught us this model and a lot of people who are depressed, the problem’s not with them it’s with the way we’re living.” While he admits he spent most of his early adolescence playing video games, he’s always liked creating things – cardboard forts, a tree house in Ashdown Forest. He’d invite friends to the woods and while they wanted to sit around drinking he’d be “hammering, it was my Zen”.

WHAT'S COOKIN'?

He continues: “[My friends were saying] how do you build all this stuff with things you’ve found in skips? That’s my artwork, so hopefully in the next two or three years I’ll have my own festival, me and my friends running it and where I build it all myself.”

) He’s been a familiar face to viewers of

His festival will be called Gratitude in an obvious nod to Latitude, but also because he thinks “gratitude is one of the most important things in life. What we all missed in lockdown was just these little moments, seeing your mates, live music, hugging a stranger, these little moments that can make all the difference in your working week.”

Jaq Bayles meets Woody Cook, whose new media company aims to ‘give back’ and create a community The Circle and Gogglebox, but Woody Cook is determined not to be a “one-trick pony, the guy who does all the shows”, turning down other offers of TV appearances in favour of concentrating on his record label/media company, Truth Tribe. The son of Fatboy Slim (Norman Cook) and Zoe Ball has also been active in raising money for the Brighton Rainbow Fund, performing DJ sets in phone boxes during Pride week following his public coming out a few years ago as bi – and that has come with its own set of revelations. “Suddenly my followers went up. I was looking at the ratios and it had been 50:50 men and women, but it went to 80% men, 20% women. I had nothing but positive responses, which is really refreshing. The only negative is guys sending me photos of feet. It’s a new thing – everyone suddenly really likes feet. I don’t understand it, it scares me. I had a message saying, ‘I really love you on Gogglebox, but next time can you take your socks off’. It’s weird.” Weirdness aside, Woody does reveal that coming out initially at school he got bullied, and this was one of the reasons he wanted to

get involved in a Pride event. The outspoken 20-year-old says: “People are still afraid to come out to their parents. People go ‘Why are we still talking about Pride’ – because the journey’s not over. It’s the same with BLM, they are still battles that are being fought, people are still getting beaten up. Someone in Spain got killed the other day for being gay. It’s ridiculous. And because Pride in my home city wasn’t on, I was like, we need some pride, we need something to celebrate. It’s the heart and soul of Brighton, having a big party and love-in in the street. I wanted to give a little bit back. It’s the place that raised me and I am bisexual and want to see everyone being proud of themselves. I’d love to help out in any way I can. “One of the first Prides I went to dad was getting ready to play and I said ‘Dad you’re not gay’, and he explained you don’t have to be gay, it’s about unity. I found out later he was playing for free because it was about to go under, they couldn’t find a headline act, they weren’t selling the tickets and he stepped in. “I’m not trying to copy him but he set a good example,” says Woody, who admits he was a bit delayed in picking up the DJ decks because “obviously I didn’t want to be Fatboy Son”.

He had originally planned the festival for this August, and is still hoping to do something this year, but “it won’t be in a field”. He’s excited how trends return, with the ‘90s, his parents’ time, next on the list. “Peace and love in the ‘60s is coming back as well. We’re on the verge of a new age; I’m slap bang in the right moment to make a difference. I’ve got the perfect basis to build something that I think can make a difference.” i www.instagram.com/wearetruthtribe


Scene 24 20 Gscene from actual problems. I yearn for the day when all of this nonsense is over. The trouble is, if the culture warriors get their way we won’t be able to effectively address serious issues such as economic inequality, genuine injustice, or problems in our education system.

“This week alone we’ve had a university in America remove a boulder from its campus because it decided it had racist connotations... and Robin (Batman’s sidekick) coming out as queer. As if anyone thought he was straight anyway…” The woke movement is essentially bourgeois and seeks to impose a quasi-religious belief system on society, one that is impervious to reason or discussion. It promotes racist and segregationist ideas under the guise of ‘anti-racism’. It opposes free speech because of its reactionary view that the masses are liable to be corrupted if popular culture conveys the ‘wrong’ message.

TITANIA MCGRATH

Alex Klineberg catches up with the ‘fiercely opinionated social justice warrior’ ) Titania McGrath declares herself to be many

things: “Activist. Healer. Radical intersectionalist poet. Nonwhite. Ecosexual.” There is a twist, however. Titania McGrath isn’t real. She is the monstrous creation of Andrew Doyle, a writer and comedian who hosts Free Speech Nation on GB News. We caught up with him to discuss Titania and her upcoming appearance in Brighton. How do you think the woke movement differs from past social justice movements? The key difference is that social justice movements throughout history have been progressive, whereas the woke movement is regressive. It simply borrows the language of progressivism in order to promote its illiberal and divisive ideas. In this sense it is unprecedented. The luminaries of the great civil rights movements of the 20th century understood that free speech underpinned all other freedoms, and sought to achieve equality for all irrespective of race, gender or sexuality. The woke movement, on the other hand, seeks to undo these achievements and sees people first and foremost according to their racial or sexual demographics. In this, they have a lot in common with the far right. They are two heads of the same beast. Does the woke movement have an origin story? Yes, it originates from the various offshoots of postmodernism that grew out of the French poststructuralists of the 1960s. This is why social justice activists often talk of ‘power structures’ in society, or the way in which language ‘normalises’ certain modes

of behaviour or thought. They believe that controlling the way people speak is important because they see language as the way in which our understanding of reality is constructed. These are all beliefs that are derived from postmodernism in one way or another. Give us your favourite recent example of woke excess. I wouldn’t say I had a ‘favourite’ example. That would be like having a favourite poison. I find the examples of woke excess to be at once funny and deeply sinister. Every morning I go through the day’s news stories and keep a tally on what’s going on, and there are normally four or five relevant stories per day. A year ago it wasn’t this frequent, so things are definitely ratcheting up. This week alone we’ve had a university in America remove a boulder from its campus because it decided it had racist connotations, an award-winning author agree to rewrite her book because activists were offended, a law school claim that it is racist to expect its graduates to be able to read or write or have basic mathematical capabilities, the Scottish government issue guidelines that claims fouryear-olds should be able to change gender without schools informing their parents, the BBC changing the definition of “homosexual” in accordance with gender identity ideology, an author claiming that fonts perpetuate masculine and feminine stereotypes, and Robin (Batman’s sidekick) coming out as queer. As if anyone thought he was straight anyway… Do you think woke bashing can detract from more serious issues? Of course. The whole culture war is a distraction

Those of us who believe in liberal values, who oppose racism and prejudice in all its forms, and who want to see a society in which everyone is treated equally need to take a stand against wokeness. If the woke movement wins out, that will be the death of social liberalism. So however silly a lot of it seems, there’s a lot at stake. Do you see the culture war as being a winnable war (by either side)? We have to hope so. The culture war isn’t about left versus right. It’s about liberty versus authority. History teaches us what happens when the authoritarians win, and it isn’t pretty. What can we expect from Titania on stage? She’s a monster, obviously. So you can expect to be hectored remorselessly for the entire show about your privilege and how we’ll never achieve true diversity until everyone agrees with her. Some would say Brighton is quite woke. Do you think Titania will be at home here? Brighton is certainly the home to some of the most extreme woke activists, including a local council that is seeking to implement Critical Race Theory in schools and is probably breaking the law by doing so. At the same time, there are plenty of liberals in Brighton who understand all too well how regressive the woke movement is, including some gay activists of yesteryear who are coming out of retirement to fight it. It makes sense that Titania would perform here, to give succour to her allies and venom to her foes. Also, she’s got a holiday home in Hove, so it’s convenient for her. ) Titania will be performing live at Komedia

on Wednesday, September 1 at 8pm (doors 7pm) before a West End run in October. Price: loaded fries ticket £20, standard £15. There are further shows at Crawley Hawth Studio on September 7 and 8. Andrew Doyle is a gay comedian, playwright, journalist, and political satirist from Northern Ireland.


Scene 25

As he succinctly and honestly put it to me: “I got married and then divorced and after the split I came here to get away from it all. I did a lot of partying and then across a crowded bar met Norman,” his current partner. After six months without a job, Samuel became shop manager for housing charity Shelter. He is currently a retail area manager for the charity. Reluctantly joining the tenor section of Actually Gay Men’s Chorus, he was interviewed and became its musical director. That was five years ago. “Our reviews said we were about a wall of sound. I wanted to create a path to that wall. The choir at that time did loud and fast. I love story-telling... the story behind the song.” He added colour and dynamics to the choir, admitting that their technique had always been marvellous.

SWAPPING NOTES WITH... SAMUEL COUSINS

Brian Butler catches up with Samuel Cousins, musical director of the Actually Gay Men’s Chorus ) A lifelong interest in music started for

Samuel Cousins when, aged nine, he played the innkeeper in his school nativity and sang the solo in O Little Town Of Bethlehem. His father was a guitarist in a band so he had a natural interest, learning to play by ear the theme song to Titanic on a little keyboard. Money didn’t run to piano lessons, but in the school choir the boy treble soon became a hearty tenor and won a bursary for singing lessons with Jayne Bagnall, who taught the young boy to sing opera. But Samuel – always candid – admits he was intimidated by music and couldn’t get to A-level standard. But he started putting together concerts - a skill he has certainly perfected. He joined the local Frinton Musical Theatre Company, playing lead roles and directing shows. Then it was off to the University of Winchester to study drama and more choral

work, leading to becoming conductor. “I learned conducting by doing it,” he tells me, his earlier practising at home with chopsticks now coming in handy. While we chat he gives me a quick demo – the first beat has to be a down movement, the second across the body, and the third forming a triangle. “I learned it all on the fly and by asking others if I was getting it right.” And June Boyce-Tillman at Winchester guided him in how to conduct. Soon under his leadership the 12-person choir had 180 members and had its own barbershop group and orchestra. He cut his teeth on productions at Brentwood Operatic Society, appearing in Guys & Dolls and then playing the lead Bobby in Sondheim’s Company, and donning roller skates for his role in the Drowsy Chaperone. At the time he was working for Nationwide and upped sticks and moved to Brighton in 2013.

”Music should be accessible to everybody – I’m an ex-council estate boy leading one of the best choirs on the south coast. My view to new members is come and have a go.” He also admits to having what he calls “crazy ideas, big ideas – I have to be reined in sometimes”. The year 2019 was particularly hard for the choir- three members died, the last just a short time before a planned concert. “We decided to go on with the event - it brought us together and we realised how much we love and trust each other.” Lockdown hit the group particularly hard. ”We were so aware of the isolation of single men in the community. It killed us having no music.” That’s one reason their first concert after the third lockdown included the song Till I Hear You Sing – the lyrics say it all about the void of not having music in your life, Samuel tells me. Apart from his energy and devotion to music, there’s something quite distinct about Samuel. He is totally deaf in his right ear. ”It happened when I was very young and I’m still not sure why.” He has always heard music as he does now, and when teaching/rehearsing he has the singers more or less in the round to help him. In performance he wears hearing aids in order to better amplify the sounds, but it only feeds into his left ear. ”I’d be scared to get my hearing back – if I could, I think I’d say no. I’m happy the way I am. I think I’d be overwhelmed with 100% hearing.” What advice would he give to a young Samuel? ”Don’t be afraid. Don’t say no.” Does he have musical ambitions? “I love what the chorus does and I’d like to do a full major work with them, an orchestra and other choirs.” Well, who’s to say Samuel’s ambitions won’t be realised one day – I for one am sure they will be. ) www.actuallygmc.org


26 Scene

FAN THE FLAME

Alex Klineberg catches up with Michael Neidus from Demon Music to find out more about new Dead or Alive box sets and a never-before-heard album ) Pete Burns became a pop icon as the lead

singer of Dead or Alive who topped the charts with You Spin Me Round in 1985. The band went on to sell over 30 million records. In 2006, Pete came to prominence once again when he appeared on Celebrity Big Brother, becoming one of the most popular contestants to enter the house. His appearance was not

without incident. His coat was seized when he claimed it was made from a gorilla – “My coat’s been arrested!”/ Pete had joined the pantheon of the great English eccentrics. He was better known for his ever-changing looks and ferocious put downs than his songs. Since his death in 2016, the focus has shifted back to his musical legacy.

