Sunday, June 27, 2010

Stonewall Uprising

Still from Stonewall UprisingThose who have a vision of the 1960s as a rosy time of flower-bedraped hippies practising free love will have their eyes opened to another culture of "twilight people" slinking into Mafia-owned bars under the watchful eyes of armed police. As the doc Stonewall Uprising illustrates, even in New York City, the city's gay and lesbian population had a hard time of it. And given the criminalisation and pathologisation of alternate sexualities, it's not surprising that frustration bubbled up into violent rebellion, commonly known as the Stonewall Riots.

It's a story well told in the film, which premiered at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and is now playing in the USA. Based on a book by David Carter, the film posits that what is often termed a riot was actually an uprising and that the gay rights struggle is part of a larger civil rights movement. Carter's vision is for lesbian and gay history to be seen "as part of our common human story".

When Ed Koch's grim visage popped up on the screen, I had to stifle a bitter laugh. As a native New Yorker, I well remember the confirmed bachelor's tenure as mayor of the city. But, in the 1960s, as an ambitious city council member, Koch led the "clean-up" of the gay bars in the Village, lest the upstanding straights have to be confronted with the low-life dykes and fairies who patronised places like the Stonewall Inn, which was raided by police on 27 June 1969, providing the touch paper that lit the movement for gay liberation.

One wonders how many people who gather each year for Pride parades (often now with no LGBT or Q signifiers attached, I notice) actually realise that their knees-up commemorates a violent struggle for recognition of basic human rights.
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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Deptford's Dreaming

Visitor to Deptford's Dreaming; photo by Val PhoenixIt's all happening at the Old Police Station. Last night saw the opening of Ben Graville's photo exhibit, Deptford's Dreaming, in the Metropolitan Tea Rooms. The word "characters" was used a lot in the conversation of guests, as they pointed out local figures of renown or notoriety. Tea Rooms boss Jaine Laine, who presides over the yet-to-be realised Deptford Museum, which will eventually house Graville's photos, struck a sombre note as she lit a candle to honour one subject who was murdered. Graville's eye is drawn to the more marginal areas of life, the "before", rather than the "after" of local gentrification. Photos of security tags on clothes, drug paraphernalia and piles of rubbish probably aren't the face that the local authorities wish to showcase, but they reflect a scruffy defiance of homogenisation.

As guests mingled inside, perusing the pictures and quaffing wine, outside in the courtyard an array of "characters" was drawn to the window, through which the England game played on the tiniest of TVs. Rain fell, a vuvuzela was tooted and one man played guitar as a discordant accompaniment. Extraordinary.

Golden Disko Ship in session at Amersham Vale Studios; photo by Val PhoenixThe courtyard houses a collection of freight containers-turned-rehearsal spaces, one of which is now a recording studio, having been opened by royalty-in-residence Jaine Laine last week. The newly dubbed Amersham Vale Studios hosted its first session, as Berlin one-woman-band Golden Diskó Ship recorded five songs for my show on Optical Radio. The session will air next month. I could not be prouder, as it has been my aim to get more live music on the show, another step in our upward surge and, well, scruffy defiance of homogenisation.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Whirlygig Cinema this weekend

Whirlygig Cinema flyerOn Sunday I have two films showing in London at the Whirlygig Cinema screening. The theme is music and images and both of my films, one a doc and one a music video, were shot during my residency in Berlin last year. Looking forward to it.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

One more day...

Well, I took my own advice and checked out the Anne Lister doc, Revealing Anne Lister, on the BBC i-player. It's up until tomorrow night and well worth a watch. Where to start?

Well, presenter Sue Perkins, decked out in North Face jacket and a succession of hoodies (those budget cutbacks at the BBC must really be biting), cut a dashing dykey figure, wandering over the Yorkshire moors and meeting a gaggle of tweedy academics for insight into Lister's life. Perkins took to her task with relish, reading out saucy excerpts from Lister's diaries and offering her own critique of the diarist's life, noting acidly that there was no excuse for her to abandon her first girlfriend after she was committed to an asylum. She also wondered aloud, with some anger and incredulity, why she had never heard about Anne Lister when she was growing up.

The coda of what happened to the diaries offered some clues. Far from being lost for 150 years, the diaries were actively suppressed, owing to their explicit lesbian content, by an array of family members, townsfolk and researchers until Helena Whitbread re-discovered them and set about translating them again. That made me most angry--what a wasted effort when Lister had left behind an index and a friend of the family had already decoded them some 100 years before. And so one can see how unkind history can be to trailblazers. Odd to think society actually moved backward between the time of Lister's very open life and now.

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