So here’s how it happened. I went into a cafe in Brighton where I used to clean the floors and asked to stage an art exhibition. The owner liked my work but said it was too political for his business. A friend knew someone who knew someone at the Jubilee Library – I got offered an exhibition there next February. I’m going to paint BANNED across the main window in dripping blood. In the foyer exhibition space there’ll be some of my visual poems, and giant speech bubbles from the OUT140 project, telling coming-out stories in 140 characters: ‘Mother said I’d rather you were a prostitute than a lesbian’ or ‘I told my parents I was bisexual when I was 16. They said “go to your room.”
Then someone said do you want to see round the Town Hall – some lovely Old Police Cells, and a basement fitted with shelves, both ripe for exhibitions, performances, just saying – and I ended up saying “Yes!” to the Atrium, the perfect place to hang the Hankie Quilt, a memorial to those we’ve lost and those living with HIV. I’ll be representing the 482 HIV+ people who have died in Brighton since 1982 with drops of red blood, and the 1,895 people living with HIV in Brighton today with fresh lime leaves. Please update these figures if you know better.
A quarter of the people living with HIV don’t know it yet – early diagnosis = longer life.
So then I asked if anyone else wanted to help celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans History Month in Brighton next February. First, National Co-Chairs Sue Sanders and Tony Fenwick said yes, and then Gscene magazine said yes, and Brighton Council LGBT Worker’s Forum said yes, and the Jubilee Library said yes, and Bear Patrol said yes, and Emmaus said yes, and Lunch Positive said yes, and artists said yes, and poets said yes, and choirs sang yes, and Disability Arts Online said yes, and Barefoot Wine said yes, and I Am A Poem turned into we are The B.Right.On Festival – now with added Arts Council England support!
Thank you all for your enthusiasm! Needless to say, I’ve thanked the café owner for saying no.
So far we’ve got two Launches, Adopt-A-Pansy, Trouser Wearing Characters, Make Them Eat Cake, a Queer Brighton Tour, a Human Library, choir concerts, The Small Frayed Knot, The ‘L’ Word, and How Gay is Your Pet? We could do with more wall space for art and photography. If you’ve got other stuff planned, let me know and we’ll put it in the programme and let as many people know as possible. Think what you can bring to the party, not what you can take.
I’m calling it a celebration of Queer History Month – I don’t care what your sexuality is, or your preferred gender – I just insist you’re not straight, white, and able-bodied. Only kidding. It’s a celebration for everyone who realises everyone is worth celebrating. As Oscar Wilde said, “You don’t have to bat for us to admire our balls!”
Get in touch if you want to get involved.