Category Archives: History

Thirty years with the Pink Singers

Michael DerrickLast month, Pinkie veteran Michael Derrick celebrated his third decade in the choir. Whilst an active singing (and dancing) member, he has also been the Musical Director (1988 – 1992), accompanist and one of our favourite arrangers. Here, he describes how the choir has (or hasn’t) changed over the last thirty years and what being in the choir means to him.

My first rehearsal was on the last Sunday of October, 1986. It was on a Sunday afternoon because that was the only time the whole choir was free: before the liberalisation of opening hours, pubs closed after lunchtime drinking and didn’t open again until the evening. What else was there to do? Join a choir, obviously.

The rehearsal was in the basement of the London Lesbian and Gay Centre: a dingy space with a low ceiling, out-of-tune piano, no natural light, and the smell of cigarettes and beer from the previous night’s disco. We ‘suffered for our art’. There were about 15 regular singers; all men. The repertoire consisted of show tunes, protest songs, and earnest post-war German cabaret lieder. The other choirs in Europe were into pop songs and classical music but they tolerated our seriousness because we had Margaret Thatcher, Section 28 and an age of consent of 21. They knew that we were “Pink” because that was the colour of the triangle that homosexuals were forced to wear by the Nazis.

“Every rehearsal was part of a build-up to a concert: a performance and then a new set of repertoire and so on. And at every rehearsal there was the aim of putting on the next concert. So there was a very well defined set of objectives for each rehearsal. That was the choir that I joined and it’s more or less the structure that has survived to this day”.

As well as celebrating his 30th anniversary with the choir, Michael also turned 70 this year!

As well as celebrating his 30th anniversary with the choir, Michael also turned 70 this year!

Thirty years later we are still Pink, still protesting, and still rehearsing on Sunday afternoons; but a lot has changed. Most notably we are a mixed choir. “Mixed” usually means Men and Women. I am proud to say that we are much more mixed than that!

We are bigger, of course, and the repertoire is wider. Early photos show us using music – now everything we perform is off copy; early video shows us standing still or walking about on stage making simple gestures – now we have full choreography. When I go for a health check-up I always tell the nurse that I do a four hour singing and dancing rehearsal each week. This always convinces the nurse that I am keeping fit…

A strength of the choir is the large number of members who write arrangements. In the early days, arrangements had to be written because that was the only way we could perform the songs we wanted to sing. When women started to join the choir, songs were regularly re-arranged to give the increasing numbers of higher voices something to sing. We continue this tradition and it makes us very special – not many choirs do it.

“The first concert I conducted was the first concert the Pink Singers gave with women and men performing. Before that, there were women and men together on the marches, but it was the first concert. And for every single concert since then there has been a range of voices and genders in the choir. And that’s something I’m extremely proud of.”

There have been many other changes over the years but one thing has stayed exactly the same: after my first rehearsal we all went to the pub. The social side of the choir is very strong. It has often been described as a family. Friendships have been made and relationships forged. It has been a complete delight to have been a Pinkie for thirty years.


Navigating Europe, choral style.

HsienLEGATO is a organisation which exists to strengthen the communication and cooperation between the gay and lesbian choruses in Europe. Fresh from their annual meeting, which was held in Munich, tenor Hsien reflects on the bonds which have brought so many European LGBT choirs – old and new – together. 

On the expedition of life it pays to stop now and then, and take stock of the forks and bends which have come before, so you know how you got to where you are, and perhaps what route to take in the future. As I sat for an enforced two hours of nothingness on the plane from Munich to London, I can’t help wondering what would have happened if I hadn’t joined the Pink Singers: would I even be aware of the wider community of LGBT choirs across Europe and the world? After this Legato meeting in Munich (7-9 Oct), I am incredibly thankful for the path my choral life has taken.

