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Good Times at Greenbelt

I spent my bank holiday weekend at Greenbelt Festival, in the grounds of Boughton Estate in Northampton. The weather was glorious, the company was great and I have a list of acts and things I took part in that were so good and you should check out.

1. La Chiva Gantiva

La Chiva Gantiva were really really fun. Formed in Brussels by 3 Colombian immigrants, the band is super high energy with music you can’t help but dance to. I couldn’t stop the entire set, and was exhausted by the end. But no-one in the band flagged, and even when we met them afterwards, they were still up and going. And so so lovely.

2. Toby Campion

At a spoken word event hosted by Harry Baker, several great poets performed – Erin Bolens, Bridget Minamore, Gecko and Toby Campion. As you can probably guess from the title of this section, I’m gonna talk about Toby, but you should check the others out too. Because who doesn’t need more poetry in their life?

Toby came on and performed a drunk love poem about a chance meeting abroad, about meeting someone called Marcus. I can’t deny that LGBT content always has me paying a little more attention, because as a queer woman, I’m alway looking for representation and community. And the poem was also well written and highly enjoyable.

Following the poem about Marcus, came a poem about imagining your ex in twenty years time that expressed feelings about the homophobia still riven through our society that I don’t know whether I could put into words. And then a poem about the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub, which had me in tears.

To end, Toby weighed in on the great debate of whether the Midlands is in the North or the South, reminding everyone that the Midlands is it’s own unique entity. At Uni this was well worn terrority, and this poem rings true with all the things I wanted to say about being from the Midlands. All in all, every poem Toby performed rang true to me, and if you’ve got the chance to go see him, I would really, highly reccommend it.

3. Harry and Chris

I saw Harry and Chris by myself at Greenbelt last year and have spent the whole year listening to Simple Times, so I was pumped to see them again, this time with family in tow.

Bringing their second Edinburgh fringe show to the stage, Harry and Chris were just as enjoyable as last year. I was a little disappointed that most of the songs I’d heard before, but I have been following their YouTube channel closely so it’s not too much of a surprise. Besides, hearing people live is always good. They’re touring now so you can catch them in a town hopefully vaguely near you.

4. Herstory

This year, in addition to all their usual areas (The Canopy, The Big Top, The Playhouse to name a few), Greenbelt had The Red Tent – a space for those people who identify as women. While some talks were open to all genders, for the most part over the weekend, it was a female only space.

One of the events was Herstory by Alice Wroe. Firstly, Alice gave a talk about the importance of finding women in history, reasons why we often can’t find women in history with the way we think about the past at the moment, and what the Herstory project is. Alice is a really engaging speaker, and I left with a lot to think about, particuarly about why, when I’ve questioned the lack of women in history books, I haven’t gone looking for them.

The second event was taking part in the Herstory project, where you are invited to recreate Judy Chicago’s art work, ‘The Dinner Party’. An important piece of feminist art from the 1970s, it remembers and celebrates women from history. At the Herstory event, you are invited to explore the story of a woman from history, to assemble her story in your voice and to present it back to those gathered as if you are her. Not only does it mean you learn about several women who you might never have heard of before, but you celebrate and support each other.

Both Herstory events were incredible, and if you ever get the chance to go to one, I would highly reccommend it. It’s left me trying to find the women in the history of the places I go to and the things I take part in, and not just accepting that history is always men because that’s the narrative we’re so often told.

All of the people mentioned above were really great, and I loved seeing all of them. If you get the chance to see any of them, I hope you have a great time. Let me know what you think.

I paid in full for my ticket to Greenbelt and no-one has asked for my opinion on any aspect of it, never mind asking for a list of my favourite bits. I just really enjoyed the people listed above. 

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Queer and Now

On Saturday, Tate Britain held an event called Queer and Now, launching Pride in London for 2017. They’ve also currently got an exhibition called Queer British Art 1861-1967, which is on until 1st October. All in all, it promised to be a fantastic day, and me and Beth headed down to London.

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Right queer, right now

A note on the use of Queer: Tate Britain outlined in the Queer and Now programme that ‘the word queer has been used both as a term of abuse and by LGBTQ+ people to refer to themselves from the end of the 19th century onwards. Queer and Now is inspired by its usage as an inclusive, fluid term for people of different sexualites and gender identities, and as a way of expressing ways of being in the world that don’t conform to the established norms’. Please be aware that I use queer throughout this post to refer to the LGBTQ+ community, as I both use it to refer to my identity as a bisexual woman in a relationship with a woman and it was part of an event called Queer and Now. However, I feel it’s important to acknowledge that while queer has been reclaimed by some members of the community but not every member of the LGBTQ+ community is happy to use queer, so it’s always worth talking to members of the community about how they would like to be referred to.

