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Nottingham Pride 2010

4 Aug

Nottingham Pride took place on Saturday 29 July 2010

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

Now in its eighth year, Nottingham Pride’s annual celebration of LGBT culture and diversity this year was far and away the best way to propel the festival into the future. Having well outgrown its previous home at the Arboretum, the decision to move Nottingham Pride to the Forest was controversial but one that ultimately paid off as the festival was bigger, brighter and more comfortable in its new, roomier location. The event is organised solely by a committee of unpaid volunteers, who work tirelessly all year round to fund-raise for, organise and create the one day that we know and love.

The celebrations began at 11am with a march snaking down North Sherwood Street from the Arboretum before tackling the ascent up Mansfield Road to the Forest. This was my first ever Pride March, and being decked out in enough rainbows to make me look a little like unicorn poop (because everyone knows that unicorns poop rainbows, right?) I felt right at home in the midst of the fantastic turn out – around a thousand people by most estimates. Led by the Nottingham Tartanaires Marching Band, accompanied by whistles, chants and whoops, the march stopped traffic and attracted a rabble of bystanders along the route who all received cheery waves from the marchers. I was sandwiched in between Robin Hood, Maid Marian and the wonderfully dolled-up ladies of NG1, who somehow managed the march in 4 inch stilettos.

At the end of the march, with everyone involved covered in smiles and laughter, at the turning into the Forest there was a small group of homophobic protesters, supposedly representing Islam. Suffice to say that not only did they not represent the Muslim faith, spouting opinions that fly in the face of numerous Muslim LGBT groups, but they certainly didn’t get what they came for. They were looking for confrontation and headlines, and all they got was a one or two fingered salute from us, and a severe drowning out. Less than 20 voices of ignorance against a thousand campaigning for tolerance? On yer bikes, boys. Oh, and a special mention for the police, who did a stellar job of guiding the march and general policing around the park. They got right into the spirit, parading the rainbow-emblazoned Notts Police Force flag on their van and posing for pictures with drag queens, whilst quietly and effectively keeping everyone safe.

The festival was officially opened at midday by the Lord Mayor, who reminded the crowds in his speech how important it is to support the cause and how lucky we are to be able to attend events like this freely and in safety. He asked us all to spare a thought for others who don’t have the same luxury in their countries, and highlighted the reasons why Pride is still such an important voice in combating prejudice and injustice.

The mix of people in attendance was hugely diverse; from boys who knew all the dance moves to Lisa Scott-Lee’s rendition of Steps classics, to Robin Hood’s posse, to fabulous drag queens in 6 inch heels and feather boas, to entire families enjoying a fun day out, to the man and woman who got engaged on the main stage whilst being presided over by compere Babsarella, to people like me, out to support a worthy cause and have a smashingly good day to boot.

The music on the main stage was varied to say the least, mixing saccharin pop from the likes of Lisa and Andy Scott-Lee and a Pink tribute act, with the rock stylings of K9-Feline, Kenelis and Brooklyn, NY’s Betty. Not quite something for everyone, but a good mix of acts that didn’t play up too much to the twee pop stereotype of Pride events. That being said, the event was closed by the Cheeky Girls. But you know what? They were perfect for the purpose, they got everyone dancing at the end, and who doesn’t want to see two tiny Transylvanians dancing around in their underwear? Especially as they were preceded by the Dream Bears, a dance act hot off the stage of Britain’s Got Talent who live by a similar mantra: who doesn’t want to see three tubby blokes from London dancing around in lingerie and nipple tassels whilst gyrating to Lady Marmalade? Err… No comment, actually.

