Monday, 23 August 2010

Does Manchester Pride make you Proud, asks Jennie O’Hara

In 2006 I attended my first ever Manchester Pride. During the ‘festival’, I parted with over £200 and did some permanent liver damage. I had missed the parade, and although the bands on the stage were recognisable names, I wasn’t wowed by any of them. I do distinctly remember very long toilet queues, and feeling a little bit like a sardine.

In 2008 I helped organise an entry into the parade, where we marched under the banner ‘Pride is a Protest’, chanted ‘we’re here, we’re queer, we can’t afford the beer’, and tried to take on the over-priced commericalisation of our sexualities. I had been radicalised.

Manchester Pride is one of the UK’s biggest Pride events, and consists of a week of fringe events leading up to the ‘Big Weekend’, where the whole of Canal Street and the ‘gay village’ is barriered off and turned into a giant party with bands and singers, alcohol, drugs, dancing, porta-loos and thousands of LGBT people from all over the country. It is a colourful, exciting, busy, big gay mess. And access to all this costs between £10 and £20 pounds (depending on when you buy your wristband).

But Manchester Pride has very little politics, it has almost nothing for children (and certainly nothing on the big weekend), and it excludes lots of LGBT people who simply cannot afford to go. In effect, it makes some people ‘too poor to be gay’.

Welcome Reclaim the Scene, a coalition of LGBT and queer activists (and their friends) who are sick of being excluded from Pride, sick of the lack of politics and sick of being too poor to be gay. The group have three main aims they are striving towards: making pride free, putting LGBT rights at the top of the agenda, and making the ‘village’ accessible, inclusive and welcoming.

LGBT people come from diverse backgrounds, and Manchester Pride should celebrate this, by including the whole rainbow of LGBT and queer people in its celebrations, whether they are homeless, students, parents, gay, bisexual, polyamorous, middle-class, working-class, unemployed or directors. Regardless of whether they are men, women, trans, un-identified, gender-queer, old, young, Muslims, atheists, anti/capitalists, or queer individuals.

Pride should be inclusive because it takes a whole movement to challenge oppression. We still live in a society that oppresses people based on their identities. When statistics show that ‘gay’ is the biggest insult used in schools, and that young trans people have a 50% attempted suicide rate, Pride should be doing something to tackle it. When young LGBT people are made homeless because of their un-accepting parents, or attacked by members of the British National Party or the English Defence League, Pride should be working to make life better for these people. And when the Christian right are stood on the side of the parade with anti-gay placards, condemning all the parade participants to Hell, Pride should not just tell you to “ignore” the homophobic protestors, but should fight back. Ignoring bigotry does not make it go away.

On the 28 August Reclaim the Scene will be hosting our annual post-parade picnic, the (Out of the) Village Fete, a community led afternoon of children’s entertainment, performers, political stalls, alcohol-fuelled spaces and alcohol-free spaces, films, dancing, music, poetry and free food sourced from local community allotments. The event is free, runs from 2-9pm at a location just outside of the village barriers, and inclusive to everyone. Our aim is to show Manchester Pride that it is possible to run a successful, free, inclusive and political Pride event.

My first experience of Manchester Pride didn’t make me proud; it made me disheartened and slightly poorer. Pride should be about empowering LGBT and queer individuals to celebrate our identities, and to fight for a world where we are not oppressed for being who we are. Reclaim the scene because Pride is a protest!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Scout @ Edinburgh highlights/lowlights - Part 4

Scout’s Diary

Friday 13th August 2010 and Saturday 14th August 2010

As sure as toc follows tic the weekend of Friday the 13th bought with it all kinds of bad luck, including lost flyers – essential for promoting the shows, broken musical equipment-- essential for performing the shows, the kind of stellar arguments that threaten to alter the course of friendships altogether, and a night spent drinking with an actor named Rob who, even if he never becomes famous, will remain in our hearts forever. How could we not love a boy who admits 8 hours into a 16 hour drinking binge that he didn’t want to sleep with anyone at all ‘til he was 19, didn’t ‘commit’ to sleeping with women for a couple years after that, and really what he misses the most about his previous relationship is not the sex but his two house bunnies?
Amazing. We actually found someone more mental than Visa Girl.

For those concerned about her welfare, the world’s crappest, and I dare say bitchiest, superhero is now out of the country (unaided, on this occasion by the services by the services of Her Majesty’s UK Border Agency, who fly you home for free if you stay in the country illegally!!) and will spend the next few days terrorising France before hauling her bi-polar, anorexic, possibly drug addicted arse back to New York. Miss you, bitch! Not really.

We also caught a couple of shows, some of which I’d like to recommend:

Lara A King, a guitar playing stand-up who we’ll put a mini-interview up with at some point, is playing at The Counting House, and she’s fab.

