It’s hard to believe that a month has passed already since our Indian friends from Rainbow Voices Mumbai arrived on our shores and created a rainbow rollercoaster of excitement, pride, and amazing memories for us all. RVM’s Ashish describes his experience… 
July 6th, 2017 marked in my calendar is one of the most memorable days of my 32 years of life. The first time ever I flew across oceans and lands so far beyond my reach to explore freedom and equality. I had never thought this back in July 2016, that my next summer would be full of excitement, learning and love.
It was conceived when the Pink Singers came to India in January 2017 for Mumbai Pride and our ‘We Shall Overcome’ concert, to support Rainbow Voices Mumbai and the Indian LGBT community to fight for our rights. In January, we mingled, loved, and sang together to a packed audience at the NCPA theatre in Mumbai. The concert was a medium to create awareness and educate people about the hurdles we face in India due to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (which criminalises homosexual activity, introduced under British Rule in 1860). It was one mammoth task for a choir as young as ours to host Europe’s longest running community choir; we managed it successfully and learnt quite a few lessons in organising a standalone concert, which now seems to be a permanent part of the Mumbai Pride Calendar.
We were high on emotions and warmth extended by the Pink Singers and equally mesmerised with the musical abilities of the choir. We were amazed how spot on, entertaining and thoroughly convincing they were with the message they brought with them. I still remember Murray Hipkin, the Musical Director saying, “We have not come to fix anything; probably we can’t fix anything for you, but what we can do is to support you in all possible ways to revert section 377.”
The words were more soothing and actions were even more, when after the concert the Chair of the Pink Singers – affectionately known as ‘Cher’ – Simon Pearson, made the announcement of inviting Rainbow Voices Mumbai to London Pride and to take part in their summer concert. We were overwhelmed with the gesture and yet a bit lost with things that needed to be done! Constant encouragement and successful fundraising by the Pink Singers made the impossible possible for 10 of us (sadly the other eight couldn’t make it because of visa issues!).

Ashish & ‘Cher’

With hopes high and dreams in our eyes, we flew to the land of freedom and equality. The tour started with each of us being hosted by a few of the Pink Singers, which gave us the chance to see and learn how independent lives of gay men and women are, in contrast to India – where we don’t choose to live alone even if we are grown up enough to be married off!
On arrival, my host Simon came to the terminal to receive me, despite his fractured ankle. This gesture of his shows how dear and encouraging was their approach to us. It was my first international trip and it seemed to me a different world: new weather, time zones, people, culture and systems; I was in awe of every little thing I saw. First what struck me was platform 9¾ at Kings Cross! Being a Potterhead, I was enthralled to see it. As I walked the streets with Simon I saw a Pride flag along with the British Flag waving with pride in the front of the British Library – this reaffirmed my belief that equality and freedom are not merely words here, they actually mean it.

Exploring London from the London Eye

My dear friend Hsien met me and we were off to Canary Wharf for a lovely lunch, but before that the Thames Clipper just wowed me! Like a kid in a candy store I was in love with the skyline and monuments on both the side of the river, clicking pictures and noticing the P-flag everywhere we went. A new city, new day,  even jet-lag couldn’t deter my spirits and we explored a few parts of the Naval College and Greenwich.
I believe that destiny had bigger plans for us: we never had heard about anything as big as London Pride and we all were excited to take part. We vogued in style with our Rainbow t-shirts, painted ourselves with rainbows and were ready for the world’s biggest party. As we were waiting for the Pride march to begin I saw people from all walks of life, races, professions and ages joining this mega event. We have never seen such a phenomenon back home; instead we are judged by the people for gathering and walking the Pride march in Mumbai.

