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Why should you pick a humanist wedding?

With love in the air, and the first proper wedding season for two years getting into full swing, we ask James Thomas, Brighton-based LGBTQ+ wedding celebrant, the question: Why should we pick a humanist wedding?

Well, I guess the question you should ask yourself first is: why do you want to get married? Or why do you want to renew your vows? This is usually the first question I ask any couple that I meet who are looking for an alternative wedding ceremony that is inclusive to all communities.

We experience ceremonies in our lifetime more often than we may realise. Special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations. The simple ritual of passing the gravy jug, sharing a Sunday roast around a table with your mates or your family and then onto the drag bar crawl around the usual classic Brighton spots: as people we seek opportunities to celebrate and to create memories.

Many of my friends may say, ‘let’s find an excuse for a toast!’, which is the exact reason that drew me to this profession. Surrounded by love in pure, honest celebration.

Humanist ceremonies’ core competency is storytelling. Sharing your unique story which marks the milestone that is your wedding day! It is your opportunity to have your special day exactly how you want it… and what an exciting idea that is!

James is an LGBTQ+ Brighton-based wedding celebrant, accredited by Humanists UK. He offers personalised wedding ceremonies that are unique to each couple. For more info, email james.thomas@humanistceremonies.org.uk.

Lead photo by Olga Rozewin

ART MATTERS: Enzo Marra introduces Amy Dury

This month I am very happy to be able to introduce you to Amy Dury, a figurative painter who has had some notable successes in recent years.

Having been shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award in 2020 and been accepted for the 2021 Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize. Having appeared on Portrait Artist of the Year in 2021, for International Women’s Day in March the same year she was asked by the Tate to paint a livestream portrait session, where she painted a portrait of Cornelia Parker to an audience of 130,000. Amy is also Head of Art at Varndean College and has taught sessions at the Tate Gallery.

Working with oils to create evocative and nostalgic works of art, Amy’s figurative paintings have a very distinct atmosphere to them. Being naturally drawn to imagery from the past, she uses archive film and photographs to discover her subject matter. Initially having used social documentary photography, she became more enamoured with Screen Archive South East, a bank of amateur videos collected by the University of Brighton. Watching these and taking screenshots, each image then becomes more personal for her than a still photograph, which has already been compositionally framed to tell the story of the initial photographer.

Looking back into our recent past can be an act of remembering and nostalgic mis-remembering, with photographs becoming the memory which then constructs stories around ourselves. Times gone by appearing to be so much more less self-conscious, more free and full of what we were then becoming. These images inspiring explorations of innocence, freedom, friendship, connection and family. and also being able to question the notions of gender and the dynamics of power.

Amy recognises the influence on her works by artists such as Edgar Degas, Peter Doig, Kaye Donachie and John Singer Sargent. Her style acknowledges each of these artists in her own thoughtful way without being mere imitations. From the emotive feel of Doig’s figurative paintings, to the obsessive observation of the human body she shares with Degas, Amy’s paintings are portraits that tell stories, while gesturing towards an overarching narrative that is only partly being represented.

Her painterly worlds connecting us to the past via both their subject matter and the emotional quality of her brushstrokes and the hues which form each image. Her considered peopled spaces, both reminders and idealisations of lives which are separated from us by countless years, yet still they have a draw and a pull to our busied fast paced contemporary minds.

Amy is an artist who certainly does have a distinctive voice and a drive to convey what is relevant and meaningful to her. Her take on life in the ’70s and ’80s, close enough to have memories of, but too far away to really recall those passed years. Her paintings acting as surrogates for all we have lost and all we have gained over fast passing lived years.

For more info, CLICK HERE

#DALEYPOP: Dale Melita serves you bop after bop after bop…

Music has been embedded in my life ever since I was in the womb, my Mum and Dad basically raised me on music, especially POP music! I grew up listening to Madonna, Mariah Carey, Kylie Minogue, Spice Girls, Britney Spears… even AQUA! I’m excited to share my favourite songs and album every month with you all from Scene HQ! Follow me on Instagram and Twitter and listen to all the songs I’m loving in this article via my Spotify playlist HERE. P.s. sorry again in advance for how many times I say the word BOP in this article but it’s not my fault that there’s BOPS left, right and centre!