Legato, a slightly clunky acronym for “LEsbians and GAys singing TOgether”, is the umbrella organisation of Europe’s LGBT choirs, and a group the Pink Singers has been involved with since its inception. Legato helps to oversee “Various Voices” – affectionately abbreviated to “VV” – the four-yearly gathering of European LGBT choirs which the Pinkies have participated in virtually every iteration of, even back when it was originally called the European Lesbian & Gay Festival of Song.

poster-for-the-5th-european-lesbian-gay-festival-of-songIn fact, we have hosted this choral jamboree ourselves on a couple of occasions, our first being the fifth festival in the late 80s. Titled “Singing the Blues Away”, a deliberate dig at the Conservative party of the day, it took place at the height of Section 28, Thatcher’s pernicious anti-gay law. When the choirs of Legato saw that we needed their support to draw attention to that horrible piece of legislation, they awarded us the festival in 1989, helping us to put it on and standing with us in defiance against it. Section 28 was eventually consigned to the dustbin of history, but the Pink Singers will never forget the solidarity our European family showed us then. United we stand.

The intervening decades have seen the winning of several victories for equality, so while there remains a lot to be done, the struggles we face locally do not seem as insurmountable as they used to. It is only natural that as a choral body, our emphasis has moved from responding to challenges, to enjoying our shared tradition of music making. Anyone who has ever been to a VV will be aware of the simple delights of participating in a weekend of singing with fellow choristers from across Europe.

The Philharmonie Theatre in the Gasteig

The Philharmonie Theatre in the Gasteig

Although VVs only happen every four years, in between festivals delegates from our choirs meet at the annual Legato general meetings. This year’s was an opportunity to view our backdrop for VV Munich 2018: the magnificent Gasteig. I can think of no better venue to celebrate LGBT choral singing that in this complex of four outstanding theatres, seating an audience nearly 4,000, surrounded by multiple shared spaces. The latter is actually much more important that it sounds because VVs are as much about socialising as they are about performance, and the communal spaces are essential to facilitate that.

Brunch, with friends old and new.

Brunch, with friends old and new.

If VVs are principally opportunities to renew old friendships and make new ones, however, then the general meetings are concentrated versions thereof, and there were many new friends to be made this time round. In the last few years there has been an explosion of newly-formed LGBT choirs in Southern and Eastern Europe, and at this meeting they were present in force. Joining us in the north and west were representatives from Komos from Bologna, Roma Rainbow Choir from Rome, Checcoro from Milan, Coro Canone Inverso from Padua, the Mallorca Gay Men’s Chorus, Chór Voces Gaudiae from Warsaw, and the majority of the choir from Odessa, Qwerty Queer.

In fact, among the many highlights of the BaVarious Voices concert, presented by the immensely talented Munich choirs on the Saturday night, was watching Qwerty Queer’s guest performance on stage. For me, hearing their song “Vertigo” sung in Russian, wrists bound in red ribbons which were symbolically thrown off, was not only a novel musical experience (I’m not sure we have ever heard Slavic songs at our festivals) it was a timely reminder that the support the Pink Singers once received is now needed in new places.

The combined choirs and orchestra at BAVarious Voices.

The combined choirs and orchestra at BAVarious Voices.

In a Europe, and a UK – which seems fixated on difference and is increasingly ready to put up barriers between us – it is perhaps time to stop and ask ourselves as both a choir and as a community who we are and how we got here, and perhaps then we can decide where and to whom the road runs from here on out. I hope it heads east and south towards our extended family there. This weekend in Munich reassured me of that. United we stand.

 


Happy Birthday to Us, Happy Birthday to Us!

Michelle Wanna hear how ‘Wicked’ our 33rd birthday party was, how much ‘hairspray’ was used, & how many Pinkies got ‘Footloose’ and fancy free on the dance floor? Spot the theme yet?  Soprano Michelle gives us the low down on our 33rd birthday party shenanigans…

Happy Birthday to Us, Happy Birthday to Us!

In true Pinkies style we celebrated the choirs 33rd birthday by going FOOTLOOSE and ON THE TOWN for a LITTLE NIGHT OF MUSIC and CABARET at Claphams’ Two Brewers.

Pinkie b'day Apr 2016Us GUYS AND DOLLS were dressed up to the NINEs in our ‘musical theatre’ themed costumes in honor of our next Broadway inspired Concert – ONE NIGHT ONLY.

