Smithills Hall … George Takei

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Smithills Hall

We arrived in Bolton and dined at the Olympus Fish and Chip Restaurant before taking the bus to Smithills.

Smithills Hall in Bolton, a Grade I listed manor house, is three miles north of the town centre and is one of the oldest manor houses in the north west of England. The oldest parts date from 1335, but it has since been altered and extended.

When Mary, a committed Catholic, took to the throne in 1553 she was determined to overturn the religious changes made in the reign of her father Henry VIII. Many Protestants left the country, fearing her intentions.

During the early part of Mary’s reign, a fiercely devout Protestant preacher, George Marsh, was teaching in and around the parishes of Bolton and Deane. This aroused the anger of the authorities. In 1554 the local magistrate, Robert Barton of Smithills Hall, was ordered to arrest and examine him on a possible charge of heresy

Marsh was arrested and brought to Smithills Hall for interrogation in the Green Chamber. It is said that as he was leaving, he stamped his foot on the flagstone as a declaration of faith.

At the entrance to the Chapel is a mysterious mark on the flagstone. Legend has it that this is the footprint of George Marsh. The footprint is said to bleed every year on 24 April – the anniversary of his death.

In 1555, Marsh stood trial and was finally burned at the stake for refusing to deny his protestant beliefs.

Smithills Hall was the first building in Bolton to have a gas and electricity supply. Before the introduction of electricity, running a house the size of Smithills would have been a huge undertaking. Kitchen staff had to cope with conditions more like those of a busy hotel. Washing the dirty dishes required multiple sinks and at least two staff. Electricity and gas meant that lighting and heating such a large house no longer needed as much manual labour. As a result the number of staff employed decreased from the early 1900s onwards.

More photos can be seen here.

George Takei has perfect response to right-wing “grooming” hysteria

With debates around school textbooks and the passing of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida, some on the far right are increasingly accusing members of the LGBT+ community of wanting to “groom” children.

This disgusting, dog-whistle of a claim conflates LGBT+ rights with paedophilia.

Using the term “grooming” to discuss LGBT+ issues in the school curriculum also detracts from the serious issue of paedophiles who actually do target and groom kids.

Actor George Takei, who turned 85 on 20 April, tweeted the perfect response. He reminded people about how gay kids are usually brought up in a wholly heterosexual environment and it does nothing to change their sexuality.

“They ‘groomed’ me to be heterosexual, you know. It didn’t change a thing. Still gay as a rainbow sprinkle-covered cupcake,” he said.

Takei’s tweet has had over 211,000 likes and thousands of comments. Takei followed it up with a second tweet saying, “The only things ‘gay grooming’ will ever do to a straight child will be better hygiene and more desirability from the other sex.”

Lesbian Day of Visibility … March on Washington … Bearly Healthy

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Lesbian Day of Visibility

“L” is at the beginning of LGBT+; what more visibility do lesbians need?

However, perceptions of the community are tarred by stereotypes. Lesbian Day of Visibility, celebrated on 26 April, remains an important opportunity to celebrate the diversity in the community and to challenge stereotypes. There has been a Lesbian Visibility Day since 2008.

In the 90’s and before, the world was a different place if you were L or G – the B barely got a look in then and there was little visibility of trans people.


While some lesbians were having a great time, locking lips on Channel 4 soap Brookside, the real-life ones, like Sandi Toksvig, were living their lives quietly, believing that to broadcast their sexuality would mean waving goodbye to their careers. Indeed, when Sandi did come out in 1994, she and her family received death threats and were forced into hiding, a situation she describes as “truly, genuinely frightening”.

Now, Sandi is at the top of her game inspiring us endlessly to come out and stay out and achieve our dreams. But make no mistake – life isn’t all rainbows.

​While it’s right and proper that we take this moment to celebrate, we mustn’t forget that for too many of us, it is still 1994. We are fearful and living in the shadows. So let’s celebrate, yes. But let’s also keep pushing forward, towards a better future for everyone under the LGBT+ umbrella. Because until we can all be out, in all aspects of our lives, we may as well all be in the closet. There remains a need for strong lesbian role models. Giving a platform to these role models, all of them with different stories, identities and nationalities, each an important part of our community, reminds us that we are all valid.

