Thursday, 30 March 2006

Momentous News

Another post, another scoop.

Those who know me (and a few others), also know that I dislike my job as an Admin Assistant for a local council. The job is a best unchallenging; boring most of the time.

Today I have just done to do something I have thought of doing many times a but have never done before: resign. The nice thing is that my manager seems quite crest fallen about my leaving.

The next step is a complete change of direction for me. While I have been a civil servant for the past four and a half years, with all the securities attached to this, I am now going to be (almost) my own boss and, for the first few months (hopefully not longer), I will not even get paid but will have to dig into my savings to support myself. There are however great prospects for when this new venture I am joining gets going for good.

I have been asked to join the consultancy Design for Diversity as a partner (other partners include Slightly and Linda Bellos). I will be in charge of the admin side of the operation.

This represents professionally a great leap and a great challenge which (whichever way the tide goes) will have enormous repercutions on my life. The other partners seem more confident in my capacities than I am but I will sure give it my best.

Wednesday, 29 March 2006

Commit No Nuisance

This picture I took recently at the back of the Welsh Congregational Chapel (I think) on Southwark Bridge Road, SE1 has just been used by Londonist to illustrate this post.

Thought I'd let you know.
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Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Almost Done

I think I have now sorted the template for the posts. My only problem is with the tags at the bottom which I will have to edit manually with Blogger after having posted from flickr.

I don't intend to use this that often anyway.

This picture was taken from my bedroom window late at night on 21 August 2004. It represents the Bakerloo Line trains asleep...
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Red Berries

Still fiddling, don't mind me and enjoy the pictures...

This one what taken in Greenwich, at the foot of the observatory on 28 December 2004. It is inspired by the work of photographer Huger Foote (see some of his work by clicking on his name).

I found a book of his pictures by chance one day and really loved his stuff.

Now on Flickr

This is just a trial post. I have just signed up to Flickr which offer the possibility of blogging from there site directly. I have uploaded 71 of my pics so far which you are very welcome to go and see here. I will however keep my Yahoo! photos account running too.

The pic I am using here was taken outside the National Portrait Gallery about 6 months ago I would think. They were having works dones in the basement cafe...

Monday, 27 March 2006

Please Handle With Care

If you want to know what happened yesterday, get thee to the other side. That includes the comments.

And yes, this is a scoop... you've heard it here first: Slightly is in lurve!


...with a French goth!!!

Thursday, 23 March 2006

Silly Tests Series

mmmm, ok!

I Should Be a Film Writer

You don't just create compelling stories, you see them as clearly as a movie in your mind.
You have a knack for details and dialogue. You can really make a character come to life.
Chances are, you enjoy creating all types of stories. The joy is in the storytelling.
And nothing would please you more than millions of people seeing your story on the big screen!

Support Jerry Springer

Following this, find below an email I received today:
Jerry Springer is now playing the Opera House Manchester until April 1. Thank you Christian Institute for this information.
A little different this time around - The Opera House is a commercial theatre and without any public money or local authority involvement. So the CI can't quite invoke their usual ire and blackmail.
But I think still important to send messages of support, particularly as the show is playing other venues belonging to LiveNation. I think they are also part of the producing consortium
General Manager Opera House

You know what to do...

Thanks to John G.

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Wednesday, 22 March 2006

Leningrad Siege at the Wiltons

I had an emergency theatrical evening last night. I have been very bad lately with all things cultural so this was a welcome offer. During the afternoon, Ravi emailed me to offer me theatre ticket he could not use. I quickly ditched Slightly, who I was supposed to meet that evening (he actually refuse to join me although the evening had some relevance to his interests).

The ticket was for The Leningrad Siege. The story of two dotty aging pasionarias who have lived in a crumbling theatre for the past twenty years following the suspicious death of their erstwhile husband and lover, Nestor, the revolutionary director. This is the English premiere of the play by spanish playwright, José Sanchis Sinisterra.

What really swayed my decision, however, was the venue where the play is being performed. The Wiltons Music Hall "is the world's oldest surviving grand music hall". Hidden in the East End of London, near St Katharine's Docks, it had hit my consciousness when it appeared on the BBC's Restoration programme, but had promplty sunk back into the darkest recesses of my mind. The place has also been used in several films including Tipping the Velvet and Interview with a Vampire. The venue did not disappoint. Built in the 1850's, it is a very atmospheric, dilapidated old place which summons up images of decadent parties with cancels and red velvet.

