Rainbow Screen

Joan Burnett has been a Trustee of Liverpool Pride since 2010 and is part of team that runs Pride at the Pictures as well as Trustee with responsibility for the Liverpool Pride volunteer team. Joan has worked in arts organisations for more than 25 years including the Everyman Theatre, Nottingham Playhouse, TATE Liverpool, LIPA and, for the last 12 years, FACT. She has a love affair with film, theatre and visual art. She firmly believes that these should be made accessible for as many people as possible.

Pride at the Pictures is all about participation! We want to make more people aware of the brilliant LGBT films that are out there and get as many people writing about them and coming to see them as possible. Anyone can write for us as long as they care about LGBT cinema – academic or not, humorous or not, our blog and database are there for everyone to get involved.

We also want to raise the profile of LGBT cinema with venues across our region and get LGBT cinema into as many mainstream venues as we can. We have support from two great cinemas already, Picturehouse@FACT in Liverpool and The Light in New Brighton and would like to see more venues join us.

ten minutes hate caught up with Joan in FACT Liverpool to discover her cultural passions.

Joan Burnett

What is your favourite piece of art?

I can’t choose just one artwork!

I love colour so probably something by one of the Scottish Colourists – I love the fact that these artists brought continental flare to early 20th century Edinburgh. They have been dismissed as merely decorative by some but I think that is to underestimate their power – I’m going to go with Cloud and Sky, Iona by S J Peploe as I love the Scottish islands and could dream away looking at this all day.

Alternatively, I would have one of Ben Youdan’s fab artworks – I really love the ones he has made based on diagrams of human organs – they are strangely moving – they definitely have a heart beat and Ben’s work is always provocative.

clouds and sky iona peploe

Music to dance to?

Hercules and Love Affair – I got into them through Anthony Johnson as I love his voice and then realised they had far more going on. It’s quite chunky to dance to. And then, ABBA of course!

A piece of Architecture that pleases you?

My favourite modern architecture in Liverpool would have to be the Everyman Theatre – it’s a triumph. It works beautifully as a theatre space, its fun and functional and I love the Portrait Wall the frieze of local people – it’s a brilliant touch and reminds everyone that arts organisations are all about PEOPLE!

A book you cannot put down?

Anything by Marilynne Robinson who I think is the greatest living American novelist. My favourite is Home, which is about families and the compromises they make, the misunderstandings they have and our capacity to learn and adapt.

A website that you visit frequently?

BBC! I love the BBC which I think is one of the two greatest things the UK has ever produced, the other being the NHS. Obviously, the other one is Pride at the Pictures, our participatory project all about LGBT film.

Favourite films? You can pick three.

Only 3?

Desert Hearts
Distant Voices, Still Lives
Tomboy

All films that have people’s inner experience of themselves and of change at the core and continue to move me even though I have seen them all many times.

Who do you admire?

Marie & Michael Causer Snr and Gee Walker for being so generous and open-hearted in the face of such heartbreak. To lose their sons in such horrible circumstances would crush most people, but they have risen above it and given a huge amount to people on Merseyside. They are a constant inspiration to me.

distant voices still lives

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From the Land of Green Ghosts by Pascal Khoo Thwe

Had I not read Emma Larkin’s wonderful Finding George Orwell in Burma in 2013, I wouldn’t have gone looking for further reading and found a list of the author’s recommended books about the country. That would have meant I missed out on Pascal Khoo Thwe’s remarkable, lyrical story of a life that begins in the jungles of Burma before – after a few dizzying turns – depositing him in Cambridge’s hallowed atmosphere.

fromthelandofgreenghosts

Despite making bold promises to myself after compiling last year’s reading list, it has taken me close to two months to finish reading this book. Partly a change in available time is to blame, but also because there were passages that defy speeding through, rewarding repeated consideration and a slower pace. Carl Honoré would love it.

That pace is set by the author’s beginnings in tribal lands where the seasons dominate and everything is in tune with the life of the natural world around it. Some nods to modernity have been made, along with the tribe’s enthusiastic conversion to Catholicism, but the older ways operate alongside the new without too much anguish. Surprisingly – although perhaps less so when you learn more of what followed – the days of the British are remembered fondly. Pascal Khoo Thwe’s grandmother was even brought to London to be displayed as one of the ‘giraffe necked women’ and returned from the visit having enjoyed the ‘moving stairs’ that they didn’t need to climb, but full of complaints about the cold.