First of all, Michael, how did you discover Pete Burns? “It was That’s The Way I Like It, their first hit. I wasn’t aware of the singles that came before. It was something you heard on the radio and you’d see them on Top of the Pops. I remembered the original KC and The Sunshine Band version.


DEAD OR ALIVE

excitement with the band.” They followed up with You Spin Me Round (Like a Record), which put them on top of the charts. “It was just a great pop record. They wrote everything themselves. They didn’t go to producers and act as puppets for them. They were their own band. They went to Stock Aitken Waterman with the finished masters. They just wanted that extra something added to it.” They did have more hit singles and made several more albums, although they wouldn’t go on to match the success of You Spin Me Round (Like a Record). “For a lot of artists, their best songs aren’t the songs that went to number one. In those days you never had a simultaneous release. Songs would be released in different territories, giving artists time to do promotion in one place. Now everything is immediate. “Dead or Alive just ran with it in Japan. There are certain territories that will embrace what an artist has to offer. The hits may have slowed down in the UK, but there was still a market for them and people still wanted to see them play live. That went right the way through the ‘80s in Japan.” They continued to record and tour in the ‘90s. “Pete teamed up with the Italian group Glam and did Sex Drive. After the perceived peak period, Dead or Alive was really Pete and Steve Coy. Steve would always say it’s not me, it’s Pete. But Pete would equally admit that without Steve, Dead or Alive may not have continued. “After Fan The Flame in 1990, they worked very much together. I think that was their strength. They were both so different but they had the desire to progress things.” How would you characterise the Dead or Alive sound? “Nowadays we’d call it electronica, but it’s very much dance and pop. I’d hear some of the tracks that were hits in Japan, and I’m sure if the tracks had been played in the UK they would have been embraced and charted. But the focus from the label was elsewhere. “With Fan The Flame it’s on the cusp of the ‘80s and ‘90s, so it’s very reflective of what was going on in the clubs at the time. In 1995 with Nukleopatra it was more industrial sounding. And then for Fragile in 2000 there was a change

of place; there were some great songs on that album. They were showing their vulnerability a bit, reflecting what was going on in their lives at the time. Each of those albums are different.” “Then of course you have the Japanese remix album of Fragile called Unbreakable. We know a lot of fans aren’t into that album. If you actually listen to it some of the tracks are really good.” Since Pete Burns’ death in 2016, there have been two box sets. Sophisticated Boom Box MMXVI was a sprawling 19-CD collection of all their released work. Pete and Steve oversaw the release of that project. This was followed up with Invincible, a box set of their later albums. “We were very close with Steve. Pete was going through some personal struggles at the time. We didn’t know how bad it was. The first box set was due for release the week Pete passed away. I got the call on an Italian number from Steve – he said ‘Pete’s dead.’ They came over from Italy and had to do all the formalities. “Working with Steve afterwards on subsequent releases, I knew he wasn’t well either. I didn’t know how ill he was – he kept it very private.” Steve Coy passed away in 2018. “Pete did do an interview about the first box set with Super Deluxe Edition. It was one of his last interviews. The bigger box set was very expensive and very large. We wanted to put out something more manageable too.” With none of the original band members left,

Demon Music put together the Invincible box set. “We also knew that there was unreleased material. We wondered if there was enough for another album. Finding the multi-tracks in the archive was a godsend. We had no idea what state they were in. When we digitised them we heard what they were going for. And that was the plan after Boom Box came out – to go back and finish what they started and bring out something new. Or at least a new version of something they’d done before.” That being Fan The Flame (Part Two) – a collection of songs they recorded in the early ‘90s. “It follows Fan The Flame and there’s a progression in the sound. Fans will hear where they were going with it. It was a stepping stone towards their later work. Fan The Flame was quite soulful. The unreleased recordings reflect that sound – it later became a heavier sound.” How do you go about curating an artist’s unreleased work? “Usually, if something’s unreleased it’s unreleased for a reason. If you see something from a PWL sideboard unit from 1987 that says ‘Do Not Use’ it means don’t use – not you can use it in 30 years. We found some other recordings that were great but they didn’t have vocals – Pete hadn’t finished them. There’s no point putting out a full instrumental album. “I feel like I’ve got Steve over one shoulder and the shadow of Pete over the other. You do feel a bit of pressure. You think what would they have done?” How would you sum up Pete’s legacy? “Timeless because we’re still talking about it. Invincible because both Steve and Pete thought that they were. “I wanted to get the artwork for Fan The Flame (Part Two) right. The photographer who worked with them at the time sent me a lot of stuff. That included a selection of seven or eight photos from the same session, so you had some continuity. With Pete’s arms raised it looked like a phoenix rising. That’s why it’s called Fan The Flame (Part Two): The Resurrection.” ) Fan The Flame (Part Two): The Resurrection

will be released October 22, 2021.


28 Scene even though it’s set in New York. There’s also the photo of ISTVÁN by Brighton Pier: in one shot he’s dressed as a man and in one shot he’s dressed as a woman. “Foucault references piers in his work as well; it’s kind of like the funfair. Something unreal – it’s a fantasy – but it is real because you buy a ticket and go there. “We also have Menelas, a porn director who curates a porn festival in Greece. We created a fake advertisement film for Athens, so imagine a tourism advert for gay travellers. Instead of showing some photos of gay Pride or a gay couple drinking a coffee, he shows the underground gay scene. You see explicit sex scenes on the beach. Not the kind of culture the authorities would depict in their tourism videos!” As the Ledward Centre is not yet open, the exhibition is online. The doors will be opening soon, however. There have been some delays due to the pandemic. “The exhibition will be the last one – hopefully! – just in the window and online. If it can open we might do a one-off screening of the films we have – about eight short films, all very diverse. When we start to exhibit inside it will be in October for Photo Fringe. It will be an immersive environment downstairs. You’ll have a pop-up cafe. It will be in the dark and you’ll have projections.”

QUEER HETEROTOPIAS

Socially Engaged Arts Salon introduces a new exhibition at the Ledward Centre ) The work of Gil Mualem-Doron, a Brighton-

based artist, academic and founder of SEAS (Socially Engaged Arts Salon), is socially and politically engaged, exploring urban history, social justice, identity, transcultural aesthetics, migrations and displacement.

“SEAS began in my living room five years ago. At the last exhibition there were 70 to 80 people. You had people outside on the street. Inside nobody could move. We had four dogs running around, we had two film crews and a choir singing in the living room. The people outside were heckled by my neighbour who was a 90-year-old UKIP supporter. She said it’s not the Middle East and they can’t stand like that in the street. “It all got a bit much. We moved to the Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) community in Brighton. Our space was in the basement.” Gil needed a space where the artwork could be presented with more visibility – basements bring obvious limitations. He found an empty space by the library and made some inquiries. It turned out to be none other than the about-to-be-born Ledward Centre, the new LGBTQ+ community space in the heart of Brighton. The latest SEAS exhibition, Queer Heterotopias, runs until the end of September, hopefully with some live events if the Ledward Centre opens

over the next couple of months. “Heterotopia is a Michel Foucault concept. ‘Hetero’ means other, ‘Topia’ means space. It’s about other places, not utopias or dystopias. A heterotopia could be bad or good but it’s different. For example, prisons are heterotopias – a kind of parallel space. Colonies are heterotopias. “He talks about the ships of fools from the Middle Ages – mentally ill people were put on ships and sent to sea. In terms of LGBTQ+ spaces we can look at nightclubs, saunas and cruising areas. Places where sexuality is acted in a different way than it would be in hertronormative spaces. “One of the artists is Annis Harrison. She does embroidery so it’s very feminine, very domestic, but she’s depiticing sex scenes on the London Undeground – which I found funny. We also look at the work of Leonard Fink, he’s a very famous photographer. He was part of my PhD research into cruising in public spaces. He took a lot of photos of the gay scene in New York in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The ones we were interested in are the ones from the piers: the cruising areas. We were granted access to the photos by the LGBTQ+ Centre in New York. It’s kind of what I’m hoping the Ledward Centre will become. “We have piers in Brighton too, so there’s a link

When the centre opens there will be a short period of pop-ups. SEAS Exhibition will be the first thing you’ll see at the Ledward Centre. It will eventually have a cafe upstairs. There’ll be more renovation, including a new gallery space. Gaydio will be moving in. There will be a small cinema too and a community meeting room. Finally, how would Gil sum up Brighton’s art scene? “I think it’s getting better. I opened SEAS in very difficult conditions. When we opened it was almost a desperate act. I’m a socially engaged artist. I just didn’t see many places to exhibit this kind of art. There is a lot of art here but a lot of it is catered to the commercial scene. As there is wealth in Brighton people can afford it. You have a lot of tourists so a lot of art is catered towards that. “I opened SEAS to show socially and politically engaged art. We’ve had hundreds of artists at SEAS now. We also exhibit the work of underrepresented artists. There are still boundaries about what you can exhibit. We’ve had complaints about some of the work we’ve shown, such as the work of a Syrian refugee artist. He depicted the Vitruvian Man from behind with Boris Johnson’s face on his ass. Arabic text on top of the poster translated to ‘ass face’. It was a reference to Johnson calling gay people ‘batty boys’ in an article.” Some people complained about that one, but if Boris can insult people in his articles and become Prime Minister, then artists should be able to express themselves accordingly. D To view Queer Heterotopias, visit: www.seasbrighton.org/queer-heterotopias


Scene 29

a woman of enormous complexity, and this exploration of her life will show some aspects that are less well known, including her affairs with women, among whom were Edith Piaf and Colette. She is one of the few Hollywood icons who led something of an open gay life herself.” The show will include a full performance of Dietrich’s fabulous one-woman show, with which she toured the world – accompanied by Burt Bacharach and his orchestra – this is, indeed, an icon at the peak of her powers. ) Marlene Dietrich – Ultimate Gay Icon will

be shown at The Sussex, 17 St Catherine’s Terrace, Hove, BN3 2RH on Sunday, September 26 at 7pm. All proceeds to the Sussex Beacon, the HIV advice and advocacy service. To book a ticket, call 01273 732442.

THE ULTIMATE GAY ICON

A new show delving into the life of Marlene Dietrich is to raise funds for the Sussex Beacon this month ) Marlene Dietrich was undoubtedly a

superstar of Hollywood’s ‘Golden Era’ – but she was much more than that. By constantly reinventing herself, Dietrich stretched her career over 60 years, becoming a pioneering star of radio, a medal-winning war hero, a top-flight international cabaret artist, a recording star and an icon for generations of gay people. Marlene started out as a chorus girl during the era of ‘divine decadence’ in 1920s Weimar Berlin. The freewheeling approach to sexuality during that period suited her very well – she embraced the sexual liberation enthusiastically and never abandoned it through her long life. Her many lovers included men and women, and she never apologised or tried to hide her preferences. Famed as much for wearing men’s clothes as being a femme fatale, Dietrich’s cosmopolitan, sexually ambiguous and world-weary persona inspired many artists who followed. Madonna, Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue and a thousand drag queens – they have all tried to channel Dietrich’s special allure.