Chanel – SloMo (Spain Eurovision)

I can’t stop won’t stop thinking about and getting excited about Eurovision! Especially with Chanel performing SloMo and representing Spain! Chanel won the very first ever Benidorm Fest at the Palacio de Deportes L’Illa in January.

Spain are currently 5th favourite to win the contest in Turin, Italy but I reckon they could easily win with this BOP that I’m, personally, addicted to!

Subwoolfer – Give That Wolf A Banana (Norway Eurovision)

Norway’s entry is only the 8th favourite to win but this song is my personal favourite to win (after the UK of course). Subwoolfer won Melodi Grand Prix 2022 so will be heading to Italy next month.

Despite the hilarious lyrics, it’s just so catchy and after the first listen you want to hear it again and again-yum, yum, yum, yum, yum, yum, yum-yum-yum. Oh and there’s also a romantic version too in case you prefer a ballad to a bop.

Pabllo Vittar and Rina Sawayama – Follow Me

Brazilian singer-songwriter Pabllo Vittar made his-tory becoming the first ever drag queen to perform at this year’s Coachella Festival in California. Pabllo’s latest brilliant bop with Rina Sawayama is, well a brilliant bop and Rina said about the track: “I hope both hers (Pabllo’s) and my gorgeous fans are as obsessed with it as we are.” I know I am, how about you?!

Alicia Keys – City of Gods (Part II)

At this late stage, Alicia Keys is the official New York City anthem queen, surely? Straight away when I heard this I thought Empire State of Mind 2.0 as Alicia pays homage to the Big Apple. Thanks for always giving us life with your music Alicia if you’re reading this and now I realllllly want to pop to New York for a bagel and a slice of cheesecake. And a Cosmopolitan.

Mallrat and Azealia Banks – Surprise Me

Grace Shaw aka Mallrat won Best Australian Solo Act at the NME Awards in 2020 (random POP fact) and is an artist to check out immediately if you’ve not heard of her. She recently tweeted saying: “Best pop song of all time has just dropped”, which features the notorious Azealia Banks. The line about Nicole Kidman’s face made me spit out my tea… Thank me later :). #LilKimvibes.

Alesso feat. Zara Larsson – Words

When two Swedes collide we have a masterpiece, thanks to Alesso and Zara. I still really think Zara has borrowed Rihanna’s voice btw, they sound SO ALIKE. Anyway, this song is a BOP and sounds like summer… Bring on #summer2022 baby!

Mylène Farmer – C’est une belle journee (Remixes)

I only discovered Mylène Farmer last year when I met my partner who’s obsessed with her, she’s basically the Canadian-French Madonna and is one of the most successful recording artists of all time in France, so I was super excited when these remixes for one of her best songs appeared on Spotify.

I don’t speak French but thanks to Google translate, ‘C’est une belle journee’ means ’It’s a beautiful day’ and although I love the original, the remixes SLAP, especially the What a Souci remix. P.s. check out of all Mylène’s discography, epic music videos and live clips on YouTube and if you end up being obsessed too, she’s on tour in France in 2023, and yep, me and my partner are going.

ALBUM OF THE MONTH: Slayyyter – Inferno Euphoria

Technically EP of the month, self-made Slayyyter (she really is self-made, she started her career independently through SoundCloud) has released Inferno Euphoria. A collection of remixes of songs from her debut album Troubled Paradise released last year.

Tbh this little EP is perfect for the gym as it’s less than 20 minutes and I CBA to be in the gym for long and it’s BOP AFTER BOP. Especially Troubled Paradise/Inferno Euphoria (Not A Friend Remix).

Oh and Slayyyter will be performing all of her biggest hits such as Mine, Daddy AF, Hello Kitty & more at Club Revenge in Brighton on Friday, July 1 – woop! See you there bitches. For tickets, CLICK HERE

OPINION: What Do Queers Want? by Jason Thomas-Fournillier

After a quarter of a century the question that remains is what do queers want? The gay agenda aims to identify and rescue LGBTQ+ people from oppressive conditions in which they live in. The universalising nature of white neoliberal relationships in which some countries in the global north assume the responsibility in the global south.

