Saturday, 31 December 2005

Catching Up - Part 2

Catching Up - Part 1

On 21 December, I, together with 10 other "Queers A Singing" made my appearance in QX magazine as part of their 12 day of Christmas feature. We had got together in Trafalgar Square a couple of weeks ago for a quick photo session.

After all the exersions at Selfridges, my voice was starting to feel a bit ropy and tired. That did not stop me however to attend two civil partnership celebration, as previously announced. It was interesting to see how the style of the ceremonies reflected the personnalities of the people involved. One was quite pragmatic and straight to the point while the other involved poetry reading and music. You can read what my usual sidekick has to say about it here. The lesson of this day where just under 1000 couples got united is that, contrary to what we were told, society is still standing and the sky hasn't collapsed.

I didn't have the time to attend the parties after the ceremonies however as I had to rush to prepare for the first of our two Barbican gigs.

Barbican Hall - 18 December 2004

It is always quite something to perform in big venues in London. This is most definitely our home crowd and the simple fact of us getting on stage usually gets them into a frenzy. The house was filled to about 80% of it's capacity on both nights but it was interesting to see that when they were asked during the audience participation bit, that few people had actually seen us last year. I am pleased to be able to say that this can not have anything to do with the quality of the performance as people, even if they can sometimes be intimidated by the slightly unfashionable image (read boring and naff) of choral singing in the first place, are usually quite enthusiastic when they see us. I agree with Slightly, that it probably has to do with the way the show was promoted. The name of the show was the same, the pictures used were those of last year's gig and people can be forgiven to think that they were presented with the same fare as last year. While some elements were similar, there was a lot of new material and as ever a few surprises. Both gigs went quite well and were probably some of our strongest performances ever. what the "other chorine" had to say about those two gigs, from Dallas where he is visiting his partner's family. Comments from an unknown member of our audience.

Commercial Break:
A recording of our Christmas material (and our other CDs) are available from the Chorus' online shop.

It was nice to see that, Rula Lenska, our hostess, although she perhaps protested a bit much of her "straightness" in her speeches on stage, was very enthusiastic throughout the whole process. To her credit, she not only hosted the show but also danced and sang in two numbers. She must have been very bored when not on stage in Birmingham and created a sort of card in the shape of a big dayglow mouth with little stars stuck aphazadly on it; telling us how wonderful she thought the Chorus was. She also wrote us a poem once the shows were finished, again emphasising how much fun she had working with us.

On both nights, I walked home for the Barbican enjoying the solitude of the crisp winter night and trying to burn out the high of adrenaline you usually get after a gig.

Another event which, like Selfridges, seems on the verge of becoming a Christmas tradition for the Chorus, is our carolling session under the Norwegian Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square in support of the RNIB. this took place this year on 23 December for us and it was a very nice and (mostly) relaxed way to wound down our season. After the gig (which raised over £750), we adjourned to a nearby gay pub for a drink and to exchange Christmas wishes before a short break.

Commercial Break:
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As I have mentioned before, there is guy in Chorus whom I rather like even if I can't get near him for some reason. I have decided that I would try my best and ignore him; stop staring at him and that sort of thing. While things haven't change between the two of us (ie NOTHING is happening), I have been getting some confusing and contradictory signals from him during this round of performances. I sometimes catch him looking at me, but not that often and he doesn't seem to do it when it would seem the most natural.

There was an interesting episod in Birmingham. We were sharing the same dressing room (I never cease from wondering at the importance of toilets, locker rooms and other such public spaces in the lives of gay men's). As I was topless, I am pretty sure I saw him checking me out, just like I had just checked him out. Nothing else happened; I finished getting dressed and went to sit outside to eat my sandwich where I was joined by another chorine. A few minutes later it was his turn to come out of the dressing room and after a visible short hesitation, he came to sit next to me to have his own sandwich and chit-chat with us.

On the coach back to Brighton, he was seated a few rows in front of me on the other side and he did look at me a few times.

I am all too aware, from past experience, that it is all too easy to twist and blow things out of proportion when you really want to read something into circumstances so I will keep on trying not to think about him or check him out too much; be nice if he talks to me but not seek contact with him as the evidence point to the fact that he is most probably not interested. In the past week I have met someone, who, while I don't think either of us are expecting anything very deep for our association, is helping me taking my head off the reluctant chorine.

