Leicester on lock

My city is on the news as 866 new COVID-19 infections were confirmed in the first two weeks of June. That’s one quarter of Leicester’s total since the beginning of lockdown.

There were initially rumours about returning Leicester to lockdown, but now the proposal is to continue the current level of restriction (which is very low, to be fair) until 18th July, instead of 4th of July as in the rest of the country. But decisions can change by the minute.

The more you know the details, the more it becomes crystal clear that systematic racism, incompetence and socio-politic deprivation are heavily involved in the cost of so many lives (or at least the quality of them).

Thinking about Liverpool in the 80s, for instance. Basically defunded for being Labour by a Tory federal government, used to opportunity to cause chaos and cost lives in the Hillsborough massacre, only to have the victims satanised and blamed by right-wing tabloids.

I’m afraid COVID-19 might be our Hillsborough.

While in nice comfy Clarendon Park I’ve seen a lot of people breaking the rules, most of the focal areas affected are actually working-class people of colour. Farhana Shaikh from Dahlia Publishing was tweeting earlier today that the spike seems to coincide with the Prime Minister’s order of reopening factories. And who works in factories, particularly Leicester factories? Working-class people of colour.

This is all very deliberate and targeted. The spike does not match with the BLM protests, which were made keeping distance and precaution. I couldn’t attend as I’m in a vulnerable group, but most people in the pictures were wearing masks and staying safe. Not the same can be said about “football” fans in London a couple of weeks ago trying to “protect statues” and “stop history from being erased” while zieg heiling at the cenotaph and pissing on plates dedicated to heroes who saved lives during terrorist attacks. That far-right meeting, by the way, also included anti-5G, anti-masks, anti-vax conspiracy theorists protesting along while chanting “All Lives Matter”. We still need to hear about the consequences of that one.

Either way, I’m fuming, but also willing to continue the lockdown (if not strengthened, to be fair) until it is safer and necessary. We need to make sure our people are safe, especially if they are also from the particular affected communities by this pandemic and this system.

UPDATE: poet Cathi Rae says something similar, but more eloquently and from her testimonial as someone who has lived and worked in those areas of the city.

Bentfest talks

Next week, Bentfest will host a series of talks on their Instagram Live if you want to tune in. The queer punk London festival will host a few of us at 6pm BST:

Images: Bentfest.

Monday, 18th May, Kirsty Fife zine reading and discussion of class, DIY politics, academia and more.

Tuesday, 19th May, Sop will talk about embodiment, chronic illness, sound experiments and more art.

Thursday, 21st May, I’ll be reading a few poems from my upcoming collection Meanwhile, and discuss writing from the in-between.

So yeah, all these days, 6pm BST, go to Bentfest’s Instagram account, look at their live stream on stories, and join the conversation. 👁‍🗨

Update on date

With the whole pandemic going on, this year’s Burning Eye Books releases are staggered. A lot of release parties postponed, cancelled or moved to online (again, gotta love an online event).

So, it looks like Meanwhile will be released in October instead of September. Will add more updates as time goes by, including book release party, tour, or whatever comes next. Smoke signal book tour? Message pigeon delivery service? We’ll see how this match of Civ VI our society is stuck in continues.

Take lots of care. Stay safe, wherever you are. Love you.

Isolated proximity in pandemic times

CW: COVID-19, health risk, self-isolation, quarantine

These times are scary and uncertain. People are ill and dying due to selfishness and inconsideration from the government and the general public. It was not until this week that universities and other institutions shifted their services from presential to online, while pubs and leisure centres were only closed last night – after a bunch of glazed hams packed their locals for a few cheeky pints goodbye.

As a person at high risk due to my chronic conditions, I have been self-isolating at home for about ten days now. It looks like I will spend the remainder of March indoors. We had to cancel our visit to relatives in Mexico (where there are fewer cases and quicker security measures) for Spring Break, as well as a university trip to Amsterdam and Brussels later in April. University is now providing online-only lectures. I had an informal one yesterday, catching up with coursemates and lecturer (who has the main symptoms of COVID-19 and is recovering at home). It was wholesome. I also joined a Zoom meeting from the Labour party with a lot of grassroots discussion featuring Jeremy Corbyn. The other day, I spoke on the phone to a friend; and I’ve been regularly in touch with family.

You can’t give from an empty cup. Particularly useful advice from Moon and Bear these days.