But there’s nothing like the real thing and a new show about her life will take a look at her lesbian exploits, her film career and her later success as a concert artist. It will pay tribute to her amazing courage during World War Two. Her anti-Nazi activism on the European battlefront brought her top medals from the USA and France. Veteran gay activist Terry Sanderson, who will present the show, said: “Marlene has always had a big attraction for the gay community. The campness of her films, her devil-may-care attitude to convention (she was the first to popularise trouser-wearing for women; a novelty that almost got her arrested in post-war Paris), and her fabulous voice are just some of the reasons.” During her early years in Weimar Berlin, Dietrich enjoyed the thriving gay scene of the time and was popular at the many drag balls and gay clubs that were popular before the Nazis came to power. Terry Sanderson said: “Marlene Dietrich was


ADAM BLANSHAY. PIC CRED: EDWARD JOHNSON

30 Scene

SPOTLIGHT...

Theatre producer Adam Blanshay talks to Brian Butler about taking the pandemic by the horns and the business behind the boards ) I don’t know if Adam Blanshay has a trophy

shelf – didn’t ask him – but if he does, it’s stacked. His production company has been involved in over 60 shows worldwide and he’s scooped up six Tonys and seven Oliviers along the way. If a production wins a Best Show Award, then it’s the producers who collect it – hence his trophy hoard. So when I met him at Charing Cross Theatre, scene of his latest hit Pippin, I asked what exactly does a producer do? “You’re the chairman of the Board and CEO – a show is a company. The producer will set up that company and manage it: the finance, the investment, building a team, finding a script, finding a director, being involved in the casting.”

That passion for theatre started in Canada when he was seven. “I was at my aunt’s house in the country outside Montreal – there was a double cassette recording of Phantom. I found the artwork interesting. I was told the story of the show. I listened to it over and over again, and at age nine I was taken to New York and saw the show with its first replacement cast.” At an all-boys school where the emphasis was on academic and athletic achievements, he admits he didn’t make popular choices – preferring to sing along with the Phantom’s Christine! “It fuelled my imagination. I had a difficult time at school and musical theatre was a release, a fantasy world in my head.” Outside school he joined a Yiddish theatre. ”In 1994 we did the Yiddish version of Fiddler

“I had a difficult time at school and musical theatre was a release, a fantasy world in my head” Adam started a theatre club at McGill, and found himself constantly in rehearsal so was always late with his course assignments. You can guess that Adam feels his academic qualifications don’t match his practical knowledge of the theatre – one reason he says he’s about “to go back to school”, starting an executive business management course. ”Producing is a business, and I’ve still got a lot to learn. I feel I need that discipline now.” But he’ll carry on producing while he studies.

So how has lockdown been? “I’ve tried to make lemonade out of lemons. I’ve taught myself how to produce for the web and the screen.” One result has been the highly successful Theatre Channel, in collaboration with the Theatre Cafe, which has been streaming in episodes. Initially based at the Theatre Cafe in the West End, it’s more recently branched out on location using musical theatre stars and up-and-coming performers. Each episode can be bought to view online and the series now has a behindthe-scenes section with interviews. “We’re being educational about the history of musical theatre. It’s turning into an encyclopaedia of musicals.” There are three more episodes in preparation, the next concentrating on Stephen Schwartz, with an interview where Schwartz takes us on a journey through his career – Pippin, Wicked, Prince of Egypt – quite a journey. But Adam is clear: streaming is not a substitute for real-life theatre with a physically present audience. “It was an unprecedented opportunity, using the tools we had. It has a life of its own in the future as an educational series.” One thing is certain, if it can be made to work Adam will do it. Asked what advice he would give to his 15-yearold self, he says: “Dreams do come true, but reflect on the consequences of a dream that is realised. My passion has metamorphosed into a profession. I struggled as a kid, but what a dream to come true.” ) Episodes of the Theatre Channel can be

viewed at www.thetheatrecafe.co.uk. For more info on Adam’s productions, visit: www.adamblanshay.com. LAYTON WILLIAMS. PIC CRED: EDWARD JOHNSON

I was curious to know how the creative process starts. “I have ideas, but I struggle with reading, so I go to play readings, go see shows – I speak French and I’ve seen shows in French that I thought would work in English. People approach me with ideas. I produce with too much heart and not enough brain. I’m extraordinarily passionate about the theatre. Sometimes I just put on things that I’d like to see as a punter.”

on the Roof, which recently reappeared on Broadway”. His next move was to study theatre at McGill University. It was the first time he met peers who were theatrically minded. Asked if he had a ‘coming out’ story, Adam smiled and said his mother caught him – well, let’s say, being physical, so he didn’t need to come out as such.

After McGill, Adam went to New York – where else? – but the first show he worked on, A Woman Of Will, shut after a week. It was, he says, a wake-up call. He started an internship with a producer and stayed five years – it’s here he learned the trade and its melange of artistic and business skills.


Scene 31

Do you need to know where the bodies are buried before you start writing? “I used to plan in great detail. I had file cards with every scene plotted out chapter by chapter. That worked well for me for a long time, and then it just stopped working. I developed a much looser approach. I have a sense of the shape of the story before I start. I know two or three crucial turning points along the way, and then I just write it.” Val broke down a lot of barriers for LGBTQ+ writers in the ‘80s and ‘90s. “I didn’t think of myself as a trailblazer. When I wrote the Lindsay Gordon novels in the ‘80s, I was aware that nobody had written a British lesbian detective before me. I wasn’t really thinking about it. It was the story I wanted to tell at the time. I was also conscious that when I was growing up there was no template for a lesbian life. You didn’t see lesbians. They were invisible.

VAL MCDERMID

The ‘Queen of Crime’ talks to Alex Klineberg about her latest project ) Val McDermid is one of the most successful

crime writers working today. Her latest novel is the first instalment of a new series. Journalist Allie Burns is her new protagonist. The story begins in 1979, later moving to 1989 and 2019. It’s an ambitious project that will chronicle 40 years of history. What drew you to the year 1979 and the world of journalism? “I wanted to write a sequence of novels that covered a period of time. When we found ourselves in the grip of the pandemic, the world as we knew it changed overnight. I didn’t want to write a book set during the pandemic because I didn’t know what kind of world this book would be emerging into. So I end this series in 2019, during the last year of so-called normal life.” Val became a journalist in 1975, working on local papers and then at the Daily Record in Glasgow. Her experience inevitably shaped the way she writes about journalism. “It was very much a man’s world. There were three women reporters. We weren’t allowed to be on shift at the same time because the men were convinced we’d just be sat around gossiping. Somehow when women have a conversation it’s gossip, but when men talk about football it’s a major conversation.” Some journalists romanticise the world of newspapers in their raucous pre-internet heyday. Val doesn’t. “It was long hours, there was a lot of drinking and there was a lot of misogyny. It was not an open, equal environment for women at all. “I wanted to take a long look over 40-odd years. So much has changed since 1979. I thought it would be interesting to explore that time period. It might be hubristic and I might be riding for a fall, but I hope not!”

Val McDermid is widely considered to be the Queen of Crime. How does she define her chosen genre? “For one thing it’s entertaining. A good crime novel has you on the edge of your seat. That drive to find out what happens next is a powerful one. Adrenaline is a great drug – it’s free! I think people want to be excited in a safe space. It’s like going on a rollercoaster and screaming, but afterwards you want to do it again, even though it was terrifying. You know at the end, however many terrible things happen, someone is going to come along and make it right. I think that’s a comfort that’s been particularly important to us over the last couple of years with the pandemic.

“One of the privileges of my success is that it allows me to lend my name to things I believe in. That’s the most important aspect of having a public profile. The only use of that power is to support things that matter” “I also think there’s a kind of sublimation going on. We’ve all felt murderous at one time or another. And for all sorts of reasons we don’t act on it, but in a crime novel you can fantasise. I’ve killed a lot of news editors over the years in my books. It’s also turned into the novel of social realism. They’re the books you go to to find out how we live now.” Val co-founded the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival. It began 20 years ago as an offshoot of the Harrogate International Festival. “I had no idea it was going to turn into the biggest crime fiction festival in Europe. In the reading and writing fraternity, people say ‘are you going to Harrogate?’ It doesn’t mean ‘are you going to that lovely Victorian spa town?’ It means you’re going to talk about murder and mayhem.”

“I didn’t want it to be just about being gay. I wanted the gay aspect to be one part of it. I didn’t want to live in a ghetto and I didn’t want to write in a ghetto. Lindsay Gordon’s sexuality is an important part of who she is, but not the only part. There’s her Scottishness, her job as a journalist, her interests and tastes. “It’s very gratifying for me that so many people have found something that spoke to them in my books. So many women still come up to me and say your books were the first ones I read with a lesbian protagonist. The books have never been out of print. That’s partly testimony to the paucity of books that describe our lives. I’m proud to be part of that but I didn’t start out with a revolution in mind. It’s always been about telling the stories that were shouting loudest in my head.” Val has been very successful. Nicola Sturgeon interviewed her at the Edinburgh Book Festival; she’s sold over 17 million books. Is she part of the establishment now? “I try to stay out of that world. I don’t live that kind of lifestyle. I want to be able to speak about the world as I see it and not feel constrained. The First Minister always interviews writers at the book festival. I was the first one she chose, and since then we have developed a friendship that mostly circles around books. I’m not part of any party. “One of the privileges of my success is that it allows me to lend my name to things I believe in. That’s the most important aspect of having a public profile. The only use of that power is to support things that matter.” What is Val most anxious about and most excited about for her new series? “Well, I’ve got five books so I’m committed. I’m anxious about getting it right and not imposing my own recollection on the books. I’m anxious about finding really strong stories I can carry through each of these years. But I have to marry those external events to a strong narrative that has a dead body in it.” D www.valmcdermid.com


PIC BY NICK FORD PHOTOGRAPHY

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ARTS CORNER

HOMELY HOMILY

REVIEW: Brighton Gay Men's Chorus @ The Oil Shed

Play safe, folks

WITH BRIAN BUTLER

) The roar of approval that surged from the audience when Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus took to their beachfront stage last month can have left the singers in no doubt how welcome back they were in front of a live audience. In the final days of restrictions the chorus had put together a concert of solos and duets, but this was the full force of choral singing and they rose to the occasion. Under the direction of Joe Paxton they revisited some material but gave us some new treats too. Four soloists featured but the strength in numbers of the ensemble truly raised our spirits. Opening with the apt Just Can’t Get Enough, Kieran Moore gave us the Muppets’ cheerfulness of Rainbow Connection, and then there was the dark, slightly sinister Confide In Me. Even more sinister-sounding was Cloudbusting, though its lyric is one of hopefulness. Andrew Farr gave us a vibrant, energetic City of Stars – a song of longing for love. And the chorus followed up with a spirited harmonious Like A Prayer and up-tempo Respect – and respect to them for singing it.

BY GLENN STEVENS

) The first time I ever went for a sexual health screening (I had a rash downstairs) was back in my late teens. I was mortified that it should happen to me, but needs must. Back then I think they made the experience as horrific as possible to make sure you never had sex with anyone ever again. This was in Norwich, the sexual health clinic was tucked behind the main hospital in a tiny portacabin. My mortification continued when sitting opposite was another lad I knew from the scene with the nickname, 50p; so called because it was said he would do anything for 50p.

“I think in that moment in time I had promised myself to sign up to the nearest monastery straight after, but I think with my libido I would have wreaked havoc with the monks!” For some reason I felt a bit smug that his clinic number was quite low, compared to my newly acquired high number. Thinking about it now, he had been proactive from an earlier age in getting a health screening, but still I had given him a withering look, lost on the irony that we had both caught something nasty. When it was my turn to go in to the consultant’s room, I was told to drop my trousers and pants, hop on to the table as they needed to determine what infection I had picked up in my night of fun. I watched on in horror as they heated up a piece of twisted wire with a loop on the end on a bunsen burner. No, I’m not talking about a past life experience in the dark ages, this really was the early 1980s.