Focusing on the Arab and Muslim world, the gay agenda reach is global. LGBTQ+ political points have been made with its perceived benevolence of the global north as a body of people organisations and people whose goal is to liberate LGBTQ+ people from oppression.

The only queer people are those who don’t love anybody. The single best thing about coming out of the closet is that nobody can insult you by telling you what you’ve just told them. It comes to this then, there always have been people like me and always will be, and generally they have been persecuted and discriminated.

Queer communities have political agendas, we fight to be accepted by heterosexist mainstream society or resist assimilation into the heteronormative culture. I’ve found that such a usage of queer brings solidarity to a marginalised group, giving them power in numbers however ignoring the differences among people and groups. This form of lumping everyone who falls outside of social norms under the category of queer ignores the differences between them and thus misrepresenting us as the same. Labelling a group as queer could also reinforce gendered and sexualised dichotomies by creating queer in relationship to and opposition with all others who represent ‘normal’ heteronormative society.

At this current point in history, queer connotes a new meaning and political commitment. Since the widespread emergence of biological and social notions linked to sexuality and gender, queer has been used to challenge the pervasive inequalities that stem from this recent historical shift in constructions of heterosexuality and homosexuality. Although queer has opened space for resistance, transnational research and debates have also challenged it. Despite these challenges, queer remains a concept, form of activism that continues to push and disrupt established boundaries and binaries.

COLUMN: Exploring safe online dating for the LGBTQ+ community

Exploring safe online dating for the LGBTQ+ community by Jane Sandwood

Technology now means there’s never been an easier time to start online dating and find love. That doesn’t always mean the social stuff is any easier, but there’s now a real wealth of apps and sites to choose from that make chatting to others simple. Making connections and finding others in the queer community to share experiences with.

How safe is it though? Statistics from the National Crime Agency show that there has been a worrying increase in the number of sexual offences committed since the advent of online dating. It really is possible to date safely and have fun experiences too…

Don’t give too much personal info away

Guess what? People lie on the internet. It’s a complete shocker, right? What’s worse is that lying online takes pretty much zero effort and that means there are plenty of idiots with smartphones and dating apps waiting to make a nuisance of themselves. Make sure it’s not at your expense.

Don’t give too much personal info away on a dating profile. You’d be surprised how many people give little details that lead to their home addresses being searchable, or their mobile phone numbers being exposed. It’s OK to put a rough location, but no more. Think about using a pseudonym and not a real name, too.

Use real pictures, avoid anyone that doesn’t

Why would you go on a dating app and then… not show your own face? Part of the reason for meeting someone is a physical attraction. Use a good, clear headshot of yourself – and avoid anyone who doesn’t do the same on their profile. If someone won’t share a pic of their face with you, then that’s another red flag and there’s a good chance they should be avoided.

Look out for scammers 

Unfortunately, scammers tend to like LGBTQ+ friendly dating apps and sites. There are some warning signs to look for if you’re suspicious that someone is out to scam you. We’ve already mentioned the not showing your face trick, but also look out for folks who pester you right away for personal details you’re not comfortable giving, such as your phone number, home address, and the biggest one of all… the idiot that asks you for financial assistance completely without warning. Just no.

Check out their social media presence

Look, it might feel a bit stalker-ish, but sometimes you do need to check out whether or not someone is who they say they are. Don’t be afraid to go Facebook and Twitter hunting to make sure the person you’re chatting to really exists. If people are particularly private then they might not have all their information set to public, but if you’re suspicious in any way then this is one way of checking someone’s credentials.

Always meet in public

Your first meeting should always be in public. Never arrange to meet someone at home on an initial date. Whilst the idea of meeting up with MrSweetCheeks or LittleMissNaughty in private for your first tete a tete is tempting, you’re leaving an awful lot to chance. Your safety is the most important thing and you know what? If they’re right for you, they’ll respect that. If they don’t then walk on by and don’t turn back.

Remember, it’s your dating profile and your rules. Stick to these few simple tips and you’ll be safe and happy when you’re looking for love.

