Thursday, 18 March 2010

Lesbian sets up new political party

The Commons party is about connecting with those people who don’t vote says Tamsin Omond, PPC for Hampstead and Kilburn

The King William is the only gay pub in Hampstead. I’ve been hanging out there since I was 14. I used to be coy, quiet and underage. More recently I’m pretty loud. I come in off the streets with my sandwich board and brass megaphone as leader of the The Commons - a new political party shaking things up in Hampstead and Kilburn.

The team and I grab a couple of tables and start talking to the locals. People are never quite sure how to react. Why are this merry band asking for their opinions on crime, health and transport? I guess the questions we’re asking seem a little out of place from the image we present. After all politics isn’t supposed to be engaging is it? Surely it’s about projecting and telling, not asking and listening.

Not with us. The Commons is a completely new kind of political party. We’re going to make democracy relevant to all of our lives.

It’s strange but since becoming a politician it’s difficult to sound genuine. And that’s because most (not all) politicians just aren’t. We want to take the focus off of suits in Whitehall and turn it onto our communities, the real people out in the streets. Only then do you have democracy. If nearly 50% of people aren’t motivated to go out and vote, then whoever it is, Cameron or Brown, they won’t represent the people.

The Commons is about connecting with those people who don’t vote. We’re not interested in telling people what we think they want to hear. I’m going to be out on the streets, looking at community issues, finding out what would make people the people of Hampstead and Kilburn tick come Election Day.

Gay people know how it feels to be misrepresented. We know how it feels to have power taken from us all in the name of policy. I grew up under Section 28. I remember. If we’re going to sort out society then we’re going to have to start a conversation that involves everyone. If I’m elected I will be the youngest woman and first lesbian inside Parliament and that’s long overdue.

Politics isn’t working. We’re all left out of decisions that affect our lives. Gay people know how to make their voices heard. I’m inviting all of society to have the pride to do the same. Get in touch and join the conversation.

Check us out at or follow us on Twitter @tamsinomond @tothecommons. Look forward to hearing from you...

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

App-off: The battle of the best lesbian phone app is on!

The battle for the killer phone application aimed at lesbians has commenced as big mobile brands pull off their best tricks to make us tick.

Little gadgets that will enhance our phones and make our lives complete with the latest applications to rock our L world.

From queer news, to lesbian entertainment sites or second life games-these apps do the hard work so that we have it all in a click of a finger.

Most importantly these gadgets want to raise issues surrounding lesbian and gay rights such as Factory Games’ Valet Hustle for iPhone.

The main characters are Ren and Akira, a lesbian and a gay man, who get thrown out of school after kissing another girl/boy respectively.

The story is set in San Francisco which comes off as a total slap in the face after the Californian Marriage Protection Act banned same-sex marriages in 2008.

The game has been so successful on the iTunes App Store that Factory Games has already announced new additional chapters that will include a wedding.

And just to top it up part of the money raised from the game will be donated to the Human Rights Campaign.

The application frenzy continues with the arrival of The Rachel Maddow Show in the Apple App Store. Yes, that’s right, Rachel is all yours and, what makes it even better, all her content is for free.

If politics is not your thing, then you can always challenge Ellen DeGeneres in a dance off battle where going crazy on top of coffee tables earns you points.

Ouch, but be aware that this is only for fast-paced fingers. Do you still wanna challenge Ellen?

If after all these crazed-up dance routines you feel like you need a fashion fix just turn to Shane McCutcheon for style advice.

That’s right, The L Word’s favourite hairdresser has got her own application to create your perfect very Shane look.

Now grab your phone and get the latest mobile apps. You won’t get enough of them!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar victory isn't all that, says Maria Tadeo

The 82nd Academy Award ceremony may have seemed the ultimate celebration of female talent but Uncle Oscar still played it safe in a predictable night with few surprises.

Women may have ruled the Oscar ceremony as Kathryn Bigelow made history as the first woman to win an Academy award for best director. But the night was all about the All American flicks that took conservative Hollywood by storm.

Bigelow’s Oscar winning picture The Hurt Locker proved yet again that nothing works better than a bit of war drama where American heroes are presented as heroes to make the members of the academy tick.

The Hurt Locker is based on the lives on explosive disposal experts as they struggle to accomplish their lethal missions across a bomb-infested Iraq.

However the film tells us very little about the political implications of the Iraq and the ordinary life of both soldiers and civilians after seven years of heavy combat that has turned Iraq into a ghost nation.

