July Fringe

Since I have got back from Finland pretty much all I have wanted to do is sleep. However, it has just penetrating my fogged brain that there will be a BristolCon Fringe event on Monday, which I guess I must be hosting.

The two readers are Andy Goodman & Kenneth Peter Shin. Ken has a story in Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion, which he read at Fringe a while back. I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next. I don’t know anything about Andy, so I guess I’d better do some sleuthing before Monday evening.

Anyway, I hope to see some of you there. Also we’ll be trialing the new amp that Jo has bought, which hopefully means much better quality recordings.

Update: via Pete Sutton on Twitter it appears that Andy Goodman is indeed this chap.

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The Finncon LGBT Reading Lists

As promised, I have posted the LGBT Reading Lists that Suzanne Van Rooyen and I produced for the panel at Finncon. You can find them here.

My apologies to everyone I have left out. I’m sure that there are lots of other fine books and authors we could have recommended.

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Girl On Film

A couple of years ago I was interviewed for something called the Trans*Geek Movie. It is essentially a documentary project about trans people who are involved in geekdom. The project is being run on a shoestring so it is taking a bit of time to come to fruition, but last weekend a preview was shown at GaymerX2, the QUILTBAG gamer conference in San Francisco. Much to my surprise, parts of the interview with me were included. The whole thing is available on YouTube, and my bit starts around 9:40 (though I recommend that you watch all of it).

My first reaction was, of course, “OMG, I look so FAT!!!” That, of course, is my own fault for being so fond of good food, and not exercising enough. However, I seem to look better on film that I do in photos, the voice sounds OK, and most importantly I do not seem to have said anything particularly stupid.

My thanks once again to Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights for allowing me to use their store for the interview.

Posted in Gaming, Gender, Movies | 1 Comment

National Diversity Awards

So, yeah, popular vote stuff. Probably mainly an excuse for big corporations to advertise their support for diversity without actually having to practice it, and for celebrities to charge for their endorsement. And of course the awards will go to those people and organizations that work hardest on social media to get the vote out. But that’s a game anyone can play and as I have stupidly large numbers of “friends” and “followers” I should do my bit for organizations that are important to me.

In particular I’d like you to endorse the nominations of Ujima Radio and Bristol Pride. Ujima absolutely deserves it. I mean, how many other minority-ethnic community radio stations are going to let a trans woman talk to science fiction writers on their main women’s interest programme? And Bristol Pride needs your help. It is a great show, it is genuinely trans-inclusive, it got voted the second-best Pride in the UK last year, and yet the City Council has voted to withdraw all funding for next year. Here are the links:

All you have to do is given them an email address they can verify. There doesn’t seem to be any requirement for voters to be UK-based.

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Yesterday on Ujima – The Green Power Show

What I should have been doing yesterday was sleeping. What I actually did was host a 2-hour radio show on climate change and green power issues.

We started out with a pre-recorded interview with Tobias Buckell whose new novel, Hurricane Fever, is just out (and is a lot of fun). I have a longer version of the interview that I’ll be posting on Salon Futura in due course. The reason I had Tobias on the show was that his latest books talk a lot about the effect of climate change on the planet, and in particular on the Caribbean.

Next up were Tasha & Tin from the Avon Coalition Against Big Biofuels. This was mainly a discussion about how all biomass is not equal. Chopping down rain forests in South-East Asia and transporting the wood to the UK to be burned is not, by any stretch of the imagination, green.

You can listen to the first hour here.

At 1:00pm we were joined by Steve Norman who is part of a group protesting about existing activities at Avonmouth. Any wonder what happened to your household refuse? If you happen to live in the South-West of England much of it got baled up and stored at Avonmouth docks waiting to be shipped to Scandinavia for incineration. The local seagulls got rather excited about this, and once the bales had been pecked open the local flies took an interest and started breeding. It got so unpleasant event the Prime Minister was moved to comment. And as there are not enough incinerators in the UK to cope, the stuff is now going into landfill again.

