What a Gay Week!

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One of Larry Grayson’s sayings was: “What a Gay Day!” – well this has been a Gay Week.

  On Monday I went to the Pride in Ageing public consultation at the LGBT Foundation and had a nice chat with Lawrie Roberts, the Manager of a new programme of work at the Foundation to end the inequalities faced by older LGBT people.

 

On Tuesday several members of Out In The City went to the launch of a “Diversity Exhibition” at the Mustard Tree charity which featured art and poetry and a slide show – “Travels of a Gay Squaddie”.

 

On Wednesday, after the Out In The City meeting, three of us visited the Manchester Metropolitan University for a lecture titled: “Unbuilding Gender: Trans* Anarchitectures in and Beyond the Work of Gordon Matta Clark”. The Queer Research Network Manchester had invited Jack Halberstam, a Professor of Gender Studies and English at Columbia University to talk about the new politics of trans*.

The lecture was so thought provoking and the range of material was breathtaking. This is Helen’s summary of the lecture:

Manchester Metropolitan University Research & Humanities – 15 May 2019

Our group was invited to attend the research event given by Jack Halberstam, and three members attended (Helen, Albert and Tony).

Jack Halberstam gave a world wind tour around his subject so that the participants could place his research in context and the functionality of action as it relates to our everyday structures and mores.

The built environment and how this impacts on us are often dictated by society’s values and moral judgements, certainly in the case of social institutions and ideas that actually influence people’s lives or views of the world and integration into society. For Jack this was a crucial component of Gender and Sexuality. He challenged the so-called common sense understanding of masculinity and femininity.

Jack used the work of Gordon Matta Clark, art and structural functionalism as a framework to better perceive how the built environment affects and indeed controls our lives. He raises the question how we as humans can survive within capitalism without a destruction and reorganisation of our built environment. The prospect of this without collaborative survival mechanisms is problematic.

For him the present structures produce an imbalance for humanity, an alienation and loss of a focal point almost losing our visibility of where we are within the natural evolution of  “humankInd” – something quite stark and brutal.

This was then juxtaposed so that destruction and reconstruction could provide growth to move away from these tight confines and provide a built environment, which fits the needs of humanity. By changing the architecture we change our lives and remove the dissonance and create harmony within its new structure.

Jack gave some basic examples, one being the reconstruction of gender neutral bathrooms given the controversial nature of trans women using women’s loos (certainly in the USA) when in fact it’s a non issue created by the political right. This whole issue is about the misogynistic nature of capitalist society. Indeed this creating difference is for the sole purpose of maintaining the status quo and male dominance within society.

Whilst this is a minor issue a more fundamental one is the use of and building of homes purely for investment. Jack argued that vast quantities of housing is not produced for use value but to store wealth. He felt that capitalists funded housing development actually knowing that it would never be occupied or used for homes. In a sense the empty properties create a pool of homeless people so that speculators can accumulate. Likewise many young people will never be able to own a home. He actually felt owning was part of the system and many people fell into this concept but in reality could not keep up with the mortgage payments. Jack’s view was based on his reflections on Gordon Matta Clark’s statement that “Nothing Works”. Nothing Works is an important message for the destruction and reconstruction of our built environment.

He ended his lecture by discussing the writings of Judith Butler – Undoing Gender. He felt the early feminists and even those anti-trans feminists of today are in actuality fighting the wrong battles. He referred to Paul B Preciado’s “Pornotopia – An Essay on Playboy’s Architecture and Biopolitics” and Audre Lorde’s quote “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change”. Your silence will not protect you …”

It sounds heavy, but in fact the lecture was an absolute treat.

Trips & Adventures – Thursday, 16 May 2019

We visited The Hardmans’ House at 59 Rodney Street, Liverpool – a fascinating home and photographic studio – that belonged to renowned photographer Edward Chambre Hardman and his wife Margaret.

Presented as it was in the 1950s during the height of their business, the house and all of the Hardmans’ original possessions perfectly preserve what life was like for this talented couple.

From the waiting room to the studio, the kitchen to the bedroom and the darkrooms to the exhibition rooms, there’s so much to see.

The house was both a business and home for the Hardmans. The majority of the house provided space for clients to wait, change their clothing and sit for photographs. Behind the scenes, the staff would be busy developing prints in the cellar and then preparing them to be sent to clients in the retouching room and mounting office.