This is my 4th Pinkies birthday party and I never fail to be utterly amazed by the effort everyone puts in to the event. From MY FAIR LADY Rachel catering us with cake (complete with ‘green icing flowing down’ – a prize if you can spot that reference!) – to DREAM’GIRL Jezza ordering the fizz and decorating the venue to perfection. There are too many people to mention that make these celebrations the highlights of the Pinkies’ calendars.

33Our traditional Open Mic session was was hosted by the suave Master of Ceremonies Paul with his naughty banter, cheeky smile and slick hair shining from his HAIRSPRAY.

(You have to remember the singing doesn’t stop after our small group gigs, concerts and weekly rehearsals. What excuse is better than celebrating our third-and-a-bit decade as London’s community choir. It wouldn’t be a Pinkie event without a sing song – or two, or three…).

34Kicking off the show was our Saz singing a little ditty (she’s a FUNNY GIRL). Next up, those DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRALS – small group old favourites the Baberfellas – and new kids on the block the ‘Raundrettes’ entertained us with some close harmony campery. All followed by some amazing and show stopping numbers from resident Tenor Divas – What a THRILLER of a night!

27The final act of the evening was our very own ACORN ANTIQUE Alto leader Jeremey and Artistic Director David who embodied good old ‘Barry and Freda’ for a final Hurrah! paying homage to our late and great Victoria Wood. [We all agree will now begin a petition to insist we replace the National Anthem with ‘Let’s Do it – The ballad of Barry and Freda’ so watch this space!]

Pinkie b'day Apr 2016There was however a very important absence from proceedings. THE MUSIC MAN himself, our Musical Director Murray Hipkin was busy tickling the ivories for another particular Diva at the Coliseum. However he did film a little video including The ENO Cast singing us Happy Birthday which was truly amazing and managed to race south of the river to catch the grand finale of the evening in full concert dress – TOP HAT missing but definitely the tails!

Pinkie b'day Apr 2016The SOUND OF MUSIC completely took over us. In our KINKY BOOTS and with moves like FOSSE we danced the night away until we MERRILY WE ROLL(ED) ALONG home.

We had such a WICKED evening.

We do hope you will be able to join us on the 4th of June for ONE NIGHT ONLY at Cadogan Hall where WE WILL ROCK YOU.


Pink rockabilly at Pride

Pride 2015Newbie alto and already-our-new-section-leader (yay!) Jeremy tells us about his first Pride experience as a Pinkie…

It was 1972, the 1st of July, when the first official UK Gay Pride was held in London.  Marches had taken place from 1970, traversing parts of North London, but it was on this day, chosen as the nearest Saturday to the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, that around 2,000 people converged on London. They came to march, protest and fight for the rights which are fast becoming our 21st century reality.

Some of my fellow Pinkies were there, and I bet they could hardly have imagined what Pride would be like a little over 40 years later.  We were certainly extremely happy and indeed proud that they were still there, and with us! Marching side-by-side with the giants whose shoulders we stand upon, was a special experience that I’m sure we’ll keep forever. The theme for Pride this year was ‘Pride Heroes’, with various ‘everyday people’ being rightly lauded for their work, visibility and stoicism in the moves toward equality.

Pride 2015I realise not everyone likes the way Pride goes now, but I guess it was ever thus, the day I see an entire community agreeing on one thing is a day I shan’t hold my breath for! For what it’s worth, it seems to me that a day where people seem to be smiling a lot more, where there is a greater diversity of gender expression and identity, and where couples of all sexualities feel able to do something as simple as holding hands without fear of violence , still has a huge amount of positive worth in it.

The day dawned bright and warm, and most importantly dry. Many of us had been caught in the downpour of Pride 2014, memories of soggy socks and drooping fairy wings had made us extra-happy to see the sun put in a strong appearance from start to finish. We marched together in the parade, banner billowing in the breeze and helium balloons with minds of their own causing scenes of general hilarity. We sang songs from seasons past and present, and the crowds obliged us beautifully by joining in. A notable favourite was the timeless classic ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, which has been quite brilliantly rearranged by our very own Chris Chambers, for our Summer concert on the 11th July.

