Today On Ujima: Students, Clothing, Theatre & Feminism

Today’s show began with two wonderful guests from the University of the West of England. Noor and Josie are part of a small group who are pioneering an organisation called Equity within the university that will help Black & Minority Ethnic students get the best out of their education, and find good jobs afterwards.

As we all know, the academic system, and the jobs market in the UK, discriminates against anyone who doesn’t fit the default stereotype of white and male. However, much can be done by finding role models, or as I prefer possibility models, that give people the confidence that they can beat the system and suceed in life. I’m delighted to find that UWE is the first university in the country to actively try to help BAME students in this way. If you happen to be a Person of Colour who works in or near Bristol, please take a look here to see forthcoming events where you can help inspire these students.

Now if only we could do something similar for trans students…

My second guest was Jo-Jo from the gender-neutral clothing company, Max Tariq. It is, apparently, Bristol’s first and currently only such label. Jo-Jo and I chatted about the philosophy of gender neutral clothing. We discussed how such clothes could be for anyone who foudn them attractive, and how “gender neutral” doesn’t mean dull and vaguely masculine. We also talked about making clothing climate-neutral.

The Listen Again system is still playing up occasionally. You can listen to Noor & Josie here. Jo-Jo’s interview got dropped, but I have the archive recording and will be putting him up on the podcast soon.

Next up was Yasmin from the Mandala Theatre Company. She’s putting on a play called Castaways at The Station (the old fire station building in which Ujima’s studios are located) tomorrow night. It is a pay what you can afford event, so money is no excuse. If you want a ticket, or just to learn mre about the play, go here.

I kept the final half hour guest-free because I wanted to have a bit of a rant about the whole Kavanaugh debacle over in the USA. I chose some powerful feminist music to go with it. Along the way I also managed to talk about the WASPI fiasco with women’s pensions, and the awful two-child limit on tax credits.

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

Not included, because I am slightly nervous about the lyrics, was the new Amanda Palmer song, “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now”. The video, which is absolutely NSFW, is here.

The playlist for the show is as follows:

  • Big Mama Thornton – Let Your Tears Fall Baby
  • Bessie Smith – Alexander’s Ragtime Band
  • CN Lester – White wedding
  • Prince – Raspberry Beret
  • Minnie Ripperton – Young, Willing and Able
  • Erykah Badu – Drama
  • Janelle Monae – Americans
  • Lady Gaga – ‘Til it Happens to You
  • Alicia Keys – Superwoman
  • Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive

The first two tracks are, of course, a nod to Black History Month. The Gaga song is particularly powerful and I’m glad I found it.

I’ll be back on air in two weeks with my friend Olivette Otele to do Black History Month properly.

Clarkesworld News – Award and Bristol Appearance

I don’t have the time to keep up with my former colleagues at Clarkesworld as much as I would like these days, but I do keep an eye open for what they are doing. Today I’m delighted to report that the 2018 Small Press Award, given by the Washington Science Fiction Association, has gone to Suzanne Palmer’s “The Secret Life of Bots”. The story did win the Hugo for Novelette as well, but that news tended to get lost in the excitement around Nora Jemisin’s historic hat trick. This time around the glory is all Suzanne’s.

Also another former non-fiction editor of Clarkesworld, Jason Heller, will be appearing in Bristol in October. He’s going to be at Bristol Library on the evening of Monday, October 22nd, to promote his new book, Strange Stars. This is about the symbiosis between pop music and science fiction in the 1970s. It makes a perfect start to BristolCon week. Tickets are available here.

Today on Ujima – Hugos, SF, Cricket, REWS & Aretha

Today’s show was centred around a tribute to Aretha Franklin. I played a lot of her music, and I’m sure you are familiar with much of it.

I did run through the list of Hugo winners, because with several of the major fiction awards going to black women that’s very much of interest to my listeners. And I had a woman science fiction writer on the show. That was Anne Corlett whose novel, The Space Between the Stars, I very much enjoyed.

The Listen Again system malfunctioned again for that hour. Apparently it is some sort of BT issue. But we have the archived audio and I have podcast the interview with Anne so you can listen to it.

My second guest was slightly late due to Bristol traffic so I kicked off with coverage of the Women’s cricket. That included my interview with Raf Nicholson which I did between the two matches on Finals Day.

Then I spent a happy half an hour talking to Shauna Tohill of the all-girl rock band, REWS. She was lovely, and I love their music.

Also there was more Aretha.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here. I will podcast the interviews with Shauna & Raf in due course.