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The size of a giant wall this was

First thing we did was go round Queer British Art 1861-1967. Starting, as you might expect, in 1861 it chronicles art created by people confirmed or believed to be queer, which was often of people confirmed or believed to be queer. My favourite rooms were Blooomsbury And Beyond, which focused on the Bloomsbury group – a set of artists and writers whose gender identities and sexualities spanned the full LGBTQ+ spectrum, and the Defying Convention room, which focused on how gender norms were challenged in the late 19th and early 20th century, particularly by women* and non binary people.

These rooms in particular, but also the rooms before them, tried to be representative past white gay cisgender men, including several women, trans men and nonbinary individuals. Most notably, the self portrait used in the promtional material for the exhibit is of Gluck, whose name, as stated by the artist, is to be used with “no prefix, suffix, or quotes” and resigned from an art society when this wasn’t followed. However, there was little racial diversity throughout the exhibit, and the final three rooms, as far as I saw, focused on cis men, as if the rest of the queer community stopped produing art in the early 20th century. The exhibition also had a real problem with deadnaming trans and nonbinary people. (Deadnaming is when when a trans person’s birth name is referred to either in addition to or instead of their chosen name.)

As exhibits go, it was so great to see myself represented in art, and to have this representation explicitly referred to in the signs next to the art. Some of the pieces in the exhibit were on loan from Birmingham Art Gallery, and I have seen them several times, never knowing they were part of queer art history. However, while I could see myself represented, there was still huge swathes of the community who were not. As I said earlier, the racial diversity in the displayed art was poor, women disappeared from the exhibit past the early 20th century and I imagine it must be upsetting for trans and non binary people to see themselves in the art, only for the artists identities to be disrepected in the contextual writing. I’d still recommend the exhibit, as the sheer joy of being in a space where queer artists were allowed to be queer was exhilirating, but as a white woman, I do speak from a position of relative privilege in being able to see myself in the art shown.

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Solid sign this is. To the point, I like it

While we were in Queer British Art,  Queer and Now got off to a swinging start, and when we came out of the exhibit the gallery was busy. All the activites were free, some were explicitly family friendly, and the variety on offer was incredible. From LGBTQ+ vendors at the pop up esty store, to performance art to make up workshops to talks about queer history, there really was something for everyone.

We learnt about queer convicts in Australia before we headed to The O Show on female masculinity. Hosted by Oriana Fox, this was a chat show style talk about the expression of female masculinity. Guests included Lucy Hutson, a performance artist, Temi Wilkey, actor and drag king who co-runs Pecs, a Drag King collective, and Del LaGrace Volcano, an international photographer who has referred to themselves as a ‘part-time gender terrorist’.

Drag King Cole (Temi Wilkey) and Thrustin Limbersnake (Lauren Steele), two Drag Kings of the Pecs collective, performed a lip sync, which was incredible. The discussion on female masculinity was really interesting, and two days later I’m still thinking about issues discussed. But, in all honesty, the thing that has most stuck with me was Temi’s solo performance as Drag King Cole, which was about police brutality against the black community in Britain and the USA. I’d never realised how political drag could be and how it could be used to make such a powerful statement. The room was silent when she’d finished, as well it should have been.

As the day turned into evening, there were several DJ sets beginning, but after so much to think about (how much do I subscribe to traditional gendered dressing, if I have kids how do I raise them in this society while being aware that the gender binary is a harmful contruct, where is my closest drag king night), we headed home for Birmingham.

It was glorious to be in such a queer coded space. It felt more queer coded than Pride, and that’s saying something. Coming back into the real world was a bit of a shock, especially when a stag do took over our train carriage on the way home, but I feel buoyed up by my queer Saturday in London. We have always existed. We produce art, we form academic theory, we hold hands and kiss in art galleries. We exist.

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Love happens here

*To confirm, whenever I say women, I include trans women.

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Teenage Lesbians and Other Representation

On Thursday, I went into my local Foyles for some non-purchasing, book browsing. Of course, the non-purchasing went out of the window when I found that their recommended YA novels, which get their own prominent case in the middle of the YA books, were all LGBT. All of them.

Speaking as someone who falls into the LGBT spectrum, I am a sucker for LGBT fiction. Representation is a really big deal as media shapes the way we see society. Plenty of other people have talked about why representation matters but it boils down to helping those who aren’t white, straight, cis gender and able bodied to not feel isolated because they don’t exist in the media we consume and to normalise how diverse our world is. The more we have racial, gender and sexuality diversity in our fiction and on our screens, the more our diverse world is normalised. And so LGBT media is a big deal for me, because it’s reassuring to see myself reflected in the books I read and the TV shows I watch.

