Robinson’s Brewery tour … New Elizabeth Taylor Biography … The Historian with a busload of LGBT+ Books


Robinson’s Brewery tour

Robinson’s Brewery, based in the historic town of Stockport, offers a tour which reveals the secrets behind their award-winning brewing process. It also gives you insights into original and new equipment.

With our guide, Gary, we submerged ourselves in over 181 years of brewing excellence and discovered the heritage of this proudly independent family brewery.

As we journeyed through the brew house, we learnt how the ingredients are selected which produce the distinctive tastes and aromas of Robinson’s ales. Gary also explained the science and technical information behind the brewing process.

No visit to the brewery is complete without seeing Bobek and Mojo, the handsome Shire horses. We also had the opportunity to browse the gift shop before sampling some beers at the nearby Arden Arms.

More photos can be seen here.

New bio illuminates Liz Taylor’s decades of support for LGBT+ community

In the mid-1980s, actor Roddy McDowell threw a dinner in honour of Bette Davis’s birthday. Davis thought it was “vulgar” when Elizabeth Taylor and actress Pia Zadora, tried on each other’s diamond rings. “Oh, get over it, Bette,” Taylor, an actress, philanthropist and LGBT+ icon, told Davis.

One Friday in 1998, Taylor learned that a friend of her assistant had died, alone, with no money for his burial, from AIDS. Taylor wanted her business manager to arrange for the man who had died to be buried. She was outraged when she learned that this couldn’t be done ASAP. “We will not f****** wait until Monday,” Taylor said, “We will do it right now.” 

These are two of the entertaining, moving and revealing stories told about Taylor in “Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit & Glamour of an Icon” by Kate Andersen Brower.

Many bios written about celebs have the shelf life of a quart of milk. Thankfully, this isn’t the case with Brower’s bio of Taylor.

Taylor, who lived from 1932 to 2011, was, for most of her life, not only a celebrity – but a household name, a worldwide subject of admiration, titillation and gossip.

But Taylor was so much more than catnip for the paparazzi. She was a feminist, an often underrated actress, businesswoman, senator’s wife, addict, mother, lover of animals, a proponent of gun control, an opponent of anti-Semitism, philanthropist and LGBT+ history hero.

Yet, despite the hype, glam and all that’s been written about Taylor, many aren’t aware of the multi-facets of her life.

It is the first authorised biography of Taylor. Usually, this is the kiss of death for a biography. Few want their family members to be revealed as three-dimensional people with not only talent, but flaws.

Thankfully, Brower’s Taylor bio escapes the trap of hagiography. Brower began writing the biography after talking with former Senator John Warner, who was married to Taylor from 1976 to 1982. (Warner died in 2021.) 

Warner was one of Taylor’s seven husbands. He and Taylor remained friends after they divorced. Warner connected Brower with Taylor’s family who wanted the story of Taylor to be told. Brower was given access to a trove of new source material: to Taylor’s archives – 7,358 letters, diary entries, articles, and personal notes and 10,271 photographs. Brower drew on unpublished interviews with Taylor, and extensively interviewed Taylor’s family and friends.

In her 79 years, Taylor did and lived so much, that telling the story of her life is like trying to put the Atlantic Ocean into one bottle of water. Yet, Brower makes Taylor come alive as an earthy, glam hero with flaws and struggles.

Taylor, who performed with Burton in Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” was as proficient at cursing as the Bard was at writing sonnets. “I love four-letter words,” Taylor said, “they’re so terribly descriptive.”

She was renowned for caring for friends and strangers. During September 11, Taylor was in New York. She paid for a toothless woman, who was looking for a job, to get teeth, and comforted fire fighters. A fire fighter wondered if Taylor was really at his fire station. “You bet your ass, I am,” Taylor said. 

Taylor loved her children. Yet, her kids were often (due to her work) left with nannies or enrolled in boarding schools.

Due partly to life-long back pain sustained from an injury she sustained while filming “National Velvet” when she was a child, Taylor struggled with a life-long addiction to pills.

In “Elizabeth Taylor,” Brower illuminates Taylor’s decades of support and friendship with the LGBT+ community. Early in her career, she formed close friendships with gay actors Rock Hudson, Montgomery Clift and James Dean. “Without homosexuals there would be no culture,” Taylor said.