It’s quite odd, but in this state of isolation, I feel a lot more involved with the issues and people I love and care about than in “normal circumstances” aka semi-automated austerity heteropatriarchal underworld capitalism. Been saving a lot of spoons that I used to spend on preparation and commuting. No pressure to trek it into places that take time and money to reach. No longer having to put on a glam face, pretending things are fine, chasing arbitrary targets of success. We all just sit down, unkempt, in front of the webcam, and talk to each other in solidarity, sharing ideas much easier with the help of technology. Gaining access to free books, intimate gig streams, words of advice, movie-watching and gaming.

The possibilities have always been there. We could have taken them before all of this happened. But now that we have them and we know how to use them, we must not let them go.

Picture of myself on the screen waiting for a Microsoft Teams meeting. Home office.

Once/if/when we are back to normal, let’s make our events as accessible as possible. Affordable and comfortable in person and online. Reach out as many as possible. The chronically disabled, to whom the curfew never ends. Those kept apart from us by geography, economy, architecture, medicine, law. Make our practices available and sustainable, for our customers/audiences and ourselves. Don’t be afraid to say yes. Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t be afraid. Be prepared.

Man on the Moon

Heyy, I had a lovely workshop at Everybody’s Reading Festival and would definitely do it again. The festival is still going on this month and you should go to the events. Particularly looking forward to the Black History Month Special Man on the Moon written and performed by Keisha Thompson on the 31st. She is also giving a workshop at Word! a few hours before the show on the same day on Afrofuturism. Signal boost to any Black writers and performers reading this.

WORD! Presents: A Generous Lover

On Thursday 12th September, I’ll have the privilege of opening for fabulous, kaleidoscopic, multimedia British-American performer La JohnJoseph. They will bring their show A Generous Lover to Attenborough Arts Centre.

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The true, and very queer tale, of one soul’s journey through the wasteland of mental illness, to deliver their lost love. Selected as one of The Scotsman’s top 10 pick of Edinburgh Fringe 2018. La JJ has presented performance work across the UK including the Royal Opera House, Bristol Old Vic, HOME and the Southbank Centre, as well as internationally.

“Both campy and moving, this story of love and insanity mixes humor with pathos.” – The New York Times

“Elegant, incisive and intoxicating …powerfully mobilises the distinctive forms and sensibilities that make them such a rich, compelling artist” – The Scotsman

“Horrifying and funny and defiantly beautiful” – Frieze

La JJ has presented performances at the Royal Opera House, Deutsche Oper, Bristol Old Vic, Barbican, Schaubühne (Berlin), Art Basel Hong Kong, MoMA (SF), Dixon Place (NY), Martin-Gropius Bau (Berlin), Fancy Him (Tokyo), La Java (Paris) & MAC (Rio). They have also joined such luminaries such as Justin Vivian Bond, Taylor Mac, Arcade Fire and Paloma Faith onstage.

La JJ is the author of five plays, including “Boy in a Dress” (2012) and “A Generous Lover” (2018) which will be published in a joint volume by Oberon in Sept 2019. La JJ’s book, “Everything Must Go” was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize and a Lambda Literary Award. They are currently writing the follow-up.

Tickets for A Generous Lover by La JohnJoseph are avalailable on the ATT website. It would be amazing if you came over and saw it.

Patreonage

Image: Falco Negenman via Unsplash.

(feature image: clarita via MorgueFile)

Sometimes I low key miss the days in which wealthy families gave housing, food and money to artists in exchange of portraits and decoration. Or when posh people were pals with writers and let them stay in their house, gulp absinthe and write sonnets in the mountains.

But you don’t need to be a Medici or a Lord Byron to help a caffeinated creator survive.

I got a Patreon account and at the moment I don’t know much about what to do with it. If you pledge to give small amounts of money per month, I can email you about life and we can talk and share advice and whatever. Once I start getting more into undisclosed projects, I can let you sneak a peak or something.

Just click on this link and choose your perk:

I still have a ko-fi account apparently, if your thing is more of a one-off. I haven’t updated my website address in there, but if you want to buy me a cuppa, it’s cool.

If you just want to give and being a selfless sugar parent is your thing, there’s always PayPal, and you can just click on that word. 🙂

Manchester Punk Festival

Punk is not just three chords, spiky hair and badly sewn black patches. Punk, above all, is ethos. Out and loud, no middle men, making it work with what you’ve got against a mainstream current that gives advantage to oppressors. Honesty, no fucks given, actual free speech, in unity and solidarity with those who get the short end of the stick. Breaking the law that needs to be broken.

So you can be punk in music. In comedy. In art. In poetry and performance. And I’ve been invited to do the latter at Manchester Punk Festival 2019 in a couple of weeks. The festival takes place on Easter Weekend (19-21 April ) through different venues across the Deansgate/Oxford Road area.

