Portland Basin Museum … Bi Visibility Day … “Groove” at Contact Theatre … “Naughty” at The Kings Arms

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Portland Basin Museum

The Portland Basin Museum is housed within the restored nineteenth century Canal Warehouse in Ashton-under-Lyne. A group of us travelled from Manchester by tram. We walked from the tram stop (0.7 miles) but the museum was a little difficult to find.

When we arrived, our first thought was to visit the Bridge View Café. Unfortunately, it was closed due to staff shortages, but just round the corner was the Hill Street Café. We squeezed in and enjoyed sandwiches, toasties and full English breakfasts at very reasonable prices.  

The museum itself combines a lively modern interior with a peaceful canal side setting.

One of the rooms is dedicated to the history of the area. The first human activity can be traced back almost ten thousand years. The Setantii Tribe were ancient hunter-gatherers and farmers but they left few clues about their lives. The first people to settle almost three thousand years ago were the Celts. They were followed by the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and finally the Normans.

The main feature of the museum was a 1920s street, bringing to life the sights and sounds of bygone times. There is a complete house with pantry, living room, back yard and outside loo. There is also a school, with desks, maps and chalkboards, various shops including a bakery and fish and chip shop, a church and a pub from back in the day and even a doctor’s office. The museum is packed with local history.

Some beautiful photos can be seen here.

Bi Visibility Day

Bi Visibility Day is a day to recognise the bisexual community and celebrate bisexual people globally. It takes place on Friday, 23 September. The whole of September is Bisexual Visibility Month.

Why is there a Bi Visibility Day?

The bisexual community is frequently referred to as the “forgotten” part of the LGBTQ+ community, and they face a number of negative stereotypes and expectations.

Bisexual Visibility Day is an opportunity to celebrate bisexuals, learn about biromantic erasure, and discover the difficulties that many members of the bisexual community face.

The history of Bi Visibility Day 

Bi Visibility Day began (and is still sometimes referred to) as “International Celebrate Bisexuality Day”.

Three bi activists from the United States, founded the day in 1999 and Michael Page designed the bisexual flag.

Jen Yockney started the day in the UK and coined it Bi Visibility Day, which has since spread worldwide.

The importance of Bi Visibility Day

It is important to recognise and celebrate Bi Visibility Day for a variety of reasons:

It helps tackle biphobia – It is an opportunity to combat biphobia by learning more about the community and celebrating their existence. Many people may be confused about what bisexuality is, but the day is an opportunity to raise awareness and share knowledge.

It gives visibility to the bisexual community – The bisexual community is frequently forgotten and feels invisible or excluded from the larger LGBTQ+ community. This day provides visibility to the bisexual community, raises bisexual awareness and allows them to celebrate who they are with others.

Opportunity for people to learn about bisexuality – Some people may be unaware of what it means to be bisexual. The day provides an opportunity for others to learn about and understand the community.

Call for change – The day is a call for change in the way many members of the bisexual community are treated. Some people feel they don’t fit in with any community because they are bisexual, which should not be the case. It’s an opportunity for everyone to speak up, share their stories, and encourage acceptance.

Thursday, 6 October – New Show “GROOVE” at Contact Theatre, Oxford Road, Manchester M15 6JA

7.30pm – 8.40pm, followed by after party – £10 concessions

The show is based on the real stories and testimonies of LGBTQIA+ people across generations and featuring a fierce and mighty intergenerational cast of dancers and actors, GROOVE explores the dance floor as a place of protest, identity, belonging and desire.

Please note, this production contains the kinds of lighting and special effects you would find in a nightclub; this may include roving, rhythmic flashing, scanning and haze.

Also showing on 6 October is “Naughty

Pink Milk is an upcoming theatre company with a focus on telling important and underrepresented queer stories.

They are currently preparing to tour their production of “Naughty”; a solo show written to examine grooming in the LGBTQ+ community and the common lack of safe mentorship for queer youth.

Pink Milk Theatre, following a 5-star OffFest-nominated run at Camden Fringe 2021, presents this darkly comic, queer coming-of-age tale.  


Grooming is not an uncommon experience for young queer people and they particularly want to reach LGBTQ+ audiences with the production.