Tits Up! Which is playing at Café Renroc directly before Scout’s show Hi, How Can I Help You? The talented all-girl cast wrote and perform the play about work politics and dreadful bosses to hilarious, and very recognisable, effect.

Thunderer at the VooDoo Rooms is a piss-take of a soap opera set in Victorian England that had us howling. Go see it now before the Radio 4 production starts to be broadcast. You will not regret it.

Killy Dwyer’s anti-cabaret act GirlBallz at Jekyll and Hyde is all sorts of hilarious, offensive fun for last thing at night.

Bob Slayer’s Punk Rock Chat Show at The Hive is a welcome return to alternative comedy, which some of you may remember from the 80’s. We love Bob, a former manager of touring rock bands, and his sidekick Myles Powell, collector of truly dreadful tattoos. Love them.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Why we need Black Pride

When Stonewall publicised Black Gay Pride on their website, the last thing Campbell Ex expected to find was a slew of hostile comments from white gays and lesbians

Saturday 14th August I attended a garden party, it was multi-generational, multi-national and included friends of different sexual orientations all having a great time together.
Last weekend I attended Brighton Pride where heterosexual teenage boys and girls danced and mingled easily in the carnivalesque atmosphere with drag queens, lesbian tomboys and muscle marys.
Yes 21st Century UK is a very tolerant place right? Well my rainbow balloon exploded with a bang when I read the Stonewall thread on Facebook when the organisation put up a post about UK Black Pride. This fairly innocuous announcement received vitriolic and derisory comments about the need for an event celebrating Black LGBTI culture and sexuality. So much so that the moderator had to ask for calm and restraint on the wall.
UK Black Pride is a celebration of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American LGBT people from Britain, Europe and internationally. However the very idea that people of colour could experience identities that are complex and layered and not based solely on sexual orientation was enraging enough to generate responses like:
“What next? Gay UK Nationals Pride? Gay Legal Immigrant Pride? Gay Illegal Immigrant Pride? Gay professional person's Pride? Gay non-professionals Pride? Gay German car owner's Pride....??! ...Since when has skin colour been relevant to sexuality??”
“when's white pride?”
Sadly even though contemporary urban UK is more at ease with it’s multicultural vibe, identities which are complex continue to be contentious. To emphasize one’s Black culture when one identifies as LGBTI disrupts the melting pot ideal of white liberal LGBTI imagination as well as racial minority/religious fundamentalist ideologies.
Many people of colour attend pride events all over the UK regularly and experience a sense of unity and celebration with all LGBTI people and those that support our quest for equality. People do not experience exclusion or racial hostility on the marches or any of the club events later. However this does not change the fact that the power structures and people who organise Pride are overwhelmingly white. 21st century LGBTI people on the whole are open and inclusive in their personal lives, yet the lesbian and gay institutions are still stuck in the 1950’s in terms of racial diversity. This contributes to perpetuating the notion that gay=white and consolidates the myth in the eyes of the straight world and mainstream gay society that to be Black and gay is an oxymoron.
UK Black Pride is important as a high profile public event creating an alternative view of homosexuality. It allows people of colour to be in an environment where they are in the majority. The Black Pride programmers can set the agenda, they decide what acts appear in the line up. The Black performers many of whom are not themselves LGBT by appearing publicly on the stage declare their support and solidarity with show their solidarity with Black LGBTI people.
People of colour who attend know that they will have visible evidence that they are not alone and that the values of their cultures of origin need not be left at the door when they step into Regents College. They also know that that the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the music they enjoy, will not be “ticking some diversity box” but will be an integral part of the whole day. It was a telling moment when Janet Kay, queen of Lovers Rock sang Silly Games, everyone irrespective of age, gender or ethnic origin sang and skanked along with her.
White people who enjoy cultures of a Black origin and celebrate the history of lesbian and gay people of colour, or who are in interracial relationships attend UK Black Pride. This is important as UK Black pride does not have a separatist agenda, but one that is truly inclusive and where the ethos is “we run tings, tings nuh run we”

Europride Warsaw

Hello, haven’t seen much on europride which was in Warsaw this year. Our local gay press said that they didn’t know it was happening! It happened every year and this year it was being run by an inexperienced team with no funding from their government we have just returned and it was amazing! A Brighton resident, Claire ‘Bat’ Denyon received an award at the gala evening that featured Stockholm’s gay men’s choir and the London gay men’s choir. She has recently been featured in the Observers list of influential lesbians in the UK.

The march itself set off in temperatures of 35 and was eventually rerouted and shortened, partly because of the heat but also because of the counter demonstrations – 5 of them. These were a mixture of fundamentalist Catholics and right wing fascists. There was a smoke bomb in front of us and some stone throwing – one of the gay men’s choir of London was hurt. The police, although grim faced and reluctant to be snapped, were very protective and were numerous and visually on full alert for any trouble.

