‘We / Us’ Exhibition … Manchester Flower Festival … King Lear Prizes … West Africa’s first LGBT Magazine … Ten Years of Gay Marriage in France

Mel, Margate, Kent. 2021 (Left) Sue, City of London. 2021 (Right)
© Roman Manfredi. Via Instagram.

‘We / Us’ Exhibition Celebrates UK’s Working Class Butches and Studs

Roman Manfredi’s We / Us is an art exhibition celebrating “Butches and Studs from working-class backgrounds within the British landscape.” Co-curated by Ingrid Pollard, We / Us is the UK’s first visual art project representing gender non-conforming working-class lesbians in this way. 

The solo exhibition features lens-based artist Manfredi and will be on show in East London at Space Station Sixty-Five, until 3 June 2023. The artist-run and led space has featured lesbian-focused exhibitions before, including The Rebel Dykes Art & Archive Show in 2021. 

We / Us is an intergenerational photography and oral history project that explores the experience of female masculinity through the structures of class and race all over the UK, capturing diversity as well as commonality.

When searching for images of butches and studs online, most that come up are from a bygone era, or from the US. Conversations around gender and identity today are often academic and London-centric, sometimes forgetting that identities are informed by every day lived experiences.

We/Us combats the lack of lesbian representation, especially gender-nonconforming lesbians, in art and cultural spaces. In the exhibition, Manfredi presents 41 framed photographs with an audio installation from interviews with the participants. 

“No one else is gonna do it so I’m going to do it myself,” Manfredi wrote on Instagram. “I’m incredibly proud of myself for the commitment and hard work that’s gone into creating and delivering this project to a high standard and for managing the whole project pretty much single handedly apart from the last 2 months.”

Manfredi’s work challenges problems in the art world. “I have delivered a carefully executed body of work, taking great consideration to de-colonise art institutions, challenging classism and racism and making sure everybody has been credited for their work.”

The artist advocates for the acknowledgement of working-class labour, including in art, including her own. “Now it’s time to credit myself as well and own my work. Yes my friends I am REALLY PROUD of myself and the fruits that have come from the tireless commitment and hard graft that I have put in 24/7 for over a year. It is really important that working class artists are acknowledged for their labour. Big up to US.”

We/Us is on show at Space Station Sixty-Five until 3 June 2023.

Opening hours: 12.00 noon – 6.00pm, Wednesday to Saturdays only.

The Manchester Flower Festival 2023 and Derek Jarman Pocket Park

Pop-in to see the Derek Jarman Pocket Park at Manchester Art Gallery at its blooming best for The Manchester Flower Festival 2023.

The park will be open from 10.00am to 5.00pm every day during the show (26 – 29 May) and is free to visit.

The space, which opened in July 2022, takes inspiration from artist, gay rights activist and gardener Derek Jarman’s celebrated garden in Dungeness. It has been designed, planted and is looked after by a group of Pride In Ageing (50+) volunteer gardeners, and provides a vibrant space at the entrance to the gallery for the people of Manchester and the wider world to come together, relax, share ideas and enjoy a taste of “immersive nature” in the centre of the City.

David’s gardening story and a plant from his garden will also be featured as part of the In Our Nature ‘Putting People and Plants on a Podium’ display on King’s Street. 


King Lear Prizes

The King Lear Prizes is the national creative arts competition for people over 60 years of age.

At a Glance

  • Categories: Art, Poetry, Short Story
  • Separate categories for beginners and experienced amateurs
  • Over £3,000 of cash prizes for winners and shortlistees, and certificates for Highly Commended entries
  • £5 per entry, to cover costs
  • Enter online or by post
  • Deadline: Friday 14 July 2023

New this year

  • King’s Coronation themed works encouraged (but not required)
  • Group prizes (announcement coming soon!)
  • New ways to get feedback on your work (announcement coming soon!)
  • Anthology of the best works sent to Buckingham Palace for the King and Queen

Register for free to find out how to take part in the King Lear Prizes here.

Advocates battle to publish West Africa’s first LGBT magazine

First issue of the Ivorian magazine dedicated to the LGBT community. © Sadia Mandjo

From a correspondent in Abidjan – The publication of the first magazine dedicated to West Africa’s LGBT community, originally set to hit shelves on 12 May, has been delayed due to difficulties finding gay-friendly printers in the Ivory Coast.

“Meleagbo” would be French-speaking West Africa’s first LGBT publication. Launched by the NGO Gromo, which advocates LGBT rights in Abidjan, the magazine promotes gay icons and highlights the community’s culture, history and victories.

The magazine’s publication would represent a step forward for a continent where some 33 countries still have laws on the books criminalising same-sex relations. 