“Naughty” will be presented at The Kings Arms, 11 Bloom Street, Salford M3 6AN on 6 October at 7:30 pm. Concession price £7.00 / Full price £11.00. Buy tickets here.

They will also be hosting an optional Q+A following the performance, should you be interested in engaging with the piece further.

Happy Birthday David Hoyle! 60 Today … Activists in Ukraine to hold Pride events … Times Gone By

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Happy Birthday David Hoyle! 60 Today – 19 September 2022

Paul Gallant, a Toronto-based journalist reports from Canadian website “xtramagazine” on David Hoyle, the performance artist:

Has British iconoclast David Hoyle unwittingly turned himself into an icon?

Underground performance artist David Hoyle has been booking gigs in London and across Europe these days. Credit: Lee Baxter

David Hoyle tells me he’s still fuelled by anger, but I’m not sure if I believe him.

Not because of how polite the legendary UK performance artist is during our conversation; good manners are an excellent mask for rage. And despite his graciousness (he apologises repeatedly for not knowing more Canadian queer artists), Hoyle can quickly turn on a rant. “Spiteful, nasty, peevish, judgmental and vile,” is how he describes his church-oriented upbringing in Blackpool. He never has to wrack his brain for phrases like “absolutely hopeless,” “toxic masculinity,” “suicide-inducing” or “downward spiral.”

He’s still throwing punches. It’s just that these days he’s less inclined to punch himself and those around him. Hoyle, after a lifetime as an underground drag-inflected performer and artist, seems to have a newfound confidence. After so many years as a struggling outsider, a welcoming space in the culture – in Britain and across Europe – has been opening up for him. He’s being treated like he’s got some wisdom, like he deserves some respect – and maybe it’s starting to sink in.

Of course, he’s built up a devoted fan base since he started out performing in the clubs and then gained a certain kind of niche national notoriety as Divine David on two seasons of The Divine David Presents on Channel 4 in 1998 and 2000. He’d appear in trademark messily applied makeup, hurricane-coiffed wigs and torn, dirty dresses, demonstrating how to decorate a Christmas tree with various pork products, musing about people being killed and mutilated by the side of a canal or tearing up a newspaper to make a theoretically fashion-forward waistcoat. Think Drew Droege’s Chloe, but on acid that’s been soaked in swamp water. Or a Rick Mercer rant, but as an apocalyptic fever dream in a lesser-known circle of hell. Hoyle’s look might employ wardrobe and makeup traditionally considered feminine, but he’s not impersonating any gender – or not least not any gender of this world.

Credit: Lee Baxter

When London’s new Queer Britain museum opened this spring, it was Hoyle’s portrait, painted by London artist Sadie Lee, that first greeted visitors at the inaugural exhibition. In March, in a ceremony at the Manchester Art Gallery, the Manchester Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a charity, protest and street-performance organisation whose members dress as nuns, canonised him as Saint David of the Avant-Garde, making him the first English saint canonised by the sisters since the late filmmaker Derek Jarman was anointed Saint Derek of Dungeness in 1991. Last year he played the drag mother in the film Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and over the last year or so, Hoyle’s appeared in a series of shows at London’s Royal Vauxhall Tavern and Salford’s The Lowry and Brighton’s Spiegeltent. In June, he performed as a special guest at Pride in Skopje, North Macedonia—his second appearance there – and performed this summer in Norway and France. There’s been increased interest in his visual artwork, which has the belligerent colours, politics and temperament of a protester in Margaret Thatcher’s ’80s-era UK The iconoclast has become, dare I say, an icon.

“I feel I’ve got a bit of a presence, and that’s very nice,” Hoyle tells me by phone from his home in Manchester. “I do feel very honoured at the moment.”

Needless to say, it hasn’t been easy. When Hoyle was 24, with his liver failing because of heavy drinking, he could have never imagined making it to 60. Performing as Divine David, he’d go on stage at clubs and inject himself with drugs, not knowing what they were, and let the audience watch as his high played out before their eyes. He pushed himself so hard that he needed to take six years out of the spotlight, starting around the year 2000. When Hoyle returned to performing, he was no longer Divine David, but David Hoyle. Just as much an edgy anti-capitalist and anti-establishment freedom fighter, but not so self-destructive.

