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

QueenSpark Books

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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The Brighton Writer’s contribution to the Brighton Graphic Novel

Over the last year a group of volunteer writers and artists have been working on individual projects for QueenSpark books latest project, Brighton, a Graphic Novel.QueenSpark Books

At the beginning of the year, QueenSpark Books invited submissions for the lesser known historical events to be put into a fictional story.

The Brighton Writer’s submission was a tale called, Dead Famous, about one young man’s desire to be famous, being granted by a couple who’s knowledge of Brighton’s murderous past, who were only too willing to help.

However, at the second group meeting, QSB’s mentioned that there were no tales representing the LGBT community and would anyone like to change their story line. As a tumble weed blew across the room, I volunteered, thinking my story could be used for another project, more of that in an upcoming post.

Given the limited space in which to tell a story, I quickly decided to write a story around gay men. I tried out several ideas, a jaded young queen on the scene time traveling back to the clubs of old, to gathering stories from the scene and turning these in to a running strip.

Taking a step back, the idea of using Brighton drag artist came to mind, as visually they make great visual character’s for the graphic novel. From this, the ideas came thick and fast. Thinking of the 1970/80’s show, Charlie’s Angels, I created, Brighton Angels, with David Raven aka Maisie Trollette, Dave Lynn and Stephen Richards aka Lola Lasagne as the three main angels.

Mr. david Raven, aka Maisie Trollette

LolaDave-Lynn_QX_834-315x472[1]

 

 

 

 

 

After setting up meetings with David, Dave and Richard, I formed some questions, ranging from their previous jobs, how they got into becoming drag artists, the creation of their characters, who had influenced them and how their chosen career had changed their lives. It was during these interviews that I got given some essential information that helped me create my ideas.

Rough Sketch by artist,  Emilie Majarian for QueenSpark Books upcoming graphic novel, Brighton, a graphic Novel

Rough Sketch by artist, Emilie Majarian for QueenSpark Books upcoming graphic novel, Brighton, a graphic Novel

For example, Lola lasagne first hit the scene with her trademark Marge Simpson wig, but as Stephen Richards told me, “It was too big for some of the smaller nightclubs, so it had to go.”

It was with my conversation with Dave Lynn that he said, Lola’s the one for false nails, I can’t get on with them, tired it once and they ended up all stuck to my pants when I went to the toilet.”

I also leant that Dave Lynn uses false breasts (nicknamed chicken fillets) as part of his act, while Maisie Trollette, prefers a flat chest. Lola wears short skirts, Dave Lynn, likes a slit up the side of his, as does Maisie, along with his feather boa and elbow length gloves. All these little details had to be listed, along with photos of each character; all of which was to be passed on to my artist partner, Emily Majarain.

And so the project was on it’s way. Within each fame I had to source photo references for Emily, detailing what was in each frame, positioning of characters, objects and colour scheme. To help, I also created my own storyboard.

Next came choosing some historical events.

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Brighton and Hove City Reads: My Policeman, By Bethan Roberts

My Policeman, Bethan Roberts’ third novel, and this year’s Brighton and Hove City Reads, revolves around a Ménage à trois, set in 1950’s Brighton that is doomed from the start.

            As an awkward teenager, Marion is befriended by, Silvia. I was thinking – you look alright, will you be my friend? During one of their shared times in Silvia’s bedroom while listening to Nat King Cole, Patti Page and Perry Como, Silvia’s brother, Tom makes an appearance at the bedroom door.

            He couldn’t have been more than fifteen – barely a year older than me; but his shoulders were already wide and there was a dark hallow at the base of his neck.

            From that moment, Marion is besotted with Tom, ignoring all the signals, and the coded advice from Silvia that Tom isn’t the boy Marion wants him to be.

            I know you’ve got a crush on Tom. But it’s not the same, Tom’s not like that.