Gay rights in Africa came under renewed scrutiny earlier this year after Uganda’s parliament approved the first reading of a bill in March criminalising merely identifying as LGBT, outraging human and civil rights advocates worldwide. The bill called on members of the public to report people in same-sex relationships and imposed a 20-year sentence for promoting homosexuality, which activists said could be used to criminalise any type of advocacy. 

And the path forward is full of pitfalls. Chief editor Emmanuel Niamien and his team are still fighting to get the first issue of “Meleagbo” printed.

Emmanuel Niamien at the launching of the magazine during the third annual Awawale festival held on May 12-13. © Sophie Lamotte

“Every day, homophobia is the first difficulty that we encounter. We are faced with printers who do not want to be associated with the LGBT community. If we had launched a fashion magazine, we wouldn’t have had this kind of problem. So we [must] go at the pace of those who are willing to help us,” Niamien said between calls to the printer, who had promised a delivery several days ago. 

The magazine is financed by the NGO Gromo – which is one of the few associations fighting for LGBT rights in Ivory Coast – and personal funds from members, including Niamien. The magazine itself is about 40 pages, but they are difficult to fill: despite plenty of ideas coming in, few are willing to put their faces or names to the stories for fear of retaliation.        

“We wanted to picture the team behind the magazine to show the people who contributed, but we rejected this idea because some were afraid and wanted to remain anonymous because of the current environment,” explained Brice Dibahi, Gromo’s founder, during the third annual Awawale Festival, which celebrates the LGBT community in Abidjan.  

The magazine’s zero issue, a mock-up of the magazine to promote it to the community, was launched at the two-day festival, held on May 12-13.  

The 30-something Ivorians say they launched “Meleagbo” to address a lack of representation of the LGBT community in mainstream media. “We realised that magazines here in Africa were not addressing issues affecting our community, and even when such topics are addressed there is a sense of exclusion. So we wanted to control our own narrative.”   

“We hope to change people’s mindsets with this magazine,” said Niamien. “To make people see that we are here, we have always been here, and that we are part of the people who are making changes to the system.” According to research by Gromo, 70 to 83 percent of LGBT people are still victims of homophobia and continue to face death threats, assaults and rapes in Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast. 

At first glance, Ivory Coast does relatively well among African countries by not outlawing homosexuality. Ghana, which borders Ivory Coast, is currently reviewing a law that would establish heavy penalties – including up to 10 years in prison for homosexuality, which is already illegal. Four African nations even impose the death penalty for crimes linked to same-sex relations.

Nevertheless, Ivory Coast is one of 40 countries on the continent where LGBT people’s rights are also not protected by the law. Moreover, Ivory Coast’s Constitutional Council amended the Ivorian penal code in November 2021 to remove sexual orientation from the list of prohibited motives for discrimination – a move seen by the community as a major setback for LGBT rights. 

“The good news is that there is no law that condemns homosexuality outright,” said Cedric, one of the Awawale Festival organisers. “But society condemns [it].”

“We live in constant fear. So we live hidden, we don’t express ourselves enough, we don’t have the opportunities to express ourselves fully.” 

Widespread discrimination even penalises LGBT people professionally. According to a survey conducted by Gromo in 2021, 70 percent of LGBT people are unemployed in Ivory Coast. According to the National Institute of Statistics in 2019, the national unemployment rate is 21.3 percent.

To address this, some sections of Meleagbo are dedicated to job offers, professional advice and lists of queer-friendly companies. 

According to sociologist Brice-Stéphane Djédjé, a specialist in LGBT studies, employment is a major issue for this community.

Sociologist Brice-Stéphane Djédjé, a specialist in LGBT studies at the third annual Awawale festival in May. © Sophie Lamotte

“It is difficult to be gay and poor, because the strongest always oppress the weakest and this is also done through economics,” said Djédjé, who authored the book, “How to Love Yourself as a Gay Man in Africa”.

“Gays from poor families pay the price for the laws that discriminate against queer people. A financially stable person will live more freely than someone who lives with his parents – without family pressure, seeing his partners freely and taking care of his mental health.” 

Djédjé also stressed that religion – and in particular Christianity, which is deeply rooted in Ivorian society – contributes to the stigmatisation of the LGBT community. Although the public in many West African countries regard homosexuality as a phenomenon imported from the West, he considers the homophobia in Ivory Coast as having roots in the colonial era. “Colonisation came with the churches here in Ivory Coast. (…) And the churches today spread hateful and violent messages against the LGBT community.”

Ten years of gay marriage in France: Same-sex couples reflect on a decade of change

May 17 was the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. It also marked exactly 10 years since gay marriage became legal in France. Since then, around 7,000 such marriages have taken place each year in the country. Back in 2013, reporters Pauline Godart and Claire Paccalin met several same-sex couples who were bringing up children together in France. Ten years later, they caught up with two of these couples to find out how having the right to get married has changed their lives.

Remake of “How Green Was My Valley”?

Original Cast and Extras

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