“I didn’t think I’d live this long. It’s a bit of a surprise to me that this has happened. I must be a medical miracle,” Hoyle says.

“Having worked with a lot of young people, I’ve been very lucky. To be with these amazing artists, it gives me hope.”

The break did what it needed to do. He survived. But even over the last decade or so, long after abandoning Divine David, you can still see Hoyle maturing as a performer and as a person. In a 2009 performance at Royal Vauxhall Tavern, for example, his monologue riffs on self-entitled young people: “I was born and brought up and the rest of it, and abused, by very small-minded people who were more worried about what the neighbours thought than nurturing,” he tells his audience. “You 20-year-olds, from your middle-class backgrounds, where your parents are saying, ‘Look, if needs be, I’ll guide his cock up your ass,’ some of us from a certain generation never had that luxury, get me?… I love the fact that there are 20-year-old cunts out there in the world living their stupid, self-obsessed, superficial lives when people went through real hell and had to fight for you to be as complacent as you are.”

These days, though, Hoyle has nothing but good things to say about the young, and no longer believes in the generation gap he complained about in that monologue. “I think there’s quite a healthy intergenerational happening that’s going on. I think a lot of young people understand that without the freedom fighters of the past, they wouldn’t have some of the freedoms that they have now. I feel like I’m part of a continuum. I think of characters like Quentin Crisp, and then you think about the Gay Liberation Front, which was before my time. Now you’ve got wonderful young people—drag kings, wonderful trans artists – who are bringing new aspects of life to consciousness and making people think,” he says. “Having worked with a lot of young people, I’ve been very lucky. I’ve worked with people like [performance artist] Travis Alabanza and [choreographer / dancer] Joshua Hubbard. To be with them, these amazing artists, it gives me hope.”

One of David Hoyle’s recent paintings. Credit: Lee Baxter

In fact, younger people championing non-binary identities have helped Hoyle put his finger on his own identity as non-binary, something he had been struggling with since he was a child. “I’ve never felt like a boy. I had no interest in traditional boy things like football and sports. I’ve always been more artistic,” he says. “But we didn’t have the words when I was younger. I’m very proud of all the different phrases people are now using. And it’s not just members of the LGBTQ+ community who are using these new ideas to define who they are. It’s for everybody. You have people who would have fallen into the heteronormative – what’s the word? – demographic thinking how heteronormative are they really. That’s very interesting.”

This optimism about the next generation remains in tension with his ongoing frustrations with previous generations. On one hand, Hoyle sees no escape from so many of the distressing global political situations: the mendacious buffoonery of UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, hateful reactionaries in the United States, the rise of authoritarian-minded leaders around the world. On the other, he believes that art, especially laughter, provides not only an escape, but a way of getting at our problems.

“When I was about eight years old, I remember my grandma asking me, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ I said, ‘I’d like to be a comedian.’ And she said, ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Well, I just like it, you know, I just want to make people laugh.’”

Hoyle’s idealism and philosophical bent have perhaps prevented him from becoming a conventional comedian and finding mainstream success. “To make it in our society, that’s really the world of Tuscan villas and infinity pools,” he says. “That is not my reality. I live in a housing-association flat that’s very neglected and not particularly inspiring.”

Instead, he puts his comic impulse to use as a vessel for shaking up society, to make the powerful, not the downtrodden, the butt of the joke. To this day, his shows are mostly improvisational. On the train ride from Manchester, where he lives, to London, where most of his gigs are, he’ll think about what he’d like to say, but rarely locks anything down. “It’s spontaneous. What I do is just feed off the energy in the room. I will have certain topics and subjects that I want to talk about or express or acknowledge. I pepper the evening with those topics that concern all of us, but the majority of the show is improvised,” he says. “I’ve been doing it for so long, that all comes from experience.”

David Hoyle has been booking gigs beyond the U.K., despite his home country being a key target of his material. Credit: Lee Baxter

Though Hoyle has gone all-in on his life as an artist, he does wonder if art and comedy are enough to heal the world in its current state of agitation.  “What I believe really what we need is a mass lifting of consciousness globally to mutual love and respect, to try and transcend all the nonsense that the media and our various so-called governments project on to us and go to another level,” he says. “I’ve always thought it might be nice if we all took a natural hallucinogen at exactly the same time globally. Then just see what happens. We need something that will bring us together, raise our consciousness and make us question all the things that are presented to us as being solid and organised and forever.”