Pride 2015I had chosen the day to try out my new 1950s-style pink rockabilly skirt, and could be seen twirling and dancing a little ahead of the main body of Pinkies with a few others, handing out flyers and stickers to the friendly (and at times vaguely bemused) crowds. The optimism of the crowd was tangible. Only a day after the US Supreme Courts ruling on same-sex marriage, with Ireland’s joyful referendum outcome still ringing in our ears, it seems we are in a great position to be actually  brimming with pride, whilst also mindful that we can’t hang up our marching boots just yet…

Pride 2015So, we danced, we sang, we acquired a parade gatecrasher with a lovely alto range, in short, it was a blast. At the march’s end, we received goodie bags containing gratuitous amounts of officially named (by our very own Kate Nichols and Chris Viveash) ‘Fancy Gay Coffee’, we headed straight to the crypt of St. Martins in the Fields to rehearse for our big moment. We appeared on the main stage in Trafalgar Square in the early evening. At 6.40pm, we were waiting backstage as I was changing into my red stilettos, as you do. I am now known as ‘Dorothy’ to many choir members…  Anyway, there I was, with the shock of having just spent a penny in a portaloo still leaving my system, when the glorious Sandi Toksvig started practising her speech not three feet away from me. I had met her once before, when I was wearing pink glitter dress shoes, which Ms. Toksvig and I named my ‘Vagina Shoes’…but that’s another story.

Pride 2015Sandi was on just before us, giving the most rousing and heart warming speech I’ve heard in a long time, naming everyone there as her ‘Pride Heroes’. We completely agreed, they were the most exuberant and welcoming crowd we could have hoped for. The performance was over in a flash, good things always are, but we sang our hearts out and they seemed to enjoy it. Our classic rendition of ‘Vogue’ went down a storm (i’ve a sneaking suspicion there might have a been a few Madonna fans in the audience, but I may be wrong), and we rounded it off with a song thats coming up in our Summer Concert ‘Key Changes:  Songs that Shaped the World’ at St. John’s Smith Square in London on Saturday the 11th July.  If you want to know what song, you’ll have to come to the concert…

This is my first season as a ‘Pinkie’, and I can honestly say it’s one of the best decisions I have ever made.  When I first marched at Pride a few years a go with another (brilliant) organisation, all I could think about were the many people I had met in my life who had done everything they could to stop me from being there at all. In 2015, all I could think of, and all I could see, were thousands of people who were happy to see us.  Thank You Pinkies…I cannot wait until next time!

See more of our photos from the day here!


Happy 32nd Birthday To Us!

We celebrated our 32nd birthday this year, with a fun, colour-block themed party and a cake with enough e-numbers in it to ensure we’ll still be buzzing in time for our concert on 11th July!

32nd birthday party

In fact, tickets for the concert are now ON SALE!

Can a song shape the world? Join us as we explore the link between music and history, showcasing a variety of musical styles in St John’s Smith Square – one of London’s most atmospheric and beautiful venues. With music at the heart of change, the show will highlight many significant moments in history, through the suffragette movement to the HIV/AIDS crisis; from Monteverdi’s early opera to record-breaking chart toppers.

The show will also feature the wonderful Hinsegin kórinn – Reykjavík Queer Choir – in their debut London performance.

Click here to book!

 

 


An Affair to Remember

Hsien

Hsien

As part of #LGBTHistoryMonth, tenor Hsien explains why choral infidelity is ok and reflects on what he sees as the common threads running through LGBT choirs: music, community and Pride (with a capital P)…

I have a confession to make. I am having an affair. And it is okay.

In 2001 I met my first love, the Pink Singers. I was new to the London scene, the Pinkies offered me wine (lots of it), song and companionship. I will always remember our first visit to the pub, our first time on stage, our first late night house party, our first holiday together; but time ticked on and the itch for something different grew, and so I sought an experience with another choir.

The Barberfellas

The Barberfellas

My new mistress, the Barberfellas, gives me a different kind of choral satisfaction – in the form of barbershop and close harmony acapella – and now where once I prudishly thought one choir was enough for anyone, I’m surprised as anyone to say that I’m actually okay with playing away.

To me, at their heart all LGBT choirs are about three things: one, the music which brings us together in the first place; two, the community and friendships which develop around singing with each other week in and week out; and three, Pride with a capital ‘P’ and the desire to express it publicly.