The playlist for today was:

  • Aretha Franklin – Say a Little Prayer
  • Rumer – Aretha
  • Arthea Franklin – Eleanor Rigby
  • Arthea Franklin – Bridge over Troubled Water
  • Aretha Franklin – Rock Steady
  • Whitney Houston – My Love is Your Love
  • Tina Turner – One of the Living
  • REWS – Shake Shake
  • REWS – Miss You in the Dark
  • Aretha Franklin – Respect
  • Aretha Franklin – Spanish Harlem
  • Aretha Franklin – Wholy Holy

And, thanks to the magic of YouTube, here are the two REWS tracks that I played.

Worldcons in Smaller Countries

Most of the time Worldcon doesn’t cause much of a splash in the country where it is held. It is often as much as we can do to get the mayor of the host city to take notice. Who cares about a bunch of nerds, right?

Sometimes, however, it is different. Kevin has fond stories of Winnipeg, where I believe that Worldcon was the biggest event held in the city that year. Helsinki too sat up and took notice. And now we have two seated Worldcons that are again in quite small countries.

New Zealand has set a high bar. When they won their bid they unveiled this video by their Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, welcoming Worldcon to her country.

That’s pretty special. After all, Ms. Ardern has won an election while pregnant, and given birth while Prime Minister. She’s clearly a force to be reckoned with.

Not to be outdone, at Closing Ceremonies yesterday the Dublin folks presented a message from the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins. The message includes the following:

Ireland is a land which celebrates stories and imagination, and our Irish heritage has always been imaginatively interwoven with new cultures and new traditions. This is aptly reflected in our deep appreciation and appetite for speculative fiction.

Of course, just because you are a small country, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a great science fiction tradition. Both countries are rightly proud of their film industries. Wellington, New Zealand, is home to WETA, who produced the Lord of the Rings movies. Ireland is also a favorite location for SF&F filmmakers. For closing ceremonies the Dublin folks produced this video.

What struck me about that video, however, was the music. You can hear part of a song from the legendary Irish rock band, Horslips. It is this song.

Dearg Doom is a song from their album, The Tain, which is a rock version of the famous Irish legend, the Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley). The title means The Red Destroyer and is one of many songs on the album devoted to the hero of that legend, Cú Chulainn.

Horslips did two albums based on Irish mythology. The other, The Book of Invasions, is based on the Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland). These two, are, in my humble opinion, two of the best rock albums ever recorded. If the Dublin committee can work with Horslips, that’s Opening and Closing Ceremonies pretty much sorted. They can open with this music, which announces the arrival of the Tuatha Dé Danann in Ireland.

And end with their departure.

This is probably a good time to remind you all that my friends Dimitra Fimi and Alistair Sims are editing a book of academic essays on the use of Celtic mythology in science fiction and fantasy. That should be available at Worldcon next year. The essay I have submitted does mention Horslips, but it is mainly about Patricia Kennealy-Morrison’s Keltiad books.

Yesterday on Ujima – Films, Muslim Women & Hugos

I ended up doing a bonus show yesterday. As I had to go into Bristol for the TV appearance, and I have nothing else urgent on that day, I figured I might as well spend some time in the studio. That meant putting together a show at short notice.

The easiest way to do that is with phone interviews, though it does mean using Skype which can mean very variable quality. I badly need an alternative means of doing phone interviews, especially as the latest versions of Skype actively prevent the use of third party call recorders. (Why anyone would produce a digital phone system and now allow call recording is a mystery to me.)

Anyway, there were people I could interview. In the first hour I talked to Jake Smith of Tusko Films. Jake was the directory for Talking LGBT+ Bristol, the film about the city’s LGBT+ community that we made for Bristol Pride. I figured that if Jake and I were going to be on TV for 3 minutes in the evening, we should have a longer chat about the film as well.

I also recorded an interview with Rivers Solomon because there has been some really exciting news about their next novel project. Getting to write a novel with clipping has to be a dream come true.

The Listen Again system appears to have been fixed, so you can listen to the first hour of the show here.

I did manage to arrange one live interview. On Tuesday there was a flash mob demonstration in the city protesting Boris Johnson’s appalling comments about Muslim women. I was very pleased to have Sahar from Muslim Engagement & Development (MEND) to explain about the different types of headgear that Muslim women wear, and why they wear them. She was joined in the studio by Lisa from Stand Up to Racism.

I had half an hour to fill so I rambled on a bit about the women’s cricket, and about this year’s Hugo finalists. You can listen to the second half of the show here.

While the show is available on Listen Again I won’t put it up on the podcast. But once it has fallen off those interviews will appear there (and in the case of Rivers on Salon Futura). I will try to get an old interview or two up on the podcast in the meantime. And if anyone would like to become a patron of the podcast I would be very grateful. We only need 8 more people at $1/month to cover costs.