Activists in Ukraine to hold Pride events

(Photo courtesy of Kharkiv Pride)

Activists in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv will hold a series of Pride events in the coming days.

A press release from Kharkiv Pride notes events will take place from 17 to 25 September, including a march, a performance that highlights efforts to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Ukraine and a “Memorial Day” for “LGBTQI+ people killed by the Russian Federation.”

Kharkiv Pride will also hold “a crowdfunding campaign to collect money for the needs of women serving near Kharkiv.” 

“Just as Kharkiv stands at the forefront of Ukraine’s struggle for freedom and democracy, Kharkiv Pride actively resists at the forefront of the battle for human rights,” said Kharkiv Pride. ” Because this is our principal position, and this is the difference between Ukraine and the totalitarian regime of the Russian Federation.”

Kharkiv, which is Ukraine’s second-largest city, is less than 30 miles from the Russian border in the eastern part of the country.

A Russian airstrike on 1 March 2022 killed Elvira Schemur, an LGBT+ activist who was a volunteer for Kharkiv Pride and Kyiv Pride. Ukrainian forces in recent weeks have recaptured large swaths of territory east of Kharkiv that had been under Russian control. Kharkiv Pride will also take place less than two months after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskky announced his support for a civil partnership law for same-sex couples.

Times Gone By – LGBT+ History:

Brian Epstein

Brian Epstein – The Man Who Loved John Lennon  – 19 September 1934 – 27 August 1967

Teased and bullied as a boy, Epstein dropped out of school at age 16. Drafted in 1952, he was discharged for “unspecific psychiatric reasons” and subsequently came out as a homosexual to a psychiatrist.

He then enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts but dropped out soon after. Moving back home, he became manager of the record department at his family’s store. While in Liverpool he saw John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Pete Best perform at the Cavern Club. Though he lacked experience in entertainment industry he was tapped to manage the band.

Epstein has been credited with polishing the group’s image: replacing jeans and leather jackets with mohair suits, ending the on-stage drinking and swearing, having the band play actual sets, and making the young men bow at the close of the every show. His sheer enthusiasm caused EMI Parlophone to sign the Beatles to their first recording contract; and when they replaced Best with drummer Ringo Starr all the components were in place.

In 1965 Epstein booked the Beatles onto ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ a performance that catapulted them into the stratosphere. He then orchestrated their sold out concert at Shea Stadium – which was the first stadium concert in rock history. Though he also managed several other groups, including Gerry and the Pacemakers, it has been suggested Epstein’s particular devotion to the ‘Fab Four’ stemmed more from his love for John Lennon than any material interest. Insecure about himself and his position, Epstein’s drug and alcohol problems escalated as his importance to the Beatles receded. He died in August 1967 of an overdose. Given the nature of the music industry, without Brian Epstein’s guidance it is likely the world would never have heard of the four lads from Liverpool.

Speedwell Cavern & Chapel-en-le-Frith … Times Gone By

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Speedwell Cavern

We hired a coach in order to visit Speedwell Cavern at the foot of Winnats Pass, near the village of Castleton in Derbyshire. A few people visited a café in Castleton, but fifteen of us donned our hard hats and fleeces and descended into the cave system.

We tentatively walked down 106 wet and slippery steps to a narrow horizontal passage two hundred metres below ground. The passage, which is man-made, leads to the limestone cavern and is permanently flooded. Access is made by boat and it was an incredible underground boat journey.

Our guide, Josh, propelled the boat by pushing against the walls with his hands and demonstrated how the boat was legged through. Legging requires the guide to lie on their back with their feet against the tunnel roof, and was sometimes performed by women.

The mine was developed in the 1770s but the limited lead ore deposits meant that it was not profitable and it was closed down by 1790. It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like to carve out these tunnels using only the most primitive tools.

The “Bellows Hole” is where a small boy would work all day pumping on a pair of blacksmiths bellows circulating the air.

