35 years of perspective

Gareth leading the Pinkies London Pride march

Our new Events Manager, Gareth, reflects that our core purpose has never changed, even though the times have been a-changing.


Having a birthday always brings a few things into perspective, so when the Pink Singers turned 35 (and I reached 36) this year it encouraged me to learn a bit more about where the choir has come from, where we are now and what the future holds.

A quick rummage on the website brought me face-to-face with the immeasurably profound online archive Singing the Changes, compiled to celebrate the Pinkies’ last big milestone of 30 years. Taking time to read through this lovingly curated potted queer history set against my own milestones was a really moving experience and I thoroughly recommend you head over and learn, or remind yourself, of the tenacity displayed by groups like the Pink Singers to make it through a far bleaker situation for the LGBT+ community than that we currently face. Joining a group with such a history can be an intimidating thought, but there are countless inspirational testimonies from past and present members as well as plenty of footage underlining the primary purpose of the choir: spreading joy through song.

Pink Singers perform the Winter 2018 concert “A Night At The Movies: The Sequel” at Cadogan Hall, London, 20th January 2018

Moving on to the present and my first year with the Pinkies, I find that primary aim still very much in place. Joining the choir for my first performance at the Cadogan Hall, I was struck by how much joy this odd-ball bunch of 90 people from across the gender spectrum is capable of exuding in each and every number from .Nuxx’s Born Slippy to Irene Cara’s Flashdance and even Fauré’s sumptuous In paradisum. The reactions I’ve had from friends, family and loyal Pinkie fans, showed me that, even after thirty years of singing in choirs, there’s still a huge amount for me to learn about putting on a good show.

Warming up for our recent Mixtape Concert – June 2018

From a celebration of the best of cinematic music to our own 35th celebratory mixtape, my time with the Pinkies keeps throwing out glorious moments and learning challenges The choreography to Livin’ Joy’s Dreamer and the scrunching harmonies of Chris Chambers’ beautiful arrangement of Boy Meets Girl’s Waiting for a Star to Fall are amongst these, not to mention the difficulties of being heard above the rumble of the Central Line.

The Pinkies say “Love” at eBay’s Pride Party

The season ends with a whole host of exciting small gigs icing our birthday cake as pride fever sweeps the nation. From moving performances at the Science Museum’s Sexuality Lates and eBay’s Pride Party, to a welcome home that passengers at Heathrow Airport will never forget and wonderfully colourful days singing and marching at Pride London and UK Pride on the Isle of Wight; we’ve been dosed up on rainbows, unicorns and glitter for the next few months at least.

And so to the future; what do the next 35 years hold? My crystal ball has been a bit off of late, but I can definitely tell you to save the date for our first December concert in a decade! On Saturday, 15th December we take to the stage of the Cadogan Hall for a host of seasonal specialities and festive favourites as the Pinkies perform some of the classiest and campest Christmas number ones and songs from the most iconic Christmas movies (and yes, that might include Die Hard) as well as a few more traditional winter favourites.

December 15th – Save The Date!

We’re looking forward to seeing you there in the hope that your days will be ‘merry and bright’ as we once again ‘make the Yuletide gay’.

Transphobia at Pride: A letter from the chair

Zoe, Chair

A public letter from our chair, Zoe Burdo, on transphobia at London Pride and the importance of supporting our trans members, friends and community.

 

 


The Pink Singers was formed to march in the 1983 London Pride parade at a time when the age of consent was still unequal, HIV/AIDS had barely reached the political agenda and legally recognised partnership between same-sex couples was still over two decades away. This year, in annual fashion, we put on our pink and black t-shirts, doused ourselves in glitter and donned more than our fair share of rainbow accessories. Our history has been one from protest to celebration.

“Our history has been one from protest to celebration..”

It is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security that our protest energy is no longer needed here in London; that we are on a sure path to acceptance here in the UK and that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are far away issues. We revel in the work of generations before, proclaiming our pride. We risk complacency that the fight has already been won.

This weekend served as a stark reminder that we are so far from that point– more upsettingly, not even just from politicians or the ‘outside world’, but from within our dedicated spaces and from those within our community. Pride in London has officially made a statement about the incident, as have other organisations, so I will avoid rehashing the details. But in short – we were ambushed. Our space was tainted by a hate group who forced their way in to spread dangerous, false, disgusting messages about trans people.

“Our space was tainted by a hate group who forced their way in to spread dangerous, false, disgusting messages about trans people.”

It is important to understand that the demonstration on Saturday was different than the anti-LGBT protest groups we have seen dotting the parade path before. Trans people were targeted from within their own space. A group twisted and warped the platform of Pride to spread false, transphobic, harmful rhetoric. To capitalise on the press, visibility and reach of London Pride as our space and manipulate it for prejudicial aims is truly abhorrent.

This is a fight. We are fighting. We should all be fighting. Fighting to be more active allies to our trans friends and family. Fighting for visibility and equality for everyone and using our privilege and platforms to fight even harder for marginalised groups within our LGBT+ community. And sometimes that means standing up to those who may share our umbrella but certainly not our values. We need to remember where Pride started – marching against abuse and oppression and facing the hate groups and opposition along the way head on. Marching in solidarity. We must stand up and call out discrimination when we see it.

“We should be fighting… even harder for marginalised groups within our LGBT+ community.”

The Pink Singers loudly and proudly supports our trans and non-binary members, partners, friends and community. We welcome those of all identities and along all walks of their individual journeys. We do not tolerate transphobia or any form of hate and we will continue to speak out and use our platform to fight for the rights and respect of all people.

“We do not tolerate transphobia or any form of hate…”

The Pink Singers have a large network and are part of an extremely diverse and wide reaching LGBT+ community. We were founded on the values of protest and solidarity and part of our aims as a charity are to promote equality and diversity through celebrating the diversity of the entire LGBT+ community. It is up to all of us with a voice to say something and I encourage you to do the same, whether that be a soprano, alto, tenor, bass or just a good old whistle.

In love and song,

 

 

Pride in London – Parade

On 7 June 2018 the Pink Singers attended their 35th Pride in London parade. This year the theme of pride was #PrideMatters. Pride in London is always a very special event for the Pink Singers and matters a great deal as it’s what brought our choir together all those years ago.

This year like any other we walked the streets of our fabulous city, holding hands, with our heads held high and singing our favourite songs for the people of London. We were joined by Pinkies old and new, friends and partners and even some of the Pinkie babies in their best rainbow outfits.

Pride 2018
Timeline datestamp: 07 July 2018

12 DAYS OF FREEDOM IN 32 YEARS!

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!