Open letter to Pride in London – publication and follow up

July 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

First – thank you all so very much for your support, and for bearing with over the past few days – it’s been hectic to say the least.

So So Gay have published our open letter to London Pride, drawn together by Jacq Applebee and myself – and signed by over 100 organisations and individuals. Do please have a read, and spread the word.

Pride in London have sent us a private response, and a request for a private meeting – similar responses from their Board have been sent to the media organisations covering this story.

I believe that, as a public community matter, this is best dealt with openly within the community. So, below the fold, is my response to their response. It’s all getting very long winded.

But before that – I just wanted to say that if you do care about Pride in London, if you have any ideas of how you want it to be – please let them know: info@prideinlondon.org

They may not listen, they may not agree, they may not act – but they can’t say that they haven’t be told.

Thank you again for your support.

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Open letter to Pride in London regarding inclusion of UKIP

July 17, 2015 § 57 Comments

UK people,

Jacq Applebee and I have drafted an open letter to the Board and Senior Team of Pride in London about their behaviour over UKIP’s inclusion.

If you’re interested in signing (as a group or organisation) or know of people who would be interested in signing, please let us know – leave a comment with the name you’d like to use, or message me directly through Facebook or contact form.

We’ll be gathering signatures for the next four days at least, before publishing in a forum TBA. Please help us spread the word – and thank you.

 

To the Board and Senior Team of Pride in London,

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our deep disappointment at Pride in London’s behaviour concerning the inclusion of UKIP in this year’s march, to wit:

 

  • UKIP was initially included in the march, despite having failed to sign up to the Pride in London charter. The signing of this charter was a prerequisite of entry – UKIP were the only political group to refuse to sign, but were still accepted as participants.
  • Pride in London failed to inform their Advisory Board of this decision. Crucially, they failed to consult with their BME representative before accepting UKIP’s application. Said representative was left to find out about UKIP’s inclusion from publicity materials and media coverage.
  • Pride in London then further refused to discuss UKIP’s inclusion with their BME representative, leading to said representative’s resignation.
  • After a broadly negative public response from the LGBTQI community to the announcement of UKIP’s inclusion, Pride in London publicly rescinded their acceptance of UKIP’s application. Pride in London assured other participants, and the broader community as a whole, that UKIP would not be allowed to march.
  • On the day of the march, Saturday June 27th, the UKIP contingent were ushered into the march itself as it was underway. This despite failing to pay the entrance fee, sign the charter, sign the agreement on good conduct, or be included in the parade route. It is important to note here that other groups and individuals who had failed to complete these steps were removed from the march by stewards and security officials.
  • The Chair of Pride in London, Michael Salter, consequently informed BBC Daily Politics that they had ‘managed to get them [UKIP] safely into the parade’ – confirming that UKIP’s inclusion was deliberate, rather than a last minute error. Mr. Salter expressed concern over the safety of UKIP supporters – but raised none of the concerns posed to him and the Board about the safety and well-being of other LGBTQI marchers threatened by UKIP’s inclusion. Mr. Salter went on to say that it was ‘great that they [UKIP] were able to participate’.
  • The board of Pride in London failed to respond to questions raised by the community over this backtracking. They have, after nearly three weeks of silence, produced a report that fails to answer the questions and concerns raised to them.

 

In providing UKIP members with special treatment (waiving of fees, waiving of conditions of entry) whilst assuring the broader LGBTQI community of their non-involvement, Pride in London have shown themselves to be incompetent, mendacious, or both. In particular, Pride in London’s treatment of their BME members and, more broadly, London’s LGBTQI people of colour, has been profoundly disrespectful. Instances of both overt and passive racism and Islamophobia from Pride in London’s board have been previously documented. This recent behaviour has confirmed the view of many in the community that Pride in London has failed in their duty to reflect and honour the multicultural nature of London’s LGBTQI population.