ART MATTERS: Spotlight on Philip Tyler

Enzo Marra shines a light on the work of Philip Tyler

This month I am going to introduce some of you to the artworks of Philip Tyler; a painter who has already appeared on Sky Portrait Artist of the Year twice. Well-travelled in his studies, initially at the East Ham College of Technology, Loughborough College of Art & Design, Virginia Commonwealth University, USA, and finally at Brighton Polytechnic. Before staying on and then beginning to teach here at what is now the University of Brighton.

Having earlier painted in a more abstract manner, the energy of his brush strokes shows a shadow of his previous concerns. Now employed in the depiction from real life origins, ranging from landscape scenes, a myriad of self-portrait expressions, and portraits and nudes of others.

Once he simply began to directly record what he could see, he faced the challenge of exploring the human figure, with limited access to a model he logically began painting himself. This approach led him towards starting the Edward Street series, self-portraits that are inspired by one of the spaces in the university. The sense of drama, altered by the atmosphere of Baroque lighting and the figure illuminated by it within the potent space.

For over 30 years, he has followed his central preoccupation, the seen figure segregated and alone, and its negation the mingling of groups of people inhabiting urban environments. Looking at collective behaviour and the hive mentally of our daily routines. Utilising the illusory aspect of the painted surface, without losing the essential physicality of the medium that forms it all.

The brutal honesty he voices in his self-portraits, allowing the viewer to experience a truer more rounded impression of the person who is being painted into being. The utilitarian settings, the starkness of the inhabited spaces, creating an everyman scenario for the bodily manifestation to then happen.

His landscapes recognisable and raw, alive with depth and brevity. The high skies cloud strewn and subtle increment tinged. The sense of wonder that a wide unspoilt vista can evoke, alive in his painted windows into the natural world.

His starting point usually photographic and with the arrival of high-quality digital images on your phone, he began using his phone camera with more urgency. His phone a traveling sketchbook, to catch visual incidents that may inspire future pigment reinterpretations.

Painting is the major part of his practice, because of its ease and limited range of suitable materials, which can yield from them a great deal. Thankfully he has a studio in my house so he can make work with greater freedom, which usually happens on the weekend where he sets aside a few hours.

Because of this he has learnt to work quickly, with sessions which potentially could produce four or five paintings. The urgency of the creative process, imbuing them with more than just a satisfactory resemblance. Without the opportunity to slow down and second think, each decision adding to the atmosphere and mood he is attempting to evoke.

TRAVEL: Planning an LGBTQ+ friendly road trip in the United States

Hit the rainbow road with Jane Sandwood

The quintessential American road trip tops travel lists for many sun-starved LGBTQ+ Britons and their friends and families. Almost 20% of Brits nominated the USA as this year’s dream destination, and over 35% selected beaches as their preferred location. Invite a warm welcome and a safe stay by frequenting queer-owned and supportive accommodation providers, businesses, and other attractions along the way.

Planning the perfect LGBTQ+ road trip in the US in 2022 means diverting from the major cities. Cover as much or as little distance as you like, while enjoying the road less travelled, and aligning with sun, sand, and the proud gay hospitality of the south-east.

Queer-friendly Florida

Florida is an LGBTQ+ driving vacation dream, with the city of Orlando ranking as the nation’s most LGBTQ-friendly for information on travel destinations, gay-friendly beaches, and suggested road trip itineraries. The historic and iconic 125 mile-long Overseas Highway is your most scenic route into town. This famous stretch of road has an array of fishing, swimming, and snorkeling spots.

Fort Lauderdale

Key West is famed for its gay clubs and supportive community, with guidance available from the Gay Key West Visitor’s Center. There’s also plenty to see and do outside of the Keys, with Florida’s Fort Lauderdale home to the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ museum, the Stonewall National Museum & Archives.

Gay-friendly stays

Seek out queer-friendly accommodation options to enhance experiences of connection and safety. Florida’s Sawmill Camping Resort, is members-only, restricted to persons 21 and over, and offers a unique combination of RV camping, other accommodation options, tranquil lake setting, and on-site nightclub.

