Tag Archives: Liverpool

Sandi Hughes’ Vie en Rose

What a funky lady Ms. Sandi Hughes happens to be.

sandi

She has been documenting the LGBT gay scene in Liverpool since the seventies. Sandi is currently in the process of developing her archive to exhibit her work in the Pool of Life; the very waters she has swam and danced through.

I meet lots of people to interview for ten minutes hate, but I must confess this was my first meeting scheduled to last for only 45 minutes that turned into five hours! Time that seemed like five minutes and climaxed with a little boogie-woogie in a discotheque to Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda. In between striking a few poses, ten minutes hate managed to ask this maverick lady a few questions about her creative work and what makes her tick.

10mh: Sandi, can you describe your archive in five words?

Liverpool stories in my house.

10mh: If your life had a soundtrack what tunes would you have to include?

Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed
Four Door Aventador – Nicki Minaj
Billie Jean – Shinehead
Same Love – Angel Haze
Feeling Good – Nina Simone
You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester
Selassie Love We – Vybz Kartel
I Feel Love – Diana Ross
La Vie En Rose – Grace Jones
Rigor Mortis (I Love You) – Flesh and Bones
Can’t Knock the Hustle – Jay-Z
Sexy Chick – David Guetta ft Akon
Have U Eva – MC Lyte

10mh: LGBT history has gone through many changes, what have been the standout moments for you?

The Capital of Culture paying me to film Liverpool’s Black Gay stories, being able to adopt kids and get married, Liverpool Pride, UK Black Pride, Homotopia, featuring in the Lord Mayor’s Parade, Museum of Liverpool representing transgender stories (2014) and LGBT stories (2015).

10mh: If you had to be a type of food what would you be?

A pistachio nut.

10mh: The best piece of advice so far?

‘Don’t believe everything you hear.’ Jayne Casey.

10mh: Who are your LGBT heroes and heroines?

Myself! Lady Sian, Tracy Wilder, Gary Everett, Elaine Clarke, Holly Johnson, Frank Mason, Chris Bernard, Frank Clarke, Shaun Duggan, Tony Burns, Jennifer Johns, Peter Tatchell, Lady Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Queen Latifah.

10mh: What are your plans for 2015?

  •  Capture the love again and go deeper with my girlfriend

  • Finish Level 2 Music Technology in the City of Liverpool College and carry on to Level 3

  • Produce an exhibition with my LGBT video archive for the Museum of Liverpool

  • Take the above exhibition to the gay cinema in Chicago

  • DJ in the Hector Peterson Residential Home for the LB unseen party (which will be shown in the Museum of Liverpool in April

  • DJ at the Kaya Art festival in August in South Wales

  • Produce an album of soundtrack to fit the moving images of my video archives

  • DJ at Sound City Liverpool.

Keep on dancing Ms. Hughes. Let that glitter ball keep on spinning!

You can hear Sandi’s work on Mixcloud.

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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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The Sound of the City

My desk space in the city is located just off Dale Street. I love walking to work across town in the morning, past the sprinkling of market traders that are left, setting up for the day ahead. I see steaming cups of tea being administered to people who look like they desperately need them. I try to interact with this dying breed of trader. Use them or lose them! I try to buy vegetables from the stalls as often as I can. I could not get a pumpkin at Halloween last year for love nor money. One of the regular stalls I go to complained about how they simply cannot compete with the supermarkets,

Even I had to buy mine from the Asda, lad!

I love this humour that is used as an attitude in this city. The unshakeable wit of Scousers that can be heard everywhere. Recently on a bus a teenage girl was arguing/flirting with one of her male friends, who had taken a picture of her on his phone,

Do you know it’s illegal to keep a picture on ye phone if the other person doesn’t want you to?

She barked. To which he quickly retorted,

Do you know it’s illegal to have them eyebrows?

The acidic comeback is natural to the average Scouser. It’s all part of the sound of the city. It is all about survival. I have noticed in the past few years, a couple of the flower sellers have vanished on my route, withering away into nothing like the flowers they sold. There is still the occasional Eccoooooooooooo of an Echo seller and thankfully the sounds of the buskers if you can manage to ferry your way past the Predator, the Alien, a balloon squeezing Mario (plumbing obviously has been affected by the recession) and the odd Olaf. (Please note it is not recommended to tell a three-year old if the said man in a snowman costume is not present by stating, ‘he must have melted’, as my nephew was traumatised by this for several hours after.)

