More to Me Than HIV

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More to Me Than HIV

First published in Gscene July 2020 For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library.For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library. For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being           Read more

More to Me Than HIV: GScene post Aug 2020

More to Me Than HIV is a project that aims to breakdown the stigma that has historically been attached to this virus.  When I saw my piece in last months Gscene to promote the More to Me Than HIV project, I was extremely proud, but a small part of me was filled with anxiety; but why should I feel this way? I have been on effective antiretroviral therapy since the Read more

More to Me Than HIV: first published in GScene July 2020

For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library. For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being             diagnosed HIV+ 32 years previous. Back then there was no treatment and a lot of fear and misinformation concerning how HIV was transmitted. As such stigma was rife, Read more

Hankie Quilt Project

World AIDS Day Event 2019

CF10EA0F-6CC9-4E72-AD82-DC10AE866B99_1_201_aIt was with some trepidation that I decided to put together a Project for World AIDS day at Jubilee library, my place of work. I knew from the onset that I wanted the event to be as visual as possible to get a bigger reach as possible. My thinking behind this had been that if someone saw a leaflet about HIV/AIDS most people who HIV was not part of their lives would walk by, but if there was something of visual interest to catch their eye, then a conversation could be built on from there. Eric Page organised to have the Brighton Hankie Quilt hung in the main window of the library, Romany Mark Bruce kindly loaned us a miniature replica of his famous AIDS memorial statue, Tay and the David Fray put together a video highlighting the history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Brighton, along with Romany’s journey in creating Tay. For my part I has intended to recreate a project that had run at Jubilee library before called, Living Library, where individuals living with HIV would sit in the library and members of the public could sit with them and hear their story. On the day my part of the event was set up in the Community Space at the back of the library along. Th space was set up for members of the public to join invited guests to talk about their experience of living with HIV.  On elf the star speakers on the day was a woman called Sue from Positive Voices. Sue spoke out positively about living with HIV in a way I knew I wanted too. I found the event very empowering, but knew I was still anxious about speaking openly about my HIV+ status. This become extremely apparent to me when a television reporter from Meridian TV asked if I would speak to the camera. I calmed up and became so unsure about myself, I was happy to spaek to the people who had come to the library, but could don’t bring myself to broadcast such news to a wider public. Thankfully one of the people who came and talked stepped in.

After the event I was so pleased with how collectively we had been part of the wider collective HIV organisations who put on events throughout Brighton to remind people that HIV is a still an issue that needs to be talked about.

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Brighton: The Graphic Novel, Part Two

 

Th eBrighton Writer's story board

Th eBrighton Writer’s story boardQueenSpark Books: Graphic Novel. (A shameless post Christmas plug).

Brighton: a Graphic Novel is turning out to be one of QueenSpark Books best sellers of 2013 and looks to continue to do so as we enter 2014.PTDC0002

With this in mind, The Brighton Writer invites you to take another peep behind his involvement in the process along with the extremely talented artists, Emilie Majarian  and Collette Tarbuck.

Having interviewed the main drag artists David Raven, aka Maisie Trollette Dave Lynn and Stephen Richards aka Lola Lasagne (see previous blog)  The Brighton Writer set about interviewing other key players who would become part of the projects storyline.

As HIV and AIDS has had such a devastating effect on many of those within the LGBT community, The Brighton writer felt it important to include this era within the storyline. With this in mind, The Brighton writer got in touch with local artist/sculpture, Romany Mark Bruce, James Ledward (Gscene) and Paul Elgood (Rainbow Fund); who collectively enabled the development and construction of Brighton’s AIDS memorial. From their feedback The Brighton writer was able to find out that the AIDS memorial project faced a fair few hurdles, including protests that fundraising for the project would take away funds from other local HIV health care. This issue was quickly resolved by Paul Elgood and James Ledward’s reassurance that all fundraising for the AIDS memorial would be raised through individual and business private backers.) Romany also worked for two years on the project free of charge, allowing all funds raised to go towards the completion of the AIDS memorial project.

One of the other major problems Romany faced was having the 11ft clay structure collapse while he was working on it, forcing him to begin the project all over again. This storyline gave The Brighton Writer the perfect opportunity to combine the ‘Brighton Angels’ alongside Romany’s journey in the construction and unveiling of the AIDS memorial By David Furnish.

Part way through, the clay structure collapsed on top of Romany mark Bruce

Part way through, the clay structure collapsed on top of Romany mark Bruce

 

Romany Mark Bruce

 

The middle section of my storyline was used as a vehicle to not only to introduce some of the other well-known faces from the Brighton scene but also allowing me to promote some of the LGBT projects they have been involved in. The main bases of the storyline was to introduce James Ledward and The Golden Handbag Awards; a project that give the LGBT community an opportunity to celebrate individuals and groups achievements from the previous 12 months. Within the storyline I also included Stephanie Starlet, who had led the march for Stomp out Stigma campaign, as part of LGBT mental health group, MindOut. Unfortunately this piece of information hit the editing floor, so I have included it here.

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PTDC0037The other well-known face on the scene I included was Ant Howells; partly for his longstanding involvement with the Sussex Beacon fundraising/social group, Bear-Patrol, as well as his involvement with HIV groups like Act-Up who were an extremely important campaign group who helped bring the plight of those living with HIV/dying from AIDS.