With the end of the siging season, and after this very intensive last few days, withdrawal started to kick in. A feel not alleviated in any way but my having to go back to work on the 28th. Christmas had been quite. On the 25th, last most years it seems, I made my way (I walked the 5 odd miles return this year, when I cycled them last year) to a French friend's place (we actually come from the same area in France and new each other before he moved to this country about 10 years ago) where we had a typically French Christmas lunch in the company of my friend's new boyfriend; as sweet guy from Mauritius. I must confess to a little pang of jealousy at see them exchanges gestures of tenderness.

This is the last post of the year for me, so let me wish you all a very happy, safe and prosperous new year. Thanks to all those who take the time to read my ramblings.

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Up on THAT Mountain

For the past few months the blogsphere has been a-buzz with an incredible hype which had been building up more or less all year. Last night I succombed to the hype and found myself one of the first people in the UK to see the already award winning film, Brokeback Mountain.

Brokeback Mountain - poster

I am, of course, not the only one not to resist the hype. Comparatively (it is only showing in a limited number of cinemas in the US), the film is one of the best sellers of the year, even beating block busters like King Kong and the promoters have had to accelerate the pace of the release, such is the demand. All the critics love the film and it is typed for the Oscars. The far right is obviously up in arms. The cinema was packed something quite unusually I would imagine for a 4.45pm screening on a Friday afternoon. From what I could tell, the audience was fairly mixed; lots of gay guys (including the ubiquitous Chorus member!) but also straight couples.

The film is based on Annie Proulx's short story by the same name originally published in the New Yorker in 1997. The making of the film has been a long (about 7 years, I think) and complicated process with directors and actors dropping out repeatedly and film industry magnates predicted it would be the end of the career of the two promising leads. All of this, of course because of the gay content of the film which tells the story of two ranch hands who meet one summer on the eponymous Brokeback Mountain while herding sheep and would fall in love with each other. We then follow them for a good twenty years as they try to grapple with this love and social pressures; having families and meeting only a few days each year.

The question of course is: does the film live up to the hype? According to a friend of mine, who could not resist anymore than I could, it does; and I tend to agree with him on the whole. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal - wallpaperThe filmography (and the landscapes) is beautiful, the actors very good and Annie Proulx' story is fantastic. The film has this slow moving epic quality Oscar winners have (I heard someone say after the screening that at the beginning they were worried it would be boring). At the end of the film (during the credits actually), I was reduced to a blubbering mass of weeping nonsense. My only problem with the film is, I think, the fact that we do not get a very good sense of the passing of time, either during the two cowboys' first summer together or during the next twenty odd years.

Most of the hype attached to the film, in addition to its filmic qualities, has to do with the fact that almost for the first time, a main stream film has gay storyline. This of course is not of the liking of the right wingers in the US who are so scared by the success of the film that they are actually speaking out against it (something they don't normally do; they apparently usually prefer to remain silent against films they do not approve of). The slight problem is that, when you go and see the film, the fact that the protagonist have gay sex is not quite relevant. Note that I do not say that they are gay or homosexual. Only one of the the characters (Jack Twist, played by Gyllenhaal) could I think be considered to be homosexual (certainly not gay) in that he actively seeks other same sex encounters whereas the other character (Ennis Del Mar played by Ledger) is clearly not interested in other men. There are a couple of scenes of gay sex in the film but there is just as much straight sex, all of it very tasteful and demure.

This is not a gay love story in the way that Beautiful Thing or Maurice are. Althgugh the film depicts the divastating consequences of social homophobia on the life of those involved, it is before anything else a story of swarted love which will resonate with both gay and straight audiences. It is interesting to notice that not of the principal parties in the making of the film (director, leads, writer) are gay; as if a certain of amount of distance unattainable by someone too deeply involved in the story was required to highlight the universality of a love story between too men.

There is I think little doubt now that this low budget film (only $14M) will be big mainstream success, which would only be made bigger if its promises of Oscar nominations and awards are fulfilled. The gay coyboys filmThis in turn is likely to have a huge impact on the perception of gay people in society at large. Not only will the story get unprecedented exposure to mainstream audiences for a story with gay characters, these audiences will empathise with these characters and realise that there is perhaps after all not that much difference between us all. Just like the introduction of civil partnerships in the UK, simply from the fact that people will now have to talk about them (interestingly often referring to them as "gay weddings") on a practical and matter of fact fashion, will make the thing become common and will eventually bring larger acceptance of gay relationships and people.

