Friday, 9 February 2007

My LGBT History Month So Far

I have attended events (and helped organise some too) since the inception of LGBT History Month, three years ago. I am a big fan of what it does and what it can acheive. This year, however, going to History Month events have had the extra benefit of getting me out of doors and out of my funk.

The first event I went to this year was a two hour guided walk around the West End (Soho to Trafalgar Square and back). The walk is organised by Kairos In Soho as a fundraiser for their other activities and they run them all year round. I had meant to take part for quite sometime now but I never got round to it. Perhaps because of my long held breath in this respect, I was slightly disappointed, especially after having shed £5 for the privilege. They have four different guides for these walks and perhaps I was just unlucky. Our guide claimed he had been doing this for seven years. The walk was mostly a succession of stops with a few tidbits and facts thrown at us without much background on the area or the larger context of LGBT history. Yes I did learn a couple of things but I also spotted a couple of mistakes and some major oversights in what was said to us. AS I got home, I quickly committed what I had heard to paper and have been spurred to do some extra research. I find myself with a 5 page Word document of notes; the backbone of possibly two LGBT walks around the West End. I have just received a book which will probably add some material to this and I still haven't read one I bought last year at the Museum of London's study day, which will also be of interest. I also plan on re-reading a third one I have had for a while. I am not sure what to do with all this material now but I might end up organising a few walks myself.

The speakers at the launch of LGBT History In Focus
On Monday, I skipped rehearsal with the Chorus to attend the launch of a photographic exhibition commissioned by the Southwark LGBT Network evocating Gay Pride in London since the early days in 1970. We had several speakers, included a surprise intervention by Peter Tatchell who is a local resident. From left to right on the picture above (click on it for more pictures of the event): Howard Barnes (Head of Culture, Southwark Council), Dax Ashworth (LGBT Community developement worker for Southwark), Sue Sanders (Originator of LGBT History Month in the UK, Co-chair of Schools OUT and local resident), Linda Bellos (then Co-chair of the Southwark LGBT Network), Peter Tatchell (Activist and Southwark resident), Pam Isherwood (the photographer whose pictures were used in the exhibition) and Robert Thompson (from LAGNA, the Lesbian and Gay News media Archive). (Slightly has blogged about the event too)

Howard Barnes promised he would explore the possibility of creating an LGBT resource in Southwark which would be easily available to the community. Peter Tatchell saluted the work of the Network insisting that the saying “think global, act local” is the only way to achieve anything for the LGBT Community.

Linda Bellos highlighted the importance of the visibility brought to the LGBT community by events such as History Month. She also rejoiced in the fact that some people are in a position to enjoy such a celebration; not forgetting that others especially in eastern Europe but even in London are not so fortunate.

On Tuesday afternoon I went to Hyde Park with a friend and took some lovely (if I say so myself) pictures in the cold winter sun (you can view them on my Flickr account). This however has nothing to do with History Month. In the evening I went to the screening of Where There Was Silence, a video short produced by Stephen Bourne for his graduation in 1988 from what is now the London College of Communication in the Elephant and Castle. The short documentary, which has not been shown since the 1989 San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, presents the highlights of the real testimonies of "five gay men, all portrayed by a single actor, recall[ing] the film Victim and how it affected their lives. Ending with reference to Clause 28 of the Local Government Bill, the video also questions the future of gay (and by implication lesbian) representation on film and video". This was followed by a preview of Bourne's 15 min video evocation of his adoptive black aunt, Esther Bruce, who was born in Fulham in 1912, the daughter of a Scottish mother and Guyanese father who was the son of slaves.

Wednesday was rest...

Thursday was the Annual General Meeting of the Southwark LGBT Network. After a word of welcome and the Chairs' and Treasurer's reports, we proceeded with the election of the executive team for the Network. Linda, my co-chair had decided to stand down after five years of service.As no one else decided to stand, I am now the lonely Chair of the Network. Although we are hoping to find someone to become co-chair soon, preferably a woman. I will try to get a little more involved than I have been so far and I particularly want to look at how the Network is marketing itself. I would also like to increase the number of Black and Minority Ethnic people, disabled people and younger people attending our events... That should be interesting!

Next stops
13 Feb. - Age Concern cabaret night in which the Chorus is performing
24 Feb. - Study day at the Museum of London and performance with the Chorus. I am disappointed to be missing a guided walk of Bermondsey on the same day at 2pm (starts outside the Evans Cycle shop opposite London Bridge Station)
28 Feb. - LGBT History Quiz Night at the Rye Hotel in Peckham (8pm start) - I am still making up my mind on this one though.

I will also try to go and see the Out in Time exhibition at the Museum in Docklands. I have until the 9th March for that.

For a list of the events happening near you this month, click here.

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