It also happened to be the ideal setting for the play. The ruined theatre of the play is almost a character in itself and to be actually seated in a ruined theatre added a lot of strength to the experience. The play being about the communist ideal and subversive theatre, it would have been interested to include this iconoclatic element to the form of the performance itself by bringing the two actresses more in contact with the audience and off the stage. Perhaps also by forcing the audience not to sit in rows but to mill about as required by the action. I concede that this would probably have meant resetting the whole show which has otherwise been touring in other, no doubt more conventional, venues.

This was probably the most interesting element of the show. The direction was rather uninspired, the performances of good quality but probably not outstanding. As for the play, it was confusing in its meanings. A very large part of what was obviously supposed to be funny in the dialogues fell flat on its nose and we did not seem to warm or relate to the two characters which could probably be quite lovable. Perhaps after all the "presence" of the theatre was too overpowering for what felt to be a weak production.

In the end an interesting experience which made me want to see Shunt produce their own take of Theatre of Blood in that venue. One can dream.

The Leningrad Siege
Directed by Mark Rosenblatt
Wilton's Music Hall
Box Office: 020 7702 2789
Until 25 March

The Financial Times' review.
The Evening Standard's review.
Teh Stage's review.

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Tuesday, 21 March 2006

More Ashley Cole

While the Daily Star apologises profusely to footballer Ashley Cole for naming him in relation to the "gay orgy" revelations made by the Sun and the News of the World, which was instrumental to Cole's name coming to wider light, has been warned by the same News of the World that they might find themselves in court too, under the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978.


I could get irate about those water companies asking for a ban on non indispensable usage of water, while it apparently takes six weeks to sort a leaky pipe on the street (and I have seen several of those leaks recently, spouting out hundreds of litters of water).

I could wax lyrical about the third anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq. As time passes, more and more evidence surfaces that the two million people who demonstrated in March 2003 in London (I was one of those) were right to oppose the war. Of course now that we have messed things up so badly, we have to stick it to the bitter end and try and sort things out... although some people say that moving out might be the only way to stop a potential civil war in the country.

I could tell you what bastards men can be and repeat my conviction that I will end up a spinster. I was off work last week and had organised a date with someone I had met on the net. The guy rearranged the meeting several times until finally stopping to respond to my attempt at communication. He was the one who asked to meet up in the first place, so I can't even say that I somehow cornered him into doing it. Why did he bothered in the first place, I wonder... Another weirdo on my list, I suppose.

I could even vent my apprehensions at reading this report on the rather dodgy dealings of London estate agents. I am one of those unfortunate people who would like to get into the infamous property ladder but can't afford to and reading that estate agents are not there to help but actually to make things even more complicated than they already are, if they are not simply out to fleece you, is not much moral confort.

I could blog about all these things and perhaps a few more, but to be honest, at the moment, I don't find much in the news to stimulate my blogging nerve. My personal is as uneventful as ever (appart from the preparations to market the next Chorus's show, celebrating our 15th anniversary, at the Cadogan Hall, Sloane Square, on 29 April) and does not warrant any special post. So, until anything blogworthy comes up on my mental radar, I will probably remain mute... My apologies for this. I am sure you will all survive that terrible blow though.

Friday, 17 March 2006

Support Jerry Springer

Jerry Springer, the Opera is playing in Aberdeen until tomorrow. As in , I would imagine, all the other towns and cities where the show is going, Christian fundamentalist group are organising a protest. It is important to show some support to whoever is responsible for putting on the show against this small but loud minority.

As evident in the following email received by a friend who did show that support, people are feeling isolated:

At last! An email of support!
I have received a fair amount of letters and emails decrying the performance Jerry Springer - The Opera. My standard response was that Aberdeen Performing Arts remit was to bring high quality, high profile and awarding winning performances to HMT and I respected the rights of those who chose not to go and see it just as I respected the rights of those who did.
Jerry Springer - The Opera is a high profile musical and has won numerous awards and at the end of the day we live in a democratic society where people have the right of freedom of choice.
Thank you for your very supportive email.

Thankfully, we can turn the fundies weapons to our advantage. On their website (to which I won't be linking), the Christian Insitute give the emails of a few councillors of Aberdeen City Council (which owns the theatre where the show is playing) and of the sponsors for the show, inciting their followers to email and complain. Let's just email and praise! I did, it is now your turn.

Here are the contact details as listed on the Christian Institute website:

Theatre Directors
The following councillors are on the Board of Directors of 'Aberdeen Performing Arts'.
Councillor Karen Freel: email
Councillor Ronald Webster: email
Councillor Karen Shirron: email
Councillor George Adam: email
Councillor John Porter: email

Theatre Sponsors
Aberdeen Solicitors Property Centre: email
The Press and Journal: contacts

(Aberdeen Solicitors Property Centre is listed as a ‘Prime Sponsor’ and The Press and Journal as a ‘Major Sponsor’ in His Majesty’s Theatre Spring 2006 Guide.)

