Sunday, 26 June 2011

BP Portrait Award 2011 - my winners

Today I popped in the National Portrait Gallery to view the paintings shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award 2011. This year was mostly underwhelming, I have to say, with many examples of a trend in modern portraiture that I find particularly annoying: the photo look.

Paintings with the slick, smooth, slightly-soft-focused look of a photography. I do like hyper-realism but for some reason I can't abide that look in portraiture. The overall winner, by Wim Heldens, just about escapes my ire in that respect. Although I rather like it, it is also not part of my favourites. You can find them below in bad iPhone pictures I took myself (the links provide more info about the paintings and the artists):

George O'Dowd by Layla Lyons, oil on canvas on wooden stretcher, 1800 x 1400 mm

Abi, by Nathan Ford, oil on canvas, 280 x 200 mm

and just because I like Maxi:
Maxi Jazz by Joe Simpson, oil on canvas, 600 x 600 mm

There was another one I liked, which I didn't photograph and doesn't seem to be on the website for the exhibition for some reason... (not all the paintings seem to be there and I think I even spotted one on the site that wasn't exhibited...)

Special mention goes to I could have been a contender by Wendy Elia and the amusing little sub-painting of the topless young man walking into the room and averting his eyes.

BP Portrait Award 2011
National Portrait Gallery
until 18 September
admission free

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

LGBT and Muslim activists united to welcome East London Mosque statement against homophobia

In the Open Letter sent out 7 June regarding the Gay Free Zone case, a number of gay and feminist activists closed by saying:
"The East London Mosque claims to have no responsibility over those who speak there. The East London Mosque also claims to be opposed to the 'gay-free zone' campaign and homophobia. We demand that the East London Mosque live up to its stated word, take ownership of its platform and stop allowing its premises to be used to promote gay-hate campaigns."
Salman Farsi, Communications Officer from the East London Mosque, speaking to the Guardian responded by saying:
"Any speaker who is believed to have said something homophobic will not be allowed to use our premises, whether that is us organising an event or someone else. As for the condemnation of homophobia, our director has gone on the record on this."
We, the undersigned, welcome the East London Mosque's statement that they will no longer allow their premises to be used by homophobic speakers and take them at their word. Eliminating a platform for hate in such an influential institution as the East London Mosque is a strong, positive action and will have a very positive effect on both the local gay and Muslim communities.

Hate and division have no place in Tower Hamlets or anywhere else. Extremists, of both the religious and political variety, seek to keep us divided and at each others' throats. Through this action, the East London Mosque will help to rebuild trust between and within communities and to thwart the attempts of those who would try to play us off against each other.

We request that the East London Mosque make this policy known on its website - and to the Muslim, Asian and East London media - so that the entire community can see their commitment to stopping homophobia and to improving community relations.

We also welcome Mr Farsi's statement regarding Mr Hasnath's sentencing: "I can see where the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is coming from. That £100 fine was a slap on the wrist."

We celebrate East London's diverse multicultural communities and affirm the need to tackle all intolerance. Both Muslims and LGBT people - especially LGBT Muslims - know the pain of prejudice, discrimination and hate crime. We stand together with our neighbours, united against all hate. Anti-Muslim bigotry and homophobia have no place in our communities.


Mohammed Abbasi, Co-Director, Association of British Muslims
Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, Co-Director, Association of British Muslims
Elly Barnes, Diversity Leader - Stoke Newington School
Julie Bindel, Journalist and Feminist Campaigner
David Bridle, Managing Editor of London's gay weekly Boyz Magazine
Paul Burston, Author, Journalist, Editor of Time Out's Gay & Lesbian Section.
Gaby Charing, Chair, Southwark LGBT Network
Nicolas Chinardet, LBGT Activist
Eddie Clarke, Publisher
Darren Cooper, Senior Consultant, Out Now Consulting
Desiree Cooper, International development professional and human rights activist
Tony Fenwick, Co-Chair, Schools Out and LGBT History Month
Faisal Gazi, Software developer, anti-racism activist and blogger
Paul Harfleet, Artist, Founder of The Pansy Project
Alex Hopkins, Journalist, Editor; Publisher, Dissident Musings blog
Tehmina Kazi, director, British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Adam Knowles, Chair, Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association
Colm Howard-Lloyd, Trustee, Pride London
Derek Lennard, IDAHO-UK (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia) Coordinator
Mandy McCartin, Artist and Resident of East London
Fiez Mughal, Oral Surgeon, Muslim LGBT advocate & human rights activist & blogger
Mac McDermott, Publisher, HOMOVISIONTV
Kylie Revels, Human Rights Activist
Linda Riley, Managing Director, Square Peg Media, Publishers of g3, Out in the City and Pride London Magazines
Sue Sanders, Co-Chair, Schools Out and LGBT History Month
Paul Shetler, Human Rights Activist, Coordinator of London 2011 Summer of Love Campaign
Ian Sinclair Romanis, Gay Man and Resident of Hackney
Gavin Simpson, Founder,, London's alternative gay clubbing and lifestyle site
Patrick Strudwick, Journalist
Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Christian Taylor, Journalist: and GayTimes Magazine
Adrian Tippetts, Human Rights Campaigner and Journalist
Matthew Todd, Editor, Attitude Magazine
Marco Tranchino, Campaigns Officer, Central London Humanist Group

Monday, 6 June 2011

Review: The School for Scandal @ Barbican

But I bear no malice against the people I abuse: when I say an ill natured thing, ‘tis out of pure good humor; and I take it for granted they deal exactly in the same manner with me.