If you would like to know more about the Jimi Hendrix album that I was playing tracks from, you can find some details here.

The full playlist for yesterday’s show is as follows:

  • Jimi Hendrix – Jungle
  • Jimi Hendrix – Woodstock
  • clipping – The Deep
  • Bootsy Collins – May the Force be With You
  • Bob Marley – Get Up, Stand Up
  • Santana – Riders on the Storm
  • Janelle Monae – Sally Ride
  • Jimi Hendrix – Georgia Blues

Women’s Outlook Has a Podcast

With the Listen Again system having problems, I needed to find a new way to share the Women’s Outlook show with you. Fortunately there was a recording of the August 1st show, so I asked the station managemnt for permission to create a podcast feed and post parts of the show there. The downside of this is that I have to edit out the music and ads. The upside is that the material will stay there for as long as we pay to host the site. Management said go for it (thanks Miranda!), so we now have a podcast!

Podcast hosting is relatively inexpensive these days, but it still costs so I have added a patronage system to the site. Right now all I’m hoping to do is to get 9 people to pay $1/month because that covers the hosting costs. If we get more support we’ll have to think about what we might offer as rewards. Let me know if you have any ideas.

Right now all that I have up are the four interviews from August 1st. Yaz says they want to put some of their material up too, in in weeks where we don’t have a show I’ll start running the occasional interview from the archives. There’s some great stuff in my old shows.

Of course we have to have a Twitter feed to go with all this. I haven’t done a Facebook page yet, but will do so if there is sufficient demand.

While you can listen to the interviews I have put up by going to the podcast site (or by downloading the Podbean app to your phone or tablet), I can also embed the material here, so here goes.

First up we had Nik Jovčić-Sas playing his violin live in the studio, and talking about his LGBT+ activism. There were a few issues with sound balance along the way. It turns out it is very hard to balance sound between a backing track and the live mic when the live instrument is in the studio. I learn something about the technology each time we try something like this. Apologies to Nik for this, but I think we captured enough of his playing for you to hear how good he is.

My second guest was Helen, a newly qualfied recruit from Avon Fire & Rescue. She’s amazing: a single mother raising two daughters who has been an Olympic weight lifter and is now a firefighter. I think there’s a role for her in the next Wonder Woman movie.

Next up Molly and Helen from Women’s Adventure Expo encouraged us to get out of our comfort zines and have an adventure. I think I am a bit old for skiing to the North Pole, but I still love traveling and am looking forward to visiting Austria in December for the Worlding SF conference.

Finally the lovely Sharifa Whitney James from Bristol Ageing Better came to tell me what she’ll be doing to improve the lives of older LGBT+ folks in Bristol.

The playlist for the show, excluding Nik’s contributions which I didn’t need to edit out, was as follows:

  • Pointer Sisters – Fire
  • Fontella Bass – Rescue Me
  • Bat for Lashes – Travelling Woman
  • Minnie Ripperton – Adventures in Paradise
  • Blondie – Die Young, Stay Pretty
  • Little Feat – Old folks boogie

Today on Ujima – Birthday, SF, Basketball, Nudity & Sex Work

Today was Ujima’s 10th birthday, and I was lucky enough to be presenting the first live show of the day. Thankfully I had a line-up that lived up to the occasion.

My first guest was Heather Child, a new addition to Bristol’s superb collection of science fiction and fantasy authors. Heather’s debut novel, Everything About You, is available from Orbit and is a fascinating exploration of how an AI in a smart device can get under its owner’s skin if it knows more about you than you can remember yourself.

Next up was Emma from Bristol Flyers, the local basketball club. They will be running a summer camp for girls with a view to ramping up the quality of their female teams and entering them into the national leagues. Basketball is in an interesting position in the UK. It has the third largest level of participation of any sport, but very little government funding. That’s a shame. I might find the NBA rather dull to watch, but away from the top flight the sport is a lot of fun and very cheap and easy to play.

The first hour of the show is available on Listen Again here. The Ujima website is currently being renovated so you might see it say that there are 0 minutes to play, or that there’s an issue with Flash, but if you just click on the download link it should play fine.

I kicked off the second hour with a fair amount of giggling as Tamsin Clarke and I discussed the Naked Podcast. I very much enjoyed being a guest on the show, but of course I’m very relaxed about getting naked with groups of women because I have spent so much time in saunas in Finland. We also discussed Latin American football, and Tamsin’s next theatre project.