PIC BY NICK FORD PHOTOGRAPHY

The instrument, which is now a disposable piece of plastic, was heated up to sterilise it. Like I said, I’m convinced the whole theatricals of the place were to put young men off sex for life. I think in that moment in time I had promised myself to sign up to the nearest monastery straight after, but I think with my libido I would have wreaked havoc with the monks! After the wire was heated it was cooled in water and then shoved down my penis. At that point I think I vowed to become a hermit. Andy Williams was in top Tom Jones form, with his little hip swinging dance in Delilah, with accompanist Tim Nail running furiously up and down the keyboard. The Oil Shed accoustic is problematical and more sound reinforcement would have helped us to hear the low, quiet sections of Rise Like A Phoenix, but when the chorus went full throttle it was a spine-tingling experience. Best number of the evening – for me anyway – was Sadao Udea’s powerfully emotive You Will Be Found from the wonderful musical Dear Evan Hansen. He held the audience in the palm of his hand – truly magic! And the choir was on the top of its game with It’s A Sin and gave a new queer resonance to Secret Love from Calamity Jane – altogether a triumphant return. Look out for their Christmas offering at Brighton Dome on December 4. Tickets at www.brightongm.com.

I forget what the diagnosis was, but I was packed off with some medicine and was pleased to be out of the place. The thing here to remember is STIs happen. Having a regular sexual health screening should not be an embarrassing experience and there have certainly been huge improvements in the facilities and the way health screenings are provided; there is now a vending machine where you can pick up a STI/HIV test kit at Jubilee Library. Knowing your sexual health status will help you ensure you are not passing any sexual diseases on to others and with the case of HIV, if you are positive you can get on to effective treatment that keeps you healthy and makes it impossible to pass the virus on. This is of particular importance as collectively we can help with the government’s aim to eradicate HIV in the UK by 2030. So grab your condoms and lube and play safe.


34 Scene

WALL’S WORDS

STUFF & THINGS

Shall we gocation or staycation?

The ins and outs of sex

) For the past 18 months the government has not known exactly what to tell us about travelling, endless ‘experts’ have offered conflicting advice, where we can but shouldn’t go. Stay in the UK or risk going abroad. Do we need a vaccine passport? The much derided and confusing traffic light system is a total disarray, red, amber, pink, green, blue – choose what colour you like, it comes to the same thing.

) Ah, sex. We all love a bit of the sex do we not? In some aspects, the whole gay world seems to revolve around sex. The apps have certainly made things a bit more straightforward for those who find it difficult talking to people in bars, like I do. Much easier to chat someone up virtually. Some bemoan the apps for taking away this aspect of the gay experience. The meeting in bars, the catching a glimpse of someone checking you out, the initial chat, the relaxed chat leading to who knows what in the bar toilet later. But the apps don't stop you from doing these things, you can still do them if you want to. Anything that helps Person A find Person B is a good thing I think.

BY ROGER WHEELER

In late July, Gatwick and Heathrow had some of the busiest days of the year. So, despite all the various perceived problems, people are going on holiday – to hell with the consequences. But it turns out that there are very few ‘consequences’ to worry about. So where are our gay chums heading? Thailand is currently on the Amber list, if you are double vaccinated you will not have to quarantine when you get back. You should avoid the mainland because of internal political problems. Stick to the islands. The local government of Phuket has introduced a fascinating new scheme called the Phuket Sandbox, so long as you jump through all the usual hoops you won’t need to quarantine.

“Gay sailing is the new big thing, avoiding all Covid-19 problems as you just enter and leave through one country. Croatia is one of the most popular countries that these trips leave from” One of the best gay travel companies, if you believe their PR, is Out of Office, which claims to be the world’s foremost gay travel agency. It does have a large range of gay vacation itineraries, usually based on small groups. Of course, they claim to be ‘luxury’, but that depends on your definition of the word. French-based Gay Sejour promotes “a quality tourism offer dedicated to homosexual communities and their friends. Hotels, guest houses, vacation rentals, restaurants, gay bars, massages, spas, saunas, gay beaches”. It sounds and looks very good indeed. Although their offer is worldwide their speciality is France, with some very nice-looking gay owned chambres d’hôte. At the time of writing, August 1, there is a lot of discussion about travel to France, which is on the Amber+ list; despite being double vaccinated you may need to quarantine when you get home. This doesn’t apply to Spain, the islands, Italy or Greece, you do not have to isolate if you are double vaccinated. Gay sailing is the new big thing, avoiding all Covid-19 problems as you just enter and leave through one country. Croatia is one of the most popular countries that these trips leave from. On entry everyone from the UK must show a negative PCR test taken in the UK less than 48 hours prior to arrival. GaySail is the leader of this gang, Amsterdam-based they organise cruise and sailing holidays for gay guys of all ages and nationalities. Pride Sailing Holidays is also Croatia-based, as is Off the Grid Yachting – they all offer very similar packages. Canadian-based Out Adventures is the third company running very similar sailing trips, also from Croatia. Not being a lover of small boat sailing I cannot vouch for them but they do appear to be very popular. Happy sailing.

BY JON TAYLOR

“If you really want to you could start your own Only Fans page and sell pictures and videos of yourself to random strangers! How exciting! It's everywhere!” And, of course, porn. Porn presents the perfect idea of sex and how you should be doing it. Utterly unrealistic of course… fun to watch but not life-like. Did you see It's A Sin? There's a scene where the main character is about to get it on but is pulled up for not being clean down there. It was great to see it on screen as every gay man has been there. I call it an occupational hazard. You never see that happening in mainstream porn. But it can happen. Sex is all over the place. On our televisions, in our phones, in our apps, in advertising, everywhere. Sex sells! If you really want to you could start your own Only Fans page and sell pictures and videos of yourself to random strangers! How exciting! It's everywhere! And, of course, there's the illusion that we're all having huge amounts of sex all the time, which we probably aren't.

I've experienced the Dead Lips – when there's absolutely no response from a guy when you kiss them. Nothing. Not a wriggle. It's like kissing some Wotsits Of course, with all this sex going on there's the distinct possibility of getting involved in some bad sex. Some really bad sex. The times that things don't gel. The times when the photos and the in-person man don't quite match. The time when they leave before you begin. The worst thing for me to do with bad sex is when guys don't know how to kiss properly. What's that about? How is that a thing? I've experienced the Dead Lips – when there's absolutely no response from a guy when you kiss them. Nothing. Not a wriggle. It's like kissing some Wotsits. And then there's the guy who believes that kissing is opening their mouth as wide as possible and shoving their whole tongue in your mouth and swirling it round for hours on end. It's very weird. How can someone get through life without knowing how to do that properly? And then there's drugs. Meeting up with guys who are clearly high on something or other and can't get up off the bed let alone getting anything else up. The ins and outs of sex. I guess what with all this bad sex about I need to find me some great sex. I must be due some.


Scene 35

what we should talk about. We should speak the word trans and we should outline the issue as a trans issue that we stand together to address and support. To remove the word trans and talk more broadly about the LGBTQIA+ is to dampen the matter and render it insipid. If we are raising an awareness of a growth in violence towards young men who either are perceived to be gay or indeed are so, that is what we should be talking about. Gay men under attack. Men who are gay. If we push this under the polyester poncho of a rise in violence to the LGBTQIA+, we are not telling the truth. We are liars in our own midst and those who have suffered are neglected and we send more cannon fodder out into the line of fire. And if we want to discuss lesbian issues that is what we must do. Not cower away under the guise of opposition to a few irritants now known as ‘terfs’. A lesbian is a lesbian and their voices should be heard. Not silenced with a metaphorical fist down their throat every time they step forward to clear it.

CRAIG’S THOUGHTS Not Better Together, or One of Us. .. By Craig Hanlon-Smith @craigscontinuum ) And so it continues, men who identify as gay or who are perceived to be so are viciously, violently attacked on the streets of the United Kingdom in the year of our Lord 2021. Men in Edinburgh, men in Birmingham, men in Brighton and what are we doing about it? What are the national media saying about this crisis? This is an exponential rise in assaults on men, predominantly young and men who are or perceived to be homosexual. Is this horror on anybody’s radar? Is it even on the radar of the LGBTQIA+ community? Do you even give a rats ass? I was recently invited on to a radio programme to discuss the growing crisis along with a victim of a recent assault in Liverpool. To say that I was disappointed by the experience on the programme would be an understatement. It was my belief we were there to discuss the growing rise in violence towards men who are or who are perceived to be gay in this country, only to discover that our presence was part of a phonein on the broader subject of hate crime. I had thought this was an item about the rise in violence towards gay men in this country; it was not, we were all gathered together in the minority-tastic basket of diversity and addressed homogenously. Who can blame them?

Who should be surprised they were lumping us all together when we too are blending ourselves into a miserable melée of lumpy tepid chicken soup that resembles little more than regurgitated vomit where a visible identity used to be. A collection of communities that has no discernible identity of its own, just one swirling, tasteless broth of patheticism. The LGBTQIA+. It has become a nonsense. Should a woman in the workplace wish to raise a matter pertaining to women and women alone, we would not replace the term woman with human in order to be inclusive. This would reduce the matter to the clear flowing juices after two hours too many in the oven when the goose is well and truly cooked. And yet we do this to our LGBTQIA selves all the time. It is important that we talk about issues pertaining to sexual orientation and indeed gender identities, and it is essential to also separate out these identities under the one umbrella as we all stand together. Call out the issues for what they are, separate in order to establish both their strength and independent voices. If we want and need to talk about life in the UK for trans people, which of course we do, that is

“I will stand with you trans person and hold your hand. I will stand with you lesbian sister and support your voice. I will sit beside you non-binary individual and listen to your stories.” Equality, diversity and inclusion has become so damned inclusive we are inadvertently excluding ourselves and our cries for help. In recent months, as with now many assaults, a man wearing a ‘Pride’ T-shirt was violently assaulted in a Brighton supermarket in the middle of the day. Young parents with toddlers in pushchairs stood by and jeered in encouragement to his attackers. The police are neither treating nor recording this as a ‘gay’ incident. Nor are they more widely saying it is an attack on LGBTQIA+ people. It is ‘just’ an assault. And why? Because the man in the T-shirt is straight. Just let that rest there for a moment. In truth, his attackers thought he was gay. A gay man. He was after all, a gay man surely. Men who identify as gay or are perceived to do so by their potential attackers are not safe in this country. Say it like it is. We the LGBTQIA+ communities need to talk about this as an issue we are all concerned about. To smother it in a generalist assault on all of us, is to let the attackers off the hook. I will stand with you trans person and hold your hand. I will stand with you lesbian sister and support your voice. I will sit beside you non-binary individual and listen to your stories. I will also not deny my separate gay and male identity. It matters. I am not you, and you are not me. And it is absolutely present and correct to say so. Separation doesn’t mean I don’t love you.


PHOTO OF STORM TROOPERS BY ANGUS STEWART. "GOTTA LOVE A GAY STORM TROOPER"

36 Scene

MORE TO ME THAN HIV

Glenn Stevens from the HIV project has announced Londonbased photographer Angus Stewart is now on board to take shots of those participating in the photo exhibition at Jubilee Library and a selection of branch libraries

PHOTO OF SCOTT, "THE NOBLE BOXER", BY ANGUS STEWART.

