Look out for…IW Pride Art

There have been so many contributions, support and a lot of hard graft put in by so many people over the last year to make all aspects of IW Pride 2017 happen – and this is the week where you will be seeing the results of this all coming together!

It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to work with a diverse range of enthusiastic, creative and supportive people from IW communities on the Pride 2017 Art projects – and this is what to look out for…

Pride Peep board:

IW Pride peep board on Ryde Esplanade train station until 14th July, then near the stage at the Main Arena.

Background: Sponsored by Hover Travel, IW Pride has its very own peep board in the style of the traditional saucy seaside postcards that can be seen in Ryde’s Donald McGill museum. Come and get your photos taken at Ryde Esplanade Station until 14th July, while taking a peek at Joanne Hummel-Newell’s Rainbow Garden on Platform 2. The Pride peep board will be set up next to the stage in the Main Arena on 15th July.

TransVisibility interactive art show:

Interactive art exhibition by IW Breakout Youth, first shown at Quay Arts earlier this year, and on display at the Apollo Theatre, Newport all though Pride Fringe Week.

Background: ‘Open Your Eyes’ was first displayed earlier this year for TransVisibility Day 2017 at Quay Arts, Newport. Over a number of weeks IW Breakout Youth group worked with IW artist Jo Kori to find ways of creatively expressing issues around their visible and invisible identities. Each artwork includes QR codes which, when scanned with your mobile phone, reveal aspects of IW Breakout Youth members as individuals and personalities, beyond the black and white ‘label’ of Transgender. The show also includes their own version of a Transgender timeline.


Wearable sculptures created by Medina College students and Ventnor Youth, worn by redTIE Youth Theatre members in the IW Pride parade, and displayed afterwards on site in the Main Arena.

Background: Starting in late 2016, the character of the Babadook was portrayed in Internet memes as an unlikely gay icon on Tumblr and other social media sites. Despite the absence of overt references to LGBT culture in the film, fans and journalists generated interpretations of queer subtext in the film that were often tongue-in-cheek, but occasionally more serious, highlighting the character’s dramatic persona, grotesque costume, and chaotic effect within a traditional family structure. In June 2017, the Babadook trended on Twitter and has been recognised as a symbol for the LGBT community during this year’s Pride month.

Fence Art project:

Fence art created by IW artist and Greenham Common ‘craftivist’ Elspeth Moore, who will be running a family arts drop-in at the Sand Kingdom alongside IW Pride sponsor the Needles and their rainbow sand-filling stall in the Main Arena.

Background: The IW Pride site has a fence around it for the day, and a corner of it has been put aside to commemorate 50 years of protest marches and activities that Pride communities all over the world have organised in order to fight for equal rights.  As a child in the 1980s Elspeth was taken to the Greenham Common site by her mother and joined in the ‘craftivism’ activities on site. The IW Pride Fence Art project is designed for public contribution on the 15th July – come along and make fence art with Elspeth based on the IW Pride theme #LoveWins.

Pride wedding dress:

Installation created by IW artist Donna Jones MBE, who will also be running a spoken word corner event in the Pride Village tea tent with redTIE Youth Theatre members and other performers.

Background: Wedding dresses have historically been associated with heterosexual marriages. With the acceptance of gay marriage within UK law for gay couples, wedding dresses have been re-appropriated as a symbol of #LOVE WINS within the LGBT community. Donna has linked with the different LGBT groups on the Isle of Wight through writing workshops on the IW Pride theme of #LOVE WINS. Individual stories and poems are written onto a full-sized paper sewing pattern that has been stitched to form an actual wedding dress.

Wishing Tree interactive art project:

Interactive digital installation containing sound & visual recordings by students from Medina College and IW Breakout Youth – on 15th July this will be stewarded by redTIE Youth Theatre interviewers to collect contributions from IW Pride visitors.