‘The English are a very strange tribe,’ said Grandma Mu Tha. ‘They paid money just to look at us – they paid us for not working… They say “Hello,” “How are you” and “Goodbye” all the time to one another.’

It is an enjoyable existence, one where uncles are supermen, playing for the town’s football team is the highest honour and wasps are a delicacy. Apart from that last one, it isn’t too far from my own. The dead remain in close proximity to the living, as in other parts of Asia. Death is not something to fear, but more a move to the next stage of life. These words from a funeral which was a blend of Catholic and traditional rites,

Well done, my boy. Well done, Peter Yew, for you have made us proud. You have finished your hunting. Enjoy being with our ancestors for ever; enjoy the banquet with them. They await you, and we will join you when the time comes. Meanwhile tell our ancestors about us, tell them to help us, and to protect us from the evil powers. Ask them to make our land fertile, to bring good weather and rains for us, to make our women fertile. Go my son, go, back to our ancestors. May your journey be gentle and your soul as bright as the stars.

That was one of the particular passages of the book that I read more than once. What better words could be said at the end of a life cut short but one that was lived well.

These ways which have endured for so long are not immediately threatened by the changes in Burma’s power structures as the military dictatorship takes hold slowly. The author’s grandfather and then his father are allowed to retain some vestiges of their tribal authority and so it is perhaps not until he reaches university, in a Mandalay so far off that it feels like another land altogether, that he begins to be exposed to the sufferings of other parts of his country. As a student he is advised to play the game and not question too much:

Remember what your grandfather said about the earth’s being round at school and flat at home. He was a wise man and taught you what you need to know in Burma. It is the same in politics… They may be as ignorant as peasants – but they have the guns. Never, never argue with them.

But he finds it increasingly difficult to engage in the doublethink which is needed to thrive in Burma. Even the university’s buildings, dating from Colonial times, impress upon him that at one point this place of learning sought to encourage an opening of minds and curiosity about the world that his generation is being denied. He is not the only one and, in 1988, protests sweep the country, starting with students before pulling in monks and ordinary people. The disappearance of his girlfriend in sinister circumstances shocks him off the sidelines and in to a more outspoken role, before eventually – inevitably – he is forced to flee for the relative ‘safety’ of the Thai border and the rebel fighters attacking government troops there.

And here this tale might have ended, by stray bullet or landmine, were it not for a chance meeting a few years earlier in a Mandalay restaurant with a Cambridge academic and a scrawled note which somehow reaches him. This contact catapults Pascal Khoo Thwe around the world, away from family, friends and comrades, and into the same misty cold that his grandmother had found so hard to bear. It is a heck of a journey and the reader almost has to keep reminding herself that Thwe is only recounting his first couple of decades.

Learning English and studying for a literature degree are colossal feats in their own rights, becoming a writer who can tell such a captivating tale in so creative and descriptive a manner is another. Mosquitoes are like ‘flying grape-pips blushing with human blood,’ and when he heads into the mountainous jungle, scenes of ‘cool-season flowers, ranging from… varieties of orchid to small white and purple bush-flowers,’ are interrupted by burnt-out villages.

It was a countryside that the hand of war had several times touched.

From his tribal childhood, to gaining maturity during the uprisings before heading to Cambridge, Pascal Khoo Thwe has lived more than one life, none of which I had much experience of. It’s a testament to his faith in ‘freedom and love of life’ that he was able to survive and to record such events not in a flat recounting, but in a tale that lives and breathes with the vitality and character of its writer.

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News From Nowhere

Established May Day 1974, News From Nowhere celebrated forty years in business in 2014. Forty years of supplying the people of Liverpool and beyond with books and information, to empower, bring about social justice and to sculpt the world we live in.

Gandhi

Gandhi famously stated,

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Independent, not-for-profit, workers’ co-operatives – like this valuable book store – help people to realise this missive. I have been dipping into the Bold Street premises, and encouraging friends and colleagues to do so, for many years. Here I have been introduced to a diverse cast of authors such as Rumi, Sarah Waters, Edmund White, Ruby Wax and Gerry Potter, to name a few.

ruby wax

It is also an integral gathering place for book launches, debates and activist talks. Last year Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else by James Meek was just one example of the type of informative interview one can expect from this book lovers’ church.

High streets are becoming increasingly a blue print of sameness, with no real differentiator between them. You could be in any UK town or city! The usual suspects take up retail space, the abundance of mobile phone shops, discount pound dealers, loan sharks and – the most deadly of shark – the convenience express stores. Every little doesn’t always help. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that treasures like News From Nowhere are appreciated, not overlooked, but used and used frequently. Once they are gone, they are gone!