In all, it was a day of fabulous sights, sounds and attitudes, underpinned by a fierce passion to bring tolerance and understanding to the wider society. As if destined to have that point proven, I encountered something whilst waiting for the tram that really hammered home the reasons why Pride is still important. Two young lads walking away from the festival came face to face with a piece of dirt homophobe who called them f****ts. Not wanting things to turn to violence, I did what I never seem to be able to do – fuelled by a full day of campaigning and partying – I stepped in. Not only did those lads get the bastard to fully apologise – on camera, no less – but they learned that although there are battles still left to fight, the only way that they can be won is by fighting them with words instead of fists. It’s the only way they could have won – and when they did, well, it felt so damn good.

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Preview: Nottingham Pride 2009

20 Jul

Nottingham Pride took place in the Arboretum on Saturday 25 July 2009. In 2010 the festival will take place at the Forest Recreation Ground on Saturday 31 July

Written for LeftLion.co.uk

For more than a decade Nottingham has held an event every year celebrating LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) culture and dedicated to the city’s diverse and vibrant LGBT community. It started as Nottingham Pink Lace and in 2000 became Nottingham Pride, providing one day a year when people of all backgrounds from all over Nottinghamshire and beyond can come together and share a day of entertainment, fun and community. But the significance of this yearly event goes far deeper than simply having a great day out; it is a hugely important celebration of one of the most successful and worthy civil rights movements of our time.

The modern Pride movement began in 1969 after the Stonewall riots, in which the gay community of New York first fought back against the homophobic government-sponsored oppression that was being suffered around the globe. Whilst it was a violent event, it gave gay people a cause to unite in and from this was borne countless activist organisations, lobbyist groups and the Gay Pride movement. Since that terrible day, charities such as Stonewall (named after the NYC club where the riot began) have worked tirelessly to achieve equal rights for LGBT people, and although the fight is far from over there has been a massive shift in public perceptions and political attitudes.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the events at Stonewall, and as such is an important landmark in the Pride movement. For the first time there will be a Speakers’ Corner at Nottingham Pride, where people can stand up and have their say on any issues surrounding LGBT culture, with the speakers including Nottingham’s very own gay sheriff. The event is, as always, family friendly, but with the addition of three local bars lending their support including a dance and live entertainment tent. On the main stage music will be provided by Kenelis and Kelly Llorenna among others, and the event itself will be hosted by Pariss, who is one of the East Midlands’ premier drag queens. There will also be Nottingham’s first ‘Pride Walk’, starting from 11am running from the Forest Ground to the Arboretum, which will feature a marching brass band, dance troupe, and local organisations. Bring whistles!

This is an event that stands for so much, and by simply turning up and having a brilliant time you’ll be showing your support and doing your bit for the advancement of the LGBT community, not only in Nottinghamshire but all over the world. This is not a celebration of difference, but a celebration of the diversity within our city, our community and everywhere else. That being said, expect a spectacular amount of colourful drag queens, rainbow stalls, beautiful gays and lovely lesbians, amongst a swathe of good food, great music and fabulous entertainment. See you at the Arboretum!

The Pirate Bay Verdict: A hollow victory for major record labels – heads up label chumps, the revolution is already happening!

17 Apr

The founders of torrent search engine The Pirate Bay have been found guilty of breaking copyright law, sentenced to 1 year in prison and fined £2.4 million.

What a crock of outdated, archaic shit.

I know it’s only an initial verdict and the boys at TPB will be appealing, but I feel compelled to vent my spleen anyway. Ranting, disjointed outburst coming up, apologies in advance..

I spend a large chunk of my average day finding music from all over the world by artists and bands who offer their work for free, and I do all I can to promote and spread awareness of the music that I love. Most of these artists and bands are unsigned, or at most signed to small indie labels, and they make very little money from their music – however, they’re doing what they love and making truly arse-kickingly awesome music. They save up enough cash to buy a day in a studio and record EPs, albums and demos, and then give them away – not only to promoters, podcasters and potential labels but to anyone who wants to listen. They upload their music to sites like Jamendo, Reverb Nation, and The Podsafe Music Network, they use Twitter to network with other music-heads – in other words, they use some bloody initiative to spread their work around, all whilst making little or no money. Such is the depth of their love for music, and the strength of their drive to spread their blood-sweat-and-tear-streaked recordings to any potential fans.