Finally we got to the serious politics discussion of the day. In Parliament today they have been discussing further regulation of sex work. There was a big demonstration outside, of sex workers protesting about losing their livelihood. In the studio I had Angelica from the Bristol Sex Workers Collective and Amy from One25, a charity that works with street sex workers in the city. We talked about the different ways in which women can end up in the sex trade, and the best ways to help them survive and get out. I hope our politicians will listen.

The second hour of the show is available on Listen Again here. As with hour 1, you need to click on the download link.

The music for this week’s show was as follows:

  • Americans – Janelle Monae
  • Every Breath You Take – The Police
  • Sweet Georgia Brown – Brother Bones and His Shadows
  • Jam – Michael Jackson
  • Totally Nude – Talking Heads
  • Strip – Adam Ant
  • Lady Marmalade – Patti Labelle
  • Backstreet Luv – Curved Air

As you can see, most of the songs were chosen to fit with the subject under discussion. The Janelle Monae song, however, was chosen specifically because it is July 4th today. Happy Independence Day, America. Here’s hoping you keep that precious freedom.

Today on Ujima – Trans, Music, Suffragettes & Coercive Control

Today’s show started with a first for me, a live phone-in. Ben has only done one before so he did very well getting it sorted eventually. I’m very glad he did because I had a great chat with Kate O’Donnell about her show which is coming up on Friday. Tom Marshman was in the studio with us providing cover when the phone wasn’t working, and talking about his own part in the evening.

My second guest today was the amazing local singer, Ruth Royall. She has an absolutely fabulous voice, does her own production and plays a lot of the music on her recordings, and is basically just hugely talented. I got to play a brand new song that has never been heard on radio before.

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

The second hour failed to record, which is annoying, because you will miss the great chat I had with Lucienne Boyce about the special day we are putting on at M Shed to celebrate 100 years of votes for (some) women. The good news is that you can still come along to the event. You can find out more on Farcebook, or download the programme here.

I will be playing hostess in the Studio Room all day, much as I do for LGBT History Month events. I’m also on the final panel which is pretty high-powered. It has belatedly occured to me that I need a costume, or at the very least a sash.

The final segment of the show featured Charlotte Gage of Bristol Zero Tolerance talking about a form of domestic abuse known as Coercive Control. Basically this is where one person in a domestic set-up tries to completely control the behaviour of another. There are various levels to it, but it can get very serious and anyone who is being victimised in this way can now seek help.

The playlist for the show was as follows:

  • I Am What I Am – Amanda Lear
  • Any Other Way – Jackie Shane
  • 4U – Ruth Royall
  • Heart on Fire – Ruth Royall
  • Wind in My Sails – Ruth Royall
  • Sister Suffragette – Glynis Johns
  • March of the Women – Ethel Smyth, perfomed by Plymouth Choir feat. Eiddwen Harrhy
  • No Man’s Woman – Sinead O’Connor
  • I Hate Myself for Loving You – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Yesterday on Ujima – Hate Crime, Jazz & LGBT in Africa

There were a whole pile of significant anniversaries to consider with last weeks’ show. I’m annoyed that I missed out on wishing 90th happy birthday to Maya Angelou. I did get in that it was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. But we began the show looking back on the 25th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Alex Raikes of SARI, Bristol’s hate crime service, joined me in the studio to look at the state of hate-based crime in the UK, and specifically in Bristol, today.

To lighten the mood a little I was joined after the news by Dave Merrick of local jazz & blues group, Small Days. Dave and his colleague, Natalie Davis, have been wowing audiences around Bristol for some time now, and they have a new show coming up at the Zion Community Arts Centre in Bedminster. The show, called “Ladies First”, is dedicated to jazz divas and will feature covers of songs from the likes of Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and Nina Simone.

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

My third guest of the day didn’t turn up. Thankfully she’s OK. I found an apologetic email when I got home. Sometimes life gets in the way of being on the radio. Ben the Engineer and I managed to find enough content on the fly to fill in.

In the final segment I played an interview I made at the LGBT History conference in Liverpool last month. It is with Prossy Kakooza, who works with African LGBT asylum seekers in Manchester, and Frankie Edozien, who has recently written a book on LGBT life in Africa. Annoyingly the Listen Again recording cut off with about 9 minutes of the hour to go, but I have the full recording and I’m going to put it out on one of my podcast feeds.

You can listen to (most of) the second half of the show here.

The music for yesterday’s show was as follows:

  • Winston Groovy – The Stephen Lawrence Song
  • The Specials – Nelson Mandela
  • Small Days – God Bless the Child & Ain’t Misbehavin’
  • Small Days –
  • Clipping – The Deep
  • Labi Siffre – So Strong
  • Janelle Monae – Make Me Feel
  • Big Mama Thornton – Hound Dog
  • Jackie Shane – Any Other Way
  • Jama – No Borders

And if you would like to hear more from Small Days there have lots of free songs on SoundCloud.