Jason Sutton aka Miss Jason and Poo-la-May also appear allowing me to mention one of Brighton’s oldest and perhaps most infamous gay pubs, The Bulldog and Club Revenge; both venues would be instrumental in development of the Gay Village in Brighton as we know it today.

The final story from the trilogy tells the story of Brighton’s Hankie Quilt Project. At the time of researching varies ideas for the final tale, I was introduced to Maurice Mchale Parry, who along with Peter Moxom, revived the idea of the the Names Quilt Project, through the Hankie Quilt Project, inspired by the 25th anniversary of the Names Quilt Project. Both projects have great strength in their simplicity by inviting people who had lost friends, loveres, family members to AIDS, to sew their name onto a piece of fabric, which in turn made up a quilt of many names, memories and love.

 

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The piece couldn’t be finish without a mention of Brighton’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Pride. From a few of us gathering in Queens Park to protest about the Consecrative Parties legislation, Clause 28, which effectively stopped school teachers discussing homosexuality with their pupils, leaving many young LGBTQ people unsure about how they were feeling, and without any knowledge of who to turn to for help. Since then, Brighton Pride has become an extremely important date in many LGBTQ people’s diaries, not only as time to celebrate, but to also remember their are still many counties whose anti-LGBTQ laws are causing misery and oppression and that will always be the main driving force for the visibility of Brighton Pride as we all protest and celebrate and party on down for future generations to come who will in turn leave their own mark and become part of Brighton’s unique history. The final panel had originally been designed with a host of volunteer groups from the LGBT community being represented. It was with regret that this grand scene was also to hit the editing floor, but the prominence of the AIDS quilt, the main players and one of Brighton’s most iconic tourists attractions, The Royal Pavilion helped frame this important slice of Brighton’s history.Final splash page, all the main players come together.

 

 

 

 

One more thing, check out the brilliant animation from Angie Thomas, who has brought the whole project to life.

http://www.angiethomas.co.uk/portfolio/brighton-the-graphic-novel

queensparkbooks.org.uk

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Remembering….

Maurice, Ann and Peter, Hankie Quilt Project

 

Today I saw a message on Facebook from Maurice, one of the founders of the Hankie Quilt Project, reminding us that it has been a year since the launch of this brilliant idea. HIV isn’t just about on World AIDS Day, it’s here 365 days of the year, and so are the memories of the people we have all lost to AIDS; here is my memory of one of those people, my lovely friend, M.

When I was twenty years old, I ran away to sea; well I got a job on the newly refurbished QE2 and2013-04-24 13.09.20

joined the ship in Germany. On my first, night, while sharing a small cabin with three straight men, I began to wonder if I was the only gay on board, when I heard someone shout, “M’s in the corridor and he’s wearing a dress!” My heart leapt as I ran out to see my saviour in sequins!

M and I became friends instantly and I quickly packed my belongings and swapped cabins with a straight guy (both of us were greatly relived) and moved in with M and two other gay men.

Apart from having to wake up in shifts to shower and avoid any squabbles over the one mirror in the cabin, sharing that cramped space was filled with much fun and laughter.

During our time at sea, M said he wanted to put together a drag revue show for the staff party. M’s passion for the show saw him enrol our cabin mates and we became The Ruby Sisters. M was the type of person who made things happen; he gained us a budget for our drag and wigs (which we bought in New York) had our dance routine put together by two of the women from the Peter Gordino dance troupe and our wigs where back combed to heavenly heights and make-up thickly applied by the prestigious Steiner Salon hairdressers/beauticians.

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The show went down so well, we were asked to perform it again that same night for the customers. Just as we had brought the house down for the staff do, as we came dancing down the sweeping stair case to “We Are What We Are”, the effect was even greater when our customers suddenly twigged that their professional stewards, who had given them a five star service in the restaurant for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, were now transformed into glamorous drag queens. The show was such a successes, that we performed it for next few transatlantic crossings.

M and I worked together, played together and shared a cabin 24/7 for eight months, then we both came back to dry land. M and I stayed very close, with me visiting him in London or him coming down for a weekend in Brighton and even doing a few ad-hoc shows for friends and one memorable alcohol fuelled show in a London bar.

The months flew by with so many laughs and boozy nights out, we thought it would be like that forever; then one day I had a call to say that M had been taken ill.

AIDS swallowed M too quickly. Within a month he was taken into the Mildmay Hospital. M was defiant to the end, propped up in bed, cigarette poised just above his left shoulder, delivering his ever cutting wit, but it was obvious I would never see him alive again.

At his funeral he had a flower tribute of the QE2 on his coffin and a pair of red high heels, while his favourite song, ‘Cabaret’ played as his body  was brought in.

Even after all these years I still miss M a lot. I guess I just want to say. ‘Thank you’ to Maurice and Peter for creating the Hankie Quilt Project, it has been a privilege to make a panel for M, a lovely, lovely, man who will never be forgotten.  

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Return of the Names Quilt Project

Return of the Names Project.

Back in 1985 a man called Cleve Jones, was marching with hundreds of other people during a candlelit vigil. The March was in remembrance of the assignation of Harvey Milk. Through the 1970’s, Milk had campaigned for LGBT right in San Francisco. His campaign led him to be the first openly gay man to be elected into public office where he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.  Milks career was cut short when he, along with San Francisco’s Mayor George Moscone where both shot dead by Dan White, another Supervisor who had recently resigned from his job.

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