In their lack of respect shown to their own advisory committee, in their lack of respect shown to the broader LGBTQI community (including all other participants in this year’s Pride march and events), in their lack of transparency and failure to communicate honestly, the current Pride in London board shows itself not fit for purpose.

To represent London’s LGBTQI population accurately, the board of Pride in London must reflect the actual diversity of our community – and behave in accordance with its legal role as a community interest company.

We demand that changes be made: within the board, to the ways in which the board communicates, and with Pride in London’s accountability processes overall.

 

 

The Lion-Faced Man

June 23, 2015 § 3 Comments

The last couple of months have been some of my lightest blogging ever – and there’s a pretty good reason behind that. I’m lucky enough to be friends with the wonderful Hel Gurney – performance poet, fiction/non-fiction writer, researcher and activist – and, last year, we decided to write an opera – Hel taking care of the words, I the music.

So that is what I’ve been doing. It was, unsurprisingly, intense. And now we have an opera, The Lion-Faced Man, opening with Tete a Tete Opera Festival at King’s Place this August, performed by incredible mezzo Alison Wells.

 

Stephan

 

We had long wanted to collaborate on a piece exploring difference and looking. With The Lion-Faced Man, we felt there was an opportunity to tackle the audience’s assumptions and completely reverse them. Instead of watching a captive performer, the audience is made captive themselves – strapped into a viewing headset, unable to look away as Stephan Bibrowski, the lion-faced man, stares them down. The singer barrels through a litany of characters – doctor, ringmaster, narrator, side-show spectators, the titular man himself – one single voice contorting through speech and song to populate Stephan’s world. How does looking change the substance of what we see, and how are we changed in the looking? Where does biography end and fiction begin?

Hel and I will be discussing this in greater depth over the next couple of weeks – but I wanted to share the good news, and give a heads up for anyone interested in the UK – tickets are extremely limited and selling fast.

Any questions? Let us know. I’ll be back with a more regular blog next week – until then, it’s more opera for me.

April 25th, 2015…

April 22, 2015 § 2 Comments

…is a pretty big day for me. UK people, please read on – non-UK people, I hope I’ll get to see you sometime in the next couple of years.

This Saturday I’ll be gigging at Whitechapel’s Rhythm Factory – with songs from my next album, Coming Home. Terrifying and exciting in equal measures. This is a really important gig for me – professionally and personally – and if you’ve ever listened to a track (if you haven’t, listen here), or thought you might like to check out my music, if you had the time – the time is now.

 

Sing Your Rage landscape layout

 

I know money is ludicrously tight for a lot of people right now – so entry is pay what you can. If that’s nothing then that’s cool. If you’ve magically managed to find a high paying job, we’d really appreciate a generally emptying out of the pockets. I’m performing with two ridiculously talented, moving acts – Seth Corbin and Daniel Versus the World – it’s going to be furious, cathartic, romantic – just very special.

Doors at 7pm – come Sing Your Rage with us. And please spread the word – word of mouth is what indie artists live and die on. We’re singing this for you.

 

Transpose news

August 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

The last one, the next one, and some general information

 

I realise that, though I managed to remember to update all the other social media, I’ve been remiss in reporting the result of the London Pride edition of Transpose. So, if you haven’t heard the good news – we had a fucking fabulous time and raised £450 – THANK YOU! We were originally going to be donating that amount to the Horizons Foundation, supporting LGBT refugees (linked to the documentary Born This Way). Sadly, both groups seem to no longer be functioning – so we were advised instead to donate to Out and Proud Diamond Group – an amazing cause – please do read about their work and share their information.

 

Next Transpose will be another Hallowe’en edition – an Inappropriately Sexy Hallowe’en Edition, to be precise. You know how costume manufacturers are always trying to make a ‘sexy’ version of every normal costume? Well, I think we can take it to the next level. I’m going to be ‘sexy’ Freud – it’s going to be intense.