This is, of course, a complicated issue. Ideally we’d throw away less refuse, but recycling facilities in the UK are dreadful and the amount of packaging on things we buy keeps going up. Incineration is better than landfill, but incinerating safely is challenging and companies are tempted to cut corners. Also the ash left after incineration is nasty stuff. So we end up exporting refuse to countries who are prepared to pay for proper incineration, or whose inhabitants don’t protest incinerators as loudly.

My final guest was Harriet from the Centre for Sustainable Energy because I wanted to end by talking about what we can do to help with the energy issue. The CSE does a lot of good work helping people reduce their energy use, and even generate their own. I was particularly interested in Harriet’s comments that people are much less likely to protest green power schemes (such as wind and solar farms) if they are community-owned, and supply power direct to the community, as is generally the case in Germany and Scotland, rather than being owned by multi-national corporations and feeding into the Grid, as is the case in England.

You can listen to the second half of the show here.

The music for the show was chosen by the guests, mostly by Tin. The songs were:

  • Breathing Underwater – Metric
  • 007, A Fantasy Bond Theme – Barray Adamson
  • Green Garden – Laura Mvula
  • Appletree – Erykah Badu
  • Everyday Life Has Become a Health Risk – Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy
  • Electioneering – Exit Music feat. Morgan Heritage
  • Sleeping In – Postal Service
  • The First Cut is the Deepest – I-Roy

And here, just for you, Tobias, is Barray Adamson once again.

Posted in Books, Current Affairs, Environment, Music, Radio | Leave a comment


Today we traveled back to Helsinki from Jyväskylä. As usual, my Finnish friends insisted on showing me some of the best parts of their beautiful country.

The day began with breakfast with Irma at a cafe on a place called Women’s Island. I have no idea where the name came from, but the island is in part of the network of lakes and waterways that surrounds Jyväskylä. There are a couple of hydro-power stations on the island: an old one which is now a bat sanctuary, and a new one that actually provides power. There is also a large lock that we got to see in operation as a Finnish family on a boating holiday came through while we were looking around.

While we were eating a red squirrel wandered into the cafe gardens. Wisely it wasn’t going to let the very large cat get too close, but Paula managed to sneak up and get a good picture.

Red squirrel

In the afternoon we took the scenic route back to Helsinki. The road Otto took ran along a narrow ridge between two lakes and had some magnificent views.

Back in Helsinki we checked out some of the new construction by the railway station. It is mainly offices, but several of the buildings have restaurants on the ground floor. A place called Eatos doesn’t sound very promising, but Otto had seen it recommended in the Helsinki Sanomat so we checked it out. The food was seriously good. So if you want Mexican food in Helsinki you now know where to go.

I’m flying back to London tomorrow and will be offline most of the day. Then it is back into the Ujima studio on Wednesday, for which I have an interview with Tobias Buckell.

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Finncon – Day 4

I’m just back from the dead dog party. It is very late, so this will be brief.

Hannu’s Guest of Honor event was wonderful. He talked for about 20 minutes on the history and symbolism of spacesuits. Then he read a really lovely short story about one of the black seamstresses who hand-sewed the spacesuits for the Apollo astronauts. I very much hope that story will appear online in due course.

The Women & Publishing panel went well. Elizabeth Bear, Tanya Tynjälä & Johanna Sinisalo were all wonderful as expected (and all had very different perspectives from around the globe). I was also delighted to make the acquaintance of a rising star of Finnish fiction, Salla Simukka. She’s very smart, she’s as good as Gail Carriger when it comes to fashion, and the first book of her trilogy is out in English in August. The panel was apparently so engrossing that our program gopher forgot to watch the time and tell us when to stop.

I went straight from there to the LGBT panel. It had been put in one of the smaller programming rooms, but on the basis of similar panels at other events I expected about half a dozen people, all of whom identified as LGBT. When I got to the room I found that it was packed solid and people were being turned away, 10 minutes before the scheduled start. Suzanne van Rooyen and Markku Soikkeli helped me put together a great panel, though we really only scratched the surface of the topic. I’ve been talking to the Archipelacon programming people about doing something similar, in a bigger room, next year.

Thankfully the hall costume judging was mostly done by the time I got there, so my lack of brain cells did not cause any problems. Closing ceremonies went very smoothly, and I got a couple of hours power-napping before the dead dog, which helped me survive the evening. Now I need sleep.