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‘Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel’ is great

And so Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan entered my life and I’ve spent the last two days reading it because I couldn’t quite bring myself to put it down.

Tell Me Again is the story of Leila, an Iranian American teenager who is just trying to navigate high school as best she can. The reason she’s finding it difficult, other than cliques and science tests, is the fact that she likes girls.

Now, I don’t want to spoil the story, because (spoiler alert) I’m recommending that you read it. But here are some reasons that make this a good book:

  • Leila is Iranian American. Fairly often LGBT novels focus on white protagonists, so it was great to read a LGBT heroine who wasn’t. It also means that there’s intersectionality in the issues that are addressed. As far as I can tell from my white British perspective, Tell Me Again veers away from falling into tired tropes of how a middle eastern family would react to their daughter coming out as a lesbian, and provides a more nuanced response from varying family members.
  • Leila is not the only LGBT character in the book. There are at least four characters in the book who come under the LGBT umbrella, and means Leila isn’t in isolation in an otherwise straight world.
  • The characters aren’t all great people. There’s a tendency to portray all LGBT characters as saints. And I get it. After being demonised for such a  long time, it’s tempting to make all your LGBT characters exemplary people. But LGBT people are still people, and when you have a cast of LGBT characters, you don’t have to make them all perfect, because the representation doesn’t fall on the shoulders of just one character.
  • The plot is engaging and is well written. Because LGBT representation can be thin on the ground, I’ll read most things with LGBT characters in it. And they’re not always well written. Tell Me Again is not only well written, but I didn’t want to put it down.
  • Happy ending. Okay, yes, spoilers, but do you know how hard it is to find LGBT books (particularly those with focus on the L part of the acronym) that have happy endings where no-one dies? It’s stupidly hard. So this is a firmly postive point.

Of course, it’s not a perfect book. A character who expresses romantic interest in men and women doesn’t want to label themselves and like all YA novels, whatever book the characters are reading in class has some significant meaning, but on the whole Tell Me Again is a great example of a YA and LGBT novel. The standard YA ‘finding where you belong’ plot is meshed with the standard LGBT ‘coming to terms with your sexuality and coming out to family and friends’ plot to create something better than the sum of it’s parts.

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Here’s to 2017

What with Brexit, Trump and a series of ever mounting celebrity deaths, it’s easy to think that 2016 has not been a fantastic year. And on the grand scale, yeah, 2016 has been a rough one.

I was going to go back through my list of resolutions from last year but as I noted at the time, I’ve never really been one for resolutions and guess what? I failed fairly miserably at keeping them.

So, on this, the first day of 2017, I’m gonna look back on 2016 and the awesome things that happened.

  • I fell in love

I’m not normally particularly mushy on this blog, but 2016 was the year I fell in love with a massive dork who happened to be my best friend. Who I started dating and then moved in with. 10/10, would recommend.

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Look at these dorks. 

  • Much travelling

2016 is the year I went to Madrid for the first time (with the aforementioned girlfriend). Me and my Dad went to Stockholm, courtesy of Tesco. I also went to Prague, Krakow and Warsaw (again, with the aforementioned girlfriend). I love going on adventures, especially abroad adventures, and Madrid is in my top ever holidays (also up there, Romania and my Grand European Adventure).

  • Friends and great adventures

My friends are great. Yeah, I know everyone says that, but that doesn’t make it untrue. This year there have been some great adventures, including paintball, fancy afternoon tea, and the Good Food Show. There’s also been Swingamajig 2016 and Nottingjam 2016. It has been a great year for friend adventures.

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Swingamajig was a glitter filled time

  • Great media

2016 was the year that Ghostbusters came out and I loved it. So freaking much. There was also Galavant, all of these shows that I watched when work was super tiring and these books that struck a scary chord with political upheaval in 2016.

All in all, 2016 was a great year for me personally. I hope that 2017 bring better luck for the world as a whole, but if my 2017 is as good as my 2016, I will be a happy Kat.

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Pride and Joy

This Saturday I was at London Pride 2016. It was my first Pride and I was a little nervous leading up to it, not knowing what to expect. What I got was an incredible day of music, community and joy. My highlights are below, but the whole day was amazing, except for some of the weather.

1. Proliferation of flags

As a country, Britain tends to only be inundated with flags when football is on and then there are English and British flags everywhere. But flags are a symbol of pride in something, of a sense of belonging, and the amount of rainbow flags at Pride was a wonder to behold.

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We were well and truly rainbowed.

2. Sadiq Khan

London Pride is sponsored by the Mayor of London, so Sadiq Khan walked in the parade and then addressed thousands of people in Trafalgar Square. I was lucky enough to be one of them and hear him talk about how he would fight homophobia and transphobia during his tenure as mayor.