The poetry people will be at The Thirsty Scholar every day during the early afternoon. On Friday, you will get to see and hear the words of Geneviève L. Walsh, the best goth in Halifax. Before her, you can see Martin Appleby from Paper and Ink Zine, and Kit Rayne from Umbrella Poetry.

Source: Manchester Punk Festival.

I will be performing on Saturday 1:30pm sandwiched between the open mic (come and read your stuff) and the fantastic Bridget Hart. So if you like bespectacled heartbroken fem/mes in their 30’s who love Sleater-Kinney and their friends, we are your people.

On Sunday, you can see the colourful Suky Goodfellow all the way from Scotland, writer and facilitator Simon Widdop, and stage organiser Henry Raby from Say Owt. Great stuff.

Of course you can still go for the lols and for the music. And the atmosphere, food, and so on and so on. Some band queens got together and are releasing a special edition beer if you want to try.

Besides performing and being a spoken word dork, I will be seeing a few acts and bands. Looking forward to see Martha, Rachel Fairburn, Suggested Friends, Charmpit (been meaning to catch them for aaaaages), Big Joanie, The Winter Passing, Fresh, Cheerbleederz, Perkie and Crywank. Plus whatever I get to discover in between.

The full lineup, plus some tips about enjoying both the festival and the city, are available now on the Manchester Punk Festival website.

VIDEO: How to Leave the House in Times of Trouble

leavethehouse1

The world sucks sometimes. You’ve read on “Craig David” about a lot of the boogers that happened in the world, and that was just for ONE WEEK. The following weeks kept getting worse and worse in small and great scale: police brutality, terrorist attacks everywhere, your parents damning this country to hell and validating those who hate us to be more outspoken about it, horrible people inside and outside taking sneaky pictures in the changing rooms and laughing at those who don’t exactly please Grandpa Hugh Hefner’s rotten standards, etc.

It can be awful daring to step outside with the piercing fear of being attacked one way or another, but then there’s also the fear of ourselves that, if we stayed indoors all the time, we might never be able to come out and our voice will be muffed and lost. The fear of not coming home alive, the fear of not leaving house alive. This is for you, for us.

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It’s a poem/film/guide thingie called “How to Leave the House in Times of Trouble”. For those of us trouble by agoraphobia, being members of one or many “minority” groups and seeing our worst fears come through every day. There’s still a world outside, and this world still needs you. So get ready and earn some courage however you can, if possible.

The poem was written as an exercise at a Writing Poetry Google Hangout Workshop with Dean Atta. He gave the queue of making a how-to poem on any topic of our “expertise”. Later, I turned it into a short film for the Pangaea World Poetry Slam, who organised said workshop. It was lovely to merge three of my loves — writing, filming and sharing — and use them for a good thing.

Here comes the fun part: click, like and share with as many people as possible. Particularly people who would benefit from the message. You never know the ordeals someone could go through just to live a “normal” day. If I ever make money out of the streams, shares and likes (LOLS), I’ll give it all to a mental health organisation, particularly one which helps queers, POC and/or people who may not speak English and need someone to advocate for them. It comes with subtitles/captions if you don’t understand my accent, and I’m working on a Spanish translation. Subtitles in any other language are more than welcome. ❤

There are a couple of things that might be misunderstood. The “wear something that doesn’t attract negative attention” is not slut-shaming. We should be free to wear whatever we want, but some people don’t know or don’t want us to know this, so they attack. On low “spoons” days, you don’t even feel like fighting or defending yourself, so you keep your energy levels to a minimum and just try to roam by in a way that attracts as few bigots as possible.

Also, the “you’re still a woman on trainers, you’re still a man on stilettos” bit includes cis and trans people alike. A lot of trans people I know fear wearing items that are associated more with the gender they were forcibly assigned at birth. They don’t want to be “read” as “impostors”. A trans woman is still a woman on her Nike Air Force Ones. A trans man is still a man on his Louboutins. An NB is still an NB on whatever they want. Also, the fear of fragile masculinity or the fear of not being “seen as a woman” even if you’re cis because your exterior doesn’t match the “desirable standards” (women of certain colours not recognised in feminininininity, fat chicks like us seen as “one of the boys” by our crushes, et al). So yeah. I love you. If you find any fuckups in my work, let me know.

Coventry Pride 2016

covpride

On Sunday, two ideas/stereotypes/internalised misconstructions were torn apart out of my mind forever: the idea that Pride festivals are now mainstream bacchanals far away from their original meanings, and the idea that Coventry died after the Blitz and that since then it’s been nothing but — The Specials dixit — a ghost town. Coventry is, in fact, more galvanised than ever, and Coventry Pride is queer in every sense of the word. Weird, open, beyond the norms.

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Image: Coventry Pride.