            Tom struggles too with his inner emotions about his sexuality. Not because he hates the way he feels, but because society tells him that his feeling are perverse. After a spell in the army, Tom returns to Brighton and enrols in the police force; much to Marion’s delight. Unlike her friend, Silvia, whose main ambition was to get married and have a baby, Marion enrols in teacher collage, sharing the same passion and inquisitive streak as Tom, wanting to know more than the boundaries of Brighton. Although Tom shows little interest beyond a friendship with Marion, she is still hopeful that love will blossom if she continues to persevere.

            Meanwhile, Tom’s life is about to be turned upside down when he is asked for his assistance regarding a minor road accident by Patrick; a respected art curator at Brighton Museum and closeted homosexual. As is the case with Marion, Patrick falls deeply in love with Tom on their first meeting. And so begins the tragedy of one love destined to be unfulfilled and one dangerously forbidden. 

            Roberts presents the story through Marion’s present day manuscript and Patrick’s diary, written during the time of his love affair with Tom during the 1950’s.  Through these accounts we are reminded of the hopeless marriages many women unwittingly entered into and the sadness of those men who were compelled to enter into sham relationships; while all the time longing to be true to their hidden sexuality.

            Roberts’ is a well cvrafted storyteller, pulling the reader into the world of Marion and Patrick as they both share the love of their policeman. The draconian laws on homosexuality are exposed for their outdated views, with minor characters highlighting the opinions of many at the time that a change in the law about who we can love should be changed.

            We all knew he was queer – so many of them are around here – but one can’t help but feel sorry. Sometimes this country is too brutal.

            At times her beautiful description of their doomed love makes it nearly unbearable to turn the page as Marion fights to save her marriage, while in equal measures Patrick brings joy into Tom’s life as he swims ever deeper into a world that will ultimately destroy all their lives beyond repair.

            Roberts has created a story that once finished, this author felt compelled to start at the beginning and read the whole novel again.

      

 

 

 

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Remembering the importance of the play/Film: The Boys in the Band.

I couldn’t care less what people do, as long as they don’t do it in public or try and force their ways on the whole dam world.

Alan, The Boys in the Band.

The comment above was taken from the 1968 play, The Boys in the Band. To put the era in perspective, the play was conceived a year before the Stonewall Riots in New York and a year after the passing of the The Sexual Offences Act 1967 in the UK which decriminalised homosexuality.

 

While interviewing a group of older gay men for an upcoming project by QueenSpark Books and this year’s Brighton; ‘City Reads’ My Policeman by Bethan Roberts, I was reminded of just how difficult it was for gay men to be open about their sexuality outside of the their homes or the gay bars that were hidden from public view, during the 1950’s/60’s. The play and film Boys in the Band was ground breaking as it gave gay men an unapologetic view about the lives they led, the men they loved to a wider audience outside the gay ghetto.

 

Although the play garnered favourable reviews, when the film was released two years later the Gay Liberation Movement that had formed after the Stonewall Riots, were extremely critical of the characters in The Boys in the Band. Rather surprisingly the GLM thought the characters where little more than stereotypes that did nothing to help the ‘gay cause ’. These comments went some way in helping bury the film, until it was revived again in 1996. One New York reviewer wrote, “ It’s okay to like Boys in the Band Once more”.

So what about the play and film? What were its origins? How did it all begin?

 

Mart Crowley found himself on hard times, to the point that he had to rent out his own apartment to survive. At the same time Crowley got a call from his actress friend, Diana Lynn who said she needed someone to house-sit her Mansion in Beverley Hills. Crowley snapped up her offer and found himself surrounded by luxury, but without a penny to his name. It was here that he put pen to paper and began to write the ground breaking play, The Boys in the Band.

Back in 1968 Homosexuality was still a taboo subject and many of Crowley’s friends said he was crazy for even thinking he could get a play about nine men, eight of whom were out as gay, ever produced, let alone find an audience at the time who would even care about these characters.