Another possible advantage arising from a true mainstream success of the film would be that producers will, as they do, jump on the bandwagon and we could be on the threshold of a new cinematographic era where films with gay storylines become quite common on our screens; furthering the level of habituation and acceptance even more. Of course, the downside to this is that not all of these copycats will be of the quality of Brokeback Mountain. Then again, very few films are.

The film is to be released officially in this country on 06/01/06.
Official website.
Read the short story online.
This is the story as originally published in the New Yorker. It was reworked slighlty by the author for book publication.

You can read other posts of mine on the film here and here.

A few more pictures:

Ready to dive Tender moment in the mountains Ang Lee, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal Ang Lee and his Venice Film Festival Golden Lion

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Friday, 30 December 2005

Catching Up - Part 1

I know I have been very bad in the past two weeks or so. I was on leave and that usually means I don't get the time to blog. This was even more true this time round.

With the Christmas season, several months of hard work with the Chorus finally came to fruition as we embarked on our series of Christmas shows.

It started on 14 December when we were whisked away to Birmingham and back on a coach. The first performance of this year's version of Make the Yuletide Gay was taking place at the Symphony Hall; one of the best concert halls in the world. The venue did not disappoint. The accoustic was truely fantastic even though the decoration with 1950's diner look was a bit too much perhaps. A shame that we managed to fill so few seats. We had already performed in Birmingham in 2003 at the Adrian Boult Hall at The Birmingham Conservatoire. A much humbler venue but there again we had had trouble filling it. I suppose our profile is not that high up there.

The Chorus was not in charge of the promotion of the show this time round however and even though our promoters are one of the biggest in the country (they put on about 600 shows a year) and they do have the financial means we haven't to buy advertising, I am not sure they did as good a job as they could have done. Then again, they did not keep us informed of what they were doing, so we can't really know.

The show went reasonably well however and it was a good start to the series of concerts.You can read the account of the show by another blogging chorine here. Comments from an unknown member of our audience.

On the way to the concert, we passed the site of the massive explosion which was felt all the way to the Netherland and France a few days before in Hemel Hempstead. Considering the force of the blow, the amount of smoke we saw in London and the few pictures I saw on the net (I still do not have a TV), we all wondered as we drove by if this was really the place where so much had happened. The site seemed much smaller than what could have been expected since there had been mention of 20 giant petrol tanks. The fire had just been extinguished and the only signs of what had happened were a the gaping and blackened remains of one oil tank and the missing facade of a warehouse building a few metres away.

On the next day I had hoped to be called for an interview for a new job I had applied to: Marketing Officer with a community based theatre company. A position I would have liked and thrived in. I was quite hope but although I was sure I had all the required skills and experience (developped and tested with the Chorus) and had demonstrated it in my statement, I did not hear a peep. As usual! So I am stuck with another round in my current job.

The next stop of our mini tour, took us to the Brighton Dome on 17 December. Again we got driven there and back by coach. The report from the "other chorine" is here. Lots of people seem to have issues with accoustics in the venue (a convertion of the Prince Regent's stables near the famous Royal Pavillion, boasting a 1930's Grade 1 listed interior) but I actually rather liked it; perhaps because, for once, we were able to ear ourselves singing. There had been changes to the running order of the show to make it shorter (it was apparently too long) and to give it more pace in the first part. Again the performance went well albeit for some sound problems we could do nothing about. The audience was bigger but again not a sell out; this was perhaps due to the fact that we could not find any poster for the show anywhere...

This was the start of a singing marathon for me. On the next day I reported to the security desk of Selfridges on Oxford Street for the first of twelve half an hour performances with a small delegation of the Chorus over the following three days (at the rate of four gigs per day). I had already taken part in the same gig last year although the 12 gigs I did had been spread over the five days (and 20 gigs) we did that time. In another difference to last year, we were not located at the bottom of the central escalator, near the cafe (where people could actually stop and listen to us) but we were on a small balcony hanging from the third floor over the escalator pit. In any case, this is great fun to do. You get to interact (not too much thought) with the crowds passing by which includes checking out the hunky guys. There seems to be a inordinate number of people working in Selfridges payed only to go up and down the escalators. Apparently last year Mrs Beckham enjoyed one of our performances; this year, on my way to the gigs, I spotted a very tanned Gary Linecker outside the shop. Someone told me they had seen Rowan Atkinson on the way in. Looks like the "stars" go shopping in the morning. They both missed us though!