There is a “half way house” tunnel where boats can pass each other. At he end of the passage the cavern opens up and we disembarked. The cavern contains the “Bottomless Pit” – a huge subterranean lake.

We then went on to the town of Chapel-en-le-Frith. The town was established by the Normans in the 12th century, which led to the French-derived name Chapel-en-le-Frith (“chapel in the forest”). We spent a pleasant couple of hours before returning to Manchester.

More photos can be seen here.

Times Gone By – LGBT+ History:

Claude McKay

Claude McKay – 15 September 1890 – 22 May 1948

Festus Claudius “Claude” McKay was born in Clarendon, Jamaica, on 15 September 1890. As a young man he studied poetry and philosophy with Walter Jekyll, who encouraged him to write his poetry in his native Jamaican dialect. His first two books of verse were published in 1912.

That same year, inspired by Booker T Washington, McKay moved to the US to study agronomy. It was there that he encountered racism for the first time. In 1914, he moved to New York, settling in Harlem, where he delved into the clandestine gay scene. Enjoying a love life that included both male and female partners, he entered a brief, but unsuccessful, marriage.

In 1917 McKay published his next poems, including the radical “To the White Fiends,” a challenge to white oppressors and bigots. His work appeared in various periodicals, most notably in the leftist magazine The Liberator, which published his anthem of resistance “If We Must Die,” threatening retaliation for racial prejudice and abuse.

In 1922 McKay published “Harlem Shadows”, his fourth and most important collection. The volume assured McKay’s place as a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance. During this period he explored Communism and worked with the Universal Negro Improvement Association, writing several articles for that organisation’s publication. From 1923-1934 McKay travelled in Europe and North Africa, and wrote the novels “Banjo” and “Banana Bottom”. Most notably, during this period he also wrote “Home to Harlem”, a novel containing an openly gay character and detailed descriptions of Harlem’s gay and lesbian club scene in the 1920s, including drag and gender bending.

After this sojourn, McKay returned to Harlem and began working on “A Long Way from Home” (1937), a memoir describing his experiences as an oppressed minority, calling for an end to colonialism and segregation. In failing health, the lifelong agnostic embraced Catholicism and, in 1940, became a US citizen. In 1944 he left New York and relocated to Chicago to work for the Catholic Youth Organisation. McKay died of congestive heart failure there on 22 May 1948.

Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo – 18 September 1905 – 15 April 1990

The image of the mysterious and uncommunicative Greta Garbo (born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson) has drifted around the edges of human sexuality for nearly a century. She converted her enigmatic sexual status into power at the Box Office and profited from the curiosity and titillation it aroused.

Though Hollywood did not address lesbian audiences directly – it routinely pandered to male voyeuristic interests, which made Garbo a star of the highest magnitude. That she did not fulfill the social-sexual script the world had prepared for her was the world’s problem, not hers.

More significant than with whom Garbo slept was how sex and gender were integrated into her life and films because what the general public thought it knew, and what the gay subculture actually knew, about Garbo’s real life cannot be separated from her star image. She was romantically linked with Tallulah Bankhead, Lilyan Tashman, Billie Holiday, Louise Brooks, Mercedes de Acosta, and Marlene Dietrich.

Though she made relatively few major films in her career, the roles – Anna Christie, Mata Hari, Queen Christina, Anna Karenina, Ninotchka and Camille (for which she is most revered) – were iconic and unforgettable. Garbo’s enigmatic and ambivalent performances were an appealing departure from formulaic heterosexual images and made it possible for her to stand out from her contemporaries while identifying both as gay (to those who were aware) and with other gay people across the invisibility, disgrace and fear that characterised much of gay life during the era. Garbo effectively retired from Hollywood after World War II and lived out the remainder of her life in self-imposed seclusion. She died in 1990 at the age of 84 from natural causes.

Middleton … An Evening with Claire Mooney … Times Gone By

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Middleton

The Olde Boars Head

Our visit today was to the Parish Church of St Leonard, a Grade I Listed Building. The church is considered to be the oldest continually inhabited building in the Manchester area. But before our visit we had refreshments in the Olde Boars Head, a rare example of an early timber framed building, acknowledged by Historic England as outstanding. It claims the title of the oldest original public house in England.