Thank you.

Wednesday, 15 March 2006

Ashley Cole

Yesterday and possibly following my taking part in the online survey they set up, I received an email from Ashley Cole's lawyers:

Dear Sir/Madam
We act for the England and Arsenal footballer Ashley Cole with respect to proceedings for libel which he is currently bringing against the Sun and the News of the World newspapers.
During the course of our research of chat rooms and message boards on the internet we were very interested by comments and observations made by you regarding how you identified who it was that the newspapers were referring to.
You may have read, heard on the radio or seen on the television that we are actively looking to locate possible witnesses. We would like to invite you to take part in this process and would value an opportunity to speak to you, initially on the telephone, to discuss how you arrived at the views that you expressed on the internet.
We would be most obliged if you would reply either by email or telephone so that we may make initial contact with you and explain the matter more fully.

I replied that I was willing to help (after all any move to relieve the Sun and the News of the World of some of their "dirty" money, can only meet with my support) and I received a phone call from the lawyer this morning. I have now apparently made a statement. He asked me questions which he will draft into a statement which he will then email me for perusual and possible corrections. I have also agreed to potentially be a witness during the trial. They were particularly interested, they said, in how I read about the story online and on how I perceived the player after reading the article on line.

Watch this space...

My original post on the subject is here.

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Monday, 13 March 2006

In The Meantime

Some people are taking the piss...

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How So Very Civilised

A few months ago, in our constant effort to find quaint, quirky and generally interested places, Slightly and I went to the famed Maison Bertaux, the 130 year old patisserie cum cafe on Greek Street (Soho). Although Slightly really liked it, and after all the hype I had heard about it, I must say I was rather underwhelmed by the whole experience. Apart from its name and perhaps some of the incredibly camp staff, there is very little French about the place. The place is cramped, very noisy, and rather dingy. With its Lincrusta-lined walls on the first floor looks like the (very English) décor hasn’t changed since the 1950’s (for the exception of a cheap looking lick of glossy paint). While this is not necessarily a bad thing, there is simply no charm or vibe to the place. As for the patisseries, you would probably never find any of those in a real French shop back in the old country. For me, it is very much English for all that it claims to be.

Yesterday we went to the slightly posher looking Patisserie Valérie, round the corner from Maison Bertaux on Old Compton Street (gay men must be particularly fond of pastries; Paul are about to open their own shop on the street). Although the patisseries on offer looked just as foreign and tailored to an English audience to me as the ones on display in Maison Bertaux’s window, the atmosphere felt more authentically French. It being a Sunday afternoon, the place was mobbed but we managed to find a table for two on the first floor, in a hustle and bustle not unlike that of a brasserie or a salon de thé.

We ordered Cream Tea, which, to Slightly’s amazement I had never had before. Very soon, appeared on our table, two metal tea pots (one for tea, one for hot water), tiny preserve (jam, to you and me) pots, plates with two scones cut in half and toasted (one plain, one with raisins) and a small pot with spreadable cream in it, and, of course, cups.

One suddenly felt like Dame Maggie or Dame Judy. It was all so frightfully delightful, my dear Count!

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Trying to Make Sense

This morning a friend of mine told me that one of his very close friends had died very suddenly last night.

Although I had never met this guy, I had chatted with him online a couple of times at the beginning of last year and my friend told me about him quite often. It felt strangely like I knew him.

I can’t begin to imagine how it must feel for my friend. In my thirty odd years, I have had very little experience of death and I have never known the loss of someone truly close.

When I was probably eight or nine, I was a choirboy at the parish church. For us however, funerals (which usually took place on week days) meant some time away from school and the chance of a tip.

My only remaining grand mother died when I was still quite young and although I visual memories of that episode, it went largely above my head.

A cousin of mine died years ago (he was actually gay himself and died of AIDS some years after moving over to London… Possible parallels, I suspect my mother is not too happy to contemplate) but I did not know him.

A schoolmate of mine who had been disabled also died a few years ago but we weren’t very close.

As a teenager, death had this sort of romantic aura about it, which would guarantee eternal rest and oblivion. Even now, I want to believe that I am not scare of it, that there is not much too loose by dying and that once it is done we are not there to feel and think any longer (which can only be a good think). This of course is becoming more and more difficult as my body and my psyche get used to the idea of being alive and get bogged down in living.