Sawmill Camping Resort

For a more family-friendly option, consult one of the many travel blogs that rate the LGBTQ+ friendliness of campgrounds in the area. If you’re travelling during peak periods, camping at some of the top RV camps means booking well ahead to avoid disappointment. Alternatively, if you’re seeking hotels, motels, or Airbnbs, most booking sites now have gay-friendly search filters to assist you with your choice.

Proudly June

Pride Month, held every June, is the penultimate time to plan a US holiday for LGBTQ+ folk.

USA travel sites are now promoting Pride 2022 celebrations across the nation. While two of the five largest Pride events in the world are held in New York and San Francisco, it’s the smaller-scale celebrations of sun-blessed Florida that are attracting a buzz amongst LGBTQ+ travellers.

Key West Pride

Key West does a laid-back island version of Pride characterised by a tropical climate and fewer crowds than the major cities.

After several seasons of travel plans marred by border closures, lockdowns, and travel restrictions, 2022 looks set to be the year that British LGBTQ+ people and their allies hit the road for that memorable all-American driving adventure.

ART MATTERS: Enzo Marra shines a light on the work of Graham Dean

This month I am going to be introducing you to the work of an artist who is both based in Brighton and in the countryside of Umbria, Italy. A painter who utilises watercolour to create imagery whose painterly ability is equally matched by the presence exerted by the resulting scene dried into the paper. Graham Dean was born in 1951 in Merseyside, and having moved to London he worked as a freelancer illustrating book jackets, until he joined a gallery which enabled him to become a full-time painter. He was initially inspired by Richard Hamilton, over the years when he changed his style other people and influences became important, ranging from Emil Nolde, the frescoes in Pompei, Francis Bacon, Rodin’s watercolours and Degas’ experimental prints.

His early Urban Realism altered as all things must during the ’80s and the shift to watercolour, led him to the loss of many collectors, critics and supporters. He has since then focused on a larger scale of painting in a technique where he assembles, making each single sheet of the image separately to then glue them together to form the final artwork.

The body is a powerful image and terrain to explore via snapshots of human existence, transparently building up within the paper till they come to life. The unclothed body seen in all its moods and attitudes, cropped heads signifying all the emotions that would pulse through their unseen bodies. He transmits an essential part of the emotions and psychological states of these characters whether they may be beautiful models, athletes, crazy bondage enthusiasts, identical twins, people with skin imperfections, each a responsive vehicle seeping with expression.

His characters are the receptacles of a wide span of emotions, ideas, and memories. They are witnesses of the human condition and our ever complex relationship with the world. Graham’s painting is an investigation between the inside and the outside, the surface and what lingers beneath. Arms, faces, torsos, legs becoming interchangeable, anonymous but recognisable in the same instance. The body becoming a canvas, torn and stretched, a vehicle for the unfurling imagination of the artist.

The luminosity and depth that he is able to paint into being, an endless continuous examination of our human and emotive forms. He loves conjuring up these oddball characters, recomposing them in his preferred form of creative alchemy, mixing people, body parts and time itself. Although the subject of the works are representational, they manage to escape the illustrational qualities they could deviate towards, to instead reach a universal form which has a more deeply personal presence.

Having exhibited at the Basle Art Fair, Austin Desmond Fine Art, Waterhouse & Dodd and the Jill George Gallery in London, and Cameron Contemporary in Hove. He has works in the collections of the V&A Museum, the Contemporary Arts Society, Glasgow Museum of Modern Art, the ING Art Collection in Amsterdam, the National Gallery of Jamaica, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Qingdao Art Museum, China.

REVIEWS: All that Jazz with Simon Adams

Simon Adams reviews the jazz albums hitting the high notes…

FRED HERSCH: Breath by Breath (Palmetto Records). Pianist Fred Hersch always listened to string quartets as a child but until now has never recorded with one. His approach is to let the quartet take on various roles in relation to the piano trio, in one piece providing a lush background, in another being an equal partner in dialogue or acting as an abstract instigator.

The music was recorded live, so that his trio and the quartet could properly interact with each other. It all comes together well, romantic restraint offsetting jaunty melodies and sumptuous string work. As with every recording by Hersch, this is a well-mannered set, polite in approach but always rewarding and, of course, impeccably played. Another fine feather in his cap.