I’ll be doing at least two more posts in due course. One will be the reading list from the LGBT panel. The other will be the photos from the masquerade which Joonas Puuppo has kindly sent me.

Posted in Conventions, Finland | 3 Comments

Finncon – Day 3

First up today was my LGBT superheroes talk. I didn’t count the audience, but it looked like at least 50 people. They laughed in all of the right places, which is good.

Then I had a panel on “likeable” characters with Rjurik Davidson, Hannu Rajaniemi & Jukka Halme. I had a bit of a rant about people who pan a book because it doesn’t have any characters that they like. We all agreed that being interesting was much more important than being liked. It was noted that M. John Harrison hasn’t written a likeable character in his life, but that doesn’t stop him being a brilliant writer. And of course one group of characters that everyone loves is the Daleks.

I got taken to lunch at the home of the best cook in Jyväskylä. I never thought that I would have got so excited over spinach soup.

In the afternoon we had the masquerade. That went well in the end, but had a major organizational problem. Against all usual practice the convention asked us to present the contest, judge and give out prizes all in the space of an hour and a half. They told me they had a half time show organized for while the judging was taking place. I pointed out that I could not host the half time show and chair the judging. Jukka Särkijärvi kindly volunteered to hold the fort for me, and I stupidly assumed that the planned entertainment would give us time to deliberate. You know what happens when you assume something, don’t you.

Poor Jukka was left hung out to dry for about 20 minutes. Thankfully something got done to help out (I have no idea what). The first thing I did when I got back was to give a prize to the guy in Cylon armor so he could go and take it off. Otherwise we would have waited until we got to the people in contention for Best in Show.

We had 15 entries this year, including one large group. I actually got to be part of one act. Marianna Leikomaa and a friend had planned to do Emma Frost and Jean Grey arguing over Cyclops. The friend could not turn up, so Kisu made use of a convenient redhead. The jury (without my knowledge) decided to award her the price of Best Use of a Prop.

Some of the entries this year were of very high quality. Petri Hiltunen and Hannele Parviala both had beautiful make-up jobs. There was the aforementioned Cylon. There was a lovely elf costume. Alex Rowland, a young fan of Scott Lynch, had an amazing dress that had around 200 hours of hand-stitching and texturing in its manufacture. However, once again it was Simo Nousiainen who blew everyone away. This year he did Geralt the Witcher from the works of Andrzej Sapkowski.

Hopefully I’ll be able to source some good photos for you over the next few days. I was far too busy to take any.

My thanks to my fabulous jury – Hannu Rajaniemi, Jukka Halme, Tanya Tynjälä and Jenny Teerikangas – to all of the wonderful contestants, and especially to Jukka Särkijärvi for keeping the audience entertained while we did the judging.

After the show we went to Harald for dinner. Hannu and I had one of the set meals that came on a large, sword-shaped skewer. It was fabulous. Bear and Scott were blown away by the wonder of tar ice cream.

In the evening we had the Guest of Honor filks. Those for Jukka and Hannu were written in Finnish, so I have no idea what they were about, but judging by the laughter they were very funny. Bear’s was good too. She will probably blog the lyrics at some point. We also celebrated Toni Jerrman’s birthday. It was a significant one of some sort. I think he might be 25. In duo-years.

That’s it for the day. Tomorrow I have two more panels, and judging for the hall costumes, followed by the dead dog. Given how tired I am, there may be a dead cat too.

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Finncon – Day 2

This morning it was back to the academic conference. Who would have thought that a discussion about biological determinism would arise from a close reading of the Narnia books?

Most importantly for you folks, it has been confirmed that there will be an academic track at Archipelacon next year. A Call for Papers will be issued in due course.

After lunch we opened the convention with the traditional Hugo Panel. I ducked out this year because I haven’t had time to read much of the ballot as yet (and frankly don’t want to have to read all of it). Also I needed to do some preparation for the other panel of the day in which I had to interview Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch and Hannu Rajaniemi about writing. That seemed to go rather well.

Talking of Hannu, the fine folks at Rosebud books have managed to acquire advance copies of The Causal Angel (which is not out in the UK until Tuesday or so). I have bought one. I could be reading it rather than blogging. Good night.