Singing the ChangesThe Pink Singers’ exhibition ‘Singing the Changes’ makes it quite clear that the early choir was about giving the LGBT movement a voice, and Pride was arguably its focus at its inception in 1983. 11 years later, according to the documentary ‘A Vocal Minority’ (mentioned in last week’s blog post) there were at least two additional LGBT choirs in the capital: Diversity Choir and Vocal Minority. Reading between the lines, these newer choirs aimed to differentiate themselves in terms of repertoire and musical ambition. Clearly, one choir was not enough to scratch every itch.

Fast forward to 2015 and in the UK we are almost spoiled for choice. London now has eight, and the UK and Ireland as a whole have over 40 LGBT choirs. That trinity of music, community and Pride still connects them all, but each choir is shaped by the desires of its members and the environment in which it operates, meaning that all kinds of musical tastes, performance styles and choral identities are catered to.

Sing with Pride

Sing with Pride

In Norwich, for example, the wonderful Sing With Pride choir sings music which, like the choir itself, is relaxed, accessible and focuses on LGBT issues. Their ‘Out 140’ songs, a series of tweets about LGBT life in and around East Anglia set to music, has been a success both locally and nationally. In Manchester the open-access Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus has an innovative programme which helps LGBT asylum seekers find a social outlet, and recently mounted a high-profile campaign against homophobia on its city’s trams. In London, the Fourth Choir aims to bring LGBT choral performance to the world of semi-professional music. This challenges people’s prejudices in a different way, and necessitates a degree of selectivity not found in other choirs.

Every LGBT choir may seem superficially very different, but they all form part of that greater story of the growing complexity in the relationship between music, community and Pride with time, geography and changing social mores. This is where I imagine the Pink Singers is a present – a choir which is proud of its contemporary LGBT identity, but which tries to perform music which is moving rather than didactic.

My first love and I will always share something special, but I think what I am truly in love with is LGBT choirs in general. I am in love with meeting other people who are like me, in love with singing and hearing voices blend in harmony, and so proud of what we can do together.

I am having an affair. And it is totally okay.


A vocal minority – London’s queer choirs

As part of LGBT history month, every Thursday this February we’ll be posting a video from the archive.

Here’s a short documentary filmed in 1994 and presented by Jonathan Reithmueller on the LGBT choir scene in London at the time. Choirs covered include Vocal Minority, Diversity and us Pink Singers. It even features an interview with one of our tenors who’s still in the choir 21 years on, Philip Rescorla.

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“There’s another scene in London, a scene that not too many people know about, that can be just as fun and a lot more sociable. Welcome to the wonderful world of London’s queer choirs.”

(thanks to Proud Voices for posting this)

Singing the Changes

As part of our 30th anniversary in 2013 we created an exhibition telling London’s LGBT history through the choir’s voices.

The whole exhibition including lots of oral histories recorded in video, can be browsed online and, until February 25th, in person at the Barbican music library.

 


Glad to be gay through the decades

As part of LGBT history month, every Thursday this February we’ll be posting a video from our archive.

To start us off, here’s a slightly shaky video from the 5th European Lesbian and Gay Festival of Song, ‘Singing The Blues Away’, organised in London in May 1989 by the Pink Singers. Fourteen choirs joined in the festivities at the Hackney Empire. Here they perform Tom Robinson’s Glad To Be Gay, with lyrics criticising the politics and media.

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London was chosen as host city that year to show solidarity with the British LGBT community following the passing of Section 28 which banned the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality by local authorities. At the closing concert at Sadler’s Wells, Michael Cashman announced the launch of a new lobbying group – Stonewall.

By contrast, here’s us singing the same song at our 30th anniversary concert in January 2013 – with up-to-date lyrics written by the choir.

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Singing the Changes

As part of our 30th anniversary in 2013 we created an exhibition telling London’s LGBT history through the choir’s voices.

The whole exhibition including lots of oral histories recorded in video, can be browsed online and, until February 25th, in person at the Barbican music library.

 


Management Committee 2014/15

The Pinkies are a dedicated bunch – as well as giving up our Sundays for some melody making loveliness, a few of us are also elected to join our management committee. This year’s crop includes a gold level standard figure skater, a gossip girl, a shoe stasher and our very own George Clooney.