Coventry Pride took place last Saturday and Sunday at FarGo Village, a comfortable hip area in Far Gosford Street recently devised as a creative hub where young and/or alternative people can hang out, exchange ideas and establish connections. It is a bit like a compact version of Leicester’s Cultural Quarter, but more focused on startups and independent stores. It seems pretty cosy, and offers anything from American sweets to books, comics, clothes and pop culture collectables. With a coffee shop and a tap house almost next to each other, I think I would spend a lot of my waking hours in this area if I lived in Coventry.

The most glamorous Dalek.
The most glamorous Dalek.

This is the second year in a row in which Coventry Pride takes place, last year being nominated as Best Live Event 2015 in Coventry Telegraph People’s Choice Awards. It is organised by people intensely active in the local LGBT+ community, a registered charity since October 2015, and it has kept organising events in preparation for every Pride all year long. I was originally invited to perform for ❤ Music, Hate Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia in May, but times were complicated. It looks like it was an amazing event full of quality music, poetry and performance in general. Would love to go next time they do something like this.

Source: Sarah Beth.
Source: Sarah-Beth Gilbert.

On Sunday, I was part of the Spoken Word Open Mic event at the Urban Coffee. I was kindly invited by Jessamy Morris-Davis, organiser extraordinaire, whom I met thanks to Joe from Deathsex Bloodbath (heavily involved in the Coventry music scene) and his wonderful partner Sarah-Beth. We happen to share friends like Kerrie Sakura, who I finally got to meet that afternoon after ages of talking online; and apparently Joe also knows Charles Wheeler from the wrestling circuit. Small world! Small beautiful world!

Nim Chimpsky. Image: Andy McGeechan.
Nim Chimpsky. Image: Andy McGeechan.

Outside, we had the Phoenix Stage, with tons of mind-blowing queer music acts. Yes, even indie rock and electro noise. This was really, really important, since a lot of the times I’ve been in Pride festivals/LGBT+ events, the musical offer was rather one-dimensional: from ABBA tributes to busted Butlin’s “comedians” in drag to straight pop divas who recorded that one song about being yourself and treat the queer community as a cash cow. Stagey McStageface in the Market Hall had more cheesy pop/mainstream acts, but it was not everything the festival had to offer, as it happens in other festivals in bigger cities. This one recognised the possibilities of noise/experimental music as the epitome of all things queer beyond the “that sounds gay” label. I performed in the small silence gap between Duck Thieves and Nim Chimpsky. CHECK THEM OUT, NOW.

Duck Thieves! Image: Andy McGeechan.
Duck Thieves! Image: Andy McGeechan.

While we’re at it, please, please, please read “Noise Music as Queer Expression” by K Surkan. Print it, download it, read it on the bus, highlight stuff on it, share it, shout it.

Image: Andy McGeechan.
Image: Andy McGeechan.

Another thing I adored about the festival was its inclusiveness, its grassroots and its DIY ethos. As I’ve said before, the organisers were queer themselves and way beyond the White Gay Man with Disposable Income. Trans, Lesbian, Bi/Pan and Non-Binary folks crafted this with so much love and dedication you could feel it. On Saturday, there was a Body Positive Catwalk and I’m really gutted I missed it. People of different abilities and identities were very welcome and felt like home. As everything was at a ground level, it was wheelchair friendly, and since FarGo is so compact, people didn’t have to walk/run/rush/be dragged from one extreme to another to get to the next event. It was not crowded and it was not overwhelming; and if it was, you could go to the Info room and relax on the couch. And no, this Pride was not brought to you by Absolut Vodka, and you would not untuck in the Interior Illussions lounge.

Trans goth pride. Image: Andy McGeechan.
Trans goth pride. Image: Andy McGeechan.

(I’m still as obsessed with RuPaul’s Drag Race as usual but hey! The indier, the better!)

The community and info stalls — or what I managed to see from them on Sunday — were welcoming and friendly, with leaflets and material for queers and allies alike; offering help for old people, young people, people with disabilities, people of faith, victims/survivors of abuse, or even just having a laugh at the Lady Go-Diva Comedy Stage.

Gizmo Pride.
Gizmo Pride.

This event was so exciting it inspires me to get more involved in all things queer and underground. I’m tired of being read as straight just because I happened to fall in love with a dude (someone I adore regardless of gender) and it feels a bit lonely sometimes. The Coventry queer arts community seems warm, friendly and united; and I would love to keep attending their events and even just hanging out with my mates over there. If Leicester Pride were something like this, back to its roots, less corporate and more connected to punk and DIY (a bit like Anerki, but more queer-focused and with a lot more indie stalls), it would be perfect.