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Finncon – Day 1

Despite being up into the small hours watching Argentina & Netherlands try to bore each other into submission, Otto, Paula and I were up early this morning to drive to Jyväskylä. It is around a 3 hour trip, but we needed time for a break along the way and to allow for Unexpected Roadworks. In the Finnish summer there are always Unexpected Roadworks, the unexpected thing being exactly where they are, not that they will be happening.

For our break we stopped at Karoliinan Kahvimylly, which is the sweetest little coffee house I have ever seen.

Karoliinan Kahvimylly

The cakes were amazing. We had cinnamon buns. One each. That was lunch. I could not have eaten any more.

Despite the Unexpected Roadworks, which turned out to be the closure of the main highway into Jyväskylä from the south, about 30 km from the city, we arrived at the University in good time. It was great to see Irma Hirsjärvi again. As usual her kindess managed to embarrass me. This time I got presented with a honorary membership of Finfar, the Finnish Society for Science Fiction & Fantasy Research.

The first batch of papers were all very interesting. Hopefully several of them will turn up in Fafnir at some point in the future. We have another batch scheduled for tomorrow, but this evening it was time for sauna.

So: there was beer, there was roasting of sausages over an open wood fire, there were rooms that were hot & steamy, and there was skinny-dipping in the (surprisingly warm) Lake Doom (English translation, so called, as Bear reminded us, because Victor von Doom once had a secret base on the lake floor). There was also a considerable quantity of Death Whisky consumed (Jura Superstition, which you will understand if you have ever seen the bottle).

I shall leave Bear to report on her first experience of sauna. She has Nordic ancestry and clearly has the genes for it.

Meanwhile, as Irma is picking me up at 9:10 tomorrow for the rest of the academic conference, I am going to do some serious re-hydration.

Posted in Academic, Conventions, Finland | 2 Comments

Finncon, Day 0

Bear & Scott: “We’re very sorry, thanks to a mechanical problem we missed our connection in Iceland and we’ll be a few hours late.”

Finns: “Yeah, no worries. We remember when an airline lost Joe Haldeman. We coped with that. It will be OK.”

In other news, I think I have now done all of the necessary prep for my panels at Finncon. I have also eaten blueberry & cardamon ice cream, and tried a local coffee stout. The former was spectacular, the latter nice but not up to Wildebeest standard.

Tomorrow I’ll be off to Jyväskylä for the start of the Finfar academic convention. I read the papers on the flight over. There’s the usual mix of quality, as you might expect from students. If you’d like to get a taste of the sort of thing Finnish academics produce you can take a look at Fafnir, the Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research.

Posted in Academic, Conventions, Finland, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Fringe Special at Word of Mouth

Once a year the BristolCon crowd takes over Word of Mouth, a monthly reading series run by Tangent Books and hosted by the Thunderbolt pub. Normally we’d put these readings on the BristolCon Fringe podcast stream, but that has limited capacity and these readings turned out to be quite long, so they are being hosted by Salon Futura instead.

The three readers are Pete Sutton, Joanne Hall and Scott Lewis. In Part 1 Pete’s story is a rare (for him) science fiction piece. Jo reads from her latest novel, The Art of Forgetting: Nomad. And Scott reads the first part of a steampunk horror story that will conclude in Part 2.

In part 2 Joanne Hall reads from a currently unsold novel, The Summer Goddess. Pete Sutton reads a story from a collection he is writing in which each story is inspired by the counting magpies folk song. Scott Lewis reads the rest of the story that he started in Part 1. It goes on a little, but we were all on the edge of our seats and encouraged Scott to read the whole thing rather than leave us wondering.

My thanks to Richard Jones of Tangent for inviting us to read, and to Dave from the Thunderbolt for being a fine host.

Posted in Podcasts, Readings, Salon Futura | Leave a comment

A Colinthology Review

As part of her quest to find the best fiction set in Bristol, Joanna Papageorgiou has set Colinthology against Mark Wright’s Heartman. I’m not in the least surprised that Heartman won. It’s not like TV companies have been beating a path to my door or anything. However, I was really pleased that Joanna took time out to read Colinthology and write thoughtfully about it. You can find her comments on the two books here.