PHOTO OF LYNN RUTH BY ANGUS STEWART. "ON RECEIVING HER CANCER DIAGNOSIS AT 88, SHE WANTED A SELECTION OF IMAGES SHOWING PLEASURE IN THE SIMPLE THINGS OF LIFE"

) Angus Stewart primarily works with diverse

communities such as circus and burlesque performers, GDI Hub (Global Disability Hub) and Rights to the City, a programme with grassroots activists in London and Salvador. Most recently he was commissioned by Lambeth Council on a portrait project showing leadership in the borough – starting with Kwame Kwei-Armah at the Young Vic, and Florence Eshalomi MP, however, as the pandemic hit and claimed 140,000 lives, he began to see the project from a very different angle and so photographed


PHOTO OF 'THREE QUEENS' BY ANGUS STEWART. "BACKSTAGE AT BURLESQUE"

PHOTO OF MARK ANTHONY BY ANGUS STEWART. "LOVELY MARK ANTHONY AFTER HIS TOP SURGERY"

teams of people working on the frontline during this pandemic, including domestic abuse charities, health care workers, spiritual and humanist leaders. More info: www.angusstewart.me/leadership. For Angus, HIV awareness is very important to

him, having grown up through the 1980s HIV/ AIDS pandemic and witnessed the devastation it had on the LGBTQ+ community. “From the very beginning of that pandemic, gay men were attacked by the press; it was a really terrifying thing and I think like

many gay men of my age I developed a very damaged identity because of the systematic and government sanctioned homophobia that was metered out by the press. HIV has always felt quite personal in that sense, it feeds into a lot of the photography work I do with marginalised communities, I want to find the core within each community, to explore with each person I work with their inner strength and the beauty within that community and show that to the wider public.”

PHOTO OF MOHAMMED AT HOME BY ANGUS STEWART. "WORK FOR GLOBAL DISABILITY INNOVATION HUB"

Angus really understands the power an image can portray and we are very excited to have his professional expertises for the More to Me Than HIV project. We are very keen to reach out to those living with HIV from the ethnic, transgender and drug use communities. When we asked Angus about the importance of getting a diverse representation for these kind of projects, he said: “If we can get people from marginalised communities to take part in the project then it will go a long way in connecting with others who may not feel they have been represented before. Collectively, participants in the project can really make a real difference in helping to break down stigma and challenge the misconception that HIV only effects gay men, and as long as this myth is still allowed to be perpetrated we run the risk spreading the virus among people who do not know they can get it.” Angus will be taking the project’s photographs through one-hour booked sessions at Jubilee Library, Brighton, at the end of September. If you would like to be part of the exhibition and help stamp out HIV stigma then please get in touch via the project’s webpage: www.moretomethanhiv.life


38 62 Scene Gscene

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Enjoy yourself

) One of the founding principles of the Metropolitan Community Church was the healthy integration of sexuality and spirituality. Understandably, for an LGBTQ+ founded organisation, because the Christian Church has a lot to answer for the way it’s treated God’s LGBTQ+ children over the years. When same sex relationships are demonised, you demonise the emotions that LGBTQ+ people feel. Those very healthy and normal feelings become a burden. It’s easy to think: If I am damned for feeling this, then I must be damned for who I am. I can’t deny who I am, so I am doomed. It becomes a downward spiral. If I am damned for who I am then it really doesn’t matter what I do. If I go to Hell (or excommunicated) just for thinking this way, being this way, then my punishment wouldn’t be any worse if my sexual behaviour was predatory, narcissistic, or abusive. Internalised homophobia can so warp a person that they themselves become the voice of homophobia. Think of how many preachers have been ‘outed’ for being gay after they have spent so many years condemning homosexuality. I believe that over the centuries the teachings of the Church have been responsible for lots of unhealthy and abusive sex, and much pain and suffering across the board; much of which could have been avoided if the Church had actually understood the first thing about love. In truth, religion is like sex, in that there is healthy religion and unhealthy religion; healthy sex and unhealthy sex. Healthy religion is religion that grounds us in a greater reality; that deepens and enriches our walk with God and each other. Healthy sex is, as the BDSM community often say, Safe, Sane, and Consensual. Sex in a committed relationship is wonderful, but then so is sex in a sauna. There’s nothing wrong with the sex in itself. But we’d probably all agree that cheating on a partner is bad, aiming to hurt someone in some way is bad, using sex to manipulate or control others is bad. It’s not the sex in itself that’s bad, it’s the motivation and intent. In general, healthy sex shouldn’t hurt (at least not in a bad way), and it shouldn’t harm. Healthy sex enriches our lives, often engendering intimacy, and is a fundamental part of who we are. God made sex to be enjoyed – regardless of our sexuality! Yes, biblical law seems to condemn homosexuality – yet the same book seems to suggest that same-sex love is beautiful. The words used at so many weddings: Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die – there will I be buried; were actually said by one woman to another. And when speaking of Jonathan, King David wrote: I have delighted in you, and your love for me was wonderful, beyond even the love of women. Just two examples of many. If you are struggling with your faith and sexuality then give me a call. The truth is that God loves you just as you are, and is much more interested in your heart than who you have sex with. It turns out that God made sex to be enjoyed. What a relief!

AN ADVERT THIS SIZE COSTS JUST £75. TO BOOK A SPOT, EMAIL INFO@SCENEMAG. CO.UK


Scene 39

Another example of queerbaiting (or rather what some refer to as queerbaiting) I see frequently is Harry Styles’ fashion choices. The musician is known for his gender-neutral outfits that blend masculine and feminine pieces to create a look that is generally considered to be inspired by queer culture.

RAE’S REFLECTIONS

Queerbaiting: straight-up bad or a complex expression of identity? By Rachel Badham ) I’m a few years late

to the party, but I’ve recently started listening to Billie Eilish. While trawling through her music videos on YouTube, one in particular stood out to me, as it did to a lot of LGBTQ+ people. In the video for one of her more recent songs, Lost Cause, Billie can be seen at what can only be described as a sleepover with a group of women, and there’s certainly a strong queer subtext. Most celebrities are involved in some kind of controversy at some point, and this video definitely sparked some backlash for Billie, who is presumed to be heterosexual and cisgender. While some believe that Billie is queer, many LGBTQ+ people accused her of queerbaiting. Queerbaiting is a phenomenon seen in the media where LGBTQ+ themes and identities are alluded to but not actually made explicit. It tends to cause so much outrage as its widely believed to be a marketing technique, used to attract consumers without actually supporting the LGBTQ+ community or providing authentic representation. Queerbaiting is widely considered to minimise the validity of queer identities and relationships, while also profiting off of this. As a queer sapphic person, I’ve certainly experienced the anger that many felt when seeing Billie’s music video, particularly when I was younger and was struggling with

internalised biphobia and homophobia. I remember being particularly put out when Shakira and Rihanna released the video for I Can’t Remember To Forget You, which featured the pair getting very close despite both of them being straight.

“Something I have begun to consider more recently is to what extent are we policing queerness and what it means to be queer in the 21st century. What if Billie Eilish’s self-directed music video was her way of exploring her identity” Like many LGBTQ+ people, I believe that queerbaiting is a harmful and inaccurate representation of LGBTQ+ identities. The eroticism seen in content such as Billie’s video is not an issue, or rather it isn’t for me personally. However, a lot of queerbait content (particularly that which features sexual tension between women) is often presented to appeal to a male audience, and it is this that reinforces the notion that bisexuality and queer identities are not valid. What needs to be considered is the intention of the creator rather than just the content itself. However, something I have begun to consider more recently is to what extent are we policing queerness and what it means to be queer in the 21st century. What if Billie Eilish’s self-directed music video was her way of exploring her identity?

Although it is unclear how Harry identifies, he is currently in a relationship with a woman and has not been in any public relationships with people of the same gender as himself. When asked about his sexuality, he often says he would prefer not to label it. As a result, some have accused him of wearing queerness as a kind of costume. The problem here is that while queerbaiting is definitely real and harmful, dismissing somebody’s exploration of their sexuality or gender as queerbaiting is also damaging, and reinforces a system of rigidity that many LGBTQ+ people have felt pigeonholed into. And there are certainly undertones of biphobia in much of the criticism Harry faces. Perhaps if we stopped judging people’s expression of their identity so harshly, everybody would feel less constrained to heterosexual and cisgender norms, and we would see a greater understanding of the fluidity of sexuality and gender. In Meg John-Barker’s illustrated guide to queer history and culture (Queer: A Graphic History), they describe queerness as an action rather than a fixed state of being, and explained that queer thinking involves moving away from black and white perception. It avoids polarising and binary statements, with Meg saying we should all “aim to queer things through revealing the strangeness of normativity”. Reading this truly changed my perception of not only what it means to identify as queer, but what it means to think in a way that rejects the tools heteronormative and cisnormative culture has used to oppress everybody for so long. As a pansexual person, I can’t deny that the representation that makes me happiest to see is explicitly queer and LGBTQ+ created, but queerness is complex and everybody is fluid. Queerbaiting is real, but queerness is also real and comes in so many shapes and sizes that we are only just beginning to see represented in the media. So, let’s embrace being queer in all its diversity, and maybe think twice before dismissing something as queerbaiting.


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Book Reviews by Eric Page ) Daren Kay The Brightonians (£8.99, Grosvenor House Publishing). Opening with a death is always a wonderful start to any novel, particularly one which eponymously calls to mind the lives of the denizens of this Twisted Gilded Ghetto by the sea. Author Kay serves up a delicious book, full of entitled social wrestling, secret histories, blossoming love, elderly drag queens, polysexual queerness in all its forms and a geographical love for Brighton which showcases the city itself as a major character. The plot is a fun exploration of the way that events can hugely impact long after they’ve been secretly hidden from sight, and the way that truth often finds a way to shine, bringing not shame but glory in a different, more understanding age and flattering light. I’ll not go into any more detail to avoid spoiling its finely constructed and rather teasy disclosures, but I enjoyed the narrative tension and the amusing, believable twists. It’s a fun read, with a narrative momentum which whisks you along like the Volks railway, although unlike that ancient locomotive this book takes you somewhere interesting, a rather fabulous fantastical Brighton, not quite the same, but oddly familiar. For those of us who call this city home it’s a lovely read, with much to delight, for the others who love the city but have yet to make it safely to its glittery shores it’s a wonderfully evocative social comedy, full of charm, a touch of savagery, much sauciness and just the right about of arch waspishness, exactly what one wants from a new ‘find’. Learn more from the author’s website www.darenkay.com/ ) Julie Sutherland Bright Poems for Dark Days (£12.99, Frances Lincoln). Ah poetry, what is it good for? Absolutely everything. I adore a good anthology making me gasp at the magnificent

word play of our grand tradition of poets. Opened at random it inspires, delights, challenges and touches you deep down. Opened when seeking some support in the darkest days of life it shines a light along a path well-trodden by others, offering hope, solace, understanding and – where there is no hope to be had – just comfort. Sutherland has amassed an eclectic group of poets here, from uber modern like Carol Ann Duffy and Maya Angelou to weathered classics from John Donne and Emily Dickinson, the range is impressive. Some fun, frivolous and fancy, others profound and pertinent. It touches the spot. The book is set into eight parts on the themes of hope, resilience and courage, joy, nature and escape, love, tranquility,

gratitude and comfort, and each segment has some supporting writing exploring good mental health practice and provides a much-needed dose of hopefulness and happiness in turbulent times. The warm, uplifting illustrations from Carolyn Gavin which accompany many poems are gloriously meditative and burst with colour. ) Deep Sniff Adam Zmith (£10.99, Repeater Books). Zmith’s sense of place is perfect, summoning up long-dead ghosts of our queer past and sharing real insight into sexualised spaces and sexy interactions. Skilfully weaving these wholly sex-positive narratives though some pretty curious spaces, wafting us back to the present before another rush back to a sensory overloaded side quest of lost fact, titillating scandal and some serious historical narratives. Zmith’s exploration of detail is exemplary and, although a short book, this is an in-depth history. There’s very little fat or indulgent twaddle here, just the ever onwards push towards the next surprising link. Underscoring queer sex, spaces and bodies, how they have been hidden, oppressed, policed and penalised with a widely celebratory ‘up yours’ of chemical abandon. Showing how communities of ‘deviant’ sexual practice are clearly connected to the politics of expanding liberty and human rights. The book takes us on a radical journey, pushing at boundaries, lubed up by our relationship with poppers, stretching us open, filling us with gorgeous facts, celebrating our filthy minds, erotic bodies, and unstoppable need for pleasure.