Background: Interactive QR codes containing links to spoken word and musical recordings on the IW Pride theme of #LoveWins, collated by IW artist & Pride Art Manager Jo Kori, will be hung from the Wishing Tree in the Pride Village. IW Pride visitors will be able to scan these QR codes with their mobiles to gain access to YouTubes of these recordings, and will be invited on the day to continue to contribute (video/audio). Post-IW Pride, the Wishing Tree and visitor recordings will be uploaded to an online portal with public access.


IW Pride Art

It’s an honour to have been asked to be Visual Arts Lead/Manager for IW Pride and over the last 3 weeks I have been planning the logistics of this wonderful creative challenge. I am in the process of finalising no less than 10 extensive art projects with IW artists, communities, schools and colleges leading up to end of June, plus a range of art-based activities designed for all ages run by artists on site throughout the day itself (15th July).

Art can be an evocative and accessible channel for communicating important messages sensitively through different forms and media. I see it as my job to make sure that IW Pride is not only presented as a welcoming, positive and rainbow-coloured occasion, but that there are plenty of creative and interactive opportunities for collaborative thought and communication.

On 15th July the Isle of Wight becomes the Isle of Pride – I’ll be posting regular blogs with pics with details about the  creative work we’re making with groups from all over the island leading up to this date. My next post will list what we’re planning – if you see an IW Pride art project you’re interested in taking part in, just let me know!

Pride and Place – exploring England’s LGBT history

2017 marks 50 years of partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales following the publication of the Sexual Offences Act 1967.  As a gay man who is 50 next year, I have seen how this important first step has lead to a succession of changes making it more easy for me and others in the LGBT community to live an authentic life.  

The road to towards equality has not been smooth however.  An unequal age of consent being 16 for heterosexuals and at first 21 then 18 for homosexuals had a direct impact on me and my husband as we first met at college at the age of 18 in 1987 and our love was in effect seen by society as an illegal act.  We had to be cautious about how open we were only being authentic with our closest friends and with or families when we came out.  Looking back there was much about the 1980s that was pretty bleak.  Section 28 was enacted preventing ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools making it difficult for teachers and staff to provide the support needed to children struggling with their sexuality and being the brunt of bullying behaviour.  My memories of sex education are not at all positive as it was completley focussed on hetero-normative narratives with any (pre Section 28) gay content being seen as a ‘novelty’ and being subject to ridicule by fellow classmates.  There was little focus on love or respect but a lot about biology!  Then of course there was the AIDS epidemic and the fear and panic that this caused with gay men being seen as part of the problem rather than victims needing help and support.  The goverment tombstone adverts were horryifying and for a young gay man in their teens the equivalent of bromine in your tea.  Thankfully in the 1990s and 2000s things have moved forward with legal protection at work, legal rights regarding access to goods and services without discrimination, the right to have our relationship recognised through civil partnership and the right to have that then converted and back dated to a marriage.  Retrospective pardons for those prosecuted for homosexual acts prior to decriminalisation is one of the latest acheivements.  There is still much to do as we are surrounded by subliminal hetero-normative information in terms of advertising, films and tv, newspaper articles but thankfully LGBT characters are now appearing in mainstream programmes and media including advertising.  

LGBT visibility is so important and not just in relation to today but also in relation to people and places throughout history.   I was so glad to see that Historic England and the National Trust have both taken the opportunity to promote LGBT links to their properties and places as part of the 2017 celebrations of partial decriminalisation.  As a boy and young man there were few contemporary gay role models and those that there were were largely stereotypes portrayed for laughs (laughed at or laughed with was not always clear).  There were certainly few if any real historical role models other than Alexander the Great and the ancient Greeks (often with a focus on pederasty) and Edward II and his unfortuate demise as the result of a red hot poker.  So to now see more and more varied and interesting stories of LGBT lives, both current and historic, becoming known and part of the mainstream is a wonderful step forward for all society.  I know that there will be some young person out their who will see a role model in the sports person, presenter, music artist, artist, novelist, scientist, doctor, garden designer, police constable vet or one of many thousands of jobs and professions and know that what ever they want to do they can acheive with there being no bar because of their gender or sexuality.