An Evening with Tom Robinson

I am in Liverpool for the Outing the Past academic conference. The Friday evening programming of this event is always the Alan Horsfall Memorial Lecture. Horsfall, as Peter Tatchell explained in his introduction to the event, was a founder and mainstay of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality for many years, and someone who was never satisfied with whatever compromise for limited rights was brokered with politicians at the time.

This year’s lecture was given by Tom Robinson. If you are less ancient than me you might ask, “who”, but to anyone of my generation the guy is a hero. He’s the man who penned that great anthem, “Glad to be Gay”. And he made an additional step forward for equality much later when he found, to his surprise, that he was bisexual. It has taken a long time for the LGBT+ community to come to terms with this, and I am sure that there are pockets of people who are still furious. I’m delighted that the conference is finally honoring a bi celebrity.

Tom’s lecture was essentially a coming out story. Or rather two because he had to come out first as gay and then as bi. But it is a story which, for the second half, was lived in the full glare of tabloid publicity as one of the most famous gays in Britain. If you think “Glad to be Gay” is bitter about the media, you should hear Tom talk about them now. Though he did note that these days if the papers tell a bunch of porkies about you then you can at least tweet about what crap they are printing.

Obviously coming out is useful politically, but Tom also focused on the importance of intersectionality. Back in the days of Rock Against Racism, and of Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners, we were intersectional without having a word for it. The same rules apply now. We are stronger together. No one is free until we are all free.

Naturally the evening ended with a rendition of “Glad to be Gay”. My thanks to Tom for encouraging the crusty old academics in the audience to sing along so that I wasn’t the only one doing so.

I had a quick word with him afterwards and grabbed a selfie for Twitter. He told me that he’ll be playing the Fleece Bristol in October, and that the band will be playing songs from Power in the Darkness. The dates haven’t been officially announced yet but it won’t be the day of BristolCon because some guy called Ed Sheeran is booked in that night.

Here’s a taster of the sort of thing you might expect.

I do love the way Tom adapts lyrics as time goes on. The version of “Glad to be Gay” he sang tonight only had the first verse in common with the original single.

Anyway,that’s enough for tonight. I have a busy day tomorrow and could do with some sleep.

What? You want an encore? Oh, alright. Here is a much younger Tom. Y’all sing along now.

Queen

I love this so much.

By the way, if anyone has a copy of the clean version, please get in touch. I know it has been made available to larger radio stations, but I don’t have a copy and I very much want to play it on my next show.

Discoveries from the Road

Jackie Shane

For the past two days my Amazon Horde and I have been entertaining audiences in London and Bristol. But LGBT History Month is as much an opportunity to learn for me as for anyone else. The people I am on platform with always have interesting things to say.

On Friday at the National Maritime Museum I got to meet Max Carocci, who works for the British Museum and is an expert on Native American cultures. Max has a little to learn about trans culture in the West, but he knows a lot more than I do about the people we now lump together under the umbrella term, Two Spirit. I’m really looking forward to spending time learning from him.

What I learned from Max is that the Navajo are even more amazing than I thought. I knew that they had four commonly recognized genders, based on how you were assigned at birth and how you ended up as an adult. But, like most ancient cultures, they had a much better understanding of intersex people that we do. Max told me that it was also possible for a Navajo baby to be assigned intersex at birth, making for a 5th social gender. Of course by no means all intersex conditions are recognizable at birth, but considering how appallingly intersex infants are treated by other cultures (including our own) this is remarkable on the part of the Navajo.

By the way, Max tells me that the Navajo are not comfortable with the term Two Spirit because their traditional beliefs do not include spirits. Umbrella terms are hard, especially when you are trying to bring over 100 different cultures together.

I was very pleased with the speakers I put together for the event at M Shed yesterday. Jana Funke, ever reliable, taught me a lot about the lesbian history of the women’s suffrage movement. (And people, if someone is called Christabel by their parents but insists on being known as Christopher there’s a lot more than just sexuality going on there.) But my big discovery came from Darryl Bullock’s talk on LGBT musicians.

I like to think that I know a bit about queer black musicians. I’m familiar with the likes of Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Little Richard, Big Mama Thornton and Billie Holiday. Darryl introduced me to Jackie Shane. Mind officially blown.