Increasingly on a day-to-day basis, small independents face financial struggles. It is a tempestuous economic sea to try to navigate through. Everything from seasonal slumps in trade, competition from the bigger bookstores, chains or supermarkets and rising overhead costs, tries to drown business and wash away the remains before noticed. Even the festive trade and the traditional purchasing of book tokens as gifts is on the decline.

What was interesting this holiday Liverpool, like most city centres, had the European Christmas Markets. False-looking wooden huts selling overpriced craft and novelty gifts were plonked in front of shops in desperate need of trade. If I were an independent trader this would serve to fuel a festive bonfire of bitter, bitter resentment. Increase the competition at the time when local business needs support instead, that makes sense. But I guess it is all about the profit, I wonder how much extra revenue can be gained for the Council? Hopefully they can then start to clear the chewing gum plastered pavements or seagull poop that naturally marbles all the concrete. I do wonder if European visitors have British Christmas Markets, stalls selling watch batteries and traditional British fare like Roast Beef and Spotted Dick. (Of course, not on the same plate.) Eating a German sausage and drinking mulled wine outside the flashing neon blue and white X of Halifax Bank, is not festive, it is actually depressing.

So please, please, please do not forget the local businesses. News From Nowhere needs people to support them and there are a number of ways that you can:

  • DONATIONS – whether financial or as unwanted books that they can sell second hand
  • INTEREST-FREE LOANS – long term or short term
  • CREDIT LOAN – repaid in books and other purchases
  • REGULAR STANDING ORDER – for example £5 or £10, as a donation or a credit loan

In addition, you can search and order more than 1.5 million titles on their website. ORDER FROM THE REAL AMAZONS!

News from Nowehere

The future of small independent stores really lies in all of our hands. We need the sparkling stores of individuality to add a bit of Technicolor in an increasingly charcoal cityscape full of the bland. Loyal support will keep them open. Let’s not lose them!

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The words of the prophets are written on the (Subway) walls

Sometimes a simple statement, a simple phrase, can have maximum impact. Less can indeed be sometimes more. A match when struck and left on a pile of paper can cause an inferno. I find graffiti can have a similar effect on me. Just glancing over a statement can play on my mind for the rest of the day.

To complement the fabulous art galleries in Liverpool like the Fallout Factory, TATE and the Walker – to name but a few – there is another type of canvas on display all around the Pool of Life. Art pieces randomly pop up creating an external gallery populated by the graffiti artist.

Happiness is a journey

As a lover of words it is the notable turns of phrase picked up on the streets that really have a deep impact on me. Like, for example, the ‘Happiness is a journey, not a destination’ painted in bold yellow on Maryland Street. ‘Dream Big, Dare to fail.’ Found etched in gaffer tape in the window of a College. Or the simple ‘Money eats brain.’ I first encountered this simple piece of syntax walking past a disused public toilet by the St. Georges Hall. It made me chuckle and really think about how cash can in fact rot the cranium.

There is also a Banksy in Liverpool. I still to this day mourn the loss of the giant rat that was sadly annihilated by property developers, like so many beautiful things in Liverpool.

Banksy rat

We also have our own spray can legend, TOMO.

While the student club BUMPER always offers advice outside on its billboard. Just before term erupted last September there was the warning:

HIDE THE NOODLES, THE STUDENTS ARE COMING

and recently in the aftermath of the Christmas selfie avalanche that bamboozled the internet:

Ann Summers has been selling selfie sticks for years.

I am aware the influence pointing out graffiti art has had on my ten year-old niece, as we bomb around the city together on a Saturday.

banksy_liverpool_love-heart-loop-plane_lonely-villein_unurth_dec12_2_1000-460x345

The ginger minx presented me with a drawing of her own.

heartair balloon

Shame the kid wants to be an accountant. Apologies to people who work in finance and the world of filthy lucre, but let’s just get one thing straight, all the worlds’ top economists and financial experts did not predict or see the triple dip recession coming at all. An equation that for me simply does not add up!

Please keep your eyes on the hunt for any interesting pieces of street art and let ten minutes hate know. And you will soon see that sometimes the City’s best galleries can be outside on the very streets.