That evening we explored what the delights of our silver club card would bring us and found an amazing collection of bars, each one the size of a small living room and all in shacks just off one of the main shopping streets. There was no big central evening do that we could find and the lack of air con put us off the drag act on ‘Pride House’ one of the main gathering areas but we had a great time.

Having a Polish speaker in our gang of 3 was invaluable and we were able to go to a lot of places that tourists would have shied away from. We also met lots of Polish lesbians and my partner; Maria Jastrzebska did a poetry reading in a library in Warsaw on the Monday after pride. It was well supported and a very interesting gathering who asked searching questions in the Q and A session after the reading.

It was a shame that the event was not better attended, maybe people were worried about the dubious track record of Poland with LGBT issues and it cannot be denied that it is not the easiest place to be gay. However we had am amazing time and really felt like it was important to be there and to have a presence. Hopefully future prides will be enlivened by this year and the Warsaw businesses will see the benefits of the pink pound even if they are not completely championing diversity.

I would urge you to include this report in your magazine along with the numerous pictures and account of Manchester and Brighton prides etc. I live in Brighton and I love the fiesta that is Brighton Pride with its emphasis on families and inclusion. However I really felt that I was making a difference this year by being at Warsaw europride as they are beginning the long journey towards any kind of social or political acceptance and they really need the support of the established gay communities and Prides in the UK.

Deborah Price

Friday, 13 August 2010

Scout Durwood and the Packed houses - Part 3

Scout Durwood at the Edinburgh Festival

Thursday 12th August 2010

Words: Alisande Orme

It turns out that putting 6 ‘theatre artists’ into a confined space (the wee Edinburgh house) and letting them stew in their own performance anxiety is not a recipe for preserving friendships, so much as an instruction manual for how to prepare explosive material. Killy, Scout’s other housemate who I’ve yet to mention by name because, well, she has her own room and thus gets to stay out of the more dramatic incidents, yesterday spent time instructing us all to nurture our ‘inner children’ after a couple of incidents over the last few days led to, respectively, tears before bedtime, tears before show time, and tears in front of a pub full of people that led to one member of the crew having to be comforted by five stand-up comedians after she was ‘abandoned’ by everyone else (there’s a joke in that scenario somewhere, I’m sure, that doesn’t involve me becoming hysterical again). But we’re better now, we promise.

Following a much needed day off, Thursday went a little something like this:

Scout filled in as a stand-up in a variety show at the very beautiful Voodoo Rooms. She’s always thrilled during her stand-up sets at how well her self-penned paean to the travails of womanhood, ‘The Period Song’ goes down, particularly amongst men, who seem to especially enjoy belting out lines such as “I just got my period/ I want to eat nachos and criticise your life choices.” It’s a singalong, obviously.

After teaching mankind about the social impact of menstruation w then moved along to see Delilah Dix and Her Bag of Tricks at Fingers’ Piano Bar. Delilah, a seasoned show biz professional (read: slutty alcoholic who dresses like a drag queen and once dated Queen Latifah), sings the audience through her career in the style of a lounge act and, honestly, I don’t think we’ve laughed so hard since we got here.

At the end of the day, Hi! How Can I Help You? once again played to a packed house. It feels to some extent like stuff is still being worked out in terms of the show and audiences. No-one had anticipated, for example, how much audiences up here like to be included in a performance. But, one week in, it’s all coming together, and for that we are immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Is Scout Durwood Edinburgh's funniest lesbian? - Part 2

Scout Durwood at the Edinburgh Festival

Alisande Orme’s Diary

Monday 9th August

Ugh. Monday. It seems that whatever you do, wherever it is in the world, there’s no way to escape the start of week downturn. Monday night’s crowd-- undoubtedly influenced by the two for one ticket offers that were available to many shows—did not turn up in Café Renroc. Scout played to an audience of three, a fact that left her more than a little bit blue, something we addressed by getting very, very drunk.

Blue Monday was then compounded when we “realised” that Scout’s bike seat—just the seat, not the rest of it, mind—had been stolen. I say realised because when we got back to the venue on Tuesday it turned up in her dressing room… Thanks for all that free beer Mr. Bartender (whose name we’ve blacked out in order to stop ourselves from involuntarily cringing every time it’s mentioned for the next 100 years), thanks a lot.

Tuesday 10th August

At 10 o’clock on Tuesday morning we’re still thanking the bartender for all that beer, mostly because Visa Girl and Scout’s other housemate woke us up at that ungodly hour so we could chant in gratitude for all our blessings. Despite our initial cynicism (and hangovers that could hold back the tides) there may well be something in it: Scout played to a full house that included two reviewers, one of whom definitely liked the show!