Bit of binge drinking - Picture by Neil Libbert

Have you heard the one about the "athlete" who had an affair with that woman off the telly and now he is suing Twitter because he didn't want people to know but everyone is talking about it on there? Well, I can't really tell you about it, yeah, cause of the super injunction thingy but I bet it's going to end up all over the papers anyway like what happen to that banker, Goodwin, yeah. That super injunction thing rather backfired for him, innit? Anyway, you'll never guess, on Friday evening I went to see that play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. It's called The School for Scandal or something. It's quite famous, I think. And I heard that that bloke Sheridan he had to fight a dual (twice! imagine...) because a journalist had dished some dirt about his girl. You wouldn't catch me doing that! Anyway, that play, yeah. It's all about those rich bitchy people in funny clothes, like. They spend their time gossiping and dissing people but they kinda get unmasked in the end. Nothing too original, if I am honest. Sometimes they are dressed in normal clothes though or they use mobile phones and they used those cool tunes between the scenes to make it look less naff, I suppose. That old play is we, you know. Not easy to make it seem alive. OMG! and they even do some charlie on stage! I kinda liked it though, you know. The set was quite funky too. You could see lots of backstage and stuff and it was kinda like only suggesting things rather than a full-on theatre set you normally get for that type of classic plays. Oh and there is those people off the telly in it. There is that woman from the IT Crowd, yes, the ginger one. She plays the young wife that kinda get sucked in into that world. There is one from Harry Potter but he's only got a smallish part. There is the guy from Garrow's Law (he is supposed to be the good guy but you know: when it's too good to be true, it probably isn't!) and there's this guy who plays the rich uncle that I have seen in plenty of things but I can't remember where. He normally plays a baddy, I think. They've even got Ian from the Archers! You wonder what they are doing in a play, like. I mean come on! they were on the telly! They were all really good but that's pretty normal since they are all professional actors, you know.

Anyway, if you fancy seeing it, it's on at the Barbican until the 18th June.

This review was originally written for Londonist on 20 May 2011, following the guideline that we should try and be original. However this was deemed likely to confused the readers and wasn't published in the end. You can read the second version of this review (totally different tone) on Londonist, here.


I don't know much about poetry but there are a few poems I like. this is one of them

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought--
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
by Lewis Caroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, 1871

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

"Gay-free zone" stickers: choosing the right targets

We learned this afternoon that an 18 year has been sentenced to a £100, ordered to pay £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge for placing stickers in various parts of east London, designating them as "gay-free zones".

The stickers caused a lot of controversy in the area and even more discord within the LGBT community but thankfully nothing serious came out of it. The affray is probably already much more than what the people behind the stickers were expecting to achieve.

Nevertheless, already I have seen people commenting that the sentence isn't enough, that is is a "f*cking joke". It seems to me that it is on the contrary about fair and probably quite close the maximum of what it could have been for the charge of public order offence of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour.

It seems to me that £200 is quite a lot for someone who is on the dole, particularly as punishment for something they didn't even think was wrong.

At the tribunal, Mohammed Hasnath, who, it seems couldn't afford a lawyer, declared:
"Basically, some people just handed them [the stickers] to me so I just put them up. I didn't say anything, it doesn't say that I am going to punish them it just says what God says in the Koran."

"I wasn't the one who made them, some people gave them to me and I only put up a few, there were hundreds of them up. I didn't know the police were going to get involved or that it was a offence or anything."
"But I just put up stickers, I didn't harass or swear at anybody or anything."
Of course, I can only go by what is reported in the article linked to above but those two paragraphs have the ring of truth to me.

I am convinced he didn't stop for a second to reflect on the real meaning of those stickers. While I am not trying to find excuses, I think that the people complaining about the sentence are barking up the wrong tree.

I am perhaps being naive here and too trusting in humanity but it feels that in his mind Hasnath was only seeing the perceived positive act of affirming what he had been told is said in the Koran. And that this act was totally dissociated of any possible negative impact on some other human being.

And this is clearly what the people who gave him the stickers were counting on, taking advantage of his gullibility and probably lack of education. It seems to me, after reading his words, that in their anger, those asking for a harsher punishment, endow Hasnath with intellectual capabilities that, unlike them, he probably doesn't possess. No thoughtfulness or empathy for something in him. Only blind, thoughtless submission to religious doctrine, whether true or false.

It's clear to me that Hasnath doesn't have the means both financial and probably intellectual to organise what is a concerted campaign in the east of London and also in at least two other cities in the UK.

We should not waste our energies on one of the inept and insignificant pawns, who has now been punished anyway, but rather turn our attention to those manipulating those pawns. They are the ones who should know better. They are the really dangerous ones. They are the ones whose nefarious actions we should denounce. They are the ones we should go after and remain vigilant against.