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Sunday, 18 December 2005

Currently Reading - Best Gay Love Stories 2005

Best Gay Love Stories 2005 - Nick Street (Ed.)
Best Gay Love Stories 2005, edited by Nick Street

Probably not the best choice considering my current state of mind... Enjoyable though.

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Thursday, 15 December 2005

Win Gay CDs

Click to enter the competition
The competition closes on December 25th.

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Tuesday, 13 December 2005

Currently Reading - Kingdom Swann

Kingdom Swann - Miles Gibson
Kingdom Swann by Miles Gibson.

This book was recommended to me by Slightly. I have almost finished it and I can't say I would recommend it to any one. It is mildly entertaining and apparently was the basis for the script of a film (which Slighltly enjoyed). On the whole, I don't think it is very well written and is certainly not memorable...

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3.6 Million of Us

The Observer reported this week-end on figures published by the Department of Trade and Industry assessing the impact of the new Civil Partnership and the anti-discrimination laws recently passed. The article focuses mostly on those major companies finally smelling the coffee and trying to woo the pink pound but the more important piece of news there has probably to do with the fact that we now have an official and seemingly reliable estimate of the gay and lesbian population in the UK. That's 3.6 million people; roughly 6% of the total population.

And there are no reasons to believe that these figures can not apply to the world population too...

Being a good gay boy and healthily refocusing the story onto my precious little self (*cough*), the news that there are about 1.7M gay men in this country (several hundred thousands of which are porbably located in London) maked me once again wonder what I am doing wrong...

Read the full DTI report (pdf).

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Friday, 9 December 2005

The End of The Route

Today marks the official end of the route for an iconic player of London life. The Routemaster which have been serving Londoners faithfully for so many decades and can now be found all over the world, has gone into retirement.

It had already been become a rare site on the streets of London in the past few months with decomissioning starting about a year ago. I used to hop on number 12 every to go to and back from work before the route was fitted with bendy buses (which have much fewer seats!).

Last night I witnessed part of the buses' swan song and I observed in surprise perhaps 5 or 6 routemasters of all areas on route 159 in Piccadilly Circus.

Thankfully, we will still have a chance to hope on a Routemaster from time to time as they will remain in service on Routes 9 and 15 as heritage routes for tourists.

The main reason for the decomissioning of the bus is it lack of accessibility for disabled people, which has long made me wonder why newer routemasters could not be design including accessible door and the famous and so practical open platform at the back. I am happy to say that others have had the same thought. Let's hope they are heard!

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Another Defection

Sainsbury's and Woolworth's are not the only major companies pandering to the intolerant right. Ford (together with its subsidiaries, which include Jaguar and Volvo) have decided under pressure for the right wing group American Family Association to stop advertising in the LGBT media and to stop supporting LGBT events. Wells Fargo, under pressure from Focus on the Family, declined to cave in; just like Kraft earlier this year.

The original story is here

You can read a lot more on this (including posts on the relation between the two Ford executives who brockered the deal AFA and the Bush administration or on Henry Ford's anti-semitic writings) on AmericaBlog.

Finally, you can express your discontent to Ford here.

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Jerry Springer, Again

From Equity (the British Actors' Union):
You may have read in the press that both Sainsbury’s and Woolworths have withdrawn from sale DVDs of Jerry Springer - The Opera after receiving complaints from the public. This is the same production of Jerry Springer - The Opera which was subject to protests when the BBC screened it.

When Equity approached the two companies, Sainsbury's press office said that they had received around 20 complaints but Woolworths would not reveal the number of complaints it had received other than to say it was "substantial".

Equity is very concerned about the action of the two companies and General Secretary Christine Payne has issued the following statement:

"Equity is opposed to the action which Woolworths and Sainsbury's have taken on two grounds. Firstly, Equity strongly supports artistic freedom and equally strong opposes censorship in all its forms, however offended any individual may feel themselves to be by a particular piece of dramatic art.