We enjoyed good quality pub food – the homemade cheese and onion pie was great – and after an hour or so we walked up the hill to St Leonard’s. Unfortunately, we found out that the church was closed, so instead of seeing the spectacular stained glass:

Saint Leonard, patron saint of Middleton Church

Saint Leonard, patron Saint of Middleton Church is depicted holding Middleton Church in his right hand and chains (he is patron saint of prisoners) in his left hand.

Stained glass window in the Assheton Chapel

We only saw the outside! We also missed out on the secret passage from the church to the Boars Head. In Henry VIII’s reign the priests used it to escape persecution.

However, it was a good day out, and photos can be seen here.

Claire Mooney

Claire has been a professional musician for over 30 years, and together with a couple of poets presented “An Evening with Claire Mooney and Special Guests” in the Performance Space at Manchester Central Library.

Ten of us were lucky enough to get tickets for the sold out gig to see the singer, songwriter, composer, compere, radio presenter (gosh! Is there anything she can’t do?) Her songs, accompanied by guitar, are varied bringing light and shade and she invites audience participation. Who could forget “The Fleece Song”? – “It’s the one that doesn’t crease. You’re never really fully dressed unless you wear a fleece”. For the last song I was invited on to the stage to shake a bun-shaped rattle! With five others on bells and rattles we rocked the place.

Time Gone By – LGBT+ History:

Leslie Cheung

Leslie Cheung – 12 September 1956 – 1 April 2003

Hong Kong heartthrob, pop music and film star Leslie Cheung first gained attention after capturing second place in the 1976 ATV Asian Music Contest. However, it was not until signing with Capital Artists in 1982 that he became a bona fide star with songs like “Monica”, which ushered in the Cantopop music craze.

In addition to a prolific output of hit music, Cheung began making films. His performance in John Woo’s “A Better Tomorrow” (1986) and its sequel made him an indisputable movie star. Other notable Cheung films of this era were “Days of Being Wild” and “A Chinese Ghost Story”. In the years that followed he won several top Hong Kong film Awards.

In 1989 Cheung announced his retirement from singing and held 33 continuous nights of concerts before moving to Canada. In 1993 he starred in “Farewell My Concubine” – the first Chinese film to win The Golden Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival. In it he played a Beijing opera singer who finds fame playing female roles. In addition to his hot film career, he returned to making music in 1995.

This period marked a clear shift in his public stance on his sexuality. During promotion for a subsequent film, “Happy Together” (1997) – about two gay lovers in Argentina – Cheung came out as bisexual in TIME Magazine. That same year he revealed Daffy Tong Hok-Tak was his romantic partner. Balancing films and music he remained at the forefront of Hong Kong entertainers with hugely successful tours in 1999 and 2000.

In spite of his outward success Cheung, who had been battling clinical depression for several years, ended his life – stunning his nation. Tong – his “most beloved” – was listed as his surviving spouse in the full-page Hong Kong obituary. Over 10,000 attended his memorial service and his popularity remains undiminished

Alain Locke

Dr Alain LeRoy Locke – 13 September 1885 – 9 June 1954

Born into a family of teachers, Alain Locke completed Harvard’s four year program in three years, graduated second in his 1907 class, was elected into Phi Beta Kappa, and won the school’s most distinguished award, The Bowdoin Prize.

Afterwards, Locke became the first African-American to be named a Rhodes Scholar and received his scholarship to Oxford. After receiving his PhD in 1917, Locke became philosophy professor at Howard University, an African American School, where he remained until his retirement.

In 1925 Locke was actively promoting his theory of ‘cultural pluralism’ which maintained that a democratic society should value the uniqueness of the different styles within that culture, thus encouraging African-American artists to embrace their ancestral and folk traditions. A gay man himself, Locke also helped gay African-American artists like Countee Cullen, to whom he was romantically linked, and Richard Bruce Nugent find pride in their heritage.

In 1945 he became the first African American president of the American Association of Adult Education. In 1953 he secured a Phi Beta Kappa chapter at Howard University, a major milestone in the history of African American education. In 1954 he was still working on The Negro in American Culture, his definitive study of the contributions of African-Americans to American society, when he died of a heart ailment at age 68. 