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Interlude by Rupert Smith

They say you cannot judge a book by its cover, but I must confess that it was the strikingly handsome chiselled profile of the chap gracing the cover of Rupert Smith’s INTERLUDE that initially made me hover over the shelf.

interlude

Thankfully, as I started to read the tale, it became apparent that the content was impeccable. I was entranced. You know it is the mark of a good book when you cancel social plans and get up half an hour earlier before work to read some more. I was a literary addict consumed and ravaged by my desire to just read on.

INTERLUDE:

Edward Barton was one of the most successful novelists of the twentieth century. The critics didn’t like him, but readers loved him – and so did the film industry, turning out movie after movie based on his blockbusters. Then at the height of his fame, after the worldwide success of his best-selling novel Interlude, Edward retired from public life and never wrote another word.
It’s left to his granddaughter Helen, married with two young children, to untangle the web of fiction and lies surrounding Edward Barton’s legacy, and to reveal the secret at the heart of her family – a love story far stronger than anything in his novels.

ten minutes hate was beyond pleased when author Rupert Smith agreed to be interviewed.  He spoke about all things literary, seagulls and an open mic night for new talent.

10mh: Do you have any rituals or specific routines when writing or working on a script?

No, other than getting up and getting to my desk and working for as long as I can, fuelled by coffee and sandwiches. I don’t really buy into the fanciful idea that writing is some kind of magical process. It’s just a job. A writer I knew got quite misty-eyed about his fountain pen, which he thought was a conduit to the imaginative realm, or something like that. I just thought ‘please, get a laptop and join the real world’.

10mh: What qualities do you think make a fantastic story?

I have very traditional, perhaps conservative ideas about narrative. I believe in structure, and suspense, and giving the reader an enjoyable experience. You must have humour.  I like there to be an obvious point to the story – something that you can sum up in a sentence or less. If you can’t do that, then you don’t really know what your book is about. I often get criticised for having ‘unlikeable’ characters, which I think is just another way of saying flawed or realistic characters. I like protagonists to be interestingly flawed. It’s what interests me in people, and in fictional characters.

10mh: Who are the authors and artists you admire?

Far too many to list here. Off the top of my head, JB Priestley, Honore de Balzac, Agatha Christie, Somerset Maugham, Elizabeth Taylor, Evelyn Waugh, EF Benson, Jean Rhys. But there are thousands.

10mh: If you could be an animal, which one would you choose and why?

A seagull. I’d like to be able to fly, obviously, and I like the beach. Also, shitting on people from a great height would be fun.

10mh: INTERLUDE references the power of cinema, what films do you go back to again and again?

I love black and white Hollywood stuff like Now, Voyager, The Lady Eve, Some Like It Hot and so on. And I love really schlocky horror movies – Poltergeist, Lifeforce, Species, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Faculty. Apart from that, I’ll watch just about anything with a handsome leading man, as long as it’s not too violent. Netflix is great for that kind of thing.

10mh: INTERLUDE has had a fantastic critical response and I finished reading it 16 days into January, thinking, ‘I have found my book of the year.’ What future projects do you hope to develop?

Thank you, I really appreciate that. The critical response has been great, although it’s really hard these days to get any coverage in the press. I’ve got a couple of projects on the go at the moment. Under my other writing name, James Lear, I’ve got a new erotic thriller coming out in the summer called Straight Up, it’s kind of like Lee Child but with hot gay sex. I’ve got a novel and a non-fiction memoir both doing the rounds but it’s one of my rules that I never talk about projects until the ink’s dry on the contract, so you’ll have to wait and see about that.

10mh: What advice would you give to new creative writers?

I’m the last person to ask for advice. My ‘career’ has lurched from one disaster to another, occasionally squeezing out some good books along the way. The only serious piece of advice I have is ‘marry well’. If I didn’t have a husband who earns a proper salary, I’d be in the gutter. But if you want literary advice, it’s this. Books are for readers, NOT for writers. You should always focus on giving the reader a great experience, not on some bollocks that your creative writing tutor told you.

And finally, if you want to read some of your work to an audience, come along to my monthly event Books in the Attic at Hackney Picturehouse in London, we have open mic slots.

Author picture courtesy of Fannar Gudmundsson

Author picture courtesy of Fannar Gudmundsson

Interlude by Rupert Smith is available now.

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Staunch supporters?

As you may have noticed from a recent post, ten minutes hate is aware there is an election on the horizon. And while this half of the writing team is quite relieved to be on the opposite side of the world from all the fuss, behind the scenes emails have been flying about the thorny topic of who, if anyone, to support.

My colleague, Mr Maguire, was threatening to make his decision after reading all the major parties’ manifestos. For which endeavour we must surely thank him. I can think of quite a few better ways to spend time in a favourite reading chair. Fortunately, for those of us without that level of dedication, the internet is here to save the day.