Meet the team! Find out what our favourite songs are as well as some other interesting tit-bits…

Rich, Chair Rich is our Chair and has been a Pinkie for five seasons.

  • Rich holds the world record for the most committed pinkie when it comes to commuting to choir (it was 250 miles for nearly two seasons).
  • His favourite music is “the sound of whatever I am singing to in the shower. I get good echo”.

OliOli is our Artistic Director and has been a Pinkie for ten seasons.

  • Oli is obsessed with shoes and owns over 100 pairs which he struggles to store in his flat!
  • His favourite  Pinkie performance was ‘One Night Only’ from the movie ‘Dreamgirls’.“We spent a long time perfecting the choreography to this number; it wasn”t easy! However, on the night, the energy of the choir, the band and the audience all came together to produce an electric performance”. 

Nicola Nicola is our Multimedia Director and has been a Pinkie for two seasons.

  • Nicola used to be a part-time reggae DJ in Uganda.
  • Her favourite song is, “anything by Fleetwood Mac and any Pinkies’ performance which involves choreography (regardless of what the song actually is!”).

Gary, Membership & Social SecretaryGary is our Membership & Social Secretary and has been a Pinkie for four seasons.

  • Gary attained his Gold Level Grade in figure skating in 2010.
  • His favourite song is Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’, as it makes him…feel good!

ZoeZoe is our Choir Liaison & Events Officer and has been a Pinkie for six seasons.

  • Zoe went to the same high school that ‘Gossip Girl’ was based on.
  • Her favourite song performed by the choir is ‘Baba Yetu’.

 

Iain

Iain is our Bass Section Leader and has been a Pinkie for five seasons.

  • At the age of 18, Iain stood as the Green candidate in his school’s mock election. He had a campaign team and used a screen print of Greta Garbo in green paint on recycled newspaper as posters. The campaign slogan was, “Greta is…”
  • His favourite song is ‘I know it’s over’ by The Smiths:“It’s a song about desperation and loneliness so hard to explain why it would be a favourite. Listen to it & we’ll talk…”

LucyLucy is our Soprano Section Leader and has been a Pinkie for three seasons.

  • Lucy’s grandad invented the Terry’s Chocolate Orange (and no, he wasn’t called Terry).
  • Her favourite song(s) are any nineties Kylie, Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Torn’, ‘I Am the One and Only’, most of the songs of 1996 and the choir’s rendition of Adele’s ‘Set Fire to the Rain’.

chris-viveashChris is our Tenor Section Leader and has been a Pinkie for one season.

  • When Chris was 19, he submitted a song called ‘Rush of Emotion’ to the BBC Eurovision Song contest. It wasn’t selected, but he might still sing it for you if you buy him enough beers…
  • His favourite Pinkie perfomance was ‘Set Fire to the Rain’, as he loved the arrangement and the tenor line.

Sarah

Sarah is our Alto Section Leader and has been a Pinkie for eight seasons.

  • Sarah believes in pushing herself out of my comfort zone and often tries to do things that scare or challenge her. For example, this summer she undertook her first solo camping trip in the woods!
  • Her favourite Pinkies song is ‘With a Lily in Your Hand’. “It was such a challenge to learn. I remember feeling really proud after having performed it for the first time and also a little surprised thinking, wow, did we really just make a sound like that?!”

Teddy, TreasurerTeddy is our Treasurer and has been a Pinkie for two seasons.

  • Teddy is a real life ‘Up in the Air’ George Clooney, having spent more nights in a hotel this year than in his own bed.
  • His favourite song is Ave Maria (Othello), by Maria Callas:“She slowly climbs up arpeggio towards the end and just lets the top note rest beautifully. It catches my breath every time. Three minutes of every emotion experienced”…

Secretary, GillGill is our Secretary and has been a Pinkie for 14 seasons.

  • Gill is a huge Nina Simone fan:“I once saw her perform live in concert. She was truly incredible –  powerful, passionate and terrifying!!” 
  • Her favourite song is ‘Feeling Good’ by Nina Simone; “lots of lovely rich alto notes for singing along to in the shower!”

joshJosh is our Concert Producer and has been a Pinkie for four seasons.