London Pride 2017

As we marched up to Trafalgar Square, we saw people waving, cheering us on and even calling for a hug from the other side of the barricades. Such love, acceptance and cheer filled all of us with positivity and re-affirmed that we are walking on the right path to attain freedom and equality for all of us. Then came the moment to go on the Pride main stage where we were to perform to the largest crowd we have ever performed in front of. The moment I addressed the crowds with ‘Namaste’, a huge cheer and ‘Namaste’ I heard back, and the crowd was moved with our rendition of ‘We Shall Overcome’ in English and Hindi. I could see a few in tears when they learned that section 377 criminalizes homosexual activities in India. I think, I was nervous but I knew this was the only time I could talk to London as a city and made sure that I spoke right and conveyed the purpose of our visit.
London has different colours during pride and our friends the Pink Singers made sure we got the best of London and also that we got opportunities to meet the ones who had supported our trip  such as eBay. It was great interacting with the eBay office and we are indebted to them for their support very much.
The city charmed me to the core, whether it was architecture, culture, Soho – the night life for gays was amazing! I watched my first musical ever and my first drag show here in London. The experiences are still sinking in for me and I am unable to really believe that something so surreal happened to me. As we explored, Brighton, Richmond and the city of London, we had so many memorable times with the Pink Singers – singing in parks, at house parties and a lot more.
I had unknowingly become the spokesperson of the choir. I had previous experience of talking to media back home but that was for work. I was told that I was crisp in front of camera and this boosted my confidence even more. In the media coverage – though I am not out as a gay man in India – I did not hide my identity. This is because I got encouragement in my week’s exposure to London and its acceptance; the unwavering support from the Pink Singers filled me with a “come what may” attitude and I put my best foot forward to be heard on all possible platforms. 
The support continued even on the concert stage, when the audience gave the 12 of us a standing ovation before we even started.
I have taken back home  a lot of inspiration, strength, and conviction in what we do and yes, more purpose to the music we do. My hosts Simon and James were the coolest ones and I miss those lanes and bylanes of London… With a dream to come back, I sign off from India!

Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom

Inside Pride

Alto Eleonore took part in the Pride parade for the first time last weekend, which included a performance in Trafalgar Square with our special guests for the week, Rainbow Voices Mumbai. Here’s her glitter’tastic account of the day…

It’s a rainy Wednesday morning. The weekend is over. Pride is over. The placards are shelved, the face paint is boxed, and the glitter – well. The glitter is still bloody everywhere. Much like the feeling of joy and – of course – pride, in the aftermath of this weekend’s London celebrations, the stuff lingers on. 

This year was a special occasion for me. In 28 years, I’ve never been on a Pride march. I’ve watched the parade before, from behind the barriers, and it’s always been good fun, but I always sort of felt like I was there to support the community, rather than because I was a part of it. 

As someone who oscillates somewhere between the occasionally-maligned ‘B’ in LGBT and the comfortingly vague but sometimes-contentious catch-all term ‘Queer’, it can sometimes feel like you’re just not gay enough for an event like Pride – like there’s a threshold you have to cross or a qualification you have to meet before being allowed to participate.   

Luckily, I had the Pink Singers this year, to show me a thing or two about what being a part of the community means.

With the Pinkies, the only thing I’ve needed to prove is a commitment to turning up to rehearsal. The only thing I’ve been tested on is my memory for song lyrics and choreography. My membership to the choir depends on attendance (and the membership fee that helps keep us running) – not on proving my queer credentials. The LGBT experience is at the core of the group, but here there’s no licence to the club that gets revoked for not being gay the right way. All that’s asked is that you turn up, you sing, and you support your fellow Pinkies. 

Marching at Pride this year with this group of wonderful people, I got to experience, for the first time, the feeling of being on the inside, instead of outside-looking-in. The love in the air was tangible – made all the more vivid by having the members of Mumbai’s LGBT choir, Rainbow Voices, with us, bringing an added level of joy, excitement, and connection to a global community. Standing in front of thousands of people on stage in Trafalgar Square, all of us holding hands, leading a rendition of ‘We Shall Overcome’ in English and Hindi is a memory that will stay dear to me for a very long time. 