But one of the most gratifying sounds is the one I often hear, the music from rehearsal rooms on Dale Street. A banging drum set beat as I walk to work early in the morning and guitar solos flooding into the night air as I finish in the evening. This always raises a smile on my face, as you can hear the soul that is going into the practice. It is so much more refreshing a sound than ‘Cashier number three please.’ It is part of the DNA of this city, music, yes respecting the past but also moving progressively forward, to the future bands.

princes buildings

I was appalled at the news that this magnet for musical talent, the Princes Studios could be threatened with closure. We need to close a vital creative hub – that makes great sense! We need new apartments in the city like the world needs Ebola!

As those behind a recent petition to the Council asking to save the building have written:

Princes Studios currently houses over 250 musicians and 50+ bands who make up a large percentage of Liverpool’s illustrious music scene.

If the building closes it will have a huge negative impact on the Liverpool music scene as there is a chronic shortage of flexible and permanent rehearsal space in the city.

I was so proud to show off this City over the holidays to friends who were genuinely shocked by the culture, humour, history and vibe that we have. I do wish I was equally as proud of its elected leaders. The local Council – the alleged custodians of the city – do not seem to realise they do not own this city, the people do!

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The world can never have enough glitter!

In the limbo period of Xmas and New Year I found myself taking several parties of friends and families around the Pool of Life at different times. It is quite something, seeing the City through the eyes of strangers, aliens to its charms. I have a love affair with the City Centre which anybody who has read features on here previously will know.

The first shock to my friends was that the Museums are free!

If you have not had the pleasure of embarking on a ship as an emigrant at the Maritime Museum, do so! Although the black wigs on the dummies looked like they could have been stolen from a Human League Appreciation party. The Walker has a wealth of art, so much that only a limited supply is actually on display. Check out the new exhibit of Liverpool images though the years to see views of Castle Street and the St John’s Market resembling Covent Garden.

In a world where Russia creates ridiculous restrictions for LGBT drivers, it was an absolute pleasure to show off the cultural richness the City proudly exhibits and particularly the work of Homotopia:

  •  An ongoing exhibition about Gay life in the Navy with HELLO SAILOR at the Maritime Museum. It was an insight to discover that the common Scouse term bevvy (slang for a drink) stems from Polari .
  • The internationally ground-breaking April Ashley exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool Life. April Ashley has LIVED a life, a pioneer in LGBT history. I read the book April Ashley’s Odyssey last year. What a ride! From dining with aristocracy and being dated by Hollywood royalty to being skint in Hay-on-Wye, living on tinned food.
  • THE GANG, photographs by Catherine Opie at The Walker. Her collection of portraits of LGBT friends, an entourage of individuality, subverts American archetypes.

OPIE-square-The-GangCatherine Opie sums up how far we have come in terms of equality,

I made THE GANG after individually shooting them all for the 1991 body of work, Being and Having. It was great to see them with their moustaches and I couldn’t resist making some group photos of them…..I think it is perfect in celebrating Homotopia as this work was made 20 years ago, in relationship to visibility within my queer community. It is good to reflect on the equality that has been achieved, as well as the fight in regard to homophobia that continues.

So to banish the January blues, I would suggest painting over the grey and dark bleakness brought to us by the weather by catching the Technicolor works on display at all of the above.

Sail away to another land.
Check out the LGBT exhibitions.
The world can never have enough glitter!
And the Museums are free!

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On homesickness

Who that has not suffered it understands the pain of exile?

- George Orwell, Burmese Days

To be quite honest, having travelled back on average once a year for the slightly more than four years so far spent outside the UK, to call it ‘exile’ is to overstate the case slightly. In these days of free internet calls and the journey not taking three weeks by boat, it is a bit daft to consider oneself banished far from all the good things of home.

image

Can’t be trusted in the sweet aisle, clearly…

That said, a relative bought a print of the Albert Dock and Three Graces in Liverpool for my wall in Japan and there are some mornings it is difficult to look at, the ache from not being able to walk into the frame is too much. Missing the city as if it were an old friend is a strange feeling – the flesh and blood should have a bigger call on the emotions than bricks and mortar – but as I have been exploring this festive season, there is just something special about the Pool of Life.

Missing it too much, however, can feel like a betrayal of the other city I call home. Life in Tokyo is great, if not without its minor annoyances, just as would be the case with anywhere. The trick that homesickness plays is to mask all the deficiencies of home, while throwing a shadow over all the benefits of away. Then you are in danger of becoming one of those awful bores, lacking any sense of perspective, that have been plaguing expat life since at least the Thirties:

He had forgotten that most people can be at ease in a foreign country only when they are disparaging the inhabitants.

- Burmese Days (of course!)

The flip side of that is that, since returning, I find myself looking at my fellow shoppers, diners and train passengers wondering which of them ‘looks a bit UKIP’. A recommendation from brazzo70 in the comments on this post to check out Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe 2014 underlined all the ways in which the home country is leaving me behind (who in the hell commissioned Tumble? Danny Dyer in Eastenders? Nigel Farange appearing on anything? WHY WASN’T I CONSULTED ABOUT ANY OF THIS?)