Rest In Peace – Queen Elizabeth II – 21 April 1926 – 8 September 2022

Demand Justice for Sareh … National Trust … Times Gone By … Mini Cini

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Demand Justice for Sareh – please sign the petition

Sareh lived and worked in Iraqi Kurdistan. Following an interview with BBC Persian about the situation of the LGBT+ community in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, she was identified and detained for 21 days by the police.

On 27 October 2021 Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani (also known as Sareh), was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in the West Azerbaijan Province of Iran, while she was attempting to cross the border to seek asylum in Turkey.

She was charged with crossing the border illegally and accused of: “promoting homosexuality, gambling, fraud, and promoting illicit sexual relations and publishing them on the Internet.” No evidence has been offered by the IRGC to substantiate these baseless accusations. Sareh was coerced into confessing to these “crimes,” potentially through acts of torture, including solitary confinement and threats that the State will take custody of her two children.

These accusations can lead to capital punishment.

It is clear that what has taken place is not due process. 

On 1 September 2022 Sareh was sentenced to death by the dictatorship in Iran for “Corruption on Earth”. Her friend Elham Choubdar has also been sentenced to death for the same reason. Sometime after Sareh’s arrest, Elham was also arrested while in Iran and, similarly to Sareh, was charged with “encouraging corruption and prostitution.” The forced confessions of other detainees were used as evidence against her. Sareh is 31 years old and Elham is only 24! 

On 5 September 2022 following public outrage, Iranian authorities justified the ruling by claiming that Sareh and Elham have been involved in “trafficking women to a neighbouring country” and denied they were being sentenced to death because of their activism. 

We ask you not to ignore Sareh’s detention and sign this petition for her freedom.

This campaign is run by 6-Rang (the Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network) and International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) Asia.

National Trust members to vote on banning ‘divisive’ and ‘woke’ Pride celebrations

(Twitter/ NationalTrust)

Anti-LGBT+ National Trust members are asking members to vote for the charity to ban “divisive” Pride events.

The National Trust is a charity and membership organisation for heritage conservation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which owns a huge variety of land and historic buildings.

Despite the organisation having almost six million members, resolutions for its Annual General Meeting (AGM), to be held on 5 November, can be put forward with the support of just 50 members.

This year, members will be asked to vote on a resolution calling for National Trust participation in “divisive” Pride events to be banned.

The resolution states: “Be it resolved that this AGM deplores participation by the National Trust in gay pride parades as divisive and an unaccountable waste of members’ subscriptions.”

The accompanying explanatory note reads: “The National Trust took part in the Birmingham Gay Pride event in 2019. In a letter to the proposer, the Director-General admitted no account was kept of the expenditure nor of any resulting subscription revenue.

“The participation was unaccountable, divisive and an exercise in virtue signalling. It was unbecoming in a body which should be dedicated to preserving the nation’s heritage for all and being a faithful steward of its members’ subscriptions.”

In its 2022 AGM handbook, the National Trust’s board of trustees lays out its own position against the resolution, but ultimately has no control over whether the resolution goes ahead.

“The National Trust’s role is to protect and promote everyone’s heritage, of which LGBTQ+ history is an important part,” the trustees said.

“We do not believe that taking part in any of the cultural celebrations we support is divisive, in fact we see these events as an opportunity to bring people together.”

Any and all members who joined the National Trust on or before 27 August 2022 are eligible to vote on resolutions, even if they do not attend the AGM in person or online, with a closing date of 28 October 2022.

A spokesperson for the National Trust said: “The National Trust was founded for the benefit of everyone.

We serve the whole of our wonderfully diverse society and we want to do that to the very best of our ability. This includes supporting our staff, volunteers and visitors to take part in cultural celebrations including Pride, which they have been doing for many years.

The AGM and resolutions process is a critical part of our governance and importantly, it allows our members to vote on issues that matter to them. This resolution does not align with our values and it runs counter to our ethos.

We urge our members to vote against this resolution and to help us keep the culture of understanding and respect that we are dedicated to fostering at the National Trust. We fully support our staff, volunteers and visitors being able to take part in celebrations of LGBT+ society and history, including Pride.”