Take a look at the Historic England Pride of Place webpage https://historicengland.org.uk/research/inclusive-heritage/lgbtq-heritage-project/ and the National Trust https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/exploring-lgbtq-history-at-national-trust-places.

For the Isle of Wight there is a great story about John Seely (later Lord Mottistone) and his longterm professional and personal realtionship with Paul Paget with whom he ran a successful architectural practice.  The Shack, at Mottistone Manor was a favourite place for them to spend weekends together.  https://www.historypin.org/en/prideofplace/geo/50.827065,-1.551786,9/bounds/50.326486,-2.833066,51.322333,-0.270505/pin/1037264 and more information about their story can be found on the Brook Village History website http://www.brookvillagehistory.co.uk/index.php/people-main/reknowned-visitors-a-villagers/150-seely-and-paget

It seems fitting that in this celebratory year we will be holding our first IW Pride.  I am so looking forward to what promises to be a brilliant day of fun and community cohesion around our strapline #Lovewins and to this becoming an annual event with many more fringe events taking place across the Island throughout the year.

Embracing the spotlight

No matter what stage in your life, questioning your sexuality can be a very difficult and scary place. When you add a religious and homophobic background on top of that, contradicting your thoughts and feelings, it can be extremely hard to come to terms with. 

Starting off as a gospel singer, Katy Perry found herself in the spotlight from a young age. During her childhood, she was taught to fear and hate people who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community by her religious background and family.

Most of my unconscious adolescence, I prayed the gay away at my Jesus camps.

When she first released her song ‘I kissed a girl’ in 2008, it became an instant hit. At the time, I don’t think a lot of people gave it much thought – merely a drunken memory from a party, or just something that happened out of curiosity. Not many people people would second guess the lyrics, and it’s clear now that Katy cleverly designed it that way.

Personally, I was never a big fan of her pink and over-the-top style and music videos – it all seemed to fake, like she was trying too hard to fit in. Which turns out to be exactly what she was doing. It wasn’t until she released her song ‘Part of Me’ that she stood out to be this strong, independent woman. 

Last week, Katy Perry accepted the National Equality Award at the Human Rights Campaign Gala, and gave a speech that pulled on the heartstrings of many in the LGBTQ+ community. She spoke out about how she’s struggled with her sexuality from a young age and it was in fact a group LGBTQ people that she became friends with that helped to change her life. Despite her hardships and battles to get where she is today, she is an inspiration to us all. 

It’s very important to have LGBTQ+ issues highlighted in the media – it gives many of us hope and ‘normalisation’.

End of a long and varied week in sight….

IMG_7889.JPGWhat an exciting week for IWPride its been, we have finally been able to release exciting news about the Rainbow Gala Dinner which promises to be a fantastic evening and I really cannot wait! Miss Jason always leaves me in tears, sometimes by her quick wit and loving humour, sometimes with her amazing vocal talents!

It will be great to catch up with Kat Kai Kol-Kes again, we spent a brilliant crisp spring day walking along Ryde Esplanade back in Feb and she won me over! She’s an amazing human being with a passion and energy for life! She also taught me that I know absolutely ZILCH about African geography!

Cormac De Barra is coming to stay at ours! And will be lulling me to sleep with his Harp and his Irish accent! Heaven!

Having a full time job, full time dog, being Chair of Governors for two large colleges whilst trying to revise for two important exams leaves me with very little time to sit and chill. I fill the rest in with attempting to do what I can to help make Pride as successful as it can possibly be.

This week has been no different to any others, except with work being so busy, I have felt the stresses of life. This makes my Sulley Dog an amazing treat and to be able to wander along Appley beach, with a creature that is excited by lifes simple pleasures, really is a fantastic tonic against the backdrop of stressful times.

I would encourage and discourage people to get into school Governance in equal measure. It CAN be the most rewarding experience and varied experience, whilst also being stressful and upsetting, when all we want is the upmost best for our young people, setting them up for the big wide world in the best possible way.