The Hardmans lived in just three small rooms within the house. Their main focus was the prosperity of the business so they didn’t have much time for household chores. Preferring to dine out and to travel for inspiration, they spent very little time relaxing in their cramped living quarters at home.

The Hardmans photographed some gay icons: Ivor Novello – composer, actor and entertainer (on the wall behind Stuart) and Hugh Paddick, an English actor, whose most notable role was in the 1960s BBC radio show Round the Horne.

There are lots of great pictures here

Today, Friday 17 May, marks IDAHOBIT, the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. On this day 132 countries across the world will be raising awareness of LGBT rights.

Finally, the weekend marks a community event to celebrate LGBT+ diversity in Whalley Range. This occasion has been organised by local residents to bring together the wide range of talent, entertainment and creativity that exists in the neighbourhood.

If you got this far (!) … I said it had been a Gay Week.

 

Staircase House, Stockport

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Trips & Adventures – 9 May 2019

We took the 11.35am train from Piccadilly and found ourselves in Stockport eight minutes later!

We had decided to visit the Arden Arms due to their reputation for the excellent quality of beer and food, pub décor, value for money and exceptional customer service, and we weren’t disappointed. We actually arrived before the pub opened at 12.00 noon, but it quickly filled up.

The Arden Arms, on Millgate, central Stockport, was built in 1815 as a replacement for Ye Blew Stoops pub, a coach inn that dated back to 1650. It is thought to have had a tunnel that ran to nearby St Mary’s church and is believed to be the oldest pub in central Stockport.

The Arden Arms in 1900

As part of its colourful history the pub’s cellar was used to store dead bodies during influenza outbreaks, and George Raffald Junior, who built the Arden Arms, used to hide up nearby trees to catch any thieves targeting the pub.

The Arden was voted Greater Manchester’s Regional Pub of the Year in the 32nd edition of the Good Beer Guide published by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and was additionally selected as Pub of the Year for the Manchester Food and Drink Festival back in 2008.

Just around the corner from the pub is The Staircase House – a “hidden gem”  on Market Place. It is a medieval building and is famous for its rare Jacobean cage-newel staircase (only three survive in the country) and is Stockport’s oldest town house.

We were given headsets to hear an audio guide so that we could delve into the past and discover how our ancestors lived from the 15th to the 20th centuries. The original part of the building dates back to 1460, with various parts added over the centuries, each room showing a different period. A protected face of the original outside wall shows various methods of construction.

The audio commentary did go on a bit too long in places but was very informative. Many of the items in the rooms can be picked up and we particularly enjoyed this interactive aspect. It was a great experience and well worth the visit.

Halifax: Shibden & Piece Halls

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Trips & Adventures – 28 April 2019

Stephen Kovacevich

American-born pianist Stephen Kovacevich moved to Britain to study with Dame Myra Hess and has since graced concert platforms across the world for over 50 years. He made his name with critically acclaimed recordings of Beethoven and Schubert with a special fascination for their late works.

As part of Bridgewater Hall’s International Concert Series, we heard:

J.S. Bach Partita No.4 in D, BWV 828;
Beethoven Sonata No.31 in A-flat, Op.110; and
Schubert Sonata No.21 in B-flat, D.960.

His recital of Beethoven’s Op.110 was fluently expressive, yet also intellectually compact, while Schubert’s last sonata in B-flat was grandly expansive and lyrical, as well as searchingly profound.

To be thorough, Stephen Kovacevich was born in San Pedro, Los Angeles, California, to a Croatian father and an American mother. When his mother remarried, his name was changed to Stephen Bishop, the name under which he performed in his early career. He later discovered that he was often being confused with the singer and guitarist Stephen Bishop. To avoid the confusion, he began performing as Stephen Bishop-Kovacevich and later simply as Stephen Kovacevich.

Trips & Adventures – 2 May 2019

Eleven of us ventured to Halifax to mark the occasion of Lesbian Visibility Day, by visiting Shibden Hall (Anne Lister’s house).

Called “Fred” by her lover and “Gentleman Jack” by Halifax residents, Anne Lister (1791 – 1840) is often called “the first modern lesbian” for her clear self-knowledge and openly lesbian lifestyle.

Throughout her life, she kept diaries that chronicled the details of her daily life, including her lesbian relationships. Her diaries contain more than 4 million words and about a sixth of them — those concerning the intimate details of her romantic and sexual relationships — were written in code. The code, derived from a combination of algebra and Ancient Greek, was deciphered in the 1930s.