Decades later, it’s easy to forget how horrible things were during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s. Brower vividly brings back the horror and the tireless work Taylor did for AIDS research. At a time when people wouldn’t use a telephone touched by someone with AIDS, Brower reports, Taylor would hug patients with AIDS in hospices. She jumped into bed to hold her friend Rock Hudson when he was dying from AIDS when no one would go near him, Brower writes. “I’m resilient as all hell,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s legacy is more important than ever.

Meet the historian who is driving a bus full of banned LGBT+ books across the US

Actor Adam Powell and historian Eric Cervini have raised $100,000 for the Queer Book Bus. Credit: Courtesy Eric Cervini

With LGBT+ books under attack in the US at record rates, author Eric Cervini and his boyfriend, actor Adam Powell, knew they wanted to take action. While others are organising with protests, drag queen story hours, days of reading and other important acts of resistance, Cervini and Powell have their own spin on what to contribute to the movement – and that spin has wheels.

The pair are working on buying, then building, what they call the Rainbow Book Bus, a bookmobile carrying LGBT+ books to small towns. After reaching their crowdfunding goal of USD $100,000 at the end of December, Cervini and Powell are now able to pay a specialised company to retrofit a school bus to become a beacon of LGBT+ literature. 

“Our goal is to have at least an early version of it ready by Pride (in June).” We want to have a bus that is converted – it may not be fully decked out, but it will be functioning as a travelling book shop / book fair in the summer of 2023.” 

The conversion of the 28-foot bus involves tearing out all of the seats, installing bookcases and stocking it with LGBT+ books. The bus will travel the US and host pop-up book festivals in places like parking lots, with tables and chairs, signs and information about local LGBT+ organisations and their resources in addition to books. They’ll be selling works including young adult fiction, history, landmark classics, memoirs and more, including the often-banned All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M Johnson, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel and This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson.

A widely renowned historian who is the bestselling author of The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs the United States of America and the executive producer of The Book of Queer, Cervini is inspired by the black, gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin’s activism involving buses: the Freedom Rides of the 1940s to 1960s.

“The entire philosophy is that you bring your humanity and your dignity to these spaces that are trying to exclude you, and what that does is create this conflict – and unfortunately, that’s what it is, it’s a conflict – where one side is completely non-violent and doing nothing but trying to take a bus, and the other side goes ballistic,” Cervini says. “It becomes very clear who has the moral dignity in that scenario, who has the moral upper hand.”

“I think you’re seeing echoes of that now,” Cervini continues, “at drag story hours, where you have these incredible performers or educators or librarians who are simply trying to educate kids and make them feel welcome in their own communities, and they’re being attacked violently.” Cervini says he wants to use the bus to introduce books in places where LGBT+ authors may take professional and safety risks to promote their own book.

Cervini fully expects uproar in the towns the Rainbow Book Bus visits, but that’s part of the plan. If the event draws attention, he hopes local youth will hear about it and will be able to hear about regional resources through the event. 

“If I had known there was an LGBT centre near me and all the amazing events that they threw – because certainly it existed – maybe I could have found a way to get into the big city. If I had known that they existed, I think that that would have been life-changing,” Cervini says. “So, creating that physical presence of saying we’re here and we’re queer despite how scary some of these areas can be for queer folks, hopefully that will get people excited about connecting with the resources and the volunteers and the heroes who are already working so hard in these towns.”

The $100,000 raised so far only funds the creation of the bus, but to keep it going, Cervini and Powell are still fundraising. They also hope to partner with a non-profit organisation to be able to give books away instead of selling them. Currently, the proceeds of the book sales go toward funding the bus, and to LGBT+ authors.

As an historian, Cervini takes the long view. “The targeting of queer literature is as old as queer literature itself, from Sappho to The Well of Loneliness to today. This is a tactic that those in power have used to consolidate their own power: they create a moral panic,” he says.  “And yet, queer creators, whether it was James Baldwin or Gore Vidal, have persisted and created beautiful art that isn’t just important on a literary level, but on a personal level to so many readers who are growing up in towns that don’t have this literature in their libraries. And making these works as accessible as possible is something that got me really, really excited.”

One thought on “Robinson’s Brewery tour … New Elizabeth Taylor Biography … The Historian with a busload of LGBT+ Books

  1. Hi Tony

    I hope you are well.

    I am not at work this Wednesday and wondered if it would be ok to join the group for the Lowry trip?

    It will be good to see you all again.



    Michael Black


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