More importantly, two acts have already confirmed, and I’m already excited about seeing them perform – Elaine O’Neil and Bethany Black – Transpose’s first stand-up comedy night. More information to follow – but, for the moment, Thursday October 30th at the Hackney Attic is what you need to write in your diaries.

 

I started Transpose three years ago, with the intention of raising funds for a friend and making some noise with fellow trans artist. I’m somewhat astounded, but incredible touched, by what it’s turned into – again, thank you. Transpose nights are some of my happiest memories – a chance to be with like-minded people, and share a lot of difficult, but important emotions – and a lot of laughter.

If you haven’t come along before, it would be wonderful to see you in October. Transpose has only two rules:

  1. Don’t make assumptions
  2. Don’t be a dick

All people are welcome, so long as they abide by those. I can’t promise that it’s a safe space – I don’t think it’s possible for one event to be safe for all people – but it is a respectful one, for artists as well as performers.

 

I hope you’re as excited about the next one as I am.

 

 

New music video – are you in?

May 29, 2014 § 3 Comments

What

A new video for the Aether track Youclick here to listen. Filming with the Positive Change Arts Project.

 

When/Where

Saturday June 7th – 4:30pm arrival, shooting between 5-7pm

Hackney Picture House

270 Mare St, London E8 1HE

 

Why

Because I wanted to make a video to give something back to the people who have given so much to me. Because I’m sick of videos pretending to be diverse by hiring over-represented groups to pretend to be under-represented groups. Because we wanted to make a positive stand against bullying, against stereotypes, against reductionism – and, instead, celebrate our unique beauty.

The premise is very simple – we’re going to gather together in a gig-like setting – I’ll bring speakers and a mic, and sing my best to you (although we might have to repeat the same song over and over again). We all – myself included – have a piece of card we hold. On one side is written a word/phrase that the world has called us – something that doesn’t fit – something that hurt – something that needs to stop. On the other we write a word/phrase that DOES describe us – something we’re proud of, something we claim as our own.

I wanted to make a video about the power of naming yourself, without apology. And I wanted to buy you all a drink while I did it.

You in? Email me at cnlester@hotmail.co.uk – we’re going to have a blast.

Transpose Hallowe’en Thank You Edition

November 12, 2013 § 2 Comments

Late but not forgotten – please consider this post an enormous thank you (shall we capitalise? oh, go on then) – THANK YOU!

We raised €385 for Transgender Equality Network Ireland, wore some incredible costumes (“50 Shades of Grey” won my heart) and danced our arses off to the Time Warp.

 

Jacq Applebee looking dapper

Jacq Applebee looking dapper

 

Squid and The Krakens

Squid and The Krakens

 

HUGE thanks to all the artists – Hel Gurney, Kat Gupta, Sandra Alland, Jacq Applebee and Squid and the Krakens – they supplied a whole smörgåsbord of emotions and all of them were delicious.

 

Sandra Alland

Sandra Alland

 

Kat Gupta (this is what a feminist werewolf looks like)

Kat Gupta (this is what a feminist werewolf looks like)

 

Please go and read a lovely review we had here – and, for those of you who are thinking of coming to the next edition in February, I wanted to share an anonymous review that might possibly have made me misty-eyed. Thank you guys – you’re the best.

 

This is the most beautiful thing going on in London. It’s about community and love and art and passion, it’s about trans and/or genderqueer people making art that fortifies you against death culture (by which I mean a culture that wants a lot of us dead) whether by making you laugh or cry – either way you are reminded that trans people matter profoundly, that life matters profoundly, and that art matters profoundly. One of the gifts of Transpose is inspiration – seeing people up close making their art (their music, their song, their poems and stories and movies and pictures) makes it more possible to go home and make your own. One other gift of Transpose – possibly the most life-saving one it has to give – is community. Many people who come to Transpose get to know each other. If you come by yourself, and feel able to introduce yourself to anyone, please please do so – there will be other people there who want to meet you!

 

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