What strikes me most as a non-performer is the sheer hustle that goes into appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe, particularly if you want to be succesful. Self-promotion, good online and print reviews and audience word of mouth are essential to gaining crowds, and so it is a case of non-stop talking to people in the street during the day, doling out flyers, and emailing potential reviewers in the name of marketing.

Initially, organising a venue and funding seemed as if it might be the most challenging part of Scout’s (ahem) journey. Once she got to Edinburgh there were more fiddly problems to sort out, such as adapting Hi, How Can I Help You? to suit a predominantly British audience and Café Renroc’s itsy-bitsiness. But before Scout performs she (along with Lucile and I) have to get audiences in to Renroc. To do that we have to hit the city’s streets where we then spend the day competing for the attention of passerby against a frightening number of all-singing all-dancing sixth form drama clubs who—ah, the energy of youth-- are forever clogging up the place with their renderings of Rent and Sweeney Todd.

Seriously, if teenagers approached you so aggressively in any other part of the world, you’d seriously consider changing your route home. Instead, we’ve begun adapting some of the musical numbers from Scout’s show so they’re more, um, appropriate for life before the watershed, while also adapting our wardrobes so we can go out dressed appropriately to promote a show that’s about sex workers.

Scout Durwood at the Edinburgh Festival - Part 1

Alisande Orme’s Diary

Friday, 6th August 2010: Opening Night

I’ve been friends with first time Edinburgh festival performer Scout Durwood for four years now. During the time I’ve known her she’s go-go danced in sleazy cocktail bars, interned at a feminist magazine captained by a frighteningly verbal alcoholic editor, campaigned for the rights of rape victims, and spent time in a dungeon to research her latest one-woman show Hi, How Can I Help You? but I’ve never known her to be quite as nervous as this.

Scout arrived in Edinburgh from New York two days before her opening with Lucile Scott, her director, and two other performers who’s she sharing a house that estate agents might politely describe as ‘bijou’ with. One housemate almost didn’t make it in to the country, having previously overstayed a tourist visa by over a year. When she did make it in, Visa Girl (as she’ll hence forward be know) immediately began celebrating with Scotland’s finest (whiskey and men) throwing her housemates aflutter by disappearing for two days. It’s never undramatic with actors.

Café Renroc, 91 Montgomery Street, where Hi, Can I Help You? will run until August 29th is the cutest little venue in Edinburgh, it even has a gallery space. However, it’s littleness mean that the hula hoop routine -an essential part of the show, where one sex worker really gets to strut her stuff- has had to be reworked at the last minute. We’ve spent two days publicising the show (read: flyering and flirting with American tourists), and are now keeping our fingers crossed that people will actually come along.

“It could be worse,” we tell each other after watching the news coverage of Charles Taylor’s trial for war crimes. “We could be Naomi Campbell’s wig.”

Saturday, 7th August 2010

With opening night- in a not empty venue!- over Scout, Lucile and I (having taken on the unofficial role of den mother, vodka pourer and force feeder in the wee Edinburgh house) have all calmed down immensely. Even Visa Girl stayed in last night.

Café Renroc, we have decided, is perfect for Scout’s show as a noisier bar, where people are dropping in and out all the time, might disrupt the flow of the performance in a piece like this, which comprises acting, singing and dancing. They, we feel, suit improv acts or stand-up comics better as they give them the chance to show off.

The afternoon is marked out by a ‘Meet The Press’ event which La Durwood assures us went really, really well. We hope so, because apart from the flyering and relying on people who’ve seen the show to spread the word, we’re kind of at a loss of what to do, bar accosting members of the TV production teams who trawl the festival for hot new talent outside their hotel rooms.

Diva’s own interview with her, in which she discusses how best to conduct research in a ‘House of Domination’ can be found here:

I’ll post any other links as I get them.

Sunday, 8th August 2010

Word of mouth and a calm demeanour, it seems, might be the key. Having had a fairly good turn out on Friday, Renroc surprised us with an almost totally packed audience on Saturday! And they liked the show! Exclamation marks and double whiskeys all round!!!

We celebrated this upturn in events with fish and chips and a trip around some of the city’s finer LGBTQ bars. I’m not naming names- can’t remember any- but I would ask lesbians of Edinburgh this, particularly on behalf of Scout and Lucile, who as New York lezzes aren’t used to being chatted up by straight men in gay bars: Where are all the girls, and bois, and dykes? Want some. Also- the eternal question- why doesn’t saying “No thanks, I’m a dyke?” make me these men reconsider their (ahem) affections, especially when you’re in a lesbian bar when you say it? Hate boys.

We’re also massively uplifted by the interview with Sarah Millican that appeared in The Guardian today. Millican we learn only sold five tickets to her Edinburgh show, but went onto win the award for Best Newcomer by the end of the month. With that in mind, we went out to do more flyering.

Follow Scout on Twitter