However, on our visit we cracked the code! The photographs cannot tell a lie:

After visiting the Hall and gardens we made our way back to Halifax for a meal at the Square Chapel Arts Centre. The food was reasonable (except that the vegetarian meal was served with bacon) but I have never met a ruder salesperson. I ordered a black Americano coffee. When he was making the drink I enquired “Did I say, no milk?”, and he replied “Yes, you’ve already told me twice” (which was not true). When he served my pizza, he plonked it in the middle of the table and said “Make your mind up who wants it”. Perhaps he wanted to finish his shift, but his tone came across as very rude and nasty.

After the meal we had a wander around the Piece Hall, an 18th century cloth hall which now houses shops, bars and restaurants. It’s a spectacular building and lots of pictures can be seen here.

Ten Pin Bowling

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Trips & Adventures – 25 April 2019

This week’s trip was to the AMF Bowling at The Rock shopping centre in Bury; a modern ten pin bowling alley with 24 lanes packed with bowling fun, arcades, food, drink and activities! But first we popped into the Art Picture House, an early 1920’s cinema, exceptionally theatrical in its plan and decoration, but now converted into the local Wetherspoon’s pub.

Modern ten-pin bowling derives mainly from the German Kegelspiel which used nine pins set in a diamond formation. Some sources refer to an 1841 Connecticut law that banned ninepin bowling because of its perceived association with gambling and crime, and people were said to circumvent the prohibition by adding a tenth pin; other sources call this story a mere fable.

In any event, the enjoyment of kegeling by German peasants contrasted with the lawn bowling that was reserved for the upper classes, thus beginning bowling’s enduring reputation as a common man’s sport.

Although most of us had not bowled for years we enjoyed the afternoon and each of us scored a strike, knocking down all ten pins on the first roll of the ball. The “perfect” game is a score of 300, and although we didn’t quite manage that the winner reached a remarkable score of 127.

Lesbian Visibility Day – 26 April 2019

Lesbian Visibility Day, now embedded in the international LGBTQ+ calendar, is a celebration of the world’s diverse lesbian community.

Held on 26th April every year, Lesbian Visibility Day showcases women-loving-women, providing a platform for lesbian role models to speak out on the issues facing female sexual minorities.

The origins of the day remain mysterious, but is has been running since 2008. Having initially started in the US, Lesbian Visibility Day – thanks to the wonders of the worldwide web – is now celebrated internationally.

To mark the occasion, Out In The City will be visiting Shibden Hall (Anne Lister’s house) in Halifax on Thursday, 2nd May leaving Victoria train station at 10.20am.

Anne Lister (1791 – 1840) was an English landowner, diarist, mountaineer, and traveller. Throughout her life, she kept diaries that chronicled the details of her daily life, including her lesbian relationships, her financial concerns, her industrial activities, and her work improving Shibden Hall.

Her diaries contain more than 4 million words and about a sixth of them — those concerning the intimate details of her romantic and sexual relationships — were written in code. The code, derived from a combination of algebra and Ancient Greek, was deciphered in the 1930s. Lister is often called “the first modern lesbian” for her clear self-knowledge and openly lesbian lifestyle. Called “Fred” by her lover and “Gentleman Jack” by Halifax residents, she suffered harassment for her sexuality, but recognised her similarity to the Ladies of Llangollen, whom she visited.

 

Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield

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Trips & Adventures – 18 April 2019

On a beautiful sunny day we took the train from Manchester to Wakefield, changing at Huddersfield and arriving in time for lunch!

It was a short walk to the Hepworth Gallery, an award winning art museum in Wakefield which opened on 21 May 2011. The gallery is situated on the south side of the River Calder and takes its name from artist and sculptor Barbara Hepworth who was born and educated in the city.

The Hepworth is home to Wakefield’s art collection – an impressive compendium of modern British art, including works by L S Lowry, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore as well as work by significant contemporary artists.

Our plan was to view the photographic exhibition “Modern Nature”: British photographs from The Hyman Collection, but we also saw Magdalene Odundo: The Journey of Things, an exhibition of vessels and historic objects that have inspired her from across the globe, as well as some of the permanent exhibits.

Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975), although deeply religious, had unorthodox beliefs, combining Christian Science and Anglicanism, and she saw her work as an extension of her faith. In 1955, she wrote, “Sculpture, to me, is primitive, religious, passionate, and magical – always, always, affirmative.”

More photos can be seen here.