My early days of the LGBT community goes back to around 1983 when I started knocking around Oakengates with some of the local punk community. There was a mixed bag of punks with all differing ideas, thoughts, politics and some with no politics. Plenty of laughs and no one cared. A year later Oakengates was the place where I got involved with the 1984-85 Miners strike after meeting and talking to striking miners.
1983-1985 was where I first came across openly LGBT folk at punk gigs and during the Miner’s strike on picket lines. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of the LGBT as I was brought up in a community where if people were gay they stayed well and truly in the closet. No one really talked about the LGBT community so this was an eye opener to me at 16 years of age.
Where I’m standing in the photo is where a bench was situated. That was the Punk bench. It’s where we all hung out getting drunk, having a laugh and all that. It was at that point I first witnessed what I we now call Domestic Violence. Again it was a period where it was hidden so never really came across it.
The book I’m holding is a resource book for those escaping or helping some one to escape from Domestic Violence. Lots of excellent tips and organisations to check out for support etc.
The Fighting Cocks was probably the first place I started to watch bands. I was too young for the Gemini Club in Wellington. I may have got into one or two shows but the memories for me remain with this pub. It was co-owned and one of the owners used to teach me art at school. Despite this being 1984 this was the worlds first no-smoking pub. Behind where I’m standing is where the smokers had to sit wearing poncho’s in the winter!
In the two years I drank there this was not only a punk pub but also a safe place for the LGBT community. I met so many cool people there. Too many names to mention. It was also the place where I first met Matty Blagger with his previous band ‘Complete Control’.
Meeting so many people there was great for me. It was an early education which led me to have the politics I hold today. It was also the first place where gender prejudice went out the window and where I could kiss anyone be they straight males to transgender females without anyone batting an eye lid.
Sadly it was a place where the odd group of men would come in during the less busy times looking for what they perceived as ‘Poofs’. A friend got punched because the homophobes thought he was gay! His female partner was in the toilet!! Idiots!!
The Fighting Cocks was certainly a place that opened my eyes to a world of politics and I’m glad that I went there.It was also the place that I came across feminism. It was interesting hearing what women had to say even though I struggled to get my head around much of what they were saying.
The photo is of me standing outside the Fighting Cocks. Window cleaners were cool and we talked a little about what I was doing. They asked if I wanted the ladders out the way but all was cool. They are in the image.
The local Punk community had been fighting for a proper venue and place to hang out. Eventually an old church was donated and grants put into place and ‘Lion Street Cultural Centre’ was born! This was mid to late 80’s. Brilliant place where I met so many more cool people who travelled into see bands etc. I actually promoted a few shows here with the Cowboy Killers, Rubella Ballet and the Sect to name but a few! I eventually found myself on the committee too!
Despite it being a cultural centre it was the place where fascism reared its ugly head and a serious battle between the local Skinheads and the Blaggers / Red Action took place. The Anti-Fascists won on the night and it was the night I became friends with these people.
It was also a place where gender didn’t matter. It was where I had my first gay experience. It was a place that made me realise that it didn’t matter what a person identified with if both parties were comfortable to sleep with each other or / and have relationships. These days it is known as being ‘Pansexual’. I am Pansexual and very open about it! Who cares what gender people identify as? As long as it’s consenting and the relationship is healthy then it’s no big deal.
It’s also the place where I fully embraced my feminist sisters. I met a women there who lived at the Greenham Common Peace Camp with her mum. We are still friends to this day. It’s the place where I also met Vi Subversa the vocalist of Anarchist Feminist punk band ‘Poison Girls’. I also met many female artists, musicians, feminists and female fanzine writers. What great people!
The photo of me is in front of what was Lion Street Cultural Centre. It later was sold off and became a night club! Here I am wearing an Anti-Fascist t-shirt. I have lived and breathed the Anti-Fascist struggle for 30 years much to the dismay of the Far Right!
Oakengates used to have a fun carnival in the 80’s with many people coming out having a laugh. Local punk band ‘Decorative Peasants’ were invited to play in the park. Being good mates with each other I was invited to do some punk poetry on stage. The Gay Pride poem went down OK but what happened next saw me being dragged off stage for daring to write a poem about PC Blakelock losing his head in the Tottenham Riots during the 80’s. The police presence at the carnival increased and funnily enough I was banned from ever going to the carnival again. We did laugh about it! We still do now when all the old lot meet up from time to time.
The photo of me is holding the book ‘Girl A’ who was the main witness in the Rochdale Grooming trial. A powerful book and why women should be believed when they say they have experienced child abuse and rape. The little girl in the photo was with her mum. She kept saying to her mum. ‘That man is wearing a skirt’. The mum was cool and we talked a bit about what I was doing. All good.
The last photo is of me looking over the town of Oakengates. To many it was and still is a dump but it was our dump. It was where I discovered many things that has made me the person I am today. The book I’m holding is ‘Julie’ which is about a man who went through many emotions during his gender change to a female. A powerful read which I will no experience as I myself go through my journey in the future!
Well there you go that is a brief account of my introduction to the LGBT community, feminism, Anti-Fascism and politics in general. My life bared open!