) Carmen Maria Machado In the Dream House (£9.99, Serpent’s Tail). Carmen Maria Machado’s searing account of her relationship, from the breathtaking joy of finding that special someone to a hallucinogenic plunge into ferocious abuse, is a tone poem of a silent scream. Machado writes in myriad styles, convincing in all, and uses this kaleidoscope to share her experiences of samesex abuse. There is a very little writing on violence in female queer relationships, In the Dream House is an important addition and an excellent deconstruction of the dynamics of an abusive relationship, but it doesn’t feel like that. Not an easy read in any measure, certainly a remarkable one but Machado’s control of word, texture, meaning and narrative combine to allow her to guide us carefully through the medium of words though her own confusing, distorting and ultimately disastrous experiences of living with an abusing partner. The stories, some very short, leave us unsettled, knowing the truth but unable to leave. The book is astounding, but with its clarion call of authentic experience it shows us the author not only growing stronger in a world determined to undermine and destroy, but learning, navigating and finally breaking free to document, share and convince. Machado redefines what a memoir can be and gives us a new kind of personal narrative, showing that literature transcends and transforms experience, and that is what it is for. It reminded me of By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept and you don’t get a better recommendation than that.


THE RIVER

AT HOME

WITH MICHAEL HOOTMAN ) EL TOPO (Arrow Blu-ray). In the early ‘70s Alejandro Jodorowsky’s film was considered a counter-culture classic though in 2021 is looks suspiciously like a bit of a mess. It’s basically a Sadeian Western in which its black-clad protagonist, played by the director, strides manfully though a series of tableaux whose themes are cruelty, torture, rape and

death. The violence isn’t exactly realistic but it’s all fairly nasty; it’s hard to tell if the film’s attitude is condemnatory or if the horror is portrayed without any moral purpose. Though for me the only shot that made me queasy was a close-up of Jodorowsky’s mouth and beard dripping with honeycomb. Sometimes the anti-hero kills – or castrates – for revenge, sometimes his motives are as obscure as the occult symbolism without which no scene is complete. The second half of the film sees him trying to save a group of people hidden underground due to developmental problems (or, as one very funny subtitle has it: ‘we’re deformed due to the continuous incest’). As almost every reviewer agrees, the images are striking: from an eviscerated horse suspended from a tower through to sandy vistas, the film is always visually interesting. The women don’t

come off very well and scenes of violence and rape seem to be tossed in as carelessly as any of the movie’s other ingredients. But then the men hardly fare any better. El Topo has many admirers but as it progresses it becomes even more frustratingly opaque and eventually boredom sets in. An intriguing two hours, but an experience I have no wish to ever repeat. Fans, and the curious, will be interested to know that Arrow is also releasing the director’s follow-up, The Holy Mountain. ) THE PAWNBROKER (BFI Blu-ray). Rod Steiger dominates this film, a coiled spring of misanthropy and suppressed rage, playing the eponymous character, Auschwitz survivor Sol Nazerman. He tries to navigate life by disconnecting from human emotions and people such as his customers who he labels as ’scum’ or ’the rejects of society’. He’s also assailed by flashbacks of the atrocities he witnessed

in the camp; the film in many respects is a psychological portrait of a man trying to cope with PTSD. Nazerman’s pawnbroker business is used a front to launder money for Harlem crime boss Rodriguez who is black and – it’s strongly suggested – gay. It’s a strange attribute for the character to have, especially for a film from the early ‘60s. As Rodriguez is a morally rotten character maybe his sexuality is a way to signify depravity. Or it could just be that

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it gives Brock Peters great scope to create a character that is powerfully menacing – with a hint of camp – which gives the film a muchneeded shot of adrenaline. Nazerman has a frigid friendship with a social worker played by Geraldine Fitzgerald and is a reluctant mentor to an underling played, slightly stagily, by Jaime Sanchez. For a film with its heart manifestly in the right place it’s generated a fair amount of controversy, from being described as ‘an extreme example of Jewish self-hatred’ to criticism over its depiction of its black characters. At one point Nazerman reveals his philosophy of life, that the only thing that is worth living for is money. Is his rage making him contemptuously play out an antisemitic stereotype? The Pawnbroker is worth seeing for its central performances and, incidentally, its great documentary-style shots of New York. ) THE RIVER (BFI Blu-ray). Jean Renoir’s adaptation of Rumer Godden’s novel is often cited as the most beautiful colour film ever made and, looking at this impressive HD transfer, it’s hard to disagree. Filmed entirely in India, it shows its protagonists – a wealthy English family – against a backdrop of real Indians living and working on the banks of the Ganges. With its painterly compositions and magnificent photography it sometimes takes your breath away with the richness of detail and the way it conveys the atmosphere of the subcontinent. It’s true the main focus is on an English family and their friends but as it’s a coming of age story about a young girl – told from her point of view – it would be strange for it to explore the political tensions of the time. If the viewer accepts The River as a romantic film about love, life and nature which is set in India, rather than being about India, it would be hard not to be completely swept up by the story.


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CLASSICAL NOTES BY NICK BOSTON

REVIEWS

) Jadran Duncumb J S Bach Works for Lute (Audax ADX13738). Norwegian lutenist Jadran Duncumb performs works for the lute by J S Bach (16851750) on his latest recording. Despite the lute not being Bach’s instrument, he did specify lute for some works, and arranged some of his own works for the instrument. In all there are six works in Bach’s output, and Duncumb has recorded four here. First, a word about the recorded sound. The lute

is naturally a quiet instrument, and it can struggle to make itself heard outside a generous acoustic. Recordings also try to avoid the extraneous sounds of fret contact and string plucking. Duncumb has consciously gone against this, opting for a full, close recording which allows for the instrument’s true character to come to the fore, grit and all. That’s not to say there isn’t delicacy and lightness in his playing here, but he also produces a broader range of dynamics and a richer, fruitier sound than often heard. The Suite in G minor opens with a stately Prelude, followed by a gracious Allemande, and a gently swinging Courante. The Sarabande has a kind of sparse drama, and the second of the two Gavottes is beautifully fluid here in the running lines. The final Gigue is highly virtuosic, with its snappy rhythm and circling lines, and Duncumb makes his instrument sparkle with energy here. The brief Prelude in C minor will be familiar to pianists, but its perpetual motion of arpeggios is actually ideally suited to the lute, and Duncumb

expertly brings out the underlying harmonically shifting line from within the constant movement. The Fugue in G minor is taken at a pace, with impressive clarity in the fugal lines, ringing bass notes and an impressive flourish at its climax. Finally, the Partita in C minor, whose opening Fantasia, with its falling bass line and swirling melodic line above is immediately captivating in Duncumb’s hands. In the Fuga he maintains momentum despite its monumental proportions with a constant sense of direction and dynamic ebb and flow. In contrast, the Sarabande opens with a quiet air of mystery, yet Duncumb allows the emerging line to sing, with a beautifully silky chromatic scale near to the end. After a gently dancing Giga with effortless ornaments, he launches straight into the Double with smoothly running motion, a ringing tone throughout, creating a peel of bells in the cascades of falling lines, and building to a full-bodied conclusion. These are highly impressive performances, amply demonstrating that the lute is definitely not a shy wallflower in the right hands. ) Steven Devine & Oliver Webber Con Arte e Maestria (Resonus RES10282). In February, Brighton Early Music Festival presented an online concert by violinist Oliver Webber and organist/ harpsichordist, Steven Devine. Con Arte e Maestria – ‘with art and mastery’ – refers to the practice of virtuoso violin ornamentation from the dawn of the Italian Baroque. There is a lot of technical detail behind the complexities

of ornamentation practice, but for our purposes here, Webber demonstrates the ways in which virtuoso violinists of the late 16th century took existing pieces of music – madrigals, songs, etc – and ornamented them in striking and virtuosic ways, adding florid runs, repeated notes, trills and more to take an often simple melody to new heights. Different violinists had their own systems and styles – Girolamo dalla Casa (d.1601) used systematic divisions of the beat into rapid runs, whereas Riccardi Rognoni (c.1550-c.1620) favoured upward leaps followed by a downward scale, for example. Webber showcases five main approaches of different composers here, and then he takes their techniques and practices to create his own ornamentations of works, with tremendous urgency in the rapid ornamentation of Palestrina’s (c.1525-1594) madrigal Deh hor foss’io col vago della luna, and increasingly nervy interjections over the organ’s steady progress in Antonio Mortaro’s (fl.15871610) Canzona ‘La Malvezza’. There is incredible variety here, with a beautiful singing style from Webber over Devine’s softly sombre organ in Cipriano de Rore’s (c.1515-1565) Anchor che col partire (ornaments by Rognoni), and highwire violin snippets of ornamentation in de Rore’s Signor mio caro (ornaments by Webber here), this time with Devine on harpsichord. There are solo violin Ricercata from Giovanni Bassano (c.1561-1617), and from Webber himself (after Bassano’s style), demonstrating his virtuosic and improvisatory command of the instrument to dazzling effect – the Ricercata on Vestiva i colli by Aurelio Virgiliano (fl.c.1600) is particularly mesmerizing. Devine has his moments too, with a beautifully delicate and courtly Canzon francese prima from Ascanio Mayone (c.1565-1627) on harpsichord, a darker Toccata by Michelangelo Rossi (c.1601-1656), and a dramatic fanfare-like organ Intonazione by Andrea Gabrieli (c.1532-1585). This is a stunning, well-constructed programme that will reward repeated listening, whether you want to get to the bottom of the technicalities of

Italian Baroque ornamentation, or whether you want to simply relish the virtuosity of these performers in this glorious repertoire. ) Roman Rabinovich Haydn Piano Sonatas Vol 2 (First Hand Records FHR72). Pianist Roman Rabinovich is on his second volume of Haydn Piano Sonatas. I missed the first, but on the basis of this I’ll definitely be seeking it out. The nine sonatas on offer here range across most of the 50-year spread of his 62 sonatas. Rabinovich’s approach is full-bodied, and he is not averse to using pedalling to good effect, such as in the expressive Adagio

of No. 13, its beautiful melody played out over softly pedaled repeated chords. Yet he is also alert to the bright playfulness so typical of Haydn, such as in the outer movements of No. 50, and the jolly opening Allegro and the brilliantly virtuosic finale of No. 13. Meanwhile, the Bachian winding lines and steady bass line of No. 46’s Allegretto trot along amiably, and Rabinovich is particularly expressive and lyrical in No. 33’s slow movement. The Rondo of No. 35 is full of fun, with a spring in its step, with occasional slight lifts adding to the playfulness. No. 58, the latest sonata here, from 1789, has an improvisatory quality in its opening movement, with Rabinovich taking the opportunity to show us some virtuosic flourishes, before the second movement’s rattling dash of a Rondo. Very enjoyable yet intelligent performances here, well worth exploration.

More info For more reviews, comment and events, visit: D nicks-classical-notes.blogspot. co.uk T @nickb86uk E nbclassical@hotmail.co.uk


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ART MATTERS

ALL THAT JAZZ

) Daniella Norton is an artist based in Brighton, who has been involved in exhibitions locally and nationally and has been selected for the Creekside Open and the Beep Painting Biennial in recent years.