For a long time Jackie has been known as an extravagantly camp gay man. As she vanished from the music business in 1971 no one knew any better. Even in Darryl’s book that’s how she’s written up. But last year Jackie resurfaced. Darryl, bless him, was on the ball and yesterday he introduced us to Ms Jackie Shane, pioneering trans musician.

Born in Nashville in the 40s, Jackie began wearing dresses and high heels when she was four years old. By 13 she considered herself a woman in a man’s body and started wearing make-up to school. Her gender wasn’t so much a question as it was a matter of fact; pragmatic to the core, she knew who she was and lived it. As Jackie told Rob Bowman in his essay on her life, “I could not be anyone else if I tried. It would be the most ridiculous thing in the world for me to try to be a male.”

That quote is from an i-D article about Jackie. Considering how trans women of color are treated in the US today, Jackie’s story is little short of miraculous. Things have gone backwards so far since she transitioned.

Anyway, I have bought a copy of the only album of Jackie’s work that it available. It is extraordinary. I will be playing tracks from it a lot on the radio from now own. The photo above was apparently taken in 1967. If I’d known about her back then I would probably have spent the rest of my life trying to be her.

Yesterday on Ujima – LGBT History & Feminism

Yesterday’s show was given over mainly to previewing the LGBT History Day that is happening at M Shed on Saturday. Full details are available here.

The first hour focused on LGBT music. I talked to Darryl Bullock about his book, David Bowie Made Me Gay, and about the queer black roots of modern popular music. Then I welcomed in my Ujima colleague, Angel Mel, who talked about what is happening on the music scene in Bristol today.

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

In hour two Karen Garvey and I previewed the rest of the day’s events. We also fangirled a bit over David Olusoga’s A House Through Time TV series.

Along the way I talked about the legal case underway in Trinidad and Tobago which hopes to overturn the islands’ homophobic laws. If you want to donate to the fundraiser to cover the legal costs you can do so here.

Next up I ran an interview with Sophie Walker, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party. With Tuesday having been the actual 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, it seemed appropriate to talk about women and politics.

Of course one of the big issues for feminism in England right now (the rest of the UK seems to be avoiding most of the nonsense) is the status of trans women. Sophie, as she always does, committed to intersectionality. However, there is a TERF* event planned for Bristol this evening and I asked a couple of young trans people from Bristol University to talk about it. Quite what the TERFs want is a mystery, especially as they call their event “We Need to Talk” but won’t tell anyone where it is and don’t want any trans people involved.

You can listen to hour 2 of the show here.

The music for the show was as follows:

  • No One Knows You When You’re Down & Out – Bessie Smith
  • Hound Dog – Big Mama Thornton
  • Jailhouse Rock – Vinyl Closet
  • Only God – Sarah Hansson
  • Good Golly Miss Molly – Little Richard
  • Cream – Prince
  • I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross

*TERF = Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist, a term invented decades ago by actual radical feminists to distinguish themselves from people who are neither radical nor feminist, but claim to be both as an excuse for persecuting trans women.

Tomorrow on Ujima

In the midst of all this I still have to do my radio show. Naturally tomorrow I am devoting most of the show to LGBT History Month. I will be joined by Daryll Bullock, a local writer whose book, David Bowie Made Me Gay, has been receiving international acclaim. Darryl will be talking to me about the queer black roots of modern popular music. He’ll be followed by Ujima’s own Angel Mel who will bring us right up to date with news of the queer music scene in Bristol.

In the second hour Karen Garvey from M Shed will pop in and we’ll preview the rest of the entertainment we have planned for Saturday. If you are in Bristol there will be loads of great talks so do pop in.

I also have a short interview with Sophie Walker, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, that I bagged when she was in Bristol on Sunday. Naturally we talked about the 100th anniversary of (some) women getting the vote, the gender pay gap and so on.

Finally I’ll be talking about plans to hold an anti-trans event in Bristol on Thursday and how the increasingly hostile media coverage of trans issues is leading to an increase in the number of hate crimes against trans people in the region.

Yesterday on Ujima – Punching Nazis, Ending Violence, Mental Health

Yesterday’s radio show began with an interview with Jonathan L. Howard whose latest Carter & Lovecraft book, After the End of the World, sees our heroes transported into a world in which the Nazis won WWII. We discussed how miraculously on point such a book appears these days, and the fabulous Crisis in Earth-X crossover event which sees Supergirl, Flash, Green Arrow and friends doing their own Nazi-punching. Of course we also discussed HPL’s racism and Jonathan’s other projects, including a zombie computer game which might destroy parts of Bristol.

Next up I was joined in the studio by Charlotte Gage of Bristol Zero Tolerance. This is a great project run by Bristol Women’s Voice that aims to make the entire city free of violence against women and girls. Of course this is a bit of an uphill struggle, but at least progress is being made.