I was amused that Joanna found pubs to be a common theme of both books. I suspect that Colin and Mark would have become fast friends if they had met, and would have spent ages enthusing to each other about obscure beers.

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June Fringe Podcasts

The audio from the June Fringe meeting is now online. I continue to cringe about the sound quality, but Jo has recently invested in a new amp, so hopefully the next set of readings will be much better.

David J. Rodger was our first reader. He presented a Cthulhu Mythos tale set in Nazi-occupied Norway during WWII. David is clearly aware that all Finns are evil witches.

Pete Sutton gave us a quick peek at a novel he is writing, featuring seven Crusader knights. He followed that by another of his magpie stories.

Finally we have the traditional Q&A.

There are lots of things arising from that which require notes.

When Pete mentions that Jo writes Grimdark he is, of course, referring to our own Joanne Hall, not that Abercrombie fellow who doesn’t have nearly the same body count.

We mention that Pete read another magpie story at something called Word of Mouth. I do have the audio from that, but it turned out to be too long for the BristolCon podbean account (without upgrading) so I’m going to run it on Salon Futura.

David makes mention of something called BRP. That’s Chaosium’s Basic Role Playing system, which formed the core of all of the rule sets they produced back in the day.

If you’d like to know more about David’s work with the Cthulhu Mythos, he has a guest post about it on Pete’s blog. I’d like to have a much longer chat with him about how you use the Mythos these days. A pub event after he’d had a few beers was not the right time to do it.

The deadly Call of Cthulhu scenario that David refers to is “Roots” by Simon Brake which appears in the collection, Things We Leave Behind from Stygian Fox.

And finally, Wikipedia has little to say about alternative versions of the magpie song, other than to confirm Pete’s assertion that the version he is using is older than the one used by the TV programme.

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Airships Over Utah

For the benefit of contributors to Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion, here is a photo of the book on sale at the Cargo Cult table at this year’s Westercon, which has been taking place in Salt Lake City this weekend. As you can see, the book is in excellent company.

Airships on sale

Many thanks to Dave Clark for stocking the book, and Kevin for taking the picture.

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New Dimension 6

Issue #2 of the free Australian speculative fiction magazine, Dimension 6, is now available. You can download it as a DRM-free epub or mobi, from the publisher’s website. This issue contains stories from Dirk Strasser, Alan Baxter and Robert N Stephenson.

Posted in Australia, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

24 Hours, 3 Book Launches

It has been a bit busy in Bristol.

Last night I was at Foyles for the launch of tqwo books by Rebecca Lloyd: Mercy, and The View from Endless Street. I’ve talked a bit about these already, as I had Becca on the radio show, so all I’ll add is to say that Becca read a lovely story from Mercy in which no one tried to kill anyone. Well, some of the bears might have tried to kill some one of the humans, but it is so hard to tell with bears. They might just have been being friendly.

At lunch time today Joe Abercrombie was in Waterstones with his first YA novel, Half a King. It wasn’t much of an event: just Joe sat at a table signing books for a long queue of people. Then again, he’s on tour. Two stores a day is not unusual these days. Touring is no fun. Still, Joe did pose for me to take this picture of him with Pat Hawkes-Reed who, as is her wont, had brought him cake. Somehow this is all Sarah Pinborough’s fault.

Joe Abercrombie and Pat Hawkes-Reed

Finally Gareth L. Powell’s younger brother, Huw, had a launch event back at Foyles. This was for Spacejackers, which is a middle grade novel about space pirates. From the bits that he read, it is a bit breathless, but that’s what kids of that age like. Huw has been busy working with schools and reading promotion charities. I’ll try to get him on the show in August to tell us more.

One of the women in the audience challenged Huw over whether his book was only marketed at boys. He noted two prominent female characters — one a sidekick of the hero and one a starship captain. That’s good to know given that Waterstones’ science fiction promotion table currently doesn’t have a single book by a woman on it, out of 35 different books. Gareth’s daughters seemed to be keen to read the book.

I note that Huw had some of the best looking cake I have seen at a book launch in a long time. Apparently his wife, Beata, made this. I am seriously impressed.