REVIEWS

BY ENZO MARRA

Her paintings have a hard-fought voice and presence that can threaten to transcend the subject matter. Her textural prowess bringing surfaces to life, the image being the first thing that greets you, but the process of it becoming that image always leaves a greater felt effect. Having been referred to as lawless, her paintings are without parameters, or at least without parameters that control or bind what then happens. Their small surfaces allowing them to be seen wholly from a close distance, an intimate and almost personal encounter housed within them waiting to be triggered. She finds pleasure in responding to the paint she puts down, returning each day and trying something that will let it build and evolve, rather than knowing in advance what it is, allowing her to challenge and change her approach to using the external visual information that currently inspires. Only willing to attempt to paint in accordance with what she feels she can paint on a given day, rather than what is on the easel waiting to be worked on. Having started working on a series of paintings which all stem from a drawing of an object from memory, she is allowing the paint they are composed of to increasingly become abstract, becoming something else which lingers between forms and non-forms. This enjoyment, which can be seen in her work when she isn’t trying to paint like an artist, reveals a rebellious part in her that wishes to paint awkwardly, as if she didn’t yet know anything about painting. Striving to try to find a balance in the grey area between her interest in awkwardness and the concept of finding herself gradually involved in a more consistent approach. The conversation between her and the activity that occurs over the support, allowing an honest image to rise out of the activity. Something real and not merely gestural, everything that remains meant to still be there. The themes she follows, she feels compelled to explore more deeply, can be linked to her interest in power relationships, whether it may be seen within the political realm to the lived lives of individuals and between the human presence and the nature they could be surrounded by if they were fortunate. Her constant battling dichotomy between narrative, figurative and wanting to just have paint and the surface textures that can be achieved. The pull between the physical use of paint and the image conveyed, a constant to and fro. In her heart she feels that paintings can be seen at their most pure when they are nonfigurative, but she also loves the ways in which an image of a specific something can communicate with a real felt immediacy, functioning in a different way than the achieved surface of a more abstract painting.

BY SIMON ADAMS

) NINA SIMONE The Montreux Years (BMG). Between 1968 and 1990, singer Nina Simone appeared five times at the famous Montreux Jazz Festival on the shores of Lake Geneva, sometimes accompanied simply by a small group, other times performing by herself. This generous compilation of 29 songs brings together the best bits of those performances, at first mixing up the years and then focusing on her 1968 debut, all delivered with that inimitable mixture of classical poise, a deep feeling for the blues, and her everimpassioned vocals. She was never an easy person, or comfortable in her own skin, but that just made her performances all the more commanding. There are lots of Simone albums out there, but this double CD set is one of the best. ) VICTOR FELDMAN Four Classic Albums (Avid). Victor Feldman was a British prodigy, an extraordinary vibes player and pianist who in 1955, at the tender age of 21, went to America and became a noted session musician, working with everyone from Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell – his are the luminous vibes on The Hissing of Summer Lawns and Hejira – to Tom Waits. He even turned up on a Lulu album. This collection brings together four great albums from the late 1950s: the classy and chic On Vibes, the septet and big band Suite Sixteen, an ahead-of-its-time meeting of jazz and Afro-Cuban beats on Latinsville!, and the straight ahead, swinging quartet of Merry Olde Soul. Too easily in jazz we move on to the next new thing and forget the older masters. Feldman was an important British musician who deserves our full respect. ) JOSHUA CAVANAGH-BRIERLEY Joy In Bewilderment (Ubuntu). It takes a brave man to start his new album not with himself or his full band – a 12-strong ensemble with six horns and three drummers among them – but with a string quartet, playing with classical precision and commitment in a seven-minute piece that is both contemplative and edgy, and completely out of style with what is to follow. But then Manchesterbased bassist and pianist Joshua Cavanagh–Brierley is nothing but adventurous. All the compositions on this, his third album, are composed and arranged by him, and he is not afraid to share honours around. Punchy alt-rock and fusion pieces are interspersed with a solo piano outing by the leader and a lengthy vocal track by Caoilfhionn Rose Birley. Even American saxophonist Chris Potter makes a guest appearance. It is all a bit breathless, but all the more enjoyable for it.


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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, in and around Brighton & Hove. Chris Gull raids the archives… Nick Head said: “Events like Pride have a positive impact on the local economy as visitors book accommodation and use shops, restaurants, pubs and clubs. But it doesn’t end there, as many local residents welcome friends and family over the weekend to take part in the festivities.”

September 2016 ) An important reminder from Stephen Richards of the role that Tony Chapman played in showing how businesses and venues can “give back” and contribute to our communities.

) Our September look back through the

years is more pictorial than usual, with the opportunity to look back at the fabulous covers, and Pride parades coverage inside, just because for another year we haven´t had a Pride Parade to cover and it´s a taster to look forward to next year.

There´s also news of a significant project undertaken by Allsorts and MindOut.

September 2011

September 2006

THANK YOU LEGENDS ) It’s been another successful Brighton Pride with both the Preston Park and Pride Village Party being very enjoyable events. But whilst it takes the concerted efforts of a huge amount of people to deliver Pride, I wanted to mention Tony Chapman and his team at Legends. His generosity and commitment every year to Pride and Brighton’s LGBT communities ensures the cabaret tent remains sponsored each year and we are able to invite the finest cabaret artists in the country to appear.

PRIDE ) 2006 Pride coverage was packaged together with listings in a section called Out & About, with its own ‘cover page’.

On Pride Sunday he then throws open Legends to me to stage the annual cabaret fundraiser for The Rainbow Fund.

) Further on (in 2016) there´s a letter to the

editor about Tony Chapman and Legends, and here in 2011 is an advert about a very early supporter of The Rainbow Fund, Chris Marshall and Charles Street and their annual Birthday Bash to raise funds for local LGBTQ+ projects through The Rainbow Fund.

Before she was a Dame, Barbara Windsor joined her old friend Dave Lynn in the parade. Barbara Windsor receives a thank you bouquet from Mick Sykes (THT South) and Nick Head, chair of Tourism South East.

This action illustrates to me his understanding of what Pride is about: a chance to highlight to the thousands of visitors and to remind those of us who live here that our LGBT scene is wonderfully diverse but needs constant care and most importantly funding for it to remain so in the future. The Rainbow Fund is an excellent model to do this and Tony’s constant support, not just over Pride, really leads the way across our scene. Each year we raise thousands of pounds for The Rainbow Fund through Pride ticket sales but the Sunday event at Legends boosts that total whilst providing a real sense of community thanks to the hard work of the team at Legends. This year we collected in the buckets £3,526.74, our best yet and I thank everyone who donated but especially Tony Chapman for ensuring it could happen and who made a £1,000 personal donation bringing the total raised from our fundraising efforts to £4,526.74. Stephen Richards (Lola Lasagne)


Five year funding from National Lottery for LGBTQ Advocacy Service in Brighton ) MindOut, the LGBTQ mental health service run by LGBTQ people for LGBTQ people, and Allsorts Youth Project have launched an advocacy service for LGBTQ people aged 16 to 25 (Allsorts) and 18 upwards (MindOut) with a grant of £389,599 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Help Through Crisis fund. The grant will fund the project for five years, helping the two Brighton-based charities to provide an urgent needs service to help LGBTQ people facing financial, housing and other problems. At MindOut, full-time advocacy worker, Emma Crossland, offers a flexible chat service during the day, out of hours and at weekends, where necessary, backed up with an instant online chat service, peer support and group work to try and prevent further crises. Helen Jones, MindOut CEO, said: “We were the only charities in the South East to receive funding from Help Through Crisis. The grant was made in recognition of the rising economic hardship and inequality facing members of the LGBTQ community in our city, and we are very grateful to the Big Lottery Fund for its support. Part of our contribution to the partnership is helping Allsorts develop its advocacy work.” Liam O’Hare, former primary school teacher who works 21 hours a week, is providing the Allsorts element of the service. He offers advice and support on a wide a range of subjects including housing, money, health issues and social services. He said: “It is a critical service that provides support for young people, many of them vulnerable and making the transition from school to work. I have been speaking to young service users to learn from their experiences and to inform my work.”


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

l Brighton & Hove Police Report all homophobic, biphobic or transphobic incidents to: 24/7 assistance call Police on 101 (emergencies 999) Report online at: www.sussex.police.uk LGBT team (not 24/7) email: LGBT@sussex.pnn.police.uk • LGBT Officer PC James Breeds: Tel: 101 ext 558168 James.breeds@sussex.pnn.police.uk

l Brighton & Hove LGBT Safety Forum Independent LGBT forum working within the communities to address and improve safety and access issues in Brighton & Hove. For more info: 01273 675445 or admin@lgbt-help.com or www.lgbt-help.com

l Brighton & Hove LGBT Switchboard • LGBT Older People’s Project • LGBT Health Improvement and Engagement Project • LGBTQ Disabilities Project • Rainbow Café: support for LGBT+ people with Dementia • Volunteering opportunities 01273 234 009 Helpline hours: Wed & Thur, 7–9.30pm; trans-only webchat on Sun 3–5pm: call 01273 204 050 email info@switchboard.org.uk webchat www.switchboard.org.uk/helpline www.switchboard.org.uk/brighton

l Brighton OneBodyOneFaith Formerly The Gay Christian Movement. Contact: Nigel Nash nigelnash@me.com. www.onebodyonefaith.org.uk

l Brighton Women’s Centre Info, counselling, drop-in space, support groups 01273 698036 or visit www.womenscentre.org.uk

l Lesbian & Gay AA 12-step self-help programme for alcohol addictions: Sun, 7.30pm, Chapel Royal, North St, Btn (side entrance). 01273 203 343 (general AA line)

l LGBTQ+ Cocaine Anonymous Meeting every Tues 6.30-8pm, 6 Tilbury Pl, Brighton, BN2 0GY, CA isn’t allied with any outside organisation, and neither endorses or opposes any causes. Helpline 0800 6120225, www.cocaineanonymous.org.uk www.sussexcocaineanonymous.co.uk

l LGBTQ+ NA Group Brighton-based LGBTQ+ (welcomes others) Narcotics Anonymous group every Tue 6.30–8pm, Millwood Centre, Nelson Row, Kingswood St. 0300 999 1212

l Mindout

info

Independent, impartial services run by and for LGBTQ people with experience of mental health issues. 24 hr confidential answerphone: 01273 234839 or email info@ mindout.org.uk and out of hours online chat www.mindout.org.uk

l Sussex Beacon

l Navigate Social/peer support group for FTM, transmasculine & gender queer people, every 1st Wed 7-9pm & 3rd Sat of month 1-3pm at Space for Change, Windlesham Venue, BN1 3AH. https://navigatebrighton.wordpress.com/

l Peer Action Regular low cost yoga, therapies, swimming, meditation & social groups for people with HIV. contact@peeraction. net or www.peeraction.net

l Rainbow Families Support group for lesbian and/or gay parents 07951 082013 or info@rainbowfamilies.org.uk. www.rainbowfamilies.org.uk

l Rainbow Hub Information, contact, help and guidance to services for LGBT+ communities in Brighton, Hove and Sussex at Rainbow Hub drop in LGBT+ one-stop shop: 93 St James Street, BN2 1TP, 01273 675445 or visit www.therainbowhubbrighton.com

l Some People Social/support group for LGB or questioning aged 14-19, Tue 5.30-7.30pm, Hastings. Call/text Cathrine Connelly 0797 3255076 or email somepeople@eastsussex.gov.uk

l TAGS – The Arun Gay Society Social Group welcome all in East & West Sussex Areas. Call/Text 07539 513171. More info: www.tagsonline.org. uk

l Victim Support Practical, emotional support for victims of crime 08453 899 528

l The Village MCC Christian church serving the LGBTQ community. Sundays 6pm, Somerset Day Centre, Kemptown. More info: 07476 667353, www.thevillagemcc.org

HIV Prevention, Care & Treatment Services l AVERT Sussex HIV & AIDS info service 01403 210202 or confidential@avert.org

l Brighton & Hove CAB HIV Project 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

Meditation & discussion, every 2nd & 4th Thur, 5.30–7pm, Anahata Clinic, 119 Edward St, Brighton. 07789 861 367 or www.bodhitreebrighton.org.uk

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 Lunch Positive

l Lawson Unit

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

l Martin Fisher Foundation

l LGBT+ Meditation Group

l MCC Brighton Inclusive, affirming space where all are invited to come as they are to explore their spirituality without judgement. 01273 515572 or info@mccbrighton.org.uk www.mccbrighton.org.uk