Compare this to the attitude of major record labels.

These are people who find bands that love to make good music, take them under their corporate wing, and proceed to ethically and financially bitch-slap them and their fans to within an inch of their lives.

Trent Reznor, a pioneer of the Creative Commons, independent music movement after ditching Universal in 2007, expresses this perfectly:

“One of the biggest wake-up calls of my career was when I saw a record contract. I said, ‘Wait – you sell it for $18.98 and I make 80 cents? And I have to pay you back the money you lent me to make it and then you own it?”

The fact is that the record industry is foundering because music fans are no longer willing to pay extortionate prices for CDs when they know that the artists themselves are getting jack shit – and they can get a copy off the internet for nowt. But the big labels have become so enamoured with making quick money from trendy bands who are hyped up to shit and only ever make one album before they disappear, that they’ve forgotten what it means to build a proper relationship with fans. And this means that to most independent artists, the thought of getting a major record deal seems terribly bleak and soulless such that no one actually wants one anymore! Musicians have become savvy; they understand that if they get signed to a major label they’ll get dicked around and eventually crushed, and most musicians worth their salt would rather get a nice deal with a smaller indie label and tour their music-loving arses off.

Because do you know what you can’t illegally download and torrent and pirate and stream? The thrilling exhilaration, excitement and joy of live music. And I know you can bootleg, film and stream gigs but I mean actually being there and feeling the bassline hit you right between the ribs. The whole point of indie bands giving away their music is to build up a loyal fanbase who will come to their gigs, buy their merchandise, and recommend them to friends who will do the same. The more people know about your music, the more chance you have of making money from it. And you can’t get people who’ve never heard of you to buy stuff straight off the bat, you have to make them like you first.

The point is, the future of music is priceless. It is a Creative Commons licensed, free exchange of EPs, albums, demos and promo tracks, distributed and spread by people who love the music enough to tell everyone they know. It’s a true thrill unlike any other to stumble upon amazing music that no one’s heard yet, whether on the internet, at a gig or through word of mouth, and it’s why I spend half my life doing it!

The major labels need to prick up their ears and take notice of how music distribution is operating under their radar, and maybe then they’re realise why no one’s buying CDs anymore and why The Pirate Bay founders shouldn’t go to prison for making music available to everyone. Because after all, copying isn’t theft – it’s making more of something that already exists so that it can be spread to new listeners and fans.

Free music is the future, whether they like it or not.

International Day of Awesomeness: My Tribute to Insomnia Radio

10 Mar

In honour of today’s special celebration, I have taken up the challenge of the day and chosen to write about something that I think epitomises the essence of awesomeness – the Insomnia Radio podcast network. (The fact that I occasionally do reviews for IR:UK has no bearing on my choice, I was a fan before I was a reviewer, honest!)

Not an obvious choice, as I’m sure you’ll agree. These guys don’t stomp around performing Chuck Norris-style feats of awesomeness (at least not as far as I’m aware), nor do they jump through flaming hoops on toy motorbikes, and they don’t have captions. What they do do is a much more subtle form of awesomeness – promoting some of the best and most underexposed independent music from around the world.

From all over the States across to the UK, New Zealand and even Turkey, these unpaid champions of the indie music scene work tirelessly to create shows of consistently kick-arse music for you and I to enjoy. And yes, you heard correctly – unpaid. These dudes take time out of every week to sift through a plethora of The Best Music You’ve Never Heard to find nuggets of aural gold for us to marvel at, and they do it out of the goodness of their music-loving hearts!

So I suggest you skip your way over to insomniaradio.net, check out the regional shows, subscribe to the IR Daily Dose (one shiny and juicy song every day, lovingly hand-picked by the IR team for your pleasure, for free!), and bathe in the awesomeness that is: free music encased in free podcasts, put together by people who genuinely love it so much they do it for nowt!