Unperturbed, Crowley finished the draft and asked around about getting help to get the project off the ground and asked his friend Natalie Wood who was married at the time to British producer Richard Gregson. Gregson in turn set up a meeting with an associate from his company, London International, in New York, who promptly said that they couldn’t possibly send that type ofplay out with their letterhead on it. Crowley response was to ask if they had heard of Richard Barr who had recently produced the Broadway production of, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. When the response was, ‘Of course’, Crowely said that perhaps Barr wouldn’t be afraid of his script that also tackled some heavy subjects. The agent duly sent the script and a meeting was organised the next day for Crowley to meet with Barr.

 

From this meeting nine actors where gathered, (with most of them losing their agents who believed that the actors would be tainted by acting in a play predominantly about gay men’s relationships). A workshop was put together, off, off Broadway and ran for five nights. Every night was a sell-out with the one hundred seat theatre being packed out by an all male gay audience. Encouraged by the positive response Crowley and the producers took a gamble and raised the funds needed to take the play to a bigger theatre and audience. The play ran, off Broadway for a very successful one thousand and one performances.  Despite the cries from all the doubters, the play quickly became the hot ticket in town with major celebrities of the time, including Jackie Kennedy, Groucho Marks, Marlene Dietrich and Carol Channing all coming to see the show.

To everyone’s amazment the play moved from New York to London and was then translated and played to packed audiences around the world. The cast included: Emory (Cliff Gorman), the effeminate interior designer, Michael (Kenneth Nelson) the lapsed Roman Catholic, alcoholic, Larry (Keith Prentice), and Hank (Laurence Luckinbill) a couple who disagree over the importance of monogamy, the morose, and at the same time acid tongued queen Harold (Leonard Frey), who’s birthday everybody is celebrating, as well as Donald (Frederick Combs), Bernard(Reuben Greene)  and the young, dumb, prostitute cowboy, Tex,(Robert La Tourneaux) who becomes the butt of everybody’s jokes, and finally, Alan (Peter White) who may or may not be gay. With the passing of time each of these characters are still recognisable not because they are stereotypes, but because they represent a part of human nature that exists in many of us today, regardless of sexuality or gender. 

 

The Boys in the Band went on to be made into a film, using the same Broadway cast which Crowley (who produced and wrote the film) insisted was part of the deal, even though it meant he lost out on more lucrative deals from film companies who wanted to hire more well known actors for the parts.

Crowley was also keen for Robert Moore, who had directed the play to be part of teh production, but was told that a more experienced directed was required.

William Friedkin (who went on to direct the French Connection) was brought on board and helped create a brilliant film that begins with so much light and laughter and then gradually descends into a much darker piece as truth, pain and heartache is brought to the fore.

Forty-four years have passed since the play was first shown, yet the message of love, friendship, secrets and lies are as strong today as they were back then, but perhaps more importantly the films historical and political place and the fact it opened the doors to Queer Theater should not be underestimated. http://youtu.be/zOakue0MiZs

A new production of The Boys in the Band is presently playing at Brighton’s Theater Royal, staring amoung others, Dave Lynn, Stephen Richards and Jason Sutton. a review of the show can be read at blog.zhooshbrighton.co.uk

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David Raven, AKA Maisie Trollette.

Brighton publishing group, QueenSpark Books’ latest project is a graphic novel based on the history of Brighton and Hove and the people who have helped put the city on the map. My story revolves around David Raven (Maisie Trollette), Dave Lynn (Dave Lynn) and Stephen Richards (Lola Lasagne) as Brighton Angels; (think 1970’s Charlie’s Angels, but with bigger hair and a hell of lot more make up). The script takes the reader through three different tales of the city, which will be brought to life by graphic artist, Emilie Rose, more of which to follow. In the meantime I’d like to shine a spot light on the three protagonists, first up, David Raven.

Read more

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Sequential Art: From Bosch to the Beano.