The other big winners of the night included Sandra Bullock and Jeff Bridges for their leading performances in The Blind Side and Crazy Heart respectively.

Both critically acclaimed dramas where Bullock plays a caring mother who rescues a black kid from a miserable life and leads him to success as an American football player.

Jeff Bridge’s Crazy Heart is all about redemption as he plays an alcoholic country singer who tries to turn his life around when he meets a young journalist played by Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Hollywood can’t help but love a good old story about forgiveness and atonement where the leads become better people sobbing their sins away.

It may have been a night to remember for women but the Academy played by its own rules under conservative choices and turned its back yet again on Hollywood’s gay film industry as Tom Ford’s A Single Man left the Kodak Theatre empty-handed.

A critically acclaimed drama centred on the life of a gay English professor who struggles to cope with death and loss after his lifelong partner passes that was barely noticed by the US critics.

So too was Colin Firth’s performance as the film’s leading man that won him the Volpi Coup for best actor at the Venice International Film last year.

It may have seemed a glorious night for female talent reaching the top in the generally male-dominated categories. But it’s all always good to scratch the surface beneath the Hollywood razzle-dazzle.

Italian Big Brother: Veronica's lady love makes Italians swoon

By Franca Torrano

Since emerging from the week’s confinement on Monday night Veronica Ciardi, still not quite in the world of reality as we know it, has received a slightly different welcome from the one she was dreading. Her biggest fear, she revealed, was a hostile reaction from the Italian press and public who have been following her string of tempestuous affairs and fiery arguments over the last four months. When you throw in her sultry good looks and the growing relationship with Sarah Nile, it’s not difficult to see why she has become the most hotly discussed contestant of the Italian Big Brother’s tenth season. Hotly discussed does not necessarily mean popular but as she stepped out in front of the studio audience for the live show she was greeted with a loud and rapturous welcome. Her fans had turned out to support the twenty four year old Ciardi on what could turn out to be a difficult night.

Taking her solitary seat in the centre of the arena she looked nervous. Sarah, watching protectively from the front row blew Veronica a kiss of encouragement that made thousands of hearts miss a collective beat. Then one by one, each of Veronica’s difficult affairs in the house was paraded across the big screen. Not looking good. A sizeable part of this audience could go either way tonight. Then Sarah herself appeared on the screen and on seeing some of their infamous kisses Veronica’s expression changed. Her uncertainty fell away and she proceeded to defend herself against accusations of profligate behaviour in a performance worthy of a fellow Roman, Julius Caesar himself. She denounced ‘e tu, e tu, e tu’, the male contestants who would have had her if they could but trashed her as a whore and a porn star when they couldn’t. And in an implicitly wider attack on all those out there who think the same way she defended passionately her right to live her life from the heart and not be judged by the double standards applied to the sexual behaviour of women.

With that behind her the focus has since shifted to the nature of her relationship with Sarah. The media coverage has been intense but strangely disjointed as it caters to the tolerance levels of different audiences. The hosts of the daytime TV circuit continue to sideline Sarah and quiz Veronica instead about the future of a relationship, long over, with one particular male contestant. The interviews that all the BB contestants have to endure on exit from the house have all included the question, ‘Is this a lesbian relationship?’ And while the grandees of the national media muse on whether the new ‘star’ couple will get engaged and make a life together, the gossip magazines have been falling over themselves to get the hot new cover out, questions of sexuality somewhat secondary in the frenzy to increase circulation figures.

With Sarah now permanently at her side, Veronica continues ever more openly to declare her love for the cool Neapolitan who stole her heart in the BB house. She is fearless and on TV she rates Sarah the tops in the kissing stakes and declares theirs a love that will last forever. But - and for many followers this is a big but - it is not sexual. And they are heterosexual. On both these (their oft repeated) statements, the jury is still out but the fundamental truth is apparent. These two individuals as a couple, breathe new life into the word amore as they describe the meeting of mind, soul and body that transcends anything they have previously experienced. To witness their intense physical affection for each other, and to see that they expect nothing less than total acceptance from a potentially hostile public, is to receive a maximum strength oxygen boost that lasts the day.

The media love this story right now and they are running hard with it while the two are newly reunited and interest in BB is still in the air. Sarah and Veronica. Unless you’ve been locked away in some other BB household yourself for the last 128 days, you know who and what they’re talking about. This is the celebrity couple of the moment in Italy and the Sapphic twist is more a matter for curiosity than a prurient focus. Their beauty and wit will ensure them publicity for a while at least but for their growing band of supporters the dream is that their love, this special love, will continue to flourish and delight.