Times Gone By – LGBT+ History:

Michaelangelo’s David unveiled – 8 September 1504

It was on this day in 1504 that Michelangelo unveiled his statue of the biblical hero David outside the Palazzo della Signoria in Florence, Italy. David is considered to be one of the masterpieces of Renaissance art, but did you know that Michelangelo’s statue almost never came to be?

The origins of the David are in the early 1400s, when the Santa Maria Del Fiore Cathedral commissioned 12 sculptures of Old Testament heroes for the cathedral’s roof. However, only one of these pieces, a statue of Joshua by Donatello, was actually completed. In 1464, Agostino di Duccio, one of Donatello’s pupils, was commissioned to carve a marble statue of David. Agostino only got as far as roughly shaping the legs and feet and starting to form a hole that would become the space between the legs. The project came to an abrupt halt in 1466 when Donatello died and Agostino quit the project. Ten years later, another sculptor would be hired to work on the David project but would be abruptly fired. So, the slightly formed marble block would sit unused and exposed to the elements for 25 years.

In 1501, the masters of the cathedral determined that something must be done with the marble block that was supposed to be a statue. Many experts and artists, including Leonardo da Vinci, were called to determine what could be done with the giant block. Eventually, the commission was given to the then 26 year old sculptor Michelangelo, who had already completed The Pietà two years earlier when he was just 24.

As the sculpture’s completion date neared, it became obvious that it would be impossible to lift the six ton statue onto the cathedral’s roof as originally planned. After much debate, a panel of 30 prominent Florentines, including da Vinci amusingly enough, decided to place David in the Piazza della Signoria next to the Palazzo Vecchio, the city’s town hall, where it was unveiled on 8 September 1504. In 1873 the statue was removed from the plaza and put on display in Florence’s Accademia Gallery. Since 1910, a replica of David has stood at the statue’s original site.

Since the statue’s unveiling, it has become a symbol of Florence. This particular interpretation of the biblical hero is interesting for two reasons: The first is that it’s done in the style of classical nudes, which was uncommon for religious statues of the time. The second is that unlike most depictions of David,

Michelangelo’s David, does not depict the hero holding the head of the defeated Goliath. Instead, David is depicted just before battle, preparing his slingshot. Some art historians have seen a political meaning in the sculpture, saying that David represents the Florentine Republic’s defence of civil liberties and constant threats to Florence from neighbouring Italian states. Along these same lines, it’s worth mentioning that when the statue of David was first installed, its glare was pointed in the direction of Rome and the Vatican.

Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas

On 8 September 1907 writer Gertrude Stein first met the love of her life, Alice B Toklas, in Paris.

Stein and Toklas were American writers who spent most of their lives in France where they became extremely influential in the development of modern art and literature. Together they hosted a Paris salon that attracted well-known members of the avant-garde artistic and literary world. Among their numerous colleagues, friends and patrons were Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Thornton Wilder, Ernest Hemingway, Georges Braque, André Derain, Max Jacob, Guillaume Apollinaire, Henri Rousseau, Sherwood Anderson and Ezra Pound. “Everybody brought somebody,” Stein wrote, “and they came at any time …   it was in this way that Saturday evenings began.”

Stein was an acclaimed modernist writer known for challenging conventional understandings of genre, narration and form. Toklas, a fierce advocate of Stein’s work, encouraged her to write The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas (1933), which brought the two women international recognition. Shifting between biography, autobiography and memoir Stein was able to obscure the exact nature of her relationship with Toklas while telling the colourful story of the life they shared. Two well-known lesbian Jews, Stein and Toklas remained in France and survived both World Wars. Stein died at the age of 72 from stomach cancer in 1946. Toklas, who penned the famous Alice B Toklas Cookbook (1954), spent the remainder of her life protecting and promoting Stein’s legacy until her own death in 1967. They are interred in Paris in the Père Lachaise cemetery where they share a grave and a headstone.

Mini Cini

Last month we showed a programme of LGBT+ short films at the Mini Cini at Ducie Street Warehouse. For our next viewing (date to be confirmed), please vote here for Victim (1961) or La Cage Aux Folles (1978).