That’s why Lesbian Day of Visibility remains an important celebration, even today.

March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation

On this day, 25 April, in 1993 a large political rally took place in Washington DC. The march was titled “The March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation”, and organisers estimated that 1,000,000 people attended.

Speakers and performers at the rally following the march included Larry Kramer, RuPaul, Nancy Pelosi, Madonna, Martina Navratilova, Ian McKellen, Eartha Kitt and Jesse Jackson.

Bearly Healthy Life Survey

There is very little research data on the health and wellbeing needs of the Bear community. Bearly Healthy want to find out what those needs might be and find ways to try and meet them. They have organised a survey to help them to understand the needs of the community. This is an anonymous survey. You will not be asked for personal details apart from your age.

The Bear community is all those guys, old or young, big or small who socialise in bars, at events or online.

Bearly Healthy will publish the survey results on their website. If you want to be notified about the results please register your email on their website here.

You can take the survey here.

There is also an introductory seminar (in person and on zoom), which will explore current health issues for bigger men in the bear community on Saturday 28 May from 2.00pm to 4.00pm. Please see their website for more details.

Bury LGBTQI+ Forum Poetry Evening … AIDS Memorial

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Bury LGBTQI+ Forum Poetry Evening

In the wonderful surroundings of the Bury Art Museum and compered by Ben, members of the Bury LGBTQI+ Forum and members of Out In The City gathered for an open mic poetry evening. People read their own work and also their favourite poems.

It was a fantastic evening, in two halves, with cheese and wine during the break. The poems took us on a rollercoaster of emotions from anger to laughter.

The evening was a prelude to Bury Pride 2022, which is only ten days away! Bury Pride and The Walking Rainbow Parade is being held on Saturday, 30 April from 10.00am to 6.00pm at Castle Armoury Drill Hall, Castle Street, Bury BL9 0LB and Market Street, Bury.

Don’t forget this is a ticket only event, get your FREE tickets via the website here.

The AIDS Memorial – a true story by Lulu

When I was a little girl, we rented out a room in our large Haight-Ashbury flat to generate extra income. It was always rented to a young gay man, probably because my mum, a single parent, felt it was the safest and most sensible option. Their room was right next to mine in the front of the house and included a sitting room that we called the “library” because it had floor to ceiling bookcases, big puffy pillows on the floor and comfy nooks to settle in for reading or taking a nap. It was a common area in the house, but was mainly for our renter’s use, though I could often be found perched on the big overstuffed chair, peering out the window to observe the view of the always entertaining corner of Haight and Ashbury Streets.

If I wasn’t daydreaming, I had my nose buried in a book; such is the life of an only child in a household with no TV. Inevitably, our housemate would slide open the French doors that divided their room to the library and slowly, gently, tenderly, carefully, our friendship would unfold.

The men who lived with us all referred to themselves as my “fairy godfathers” – their term, not mine. As a child, I didn’t understand the tongue in cheek we’re-taking-our-power-back meaning. Once I did, I both grimaced and grinned.

We had about five young men live with us over the years. This was in the late 70’s – early 80’s, before gay people could easily adopt kids or were even really allowed to think, dream about becoming parents in some cases. I was the only child in their circle of friends and was often invited to tag along to their ever so glamorous soirées, Oscar parties, holiday fetes and any other over the top event that might just really be a Tuesday night but always seemed like so much more to me. These outings gave my mum nights off from mum-ing and me, adventures to be fondly remembered decades later.

I often found myself sitting crossed leg in the middle of one of their friend’s exquisitely decorated antique filled living rooms in the Castro district on a priceless oriental rug, beading necklaces or playing with antique paper dolls (theirs, not mine), Judy blasting in the background, watching a group of lively young men gossip and flirt and dance and share stories about their hopes, dreams & fears.

I heard them talk about how they had escaped to San Francisco from places like Iowa, Kentucky, Texas, so that they could live and love freely. They had all been disowned by their families for being gay. They had to create their own families and I was privileged to play the role of the little sister, niece, cousin they had to leave behind or, on an even deeper level, the child they never believed they would ever be able to have. It was from them that I learned my lifelong mantra: friends are the family we choose for ourselves. And love is love. Sorry but they said it first.