As for Pride, when I do get some down time, there are lots of exciting plans being hatched and things being put into reality. A sponsored bike ride, a weekend camping and outdoor lads experience but to name a few, alongside the eagerly awaited Gala Dinner, the BIG summer event on 15th July is shaping up to be a really BIG deal!

In the meantime, I will raise a bottle of beer to an amazing team of people working hard to make PRIDE happen on the Island. No individual can do it all and as with other areas of my life, the team can sometimes face challenges, but its the hard work that makes things happen!

Cheers everyone xxx

When We Rise-ABC’s mini series,  a harsh reminder of how far we have come. 

Sitting down yesterday evening in anticipation of the long awaited Dustin Lance Black mini series, I could feel goosebumps as the opening music started.

Released in four parts, the first airing on 27th February, the Oscar Winning ‘Milk’screenwriter sets the scene on what will be a rough reminder of the shocking violence and discrimination endured by the LGBTQ community in America around the time of the Stonewsll riots in the early 70s when so many fought a bloody fight for the rights of themselves and others. 

The first episode introduces you to some key characters, young activists and a groups of people all preparing to take a stand, the talented cast including Guy Pearce, Michael Kenneth Williams and Mary-Louise Parker. All take their place and prepare to take you on a journey through violent riots and the rise of the gay activists, the AIDS epidemic where so many young men lost their lives and the confusing 90’s where so many still felt the shock of what had come before and what the future might hold for them.

All the characters are setting the scene for their individual stories in particular the story of a young gay African American man in the Navy at the time of the Vietnam war and his struggle to be accepted whilst being a minority because of his colour and hiding his sexuality in the navy but also in the LGBTQ community where his race saw him being pushed out by the people he thought would embrace him with open arms. 

When We Rise has a soundtrack which goes hand in hand with the series and the lyrics of the songs fit perfectly with the story that is unfolding on the screen.

I recommend you take time out to watch the series and view this stark reminder of not only how far we have come, but how far we still have to go. 


Pride and Blognovice

So my fellow IW Pride Committee members have convinced me to join in with our new blog all about Pride.  You’d think being in my late 40s that blogging would be something that I would have been really au fait with but no, I am a Blog novice.   An avid Facebooker, less frequent tweeter and having only just discovered the joy of face altering on Snapchat, blogging has never really been on my radar.

I ask myself, is it like writing a diary?  Something that I have never really been disciplined enough to do and the purpose of which is probably to unburden issues or write down your inner thoughts – definitely not a diary then!  A place to share my experiences of all things IW Pride related seems to be the ticket.  

I joined the Committee as Treasurer in January 2017 just as we were dealing with the unexpected massive interest in Iw Pride because of a local media furore.  The support and positivity that we received as a result gave us all the resolve to work harder than ever to make the first IW Pride happen and an event to remember for all the right reasons.

The launch in February was fantastic and helped us to raise much needed funds towards all the costs involved with putting on a free event.  Personally, having a glitter beard was a new life experience and one which hung around for a few days with shiny dots appearing in the most unexpected of places, despite vigorous scrubbing with a nailbrush.   It was so good to see so many people enjoying the performances and music put on for free by all those artists who took part.  

After the party, which exceeded all our expectations in terms of fund raising, comes the serious business of finding more money.  It is clear that there will be very little public money to help us but we are getting great support from unions and local businesses and hope to bring in some key sponsors to help with the costs of the day.   There will be many more fund raising events happening up until the big day on 15th July – I really hope to meet you at one or all of these.  If you are looking for a quick and easy way to give to IW Pride we have launched our new website which incorpates a link to Just Giving an easy way to give – as they say ‘every little helps’.

We are all working hard to spread the word about IW Pride and today I was waiting eagerly to receive our printed leaflet, coming to a business or information point near you soon.  It looks great and I am really pleased with how the design, which I pulled together, has turned out.  Grab one to find more about what we are planning.

Ok so blogging it turns out is not so strange after all – hope you enjoyed reading and check back for more.