In any case, even if it is something difficult to come to term with, I don’t think that death is something negative. It is not something we can avoid anyway and the most difficult part of the process is probably for whoever remains; having to try and be unselfish enough to let go and move on. Ii seems obvious to me that the sadness people feel when someone close to them dies, has more to do with the feeling of being abandoned, of loosing something rather than real (and, in my view, unneeded) concern for the departed.

But this is all theory for me and I am probably getting it all wrong.

So, as I said, I can’t really imagine how my friend feels right now. When I heard the news, I felt like something went missing. Like suddenly a hole had appeared in the texture of life where this person used to be. I guess it must be what my friend is feeling too only much more powerfully.

He says he is fine, that, in characteristic fashion, he doesn’t want to talk about it. I just hope this is true and that should he needs it he will remember that I am there for him.

The friend in question here is Slightly. He had not posted about this at the time and I wasn't sure whether he was going to, which is why I did not want to name him.

First posted 10/03/06 - 4.45pm

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Friday, 10 March 2006

Outed Footballer Sues

As a follow up to this story, in which the News of the World tabloid revealed that some premiership footballers like to play with each other a bit more than was first expected, it seems that the footballer and the DJ indentified by the picture published, have decided to sue the papers involved in (rightly or wrongly) outing them.

Because of the way the identity of the people involved was disclosed (by internet websites and not by the papers themselves) and because of the fact that the player is claiming breach of privacy while also claiming that libel, it seems that the case could create a legal precedent too.

The solicitors for the footballer actually go one further and have taken the usual step of setting up an internet survey to try and figure out the impact of the revelations.

I went and took the (not very detailed) survey and left these few words in the comments sections:

I did not actually read about those stories in the papers (although I did subsequently check the NOTW website) but heard about them on the very popular blog Towleroad. I myself own a blog and have posted about the story on it.
My concern resided in the fact that should Mr Cole indeed be gay, the reactions of the football world (which is notoriously homophobic) could have a very bad impact on his career and his life (Cf Justin Fashanu); something which is obviously totally wrong. People's sexuality should have no influence on how they are perceived.
While I think it is important for gay athletes to come out publicly and thus provide a positive image of LGBT people, I think this decision should be there own and the NOTW's deslosures were only motivated by pruriency and most probably homophobia.

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Tuesday, 7 March 2006

Broken Dreams for Brokeback

Ang Lee, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal

With the winners of the Oscars finally known, I can't help but stop and ponder.

I like cinema but not to the point that I usually follow the ceremony or its run up very closely. This year was slightly different due to the fact that Brokeback Mountain was in competition for eight statuettes. I have to admit that I didn't dig much deeper. I was however aware that Capote and Good Night and Good Luck were also contending for the title of best picture. Good Night and Good Luck being the major competition for Brokeback. Of the winner, Crash, I had never heard.

Brokeback Mountain eventually only won three Oscars; for best director, for best score and for best screenplay adaption.

My question therefore, or my feeling to be more precise, is that while the jury could obviously not ignore the cinematographic qualities of the film, they just shied away from its gay theme and could not get themselves to reward such a film, prefering to give the award to a film with a more acceptable social theme (racism). Or am I just being paranoid?

This, in any case, allowed George Clooney, who won Best Supporting Actor for Syriana, to say that he was “proud” to be part of the liberal-leaning world of film.

"We are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while," Clooney said in his acceptance speech. "We were the ones who talked about AIDS when it was being whispered. We talked about civil rights when it wasn't really popular," he added. "I'm proud to be part of this Academy. I'm proud to be part of this community. I'm proud to be out of touch.”

Despite this minute slight, it is good to remind ourselves of the incredible sucess that the film has been (and still is) both with the critics and with the public around the world. It is also now undeniable that this film has made a difference and will have a lasting impact on the perception of LGBT people in the media and therefore society in general.

Originally posted on 06/03/05 - 4.20pm

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Monday, 6 March 2006

Variation on a Theme

Devout Christians, Joe Roberts 73, and his wife Helen, 68, of Fleetwood, Lancashire, are suing Wyre Borough Council for £10,000 compensation for being denied the right to freedom of expression and to hold religious beliefs.

In December last year, the couple wrote to the council to protest its diversity initiatives, saying that it was "pandering" to minority groups after they were told that, although the council would consider applications for Christian leaflets to be displayed, nothing that would offend minority groups would be approved. As a result, the police visited the couple to ascertain that no hate crime had been committed.

As recently highlighted by the Mohammed cartoons business and the condemnation of holocaust denier David Irving, there is fine line to be tread between protecting people and totalitarianism. As I concluded a few days ago; criminalisation is probably not the answer to intolerance.