Of course, I was much too young to really understand the implications of all of this, but what I did know was that I felt so grown up and cherished in their presence. I knew there was something special about these men; to me they were worldly and fancy and sparkly and they knew a little something about everything. And most importantly, they taught me what they knew.

From them, I learned about music and fashion and art and literature and Broadway and why black and white movies of the 40’s were the best movies and that you must always bake with butter, never margarine and that cookie dough is calorie free and that one must always dress up when going downtown and the difference between Barbra Streisand and Barbara Stanwick; Bette Davis and Bette Midler; Oscar the Grouch and THE Oscars and the importance of wearing sunglasses, even in the fog, to prevent wrinkles, darling.

They were men of great style, class, elegance, intellect, wit, charm, creativity, beauty and fun. They were incredibly cultured and had exquisite taste. My memories of my time with them run deep:

  • Going to the “Nutcracker” every Christmas Eve.
  • Having high tea at Liberty House.
  • Lip syncing and dancing to the Andrew Sisters “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” I know all the words, still, to this day.
  • Taking in the Christmas decorations downtown at Macy’s and ending the day with a cable car ride to Ghirardelli Square for hot chocolate with extra cherries and whipped cream.
  • Lengthy sermons on the essential need for dust ruffles and monogrammed stationery and silk dressing gowns.

To a young child, these experiences leave a mark; a permanent mark of rainbow coloured glitter sprinkled on her soul.

To my child’s eye, mind and heart, these men were magical. They were my playmates; the most delightful big brothers to a shy, often sad and lonely little girl. They were fun and silly and played dress up and always let me be Cher to their Sonny. A major sacrifice on their part, to be sure!

They told me I was a glittering gem and that I was “fabulous” and they meant it in a REAL way, not a “hey girl hey” way, though we had those moments too. They treated me with respect. They didn’t patronise or pander to me. They expected me to keep up my end of the conversation, regardless of the topic or my lack of knowledge about it. Local politics or Best Dressed at the Oscars; my opinion mattered to them. They didn’t baby me. They treated me like an equal. But that didn’t mean that they didn’t spoil and coddle me. They made me feel special and valued and respected. Perhaps because society didn’t offer them the same respect as gay men, they felt compelled to make sure I was always treated as a whole person. For a young girl of colour, this went far in developing my sense of self and worth and pride in being who I was.

They also showered me with gifts, some that I still have to this day:

  • A beautiful hand-woven throw made on an old-fashioned loom.
  • A hand beaded necklace with an antique tiny bell at its centre. Too tiny now for my adult neck but still cherished.
  • A beautiful white cake stand from Tiffany’s; an odd gift for a 10-year-old girl, you might think, but as the gift giver said when he handed me the HUGE blue box, “Sweetie, if I’ve taught you nothing else, please remember this: the light blue box is always the BEST box!”

I still have those treasures, but I no longer have my fairy godfathers.

They all eventually succumbed to AIDS. They were all in long-term relationships. Their partners died too. By the early 90’s they were all gone.

These men were the first and most prominent adult male figures in my young life; in truth, the only father figures I had growing up. I know for a fact that it is because of my time with them that I am the person, the woman, the friend, the activist, I am today.

They didn’t live to see the many strides and advances that the LGBTQ community has made. If they were still alive today, they would be at the front of the line continuing to fight the good fight for the strides still to be made.

But they aren’t, so I do it for them. It is the least I can do to honour their legacy and repay them for all they have given me.

My description of these men might seem almost disrespectful in its seemingly stereotypical depiction of gay men, but these were the men I knew, as I knew them, when I knew them. This was who they were, at a time when the gay community in San Francisco was thriving and carefree; when the pulse of the disco beat of the day seemed to ring in sync with the beat of the cultural awakening that was taking the world by gloriously gay rainbow storm on the streets of San Francisco.

I am so lucky that I spent my formative years as their fairy goddaughter, wrapped up in the glow of this historical time. But my golden carriage turned into a pumpkin well before midnight of my young adulthood dawned and my fairy godfathers vanished with it.