A special thanks to the fans on the canale di Mari.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Italian Big Brother: Will Sarah and Veronica's love survive the media circus, asks Franca Torrano?

The words ‘big’ and ‘brother’, normally send me running but recently I stumbled across the growing and very public love affair between Sarah Nile and Veronica Ciardi on Italian Big Brother. On the face of it they are the usual publicity seeking, attention demanding BB types, behaving badly and melodramatically as they strut their beautiful stuff across the vapid scene of yet another third rate BB drama. No doubt both girls came on to the show to further their glamour careers. Superficially, their image and behaviour puts them firmly in the arena for male consumption - Sarah is a model and Playboy cover girl; Veronica leads the ‘dual life’ of a nightclub dancer and nursery teacher. But since their first public kiss on New Year’s Eve something intriguing has developed that has attracted the attention of fans and enemies alike and has taken both contestants somewhat by surprise. They have fallen in love. And via 24 hour live feeds and You Tube downloads they have played out a love story that fascinates supporters and enrages bigots in unequal measure. The growing band of fans, Italian and worldwide, has followed, 24-7, in a state of hyper anticipation for each and every next moment of Il Sogno – the dream, a living soap opera that teeters on a fine line between celebrity spectacle and grand romance.

The -large- sector of Italian society that is influenced by the triumvirate of the Vatican, the Berlusconi dominated media and the right has struggled to find its feet on this one. Used to keeping the likes of Sarah in their place, amongst the scantily clad dancers that form the background to most Italian TV, and happy to condemn the likes of Vero as loose, sexually wanton and a danger to their sons, they have battled to find the most appropriate voice for their attack. Homophobia or misogyny? A real threat to society or just another shallow Grande Fratello story that they have foolishly (and once more) allowed into their lives?

The inevitable outlet has been the daytime TV show. Against the cacophony of the audience, Sarah, evicted on 25 January, has been given the insidious opportunity to declare her sexuality and the nature of the relationship. C’mon girl, we are in Italy after all. Amore is amore, is it not? She has played it cool so far and denied them the opportunity for outright homophobia but at the same time has frustrated fans with only elusive references to a ‘a different kind of love’. In pressing the issue the (mainly female) daytime TV hosts have increasingly found themselves competing to be the first to be cool with this love between women. This unwitting and amusing outcome should perhaps not be underestimated.

On Monday, Veronica was evicted. The live transmission showed nothing of her departure once beyond the red door and she was apparently whisked away to the now standard week’s confinement to which GF subjects its torn asunder couples. By all accounts Sarah threw a true Neapolitan fit on not being allowed to see her beloved and anticipation is running high at the prospect of their first meeting on next Monday’s live show. How will GF choose to present this? Mediaset, the Italian television company behind the show, has been accused by some followers of cutting the more risqué live feeds as a form of censorship against their relationship so it is believed that they will force them to downplay the romantic nature of their love. Others believe that the producers have acted protectively towards them by preventing their more intimate scenes from being made public. The fans’ distrust of Mediaset results partly from a legal action taken against YouTube, who are now forced to pull the unstoppable downloads on a daily basis. Confusingly though, it emerges that Mediaset was involved in Viola di Mare, a film based on the (true) love story between two women in nineteenth century Sicily. So the public face of Saronica in the short term, at least for as long as the girls remain under contract, seems to be at the will of Mediaset. How this will pan out when both girls are in each other’s presence is anyone’s guess as they have reassured each other more than once that non se ne fregano, they don’t give a damn about what people think.

Given the Big Brother context of this it’s difficult to avoid cynicism. Are the girls playing the game with one eye on the mirror and the other fixed on the glamorous whirl of interviews and celebrity appearances that will follow the show? Or are their declarations of amore true, at least for now? There’s no denying that it has been fun to watch the interactions between this contrasting pair. Sarah, controlled and cool and game savvy, using her rapier wit to keep the gagging males at bay as she subtly seduces and claims for her own the sultry, fiery Veronica. And then Veronica, Vero the true, who wears her heart on her sleeve and her tattoos over her vulnerabilities and declares her love for Sarah at any and every opportunity.

The question now is can the sogno survive outside this Truman show for the senses or will it shatter beyond the protective confines of the red door? And more importantly, if the dream becomes reality will GF’s tenth season have helped remove a little bit of bigotry in the world? The fans call themselves sognatori, dreamers in support of the love between Sarah and Veronica. In this world, our world, where reality can be truly harsh for transgressors, there is still surely a vital place for dreaming.