At the beginning of 2012 QueenSpark Books ran a competition (Alt Brighton) asking writers to send in a short story based around Brighton’s history; from the hundreds of entries, thirteen stories were picked to be developed into a graphic novel later in 2013. My own story, Dead Famous was one those chosen, but during the first meeting I opted to develop a new story centred around some of the key moments in Brighton’s LGBT history, more of that later. As part of my research I have looked into the history of sequential art.

Part one: in the beginning…. Read more

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Brighton: A City to Visit, a Place to Call Home

From the moment Prince Regent drew up plans for his infamous weekend palace, The Royal Pavilion, and it’s surrounding gardenin the heart of Brighton, the city has gained itself a known as the place to go for a cheeky weekend away. However, since its promotion from a town to a city, its reputation as the place you must visit has lifted the city of Brighton above all other UK cities with many a tourists realising there is more to this little city then a stick of rock and a stroll along the prom. In fact a recent survey showed that a whopping 94% of Brighton residents live in a happy home, which reflects just what a great place Brighton is to live.

So what makes Brighton such a special place? For the people who live in Brighton and the vast amount of tourists alike, when it comes to shopping Brighton has the whole range covered. For the traditionalist, there’s Church Hill Square, and Western Road for a whole range of popular high street brands; but don’t be fooled into thinking that Brighton is just another identikit city, far from it. Just like the little islands that populate Venice, one just has to take a step to left or a jump to the right and suddenly you find yourself surrounded in a very different place. For example, there are Brighton’s famous lanes, a part of town that what many people regard as ‘the soul of the city’.

Here you will find narrow winding alleyways, with the old fisherman cottages turned into an array of outstanding quirky shops, selling everything from souvenir shops, military related paraphernalia, traditional and alternative jewellery to suit every taste. Mingled around are also a host of pubs and eateries for every occasions, from a quick bite and pint to something a little more special. Across the road there are even more to discover in the North Laine, where pop art, vintage clothes, and the alternative theatre, Komedia, merge into the legendary Kensington Gardens were everything and anything can be found; from herbal remedies, vintage clothes as well as a multitude of hidden gems under the roof of Snooper’s Paradise.

But perhaps the most important aspect of Brighton City has always been the way it welcomes everybody, regardless of race, creed, religion or sexual orientation. For those who come and visit Brighton they quickly realise there is something special going on 365 days a year covering all bases. From the Brighton festival, children’s parade, LGBT pride, traditional, alternative and street theatres, famous bands, up and coming bands and food fares galore. And unlike many a seaside town that closes when winter sets in, Brighton still has a few surprises. From the ‘ghost’ and ‘infamous murders’ walks, World Book Night, winter solstice Burning of the Clocks and there’s now even a Zombie March so even the undead don’t feel left out from this very special city we call Brighton.

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, Fiction & Books, Flash Blogs, Gothic horror, Leisure, LGBT, Literature, Outdoors, Plants and Gardens, QueenSpark Books, Zhoosh 2 Comments

Gays Gone By….

When Madonna sang “Time goes by, so slowly” she really wasn’t telling the truth. Time flies by, but within that time there are hundreds of special Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender moments that we have all captured on an electronic device or even on an old Box Brownie (ask you your elders to explain that one). From club night, beach days, Pride and World AIDS day there are so many memories that the good people at QueenSpark Books would like you to share with the rest of the world. Read more

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QueenSpark Books

Brighton is famed for being unconventional with its melting pot of people of all ages, backgrounds, faiths and sexualities, reflected back to us through the various mix of architecture, tourists attractions and shops. Brighton has long been known as a place to nurture new talent, explore new ideas and allow people to express who they are. Another Brighton trait is for its residents to stand up and be counted when it matters. One such group did that way back in 1972 when those living in the Queens Park area ran a campaign to stop developers turning the Royal Spa Buildings into a Casino and into a nursery school instead. Read more

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