I am a better human being because I knew them. THIS, I know for sure. My fairy godfathers may be gone, but their rainbow coloured fairy dust flows in my veins forever. They had their Pride. And they gave me mine, too.

xo Lulu

New York City AIDS Memorial

Manchester Demo … Rainbow Lottery … Liverpool’s Gay Quarter

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Hundreds protest in St Peter’s Square over transgender exclusion from conversion therapy ban

Conversion therapy attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and is banned in several countries.

Protestors in London against the conversion therapy ban excluding trans people (Image: Matt Spivey / MyLondon)

Conversion therapy is a repulsive practice which, the Government’s own research shows, causes harm to LGBT+ people. This is supported by NHS England and other major bodies in the UK who have all warned that all forms of ‘conversion therapy’ are “unethical and potentially harmful”.

However, the government plans to go ahead with a ban on conversion therapy for gay people but not in relation to those identifying as transgender.

It has said this was to ensure that the law did “not interfere in the work of legitimate therapists providing appropriate support for people with gender dysphoria who may be considering taking life-changing medication”.

But that has led campaigners to accuse the government of breaking promises. Hundreds gathered in Manchester’s St Peter’s Square.

Boris Johnson set out his thinking on the issue a few days ago, saying: “We will have a ban on gay conversion therapy, which to me is utterly abhorrent. But there are complexities and sensitivities when you move from the area of sexuality to the question of gender.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said that “conversion therapy in all forms should be banned” and that the government must “stick to its promises”.

Rainbow Lottery – Win a £1,000 B&Q Voucher!

As a thank you for your ongoing support of Out In The City we’ve got something extra special coming up for you – the chance to win a fantastic £1,000 B&Q voucher! This is in addition to the usual prizes available including a jackpot of £25,000.

Just think of all the things you could do with that – freshen up your garden ready for summer, finally make a start on redoing that tired old bathroom, or get a whole shed-full of new power tools – the choice is yours!

The national draw for the £1,000 B&Q voucher will take place on 23 April 2022. There’s no need to buy separate tickets, you will be automatically entered into this prize draw. Of course, you are welcome to buy additional tickets. Every ticket you buy is an extra chance to win, and an extra fundraising boost for Out In The City. It’s a win-win situation!

Thank you & good luck! Buy tickets here.

How Liverpool became the first UK city to recognise its ‘Gay Quarter’

Stanley Street in Liverpool is one of the streets that make up the city’s gay quarter

Liverpool’s ‘Gay Quarter’ is a prime destination for not only the LGBT+ community but for tourists from all over the world and it’s easy to see why.

Week in and week out, thousands of people from all over Liverpool and beyond descend on the streets and back alleys in and around Stanley Street in the city centre to drink, dance and party the night away. It has been a haven for the LGBT+ community, their friends, families and allies for decades now.

But how did Liverpool’s iconic gay quarter become the main focal point for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community which it is known as today?

Members of Liverpool’s gay community couldn’t always be found being unapologetically themselves along Stanley Street. For a long time, their presence was felt more towards the centre of the city, however, with the building of the new St John’s Shopping Centre and subsequent demolition of the original Queen Square, it meant the gay community was forced to find a new home elsewhere. With the opening of the gay bar, Paco’s in the 1970’s, alongside The Lisbon’s already established gay following, it wasn’t long before they found a place they could call their second home in Stanley Street.

In 2004, Richie Wright, a 41-year-old freelance scene reporter, suggested to the City Council that they make a gay tourism guide, primarily based on the community in Stanley Street, in the run up to Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture year.

“I felt it was important to put the scene on the map and promote it to the wider world. I was regularly out and about and in contact with the venues and there was a feeling in the air that they wanted a more prominent role in Liverpool’s very special year.”

Richie, who is from North Liverpool, said the idea was loved and was invited for an interview with Lesley Delves and Keith Blundell, two tourism officers in charge of promotional material that was being distributed to elevate the city. Richie added: “2500 copies of the first ever gay tourism guide were printed in August 2004 and they were distributed across the North West and beyond. This was the first time the City Council acknowledged the gay quarter in an official document.”