While I don’t think the couple referred to above have much of a leg to stand on since they were not prosecuted and indeed had a chance to air their views far more widely than they originally intended, my view is that they are probably right in principal to be protesting against the way they have been treated, although, going to court and asking for money might be less legitimate.

Regular readers of this blog, will know that I do not hold religions in very high esteem. However, I also know that if I expect to have the right to express my opinions, other people should be allowed to express theirs; with the very important caveat that these opinions should not lead to or incite violence against another group. The fact that there are anti-hate crime laws is of course a good thing; what is not so good perhaps is that the police (ie the state) should visit and potentially intimidate people every time they say something that might seem to be wrong. It seems to me much more healthy to let people air their views (thus possibly making fool of themselves) and have the opportunity to publicly refuted them in a measured but frank debate of ideas.

I think that these people are perfectly entitled to their views and religious beliefs, however wrong I think they are. In return however, I would expect them to allow me my own views without trying to decide for me how I should think or act. The fact that gay people are finally given rights has no influence on “devout Christians’” lives (unless they are gay, perhaps) and should therefore be none of their business.

Fundamentalist Christians (or any fundamentalists for that matter) are forever claiming that gay rights campaigns and the advance of gay liberties (among other things) are offensive to them without being able to recognise that their views and beliefs can in return be offensive to those who don’t share them. It seems to me that this couple are forgetting that they are not part of the majority anymore. They should feel pleased that their council is “pandering” to minority groups. This means they will be given the right to express their views. It all comes down to being willing to respect other people, to be mindful of not offending them, in order to try and live in peace with them, rather than try and fit them into a mould that only fits ourselves.

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Friday, 3 March 2006

Currently Reading - La Nausée

La Nausée - Jean-Paul Sartre
La Nausée by Jean-Paul Sartre

Translated in English as Nausea.

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Out of Tune

Looks like Aunty Beeb is a tad homophobic...

Stonewall has carried out research into how the BBC represents lesbian and gay lives and produced a report called Tuned Out - the BBC's portrayal of lesbian and gay people.

They monitored 168 hours of peak time TV on BBC One and BBC Two: during that time, lesbian and gay people and their lives were realistically and positively portrayed for just six minutes.

*Gay people are contributing almost £190 million every year towards BBC programming.
*Gay people and their lives are five times more likely to be portrayed in negative terms on the BBC.
*Gay life is most likely to appear in entertainment programmes, and is rarely featured in factual programmes, like documentaries and the news.
*BBC programmes frequently use gay sexuality for making jokes or as an insult, and rely heavily on clichéd stereotypes.

The full report can be downloaded here: Tuned Out


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Thursday, 2 March 2006

Building a Community

Return to normal service after a few days off.

Sometimes last year, I attended a couple of free guided walks around Borough, SE1 by "local performer and poet", John Constable. When he organised a walk for Black History Month, I thought, as the then secretary to the Southwark LGBT Network, it could be a good idea to get John to organise a guided walk for LGBT History Month. I suggested the idea to the executive committee of the network and we commissioned the walk.

Just like last year, the Network, thanks to our Community Development Worker, had organised six or seven events over the month, including film nights, a quiz night and a health information day.

Winchester Palace, Clink StreetTuesday was the last day of LGBT History Month 2006 and also the day when the walk took place. I had contributed with ideas and material for the research (quite heavily drawing from Queer London by Matt Houlbrook) and the fair amount of interest we had registered for the event made me slightly anxious to see how well attended it would be. I should not have worried, despite the cold, 28 people turned up and followed our enthusiastic guide through the darkened street of one of the oldest parts of London. I was also aware of several other people who were interested but could not make it for various reasons (mainly the cold!) and I think we now have a case to have a second edition of the walk sometimes during the summer.

For a more personal and annecdotal view of the walk, please check out Slightly's post on the subject.

John Constable in full flowThe walk end in a gay friendly pub called the Leather Exchange (in Leathermarket, near London Bridge Station), where I had a conversation with one of the people attending the walk. He was an older australian man, probably in his 60's, who, I assumed, had come out recently. He had heard of the walk by chance and was not aware of History Month or of Pride for that matter. I glad to give him all sort of information on these subjects. Also present that night and indeed at all of our events, was another older man who seems happy to enjoy the social opportunities offered by our events.

Even if there had not been such a good turn out at the walk, I think organising the event would have been amply justify by what we provided to these two men on that night. Southwark, because of its location close to the West End, does not have any real LGBT life and even the West End with its bars and clubs culture does not have any real alternative. This is what the Network is about. I went home with a warm sense of achievement, far outweighing the outside cold, in having been instrumental to the creation of that night.

The dark cold streets of Borough

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