Medical advice, treatment for HIV+, specialist clinics, diet & welfare advice, drug trials. 01273 664 722 HIV self-testing kits via digital vending machines available from: The Brighton Sauna, Prowler, Marlborough Pub and The Rainbow Hub. www.martinfisherfoundation.org

l Substance Misuse Service Brighton & Hove: Change Grow Live: 01273 731900, email brighton.info@cgl.org.uk, visit: www. changegrowlive.org/brighton-hove-recovery-service/

24 hour nursing & medical care, day care 01273 694222 or www.sussexbeacon.org.uk

l Terrence Higgins Trust services For more info about these free services go to the THT office, 61 Ship St, Brighton, Mon–Fri, 10am–5pm 01273 764200 or info.brighton@tht.org.uk • Venue Outreach: info on HIV, sexual health, personal safety, safer drug/alcohol use, free condoms/lubricant for men who have sex with men • The Bushes Outreach Service @ Dukes Mound: advice, support, info on HIV & sexual health, and free condoms & lube • Netreach (online/mobile app outreach in Brighton & Hove): info/advice on HIV/sexual health/local services. THT Brighton Outreach workers online on Grindr, Scruff, & Squirt • Condom Male: discreet, confidential service posts free condoms/lube/sexual health info to men who have sex with men without access to East Sussex commercial gay scene • Positive Voices: volunteers who go to organisations to talk about personal experiences of living with HIV • Fastest (HIV testing): walk-in, (no appointment) rapid HIV testing service open to MSM (Men who have sex with Men). Anyone from the African communities, male and female sex workers and anyone who identifies as Trans or non-binary. We now offer rapid 15 minutes results for HIV/Syphilis: Mon 10am-8pm, Tues-Fri 10am-5pm, Thurs 10am-8pm (STI testing available) • Sauna Fastest at The Brighton Sauna (HIV testing): walk-in, (no appointment) rapid HIV testing service for men who have sex with men, results in 20 minutes: Wed: 6–8pm (STI testing available) • Face2Face: confidential info & advice on sexual health & HIV for men who have sex with men, up to 6 one hour appointments • Specialist Training: wide range of courses for groups/ individuals, specific courses to suit needs • Counselling: from qualified counsellors for up to 12 sessions for people living with/affected by HIV • What Next? Thurs eve, 6 week peer support group work programme for newly diagnosed HIV+ gay men • HIV Support Services: info, support & practical advice for people living with/affected by HIV • HIV Welfare Rights Advice: Find out about benefits or benefit changes. Advice line: Tue–Thur 1:302:30pm. 1-2-1 appts for advice & workshops on key benefits

l Terrence Higgins Eastbourne

• Web support & info on HIV, sexual health & local services via netreach and www.myhiv.org.uk • Free condom postal service contact Grace Coughlan on 07584086590 or grace.coughlan@tht.org.uk

l Sexual Health Worthing Free confidential tests & treatment for STIs inc HIVA; Hep vaccinations. Worthing-based 0845 111345645

National Helplines l National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline at www.galop.org.uk and 0800 999 5428 l Switchboard 0300 330 0630 l Positiveline (Eddie Surman Trust) Mon-Fri 11am-10pm, Sat & Sun 4-10pm 0800 1696806 l Mainliners 02075 825226 l National AIDS Helpline 08005 67123 l National Drugs Helpline 08007 76600 l THT AIDS Treatment phoneline 08459 470047 l THT direct 0845 1221200


47

PIC CRED JASON SHELDON LONDON GRAMMAR AT TOWN HALL BIRMINGHAM

West Midlands Music Board launches to help industry recover after pandemic

Southside Safe Space returns

) To help the region’s music and entertainment industry recovery following the pandemic, Culture Central has announced the launch of a new initiative, the first-ever West Midlands Music Board (WMMB). In a statement from B:Music – the music charity responsible for Symphony Hall and Town Hall – it explained that: “Until now, there has been an absence of a dedicated music board to provide the West Midlands with a collective strategic voice to advocate for, compile data on and lead the local music sector. “The development of the WMMB has been created in close consultation with local stakeholders, in recognition and response to the significant adverse impact of the pandemic on the music sector in West Midlands – which comprises festivals, music educators, record labels, venues, production, large-scale, and commercial stakeholders, and contributes a significant portion of the UK’s £5 billion industry, with a music tourism sector that supports over 3,500 jobs.” The WMMB has ambitious plans and they will be chaired by Nick Reed, the CEO of B:Music, and led by a diverse board of high-profile industry professionals from across the West Midlands, including; Lawrence Barton (venue manager, chair of Southside BID, organiser of PRIDE festival in Birmingham), Holly Hollister (DJ, promoter, founder of Selextorhood, and co-director of BABMAG), and Louise Stamp (general manager of O2 Academy Birmingham / O2 Institute Birmingham). The full list of the board members can be found on B:Music’s website: www.bmusic.co.uk.

) Southside District – home to Birmingham’s LGBTQ+ village – is ensuring that everyone returning to the nightlife scene in the area will remain safe after its facility, which is based in the Arcadian, has reopened to revellers.

Birmingham Hippodrome shares commitment to diversity, inclusion and anti-racism To achieve this, Birmingham Hippodrome has implemented a three-phase programme which is already underway, and is also welcoming feedback on Change@ birminghamhippodrome.com.

NICK REED

“We will work to ensure that decisions around investment, training, planning and skills allow our incredible music sector to flourish and grow, creating jobs and sustainable careers here in the West Midlands.

WMMB’s mission is to “champion the region’s music industry and ecosystem, protect and promote music industry development at grassroots level and work with local authorities, institutions and government to develop regional data, policies and advocacy”. In order to achieve its goals, it has set out four key objectives: 1: Economic growth and recovery; 2: Supporting equity, diversity, and inclusion; 3: Developing the local, regional and national representation of the West Midlands’ music industry; 4: Collecting and compiling data to support increased investment in the industry.

LADY LESHURR

Several respected music artists from the West Midlands – including Lady Leshurr, Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, and Joan Armatrading have already championed the newly established WMMB. Lady Leshurr – who in 2018 came out publicly as pansexual – added: “There is an amazing music scene in the West Midlands, and we need to shout about it more. We need investment, training and opportunities for our talent to break through. It’s great to see this board come together to make that happen.”

Staffed by St John Ambulance & Community Response, its aim is “to offer anyone who feels vulnerable a secure space to recover and get home safely”.

Anyone who feels unsafe, unwell or Southside Safe Space is open from needs assistance for any reason is midnight-5.30am every Friday and encouraged to head to the safe space Saturday and is the place to go for to get the help they need. anyone out in the city who needs help

Nick Reed said: “The board aims to represent a unique identity, by placing music and the wider night-time economy in the West Midlands at the heart of national and regional strategy.

“A key part of our work will be ensuring that these careers are open and inclusive to all. From the national levelling up agenda to local transport policy, the WMMB will speak with a unified voice for music in the region. We are coming together at a time when the postponement of Stage 4 is causing profound and extended hardship for everyone in our sector. There has never been a more important time to unite, and I am delighted to chair the board, and to be working with such a talented group of people.”

or support.

) A statement from Birmingham Hippodrome, the venue which sits in the heart of the LGBTQ+ village, has explained that it is committed to ensuring inclusion is at the centre of everything it does. Birmingham Hippodrome wrote: “We have heard the calls from our Black, East and South Asian communities, from our disabled and our LGBTQ+ neighbours and friends, from our region’s younger generation and we acknowledge that we have a huge amount of work to do.

The statement continued: “We recognise that we are on a journey and that this is ongoing work. We are collectively open to change, facing hard truths along the way. We are committed to “We are energised and excited to move truly reflecting the city and region that we know and love within our workforce, forward, breaking down barriers and our programmes, our audiences, and building relationships for us to meet our commitment and become a more opportunities. We will embrace change equitable place for audiences, artists, because we believe that it should and will be a part of our DNA.” participants, and our own teams.”


48 Scene

AN LGBTQ+ ICON

By Shea Coffey from Medway Pride Radio ) It is not often you get to spend time

with (albeit by Zoom) one of the founding fathers of the modern LGBTQ+ movement, but Mark Segal is that person. Mark was at the Stonewall Inn on the night of the infamous riot, an event he describes as the “happiest riot in history”. Mark was there for the first parade/Pride and, among many other achievements, crashed Walter Cronkite while his news report was live on air. More than that he is both proud and incredibly supportive of the community. Recently he embarked on a speaking tour of Europe, and I was keen to catch up with him to ask how he found it. “I went through six countries in 12 days,” says Mark. “A year and a half ago, the US embassy in Warsaw asked me to come and speak to local LGBTQ+ activists, but due to Covid the trip was postponed. About four months ago, they live streamed me to the embassy via Zoom and were able to broadcast it out to universities across Poland from there. I built the speech around Stonewall and the first Gay Pride and what we had to do to gain the freedoms that we now have in the United States. I saw it as sort of a pep talk, but the questions I got back sort of opened my eyes to what was going on there.”

Mark goes on to explain: “I have a passion for travel and history and at my age (70) I wanted to see if I could still do such a strenuous trip. So, when another offer to speak came, this time in Luxembourg, I said yes!”

had embraced Stonewall and Pride as their own, that sent a chill down my back, I was thrilled.” Mark pauses before continuing: “I often like to say that the best export the US LGBTQ+ community ever gave the world is Pride and I got to see that in action.”

It’s clear that one of deciding factors in agreeing to do this trip was the chance to meet Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. “It was sort of amazing, if you think where I come from aged 18 years old, I never thought there would be a gay Prime Minister of any country, let alone have them welcome me officially to a country.”

However, Mark pulls no punches in what he described as “the looming threat from Russia” on everyday rights. “It became clear to me that this is an everyday feeling by people in the Baltic States, and while this is not about LGBTQ+ rights, the history and influence that still hangs over the Baltic states from Russia. The right wing in the region, similar to Poland, is looking at anti-propaganda legislation which ends visibility.”

There is always a charming wide-eyed wonder to Mark, who can count presidents among his friends, and it is no doubt this wonder and the life journey that he has been on that keeps his feet on the ground. He talks warmly of the reception he received, of the people he met and seems a little sad that all too soon it was time to move on with two speaking engagements in Lithuania. “Both again speaking about my personal experience and the LGBTQ+ history of the US, I couldn’t speak for other countries. What was interesting to me is the knowledge they had of the LGBTQ+ history and how they

Visibility has always been Mark’s buzzword; Stonewall, Pride, crashing the Cronkite broadcast, these all created visibility in the States. “They are trying to take away our best tool, if you can’t talk about LGBTQ+ or can’t be seen, and this is happening primarily in countries that are ex-Russia satellites or are extremely religious.”

“I often like to say that the best export the US LGBTQ+ community ever gave the world is Pride and I got to see that in action” I am really interested in his use of the word ‘our’, not ‘their’ – he clearly sees this as his fight despite living a continent away. Mark explains: “It’s the internet age, you can ban these things in your country, but the people of Hungry and Poland are going to get the news and shows on the net. I know that they [the Turkish government] tried it in Turkey, but the people came out and demonstrated, risking imprisonment.” Mark casts great doubt on any country’s ability to stop the forward progress of LGBTQ+ rights. “They crack down on things here, so the people pop up there, it’s like a game we have in my country called Whack-A-Mole.” It becomes apparent that when he used the word OUR he meant it. “I am very thrilled that the US is in the fight for rights with these people, I’d like to go to Hungary and Turkey and march with them. I hope I get to do that.”

MARK SEGAL

The hour we have scheduled flies by, we haven’t spoken for a while and I am enjoying the chance to catch up, but what shines through is the half-dozen projects he is currently juggling, and the opportunities, such as marching in Prides in Hungary and Turkey, that Mark is hoping to seize. His enthusiasm and joie de vivre belie his 70 years and the LGBTQ+ community is a better place for it.

Profile for Scene LGBTQ+ Magazine

Scene magazine - September 2021  

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