Unfortunately, thanks to the continuing squeeze on local council funding, the project (including Charlotte’s job) is currently under threat. There’s a crowdfunding campaign going on, which you can find here, but what Charlotte really needs is for some big company to step up and sponsor the project.

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

Charlotte and I continued our discussion in the second hour. We talked about how hard it is these days for any charity to get the day-to-day funding it needs to keep operating. Funding bodies are always happy to sponsor one-off projects, but these typically exclude what is called “core funding”, the stuff that keeps your organization running, and often excludes any funding for staff salaries. Up until now charities have often been able to get core funding from local councils who need their expert skills, but this is all being cut. There’s a major crisis brewing here.

We also had a brief chat about trans-inclusive feminism and the difficulty of getting any sort of dialog going. There is so much going on in feminism right now with attacks on reproductive rights, the #MeToo campaign and so on. It is a huge shame that so much time and energy is being wasted on attempts to keep trans women out of feminism.

Finally on the show I talked to Levi, a young man from Bath who has been working on a project about men’s mental health. Suicide is apparently the number one killer of young men in the UK, and the theory is that much of this happens because men are socialized not to talk about their feelings, and so have no one to turn to when things get bad. I also think that one of the main cause of violence against women is that men are socialized to believe that violence is the only properly masculine way to solve any disagreement. So this is really valuable work that Levi is doing. What’s more it has resulted in a handbook being distributed to children’s mental health services all over the country. Here’s hoping the make good use of it.

Here’s the film he and his friends made:

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

The play list for the show was as follows:

  • Bat for Lashes – Two Planets
  • Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower
  • Tracy Chapman – Behind the Wall
  • Linda Ronstadt – You’re No Good
  • Renaissance – The Winter Tree
  • Isaac Hayes – Winter Snow
  • Labi Siffre – Sparrow in the Storm
  • Stevie Wonder – Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing

The Labi Siffre song dates from 2006 but is even more on point now. It contains this verse:

The message written on our walls
For the strong to climb : the weak must fall.
This is heresy I guess, but could the strong
perhaps learn to live with less.

Ben, my engineer, joked that I’d be mobbed on social media for playing such heretical views. It has all been quiet thus far, so maybe the world isn’t as far gone as we think.

My next show will be on January 3rd. As I doubt that I will get any guests then, it will probably just be me playing music and highlights from 2017. If anyone wants to do a pre-record interview let me know.

Today on Ujima – Black History, Egyptians, Menopause & Underworld Goddesses

October is a ridiculously busy month in Bristol, being both Black History Month and the time when all of the literary festivals happen. As I had devoted all of my October show to books, I decided to do something for Black History Month at the start of November. I’d only be a few hours late, after all.

So I began the show talking to my good friend, Dr. Olivette Otele of Bath Spa University, who is probably the best known black historian working in the UK. We had a great chat about a whole range of issues to do with black history, including The John Blanke Project.

That was followed up with more black history, albeit with a fantasy twist, as I welcomed local author, Justin Newland, to talk about his novel, The Genes of Isis. Justin and I managed to wander onto all sorts of topics, including the Theosophists.

Normally at this point I would direct you to the Listen Again service, but for some reason the file for the first hour of the show is only 7 minutes long. I will check with the station tomorrow, but I have an awful feeling there has been a software glitch.

The second hour began with Dr. Isabel de Salis of Bristol University talking about the Great Menopause Event. Yes, this was more taboo-busting. I have a ticket for it, and will report back in due course.

Finally on the show I welcomed Deborah Ward who is running a course on Storytelling the Underworld. Deborah and I discovered a common passion for ancient goddesses, in particular Inanna. We may have geeked out somewhat.

Thankfully hour 2 of the show recorded correctly.

The playlist for the show was as follows:

  • Eddy Grant – African Kings
  • Cedric Watson & Bijou Créole – Le Sud de la Louisiane
  • The Bangles – Walk like an Egyptian
  • Peter Gabriel – Here comes the Flood
  • Lianne la Havas – Midnight
  • Little Feat – Old Folks Boogie
  • The Herd – From the Underworld
  • The Pretenders – Hymn to Her

Because November has five Wednesdays in it, I will be doing an extra show on the 15th. In the meantime, if you are local, check out Miranda’s 2:00pm Friday show when she will be interviewing the Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees.

Last Week on Ujima – Crime, Cricket, Umbrellas & Protest

With profuse apologies for the day, here are the Listen Again links for last week’s show.