Spacejackers cake

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Online Pre-Support Sales Open for San José in 2018

Like the heading says, you can now buy a pre-support for the San José in 2018 Worldcon bid. The sales page is here.

As always I should warn you that supporting a Worldcon bid does not guarantee that it will win the bid, or that you will get anything back for you money. Please read the descriptions of the various support levels carefully. You may also like to read this explanation of the Worldcon site selection process written by Crystal Huff for the Helsinki in 2017 bid.

Hopefully, by having an online pre-support registration system, we will make it easier for people around the world to support the bid. Personally I’d also very much like to see online voting for site selection, but we can’t guarantee that.

Posted in Conventions | 1 Comment

VanderMeers in Bristol

Ann & Jeff VanderMeer will be over this side of the pond for Worldcon, the Edinburgh Festival and Eurocon. Before they go home they have kindly agreed to do a couple of events in the South West. One is at Mr B’s on August 26th, but before that they are stopping off in Bristol to talk to me about short fiction.

This event is being put on in conjunction with the Bristol Festival of Literature, and with Small Stories, a local group of writers. Most of the work putting this together has been done by Pete Sutton, for which I am very grateful. Wizard’s Tower is on board as a co-sponsor, as is BristolCon.

If you are in the Bristol area and have any interest at all in writing short fiction you should attend this event. I note that Jeff’s Wonderbook has won the BSFA and Locus Awards for non-fiction (and is getting my vote for the Hugo). Also Ann, as well as being a Hugo-winning editor, is currently an acquiring editor for Tor.com, which I believe is the best-paying SF&F market around right now. Please book up, I expect this to be very popular and I want to know well in advance if we look like having space problems. It is free, and therefore very well worth it.

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Becca Lloyd, M.P. Wright, Outset & Bristol Pride

Yesterday’s radio all went very smoothly, thanks in no small part to Seth, my engineer, being available again. It is so much easier presenting the show if you don’t have to be constantly thinking about running the desk as well.

We began with an interview with Becca Lloyd, a local writer of strange and macabre tales. Becca and I talked about obsessive people with odd ways of seeing the world, and a penchant for killing people. We also discussed how the peculiar reticence of the English might contribute to such behaviors. Becca’s latest books: Mercy (from my good friends at Tartarus Press) and The View from Endless Street are newly available and are having a little party at Foyles tomorrow night.

Next up was the interview with Mark Wright about Heartman, which I have been trailing for the past few days. It is well worth a listen. Mark talks intelligently and respectfully about the difficulties of a white Englishman writing a book featuring mainly black characters. It would be great if someone like Tobias Buckell could get the same sort of deal that Mark did, but the world doesn’t (yet) work that way. Indeed, as Mark noted, the publishing industry wasn’t that keen on him to begin with (which is why his book is being published by a small press from Edinburgh). It wasn’t until the TV people started sniffing around the rights that the book started getting noticed. Right now, of course, all Mark has is payment for an option. But if that does turn into a J.T. Ellington TV show I see no way it can be whitewashed, given that almost all of the major characters in the book are black. I’m less sanguine about it getting filmed in Bristol, but we can hope.

One thing I forgot to mention on the show is that the book does include quite a few murders of women. That generally requires a content warning. However, I was discussing this with another woman who has read the book at the launch party, and we agreed that this isn’t a misogynist book. Guys, we can tell when you are salivating over the deaths of pretty women.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

The third half hour was given over to Outset, a Bristol organization that helps people from disadvantaged groups set up their own businesses. This is a fine thing to be doing, and I note that it is jointly financed by Bristol City Council (George, unsurprisingly, is a fan) and the EU. Yes folks, the European Union is subsidizing business creation in Bristol. Take that, UKIP.

Finally Jayne Graham-Cummings from Bristol Pride came in to preview next week’s events. On air we mainly talked about what people could go and see, because that’s what most people would be interested in. Off air Jayne and I were chatting about how we could keep Bristol Pride fully trans-inclusive and methods of keeping a political edge to the event.

You can listen to the second half of the show here.

Posted in Books, Feminism, Radio | Leave a comment