PAT BIANCHI: Something To Say: The Music of Stevie Wonder (Savant Records). The Hammond B3 organ has an illustrious history in jazz, blues, soul, and pop music, and was notably played by Stevie Wonder in the early 1970s. Pat Bianchi follows in his footsteps today, although his preferred version is the MAG Custom Organ, considered to be the best of the available portable B3 clones.

With his bandmates Paul Bollenbeck on guitar and Byron Landham on drums – saxophonist Wayne Escoffery guests on two tracks – the trio’s tight phrasing and sharp ensemble work keep Wonder’s music fresh, their subtle arrangements full of surprising details that readily catch the attention. As ever, it is the unmistakably oily, gloopy sound of the Hammond that captures the attention, but it is still Wonder’s masterpieces that steal the show.

AVISHAI COHEN: Naked Truth (ECM). Trumpeter Avishai Cohen’s fifth album for ECM sees him return to his familiar acoustic territory after his self-indulgent 2020 guitar album Big Vicious. Naked Truth takes the form of an eight-part extemporaneous suite, improvised in the moment in the recording studio in southern France.

For much of its length, Cohen’s raw and vulnerable trumpet painstakingly leads the way, closely shadowed by his trio, who share an intuitive understanding of what is required, always alert to the music’s subtly changing emphases.

The music is deliberately pared back, the drums trimmed of percussive details, the piano often repeating a simple riff, the bass echoing the piano.

As for Cohen, he largely sticks to muted trumpet, the move to an open horn in Part III suddenly throwing a new light on proceedings. It is all very subtle, and often gentle, yet all the more powerful for that. This is an extraordinarily good album, one that Cohen has always had within him to create. What a start to the new year.

COLUMN: ’80s fashion? It’s on its way back!

Popular ’80s Fashion Trends Making a Comeback in 2022 by Jane Sandwood

It is no secret that LGBTQ+ fashion is the most fabulous in the world. In fact, the fashion industry as we know it would not exist if it was not for the inspiration provided by the LGBTQ+ community. This year, one of the hottest trends is predicted to be a revival of the fashions of the era that brought us fishnet stockings, legwarmers, shoulder pads, and high-waisted bikinis: the 1980s. Let’s have a closer look at a few of the most popular trends expected to feature on the runways and streets of the world during the course of 2022.

Shoulder Pads are Back with a Bang

Shoulder pads are one of those fashion trends that you are either going to love or hate. This year shoulder pads are back with a bang, breathing new life into another popular trend of years gone by – the oversized blazer. These blazers go particularly well with ruched polo dresses, skinny jeans, even leather trousers, and can be worn by any gender. If you sport a particularly small frame, try to give your outfit a very defined waistline by choosing a cool belt to round off your appearance.

Are Tiny Bikinis Here to Stay?

Although the high-waisted bikinis that were all the rage during the ’80s have never quite left, they are predicted to be back in their original funky, retro form this year with everything from techno colours to animal print swimsuits adorning our beaches and swimming pools.  The ‘upside down’ bikini, which happens to be a favourite in the Kardashian/Jenner clan, is also expected to remain a popular choice.

Kendall Jenner

The barely-there two-piece, which may very well get an ’80s makeover of its own, shot to fame after Kendall Jenner uploaded photos of herself to Instagram back in 2020 while wearing a Xena Baroque halter bikini top and Naomi Baroque side tie bikini bottom.

Sequins!

While sequins may already hold a special place in the LGBTQ+ community, it is expected to make a mainstream comeback this year. During the ’80s, sequins were used liberally to add a bit of bling to, especially evening wear. In 2022, however, sequins will also feature more frequently in casual wear, embellishing everything from jeans and jackets to flowy shirts and shoes. With menswear also predicted to be more glam this year, we might very well find men from all walks of life wearing the occasional sequin garment.

The revival of ’80s fashion is promising to be one of the biggest trends this year. It is only a matter of time before the LGBTQ+ community takes these trends and make them even more fabulous than what they already are.

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