Garlands nightclub on Eberle Street Liverpool, was one of the original clubs found in the quarter

“It was important to me because it put the bars and clubs on the map. It welcomed tourists to a dozen venues in the gay quarter. There were also listings for other LGBT frequented bars, clubs, nights and restaurants elsewhere in the city. For me, the gay tourism guide was a big turning point for the city. It was a moment when the City Council publicly recognised that there was a gay quarter in place and developing.”

Seven years later, Liverpool recognised its gay quarter once again and on 12 August 2011, it became the first city in the UK to do so officially. Making up the quarter was Stanley Street, Cumberland Street, Temple Lane, Eberle Street and Temple Street, which were all revamped with symbolic new street signs, each incorporating a rainbow arch.

The first sign was unveiled outside the Lisbon pub found on Stanley Street by the then Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Sharon Sullivan, in a ceremony which was attended by representatives of the LGBT+ community, local businesses, residents and the family of gay teenager Michael Causer who was killed in 2009.

The scene continued to thrive throughout the years but it was decided it would need to be refreshed up a decade later after becoming the UK’s first formally recognised LGBT+ area. The Stanley Street Quarter then rebranded as the Pride Quarter, with support from LCR Pride Foundation and Marketing Liverpool.

The rebranding was intended to unite the LGBT+ area while also cementing the city’s position as ‘the most LGBT+ friendly in the UK’ and mitigate the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on the various venues.

As a result of Covid-19, Pride 2020 was celebrated a little differently with the quarter, which incorporates a large number of venues located in and around Victoria Street, Dale Street and Tithebarn Street, coming together under its new banner to throw an indoor festival.

The 13 LGBT+ venues located in the quarter follow in the footsteps of similar successful national initiatives to promote inclusion, collaboration and unite LGBT+ venues, such as Leeds ‘Freedom Quarter’ or Manchester’s ‘Gay Village’. There is no doubt that Liverpool’s Pride Quarter has established itself as a leading destination for thousands of locals and tourists from far and wide.

Royal Armouries Leeds … Manchester Protest Against Conversion Therapy … Rainbow Call Companions

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Royal Armouries Leeds

The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, West Yorkshire is a national museum, which displays the National Collection of Arms and Armour.

Situated close to the city centre on the bank of the River Aire the museum is among many buildings built in the same era that saw a rejuvenation of the Leeds waterfront. It is located on Armouries Square in Leeds Dock.

The Royal Armouries Museum is a £42.5 million purpose-built museum that opened in 1996, and is part of the Royal Armouries family of museums, the other sites being the Tower of London – its traditional home, Fort Nelson, Hampshire for the display of its National Collection of Artillery, and permanent galleries within the Frazier History Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

The Royal Armouries is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

More photos can be seen here.

Manchester’s protest against conversion therapy

Meet at 3.00pm Saturday, 16 April in St Peter’s Square, Manchester. There were 3,000 to 4,000 outside Downing Street last week:

Petition

Over 132,000 people have signed a petition to ensure any ban on conversion therapy fully includes trans people and all forms of conversion therapy. Parliament considers all petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures for a debate.

It’s shameful that the UK intends to deliberately exclude trans people from a ban in contrast to the approach taken by many countries, despite trans people being at a greater risk of experiencing the harmful and degrading practices.

The government’s own figures show that trans people are nearly twice as likely to be at risk of experiencing the harmful and degrading practices of conversion therapy. A ban needs to ensure all forms of conversion therapy are banned.

You can sign here. There is also another petition here.

Rainbow Call Companions

Re-engage, a charity preventing loneliness and isolation for older people have just launched a new, UK-wide, LGBT+ specific service for older people aged over 75 who would like to speak to someone who’s also LGBT+.

The service is called Rainbow Call Companions and is designed to provide you with a regular telephone befriender who will give you the opportunity to develop friendship, free from judgement. They love a good chat and they are great listeners too.

Calls are usually weekly and last for half an hour or so and you can chat about anything that interests you. What’s great is that the same volunteer phones you every time, so you can get to know each other and share stories and laughter – for as long as you both want.

You can refer yourself here to find a Rainbow Call Companion.