“Secondly, Equity members derive income from the sales of recorded material, including DVDs, and so stand to lose income from actions such as these.

"Equity is inviting all of its members to make their views known to Sainsbury’s and Woolworths about these acts of censorship."

If you wish to contact Sainsbury's with your views you can visit and complete an e-mailable form or call their general enquiry line on 0800 636 262.

If you wish to contact Woolworths you can send an e-mail to or call the company's headquarters on 020 7262 1222.

Or you can wirte to the CEO of Sainsbury's:
Justin King
c/o Sainsbury’s
33 Holborn
London EC1N 2HT

A few email addresses: (CEO) but his emails are handled by a Contact Centre (Chairman) (Director of Customer Marketing) (Head of General Merchandising i.e. non-food) (Director of Trading) (Head of Customer Service)

(Thanks to Liam for the names.)

from a friend of mine:.

I have just called Sainsbury's. A civilised guy told me that they had been inundated with calls protesting about their decision.

I rang Wooolworths and got the security man! so will contact them tomorrow.

Second Update
From another friend, an email from Sainsbury's in response to his complaint (emphasis added):

------ Forwarded Message
Date: 8 Dec 2005 20:51:34 +0000
To: [...]
Subject: RE: Other Questions

Dear S,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us. I am very sorry that you are unhappy with our decision to stop selling Jerry Springer, The Opera on DVD.

Please let me assure you that we would never wish to cause offence to any of our customers. As a retailer, we feel we should offer our customers a choice of what to buy. We monitor all feedback about the products on sale in our stores and I can confirm that we are no longer selling Jerry Springer, The Opera.
Thank you again for letting us know how you feel. We are committed to getting things right for our customers and I do hope I have been able to offer you some assurance.

Kind regards,

Sainsbury's Customer Services

Third Update
From Woolworth's in (rather irrelevant) response to my complaint ("I am not impressed by your decision to pander to an extremist minority but deciding to stop stock DVDs of Jerry Springer the Opera. I like to be regarded as a responsible individual who can make his own decision and choices. Why should you and these people do that for me?
Another decision has been forced upon me in this occasion: that of taking my custom elsewhere..."):

Dear Sir / Madam

Woolworths is guided by legislation and regulatory bodies on what it can and cannot sell in its stores.

Our decisions to sell products are based on customer demand.

The product is not currently available in stores, however should a customer wish to purchase it, it is available from our website -


Woolworths Plc

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Thursday, 8 December 2005

The Colour of Melancholy

Two unrelated snippets give its colour to this post.

Yesterday I received an email from my mother. She was telling me about a tree in my parents' garden. As far as I can remember, I have been told that this Walnut tree had been planted when I was born. For many years it had languished in the front yard of the house in a darkish place with not enough earth for it to develop properly. Probably about 15 years ago, my father moved it to the garden at the back of the house.

The house is built on some sort of slope, which means that the garden is level with the first floor of the house. There is, however, a courtyard at the back of the house, level with the groundfloor and of a width of about 4 or 5 metres. A dry stone wall keeps the garden where it should be.

For some unknown reason, my father who knows about trees (he is a retired joiner) decided to replant the tree almost at the top of the stairs leading from the courtyard to the garden. In the past 15 years or so, the tree has grown a lot, as walnut trees tend to do, obscuring most of the garden with its dense cold foliage and threatening to to push down the wall sustaining the garden with its roots.

My parents are now quite old (both in their mid 70's) and seem to have ingaged in the process of tidying the house and their lives before they die. A few weeks ago my mother informed me that they were thinking about cutting the walnut tree down; asking for my opinion on this. This gave me some sort of a pang. In this strange sentimental and romantic way we have with objects in my family, and although I have never attached much importance to that tree, I find myself almost superstitiously linked to this tree.

I replied to her that it was their decision.

Yesterday, my mother sent me this rather melodramatic email:
Le pauvre noyer est tombé jeudi dernier après avoir été martyrisé par ton père pendant plusieurs jours : les branches ont été coupées petit à petit, et c’était bien triste de voir l’arbre pleurer à grosses gouttes de sève.
The poor walnut tree went down last Thursday after having been put through martyrdom [an expression she likes] by your father over several days: the boughs had been progressively cut off and it was quite a sad sight to see the tree weep big drops of sap.