It’s been a whirlwind weekend; I haven’t had time to do my laundry, the flat is a mess, and that glitter still needs to come out of the carpet. But I feel lucky. I feel proud. Most of all, I feel accepted.

So here’s to next year’s Pride, and to many more!

Did you catch our performance with Rainbow Voices Mumbai in Trafalgar Square during Pride? If you liked what you saw, then come and see us again on Saturday at Cadogan Hall – a show that promises to take you ‘from Queer to Eternity’! Book here!

The Pinkies at the 27th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival

The Pink Singers on stage at the "P.S. We're 30" concert
The Pink Singers on stage at the “P.S. We’re 30” concert

27th LLGFF
27th LLGFF

The Pink Singers’ 30th anniversary celebrations continue with a special performance for the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. This year the LLGFF is celebrating its 27th birthday, which makes it almost as old as us! On the menu this time are a couple of performances, one for the public in the main foyer near the box office (anyone who has ever been there at festival time knows that this space temporarily becomes the communal living room for London’s LGBT community) and one specially for a screening of the film Thick Relations. We’ve not seen the film yet, but we’re told it features a choir, so what better way to set the stage?
The Foyer performance is free. BFI Southbank, Foyer, Saturday 23 March 2013 at 5:45pm. For more information please visit the BfI website, or add this to your Facebook events.

LGBT History Month 2013: Glad to be gay at the V&A

They say life begins at 30…and for the Pink Singers it doesn’t seem to have stopped since the anniversary concert! As a choir we were honoured to accept the invitation to perform at the Victoria and Albert Museum (arguably the most prestigious museum in the UK). The performance concluded a whole day’s events organised by the LGBT curatorial group at the V&A as part of the LGBT History Month.

A stone’s throw away from where Queen Victoria was born lays a museum packed with variety ranging from neo-classical paintings to the finest ceramics. As suspected the men paid a lot of attention to David that day…(created by Michael Angelo).

After warming up thanks to the 14 flights of stairs we headed to our performance space and on the way I walked past my second favourite place in the museum, the café…and if that wasn’t good enough I then walked past my third favourite place…the shop (a crying shame I didn’t get to visit my favourite place which is the Theatre and Performance exhibition…naturally).

Amidst renaissance and medieval paintings and statues (with Christ hanging over us) the choir gathered to sing some of the repertoire from P.S. We’re 30! An intimate crowd of 150 – 200 people turned out to hear us sing a range of music ranging from Massive Attack’s Teardrop to Mozart’s Lacrimosa. Opening with Hand in Hand seemed both prominent and appropriate to celebrate LGBT History Month and still reinforce the strong message it prevails.

The audience ranged from familiar friendly faces to those who may have been visiting the museum for the first time, who stopped, listened and acknowledged the work of a community choir that has grown over the years. One highlight for the onlookers seemed to be our rendition of the William Tell Overture which didn’t surprise me really as I know a few members had felt a little hoarse that day.

As the famous phrase goes they say ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ but in this instance it was the keyholder. Closing our set with Hand in Hand (of course) we were then strictly escorted back to a Seminar room to collect our belongings as the Museum was officially closed….time for Victoria and Albert to reflect on the days activities and remember the day the Pink Singers created history in the spectacular V&A. And if you missed it…fear not. We’re back on Friday 15th March just because we loved it so much!


Timeline datestamp: 23 February 2013

LGBT History Month 2013 at the V&A with the Pinkies

The Pink Singers perform 'Glad To Be Gay'.
The Pink Singers perform ‘Glad To Be Gay’.

LGBT History Month 2013
LGBT History Month 2013

The Pink Singers are proud to celebrate LGBT History Month 2013 with a special performance in the galleries of the Victoria & Albert Museum. We are singing as a part of unique series of events where you can experience performances and listen to curators discuss alternative queer readings of Museum objects, discover the histories of the people who made them and explore how sexual identity can inform the way we interpret the past. All events are free. Saturday 23 February 2013 at 5pm. For more information, please visit the V&A website, or add this to your Facebook events.