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So many people. Even for London. So many people in one place.

3. Atmosphere

Good grief, it was crackling. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere that felt quite like it. The energy, the community, the sheer loveliness of everyone we talked to was incredible. And with various stages, family activities and a huge space to fill, it’s no wonder that it was so popular.

4. Danny Beard

We ended up at the Cabaret stage, watching singers and comedians. We were about to leave in search of drinks and food and maybe some chairs, when Danny Beard came on as the next host. They were incredible at reading the crowd, getting everyone involved and had a hell of a voice. Seriously, I would go and see them again.

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Dat skirt though. So great.

5. Accessibility

The main stage had a BSL interpreter for the duration of Pride, signing the speeches, songs and introductions. The screens set up were split into three, with one section on main stage, one of the sign interpreter and one section for subtitles. In the special access section there were at least another two sign interpreters. The thought given to making Pride accessible was so great.

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So the 1st section doesn’t have the sign interpreter in it in this photo, but that’s because he’s in the main section, signing & dancing with Alisha Dixon.

Pride was such a great experience, and I don’t think I’ve quite washed the glitter out of my hair yet. Roll on next year.

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Do you even fly, bro?

So Quidditch is a thing. Like, a real life, honest to god, you can go play it thing. And with the British Quidditch Cup fast approaching, I figured I should probably do at least a semi-explaining blog before you get assaulted with tales of Nottingham Nightmares’ romp to victory. Yes, I have absolute faith in my local team. No, I don’t pay attention to statistics. #ibelieveinnightmares

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Photo credit: Helen Freeman)

Nottingham Nightmares: Looking positively electrifying

Let me begin with please don’t ever ask a Quidditch player if they really fly. Responses will range from sarcasm to stabbing and to be honest, I’m not sure which is worse. You want to face down a Quidkid who’s had tons of practice of answering this for full comedic effect, be my guest. But you won’t come out of it well. I once convinced a guy we fly. He looked so crushed when he found out it wasn’t true.

Muggle Quidditch or IQA Quiddditch originated in the USA in 2005, but has spread across the globe with teams on almost every continent. The basics from the Harry Potter books remain true. Chasers, beaters, keeper, seeker. Quaffles, bludgers, snitch. Mixed gender. Three hoops. Full contact. Broomsticks. Ridiculous commentary from spectators. I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of the rules because a) I’m a little hazy on them myself and b) man, that would take a long time. The basics can be found in the infographic below:

Quidditch rules

(Photo credit: Sophie Chrétien/London Unspeakables)

So you may have noticed that I said it’s a mixed gender sport. Much like in books, muggle Quidditch welcomes all genders on their teams. Which means everyone gets to join in the fun and violence. Thanks to the “four maximum” rule, there can only be four people who identify as the same gender on the pitch for the same team at any one time. Not only does it mean the mixed gender nature of the sport is codified in the rules, but it creates a LGBTI friendly space with an environment where people are highly aware of the fact that gender is a spectrum not a binary. If you want to read more about how this plays out in Quidditch in the UK, I recommend this article.

As I believe I mentioned, the British Quidditch Cup is rapidly coming up and this year it’s going to be Nottingham. So Quidkids from around the country will be descending on Wollaton Hall from 7th March to 8th March. Competing teams have been divided into six groups, who will then play a round robin within their group. At the end of the first day, the teams will be ranked based on the results of the round robin, and only the top sixteen will make it through to the next day. Then a round of sixteen, Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and a Final will take place. Standard stuff, right? For more details of the tournament format, see here.

Basically, next week’s going to be an exciting weekend for Quidditch enthusiasts. Watch this space for a blog about it. If you’re in the UK and interested in finding your local Quidditch team, you can use this handy page on the Quidditch UK website. And now, having created a blog post that is a mess of everything Quidditch, I’m gonna leave you with a list of all teams competing in the British Quidditch Cup, because there’s some serious alliteration going on in some of them.

Bangor Broken Broomsticks, Bristol Brizzlepuffs, Cambridge University Quidditch Club, Chester Chasers, Derby Union Quidditch Club, Durhamstrang, Falmouth Falcons, Holyrood Hippogriffs, Keele Squirrels, Leeds Griffins, Leicester Thestrals, London Unspeakables, Loughborough Longshots, Norwich Nifflers, Nottingham Nightmares, Oxford Quidlings, Radcliffe Chimeras, Reading Rocs, Southampton Quidditch Club, Southampton Quidditch Club 2, St Andrews Snidgets, The Flying Chaucers, and Warwick Whomping Willows.

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Photo credit: Helen Freeman)

How could you not support them? Look how great they look.