  • Josh’s favourite song is Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’. (“I do need 12 bottles please.”).

 

 


PINK WITH ‘PRIDE’

 

HelenAlto Helen reviews ‘Pride’ and looks at the wider, modern context surrounding the film today. 

We heard on the news today that a British man had just been released from a Moroccan prison where he had been incarcerated having been tried and found guilty of ‘homosexual acts’. The release had occurred after intervention via political and diplomatic channels, and it is obviously good news that he is now safely home. It remains to be seen what will happen to the Moroccan man who was also arrested and imprisoned for the same ‘reason’, Jamal Jam Wald Nass; I imagine there will be no political or diplomatic ‘get out of jail free card’ for him.

It was a timely reminder that although we are tremendously lucky in the UK to enjoy freedom to live and love in private and public, across the world there are millions of others who risk imprisonment, torture and punishment by death for living the same lives we live every day. Consensual same-sex relations are illegal in some 78 countries. And being gay or lesbian could see you sentenced to death in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania, Sudan, as well as some regional states in Nigeria and Somalia.

pridePRIDE the film, reminded me of the hundreds of brave LGBTQ folk who, over previous decades, have fought to get us in the UK to this position of equality and relative safety. It evoked a time when discrimination was being written into the law, through Section 28, and LGBTQ people had to withstand intimidation and violence on a regular basis. Most would agree that life is considerably easier for us now in the UK, than 30 years ago, but people still suffer from homophobia; the fight isn’t over yet, and we need to protect the advances so hard won in the past.

Many young gay people continue to be made homeless by their families after coming out or being ‘outed’. The Albert Kennedy Trust is a wonderful, small, charity and I have seen them in action giving safe accommodation, access to a key worker, and counselling that helps these young people feel that there is someone on, and at, their side.

Homophobic bullying is still a major problem in schools; if we can enable young people to feel confident in coming out, and to avoid their self-esteem being destroyed at a young age by bullies then the next generation of LGBTQ people will be in an even better place than we are now.

Pinkies at the Flicks

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Another ‘Night at the Movies’ as the Pinkies head out in force to see Pride.

A group of Pink Singers went to see the film one Wednesday evening a few weeks ago, enjoying a curry beforehand and drinks afterwards. I have never seen a cinema so full on a Wednesday night. This was several weeks after the film was released and people were still packing in to see it. It is a big, emotional, warm film, and it tells a story that none of us had heard before, of a gay and lesbian group in London who raised money for a group of South Wales striking miners.

The emotional heart of the film for me was really about the rejection and struggle that both groups faced, with the gay group struggling to find anyone even willing to take their money due to their social pariah-like status, and the miners facing near starvation and threats from the police and the political establishment. Many people who’ve seen it have experienced the audience applauding at the end; the applause is for both groups and the way in which they equally helped each other. The way that by joining forces and supporting each other they were able to take on the establishment and change things. The strikes, the fear and lives cut short by AIDS, the bricks through windows, all seem like another world. And so does the political activism.

The Pink Singers at Pride 2014

The Pink Singers at Pride 2014

What does PRIDE mean? For many now it is shorthand for a day of the year when we get to dress up and party. This film gives us as a community much to be proud of, but the work of these wonderful activists needs to continue, to enable us to be able to dance with justification under the banner of the word ‘PRIDE’.

Being part of the Pink Singers and publicly showing myself as a gay person has helped me to feel the word; walking through London streets every year at the Pride march shows other people, sometimes in other countries, that they are not alone. Visibility is still important as we subsume into the mainstream culture and gay venues are closed. Just today I found out that the Royal Vauxhall Tavern which featured in the film is the latest venue threatened.

One of the most enjoyable weekends I’ve had was with Pink Singers at the Various Voices festival this year, an international gathering of LGBTQ choirs. Chatting to other LGBTQ singers from countries around the world really brought home the importance of the fight for LGBTQ freedom from oppression across the world as a first step, but eventually for equality for all.

PrideTo quote from the film itself:

“When you’re in a battle with an enemy that’s so much bigger, so much stronger than you, to find out you had a friend you never knew existed, well that’s the best feeling in the world. Can you see what we’ve done here, by coming together all of us? We made history!”