 In an attempt to stave off the next bout of pining, measures have been implemented to bridge the gap. A Christmas present to myself was an annual subscription to Private Eye, so from later in the month you can expect to hear howls of outrage from my direction about a week after the original story first breaks. I also managed to register to vote as an overseas voter: this is open to all who left within the last 15 years and were registered before they left. Watch out, David Cameron!

All I need to do now is arrange for regular shipments of Maltesers…

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The Life of ‘The Master’

In the epicentre of the city, an electrical jungle, it seemed quite fitting that I started to read a biography of Lou Reed in Lime Street station, Liverpool. The speed of life was all around as I leafed through the pages of the book, LOU REED, THE LIFE BY MICK WALL. It was so cold you could smell the frost. Trains sighed, constantly in a mood. A distant whistle, then a robotic articulation read out train departures, all clipped vowels and pronounced words mixed with the click-clack of heels. A bird scream shattered the air.

The noisy chaos of a city, its people and their stories. The very madness of living that Lou Reed quite skilfully captured in his music. The singer lived the majority of his life in the middle of the similar hustle of New York City.

lou reed the life mick wall

This biography focuses on the rise and fall, rise and fall again cycle that the artist had during his lifetime. At times he was arrogant, vengeful and downright nasty.

He can’t leave any situation alone or any scab unpicked.

It was Mr. David Bowie who dubbed Lou Reed the ‘Master’. Yet they fought quite publicly, on many occasions. But we all love a Rock ‘n’ Roll feud, remember Oasis versus Blur?

What I discovered about the idol was not endearing. You don’t always have to like your idols; you can fall out and be frustrated by their actions. After all, it is okay to be contradictory, that is a necessary part of being human.

I continued to read the book at 6am on the day after Boxing Day, with a cup of tea and a bowl rammed with Yule log and extra-thick Jersey cream, which did make me giggle. I was reading about the musicians’ hedonistic exploration, dibble-dabbling in pharmaceuticals and narcotics as I was devouring the bowl of wrongness. How rock n roll, what a game, eh!

Thankfully, this festive over indulgence can be combatted by a couple of extra sets of sit ups. It’s clear from this book that a diet of heroin, LSD and other toxins cannot be so easily sorted. I have seen first-hand friends who danced the tango ballad with drugs in their twenties only to have hangovers either take root immediately or more innocuously in their mid- to late-thirties and forties. They had forgotten to read the small print, that drugs could lead to paranoia, claustrophobia and other anxieties, sometimes heaped together.

Kierkegaard said,

Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.

Wall’s no nonsense style of writing highlights the damage that the New York City man’s vices did to his mental well-being but hints at how it also stimulated his finer hours, like the pieces BERLIN and TRANSFORMER.

lou reed Berlin

I walk around Liverpool and hear the fragments of pieces of conversation, banter, arguments and all that I love about the city, the language, the talk, the buzzing. Where else in the world would you find scrawled on a toilet wall,
‘Ye ma’s baldy and collects Panini stickers’?

The type of dry sense of humour that is apparent in Lou Reed’s work. A great lyric in his track LAST GREAT AMERICAN WHALE (on the album NEW YORK) about where this sea creature has been spotted is delivered in that inimitable Yankee drawl,

My mother said she saw him in Chinatown, but you can’t always trust your mother.

I think Lou Reed would have loved Liverpool and its kick-ass attitude, finding the humour in the tragic.  It was his sardonic take on life that attracted me initially to his music. Its tales of picaresque characters from Warhol’s Factory, the broken people, transvestites, street workers and drug fiends who bleed glitter, glamour and damage. A cast of deranged souls.

velvet underground

The unsettling sound of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND with Nico’s droning somnambulist chanteuse next to Reed’s sandpaper-scratched vocal chords. John Cale’s avant-garde experimental score next to Mo Tucker’s anarchic drum beat. I remember buying their first album with Warhol’s Banana on the front from PROBE records, when I was a teenage bag of tie-dyed insecurities with blue hair and eye brow piercings, trying to standout but really unknowingly conforming. It was like something else! I lost track of his career trajectory as I grew up, with his pieces like albums ECSTASY and THE RAVEN.

This entertaining rock biography does exactly what it sets out to do, talk about Lou Reed and his musical legacy. It is also unflinching in describing his personal life, there is no airbrushing of the past. I found I didn’t warm to his attitude, but it has encouraged me to re-visit his back catalogue particularly. Like I said, you don’t have to like your idols, the person who created the music. It is, after all, the work that will always stand out.

Perhaps Bowie was right and he was the ‘master’, but I will let you be the judge of that.

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