I Side With will ask you an array of questions – the answers to which can be very nuanced if you so choose – you aren’t hampered by binary responses. Then it will tell you the party that matches your views on the issues you hold dearest.

Now I would have considered myself a very disillusioned former Labour supporter. I could list everything they have done since those heady days of 1997, but like any break up, what would be the point? These days I think of them, if at all, like an ex whose number flashes onto your phone’s screen as you quietly put it down onto the table, walk into the kitchen and put the kettle on. Whatever the Labour Party had to say, I wasn’t in the mood for listening.

So imagine my surprise to finish the quiz and be told I am 84% Labour! I doubt even Ed Balls gets that much… About as Labour as it is possible to be and still I thought they weren’t worth the candle. It is almost as if there is an agenda to keep the focus on the awkwardness of Ed Miliband and away from his party’s policies. Imagine!

In a way though, the sheer abundance of ‘Ed Miliband looking daft’ photos that exist is heartwarming proof that the ruthless media operation of the Blair-Brown era has finally been laid to rest. Alistair Campbell would have ripped the still-beating heart out of any picture editor who even contemplated publishing this:

Miliband cuppa

… and there are many more examples.

Still, this focus on the leaders is itself very-unBritish. We don’t have a Presidential system, so unless you live in Doncaster North you are not actually able to vote for the poor man in the picture above. (Who among us can say that they have never suffered via an unstable cup and saucer?)

Suaver media presences have had their hands on the wheel since 2010 and look where that has got us. Simply put, we cannot let PR guy Cameron and his millionaires club cronies win again. In the words of a family member:

Public services will not survive another Tory Government.

There is now little left to cut.

As in 1945, when a vote for Labour was a vote for the NHS, so it is this time. Have Labour been awful in the past? Yep. Are they led by a guy who struggles with basic chinaware? You betcha. Am I going to vote for them anyway, in a fit of hope over experience? Yes, I am and I think you should seriously contemplate it too. The NHS needs us.

More from Mr Maguire, to follow when he has read all those manifestos…

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A bloody canvas

Pierre Lemaitre was awarded the 2013 Crime Writers’ Association International Dagger for his first outing in crime fiction, Alex.

pierre lemaitre

The follow-up, Irene, sees Commandant Camille Verhoeven – his dwarf hero and main protagonist – married and about to become a father. His life is a long sought after one of ease. The story opens with a murder of unprecedented savagery. The author is unrelenting in his description of the macabre crime scene. This is not a spoiler alert but a warning to the squeamish amongst readers.

When they arrive at a crime scene, rookie officers unconsciously look around for death. Experienced officers look for life. But there was no life here; death had leached into every space, even the bewildered eyes of the living.

The French writer paints a picture and it is a gore-ridden massacre, not so much on a small detailed canvas, more of a bold brash bloody mural. The killer’s signature style is to pay homage to the classic crime novels. The gutter press, one suspects the French equivalent of The Daily Fail or The Scum, quickly label him the Novelist.

The tale soon becomes a personal duel between Verhoeven and the sick murderer. It is a credit to translator Frank Wynne for he transfers this piece of writing from the French into a succinct and exceptionally well written piece of crime fiction.

IRENE

What works about this gripping and intelligent story is the clever plot that weaves dark and comic scenes into a tapestry of realistic terror that surreptitiously wraps around the reader, attempting to choke. You share the sense of urgency with Camille and his team, to catch this serial psycho and stop him recreating tableaus from the pages of crime novels. It is an enthralling read and clearly written by a crime aficionado, as the author himself declares,

Since I owe almost everything I am to literature, it felt natural to begin by writing a novel which was a homage to crime fiction.

I recognised the first murder but could not think were from until informed it was from the cult classic, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis.

AmericanPsychoBook

Le Maitre explains,

American Psycho was a tremendous shock to the reading public. Bret Easton Ellis raises so many moral questions with such intelligence, such skill. Though not considered a crime novel, this defining work deftly addresses readers’ ambiguity towards the very violence which is an essential, ‘pleasure’ of crime fiction. Yet many criticised the visceral brutality in American Psycho, as though the purpose of such fiction is to exercise our hyper-violent societies, but to remain within ‘reasonable limits’.

Simply, this is a pulp crime novel taken to another level. It does not leave a temporary fixture on the imagination, like some throwaway novels in this genre, so much as a dark imposing stain.

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