The other tidbit comes from my traffic monitor for this page. It appears someone found this blog by googling "gay cruising london blackwells bookshop".

I hope their story finishes better than mine.

Currently Reading - The Boy I Love

The Boy I Love - Marion Husband
The Boy I Love by Marion Husband.

The last book (Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess) took me a while finish but it was worth it. this book is the next one for my reading group. Visit our website for more details about the group and the book.

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Monday, 5 December 2005

Historic Day

From today, same sex couples in the UK can register to form a Civil Partnership. The first ceremonies (except for a few exceptions in Scotland and Ireland, I think) will take place in 21 December. This will give people rights almost similar to those of straight married couples. This is of course not ideal but it is a huge step forward.

While most people are busy celebrating, a few discordant voices can be heard complaining about the fact that the new law will apparently disadvantage the poorer members of the LGBT community. It seems that because the possibility of the partnership now exists, "unofficial" couples who were, until now, receiving benefits will not be eligible for these benefits any more. My instinctive answer to this is: form a partnership. I understand that another part of the argument is that these couples find themselves forced into patnerships. I am not sure I understand the rationale behind this; or perhaps I understand it only too well.

Since entering a partnership will probably give these people more protection than they currently enjoy, my impression is that the disappearance of the benefits is only a smoke screen for the real issue; one which is recurrent in our modern western society. Until now those people were happy to receive money from the state without accepting any of the responsibilities that it would seem fair to expect them to shoulder in exchange for the support provided. Now they find themselves having to reciprocate (in some tiny way I think) the favour; and they don't like that.

A similar argument can, I think, be raised against their alleging at being forced into a partnership. This change in the law is about giving LGBT people the SAME rights as their straight counterparts. This is about equality; not, selfishly, about the advantages of some of the members of a particular minority section of the community. How can we expect to be listened to if we ask for equality but are not ready to be treated in exactly the same way as other groups? Whether this is good or (only slightly) bad for us. I also think this change will bring much more important advantages (that includes the degree of acceptance of LGBT people by the wider community) than the few bits and bobs we can possibly lose.

I am proud and happy to say that, on 21st of December, I will be attending the civil partnerships of two pairs of friends as well of course as celebrating this historic step towards full equality.

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Friday, 2 December 2005

Storm in a Teacup

As I clarevoyantly predicted last week, the hype surrounding the introduction of the new licensing laws was much ado nothing. I haven't heard anything about it on Radio 4 since it happens and certainly the report of doomsday forecast by so many people. Having kickly googled the subject to find some information, I can report that nothing special happened in Devon, Buckinghamshire or Manchester (although we are warned that the "real test" will take place over Christmas). It was such a none event in London that it seems the Evening Standard has not published one single article on the subject!

To compensate my lovely readers from the come-down that is this post, here a round-up of the situation by the BBC and one by the Guardian that links to George Orwell's robust take on the now defunct licensing laws as published in his column As I Please in the socialist weekly, The Tribune, in 1944 (scroll down to the entry for August, 18).

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Like most morning I was listening to The Today Programme on Radio4 this morning. They had an interview with Chris Martin the lead singer of Coldplay about fair trade and the what is being done against poverty in the "Third World" in reaction to the possible lack of agreement at the end of the upcoming Hong Kong trade summit. Nothing unusual so far. Nothing unusual in most of what Mr Martin said either to be honest. He talked about how is experience of going to Africa and experience the people's poverty there brought all he had read and seen on the subject to reality. He also insisted that being pessimistic is never a good thing. He mentioned how unromantic fair trade was and that made it difficult for him to write songs about it. He had apparently tried but failed. My thoughts at this were that perhaps it took a better writer to do the job or certainly one a little self absorbed.

What was really strange about this interview, was the set of references used by Martin. Describing his experience in Africa, he mentioned his meeting a young farmer there and how this had brought home the difference in access to commodities, goods and education one gets so easily when one is a member of Coldplay. A few seconds later, insisting on people must always remain optimistic, he went on to declare that one might be pushed to number two in the charts by Crazy Frog, just like it happened to him and his band, but that it was important to always remain positive. Obviously the sort of experience everyone can relate to...


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