We started off with my friend Lucienne Boyce talking about her latest historical novel, Butcher’s Block. This is a new Dan Foster mystery novel, Dan being a Bow Street Runner and amateur pugilist. We got onto the subject of bodysnatchers, and thence onto the horrors of 18th century medicine. Inevitably, when Lucienne and I get together, we start talking about suffragettes as well. Not in the 18th century, of course, but next year is the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, which gave some British women the vote.

Next up was my report on the Kia Super League Finals Day, including interviews with Raf Nicholson of The Cricketer, and Stafanie Taylor, hero of the hour and captain of the West Indies women’s team.

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

The second hour began with a pre-recorded, trans-Atlantic interview with Nancy 3 Hoffman, owner and curator of the world’s only umbrella cover museum. Nancy is packing the museum into suitcases and bringing on it’s holidays to Bristol for a couple of weeks.

Finally I welcomed Amirah and Cat from the Bristol People’s Assembly into the studio. They told me all about the big anti-austerity demonstration that was to take place in Bristol at the weekend. I see from the news reports that it drew some pretty big crowds. It is also the first time I can recall the mayor of a city calling a demonstration against his own policies. Marvin says he has no choice but to make cuts because of reductions in the money he gets from central government, and he wanted people in Westminster to know how angry the people of Bristol are about it all.

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

The playlist for the show was:

  • Thin Lizzy – Fight or Fall
  • Sade – Is it a Crime
  • Eurythmics – Sisters are Doing It for Themselves
  • Queen – We Are the Champions
  • DJ Bravo – Champion
  • Billy Holiday – Stormy Weather
  • Weather Girls – It’s Raining Men
  • UB40 – One in Ten
  • Bob Marley – Get Up, Stand Up

Today on Ujima – Worldcon Interviews

With so much of this year’s Worldcon centering on black women writers, and in particular Caribbean women, I was able to devote an entire show to interviews done in Helsinki. Ben the Engineer and I had a nice, quiet day, which is just as well as Ujima is in the process of moving offices within The Station and I didn’t want to be bringing in guests.

First up on the show was Stephanie Saulter who set the scene by talking about the current prominence of Caribbean writers. We also reflected on her (R)Evolution series and how the young Finns at Worldcon looked like they were cosplaying characters from the books thanks to their brightly dyed hair.

The second interview was with Karen Lord who talked about being Toastmistress and putting the world into the Hugos. We also discussed her forthcoming role as a writer on Season Three of Tremontaine, and her new book deal.

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

Hour two opens with me talking to Tempest Bradford about AfroRetroFuturism, issues of race in the SF&F community, black people in Roman Britain, and the significance of N.K. Jemisin’s second Hugo win. We also mentioned the Writing the Other course, of which there happens to be one coming up soon.

Finally I headed out to Helsinki’s only Jamaican cafe to interview Nalo Hopkinson over a very nice “lion juice” smoothie. We discussed Nalo’s job as a creative writing teacher at U.C. Riverside, the novels that she is working on, and what she’s seeing coming from younger Caribbean writers. Nalo also talked about her medical struggles with anemia and fibromyalgia.

You can listen to hour two of the show here.

The playlist for today was all SF&F themed songs by black musicians.

  • Prince – Art Official Cage
  • Parliament – Mothership Connection
  • Jimi Hendrix – All along the Watchtower
  • Michael Jackson – Thriller
  • Clipping – True Believer
  • Janelle Monae – Dance Apocalyptic
  • Jamiroquai – Space Cowboy
  • Sun Ra – Space Jazz Reverie

I was pleased to get a Clipping track in. Most of the songs on Splendor and Misery have too many swears in them to be playable on the radio.

The show will be available at the Listen Again links above for a week or two. Once it has vanished I’ll start putting the interviews up on Salon Futura.

Bristol Together For Grenfell

By August 4th I am going to be in Finland, but the good people of Bristol have chosen that day to show their support for, and raise money for, the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. It should be a great night. Ujima is busy promoting the event and our Station Manager, DJ Style, is one of the acts giving their time for free to help the appeal. Tickets are available here.

If you can’t make it to the event, you can still support the main Grenfell appeal.

Pride In Action

As Pride events become more and more popular, and more widespread, questions are being asked about what they are for. Are they too commercial? Are they just entertainment for the straights? Do we still need them? Why isn’t there a Straight Pride?

Prior to Bristol Pride, I was on the radio twice. A whole bunch of us got asked onto John Darvall’s show on Radio Bristol to justify the continued need for Pride. That’s not hard. Trans people are still waiting for the government to act on any of the recommendations from the Trans Equality Report (which was published 18 months ago.) The rabidly homophobic DUP are in government. If you don’t defend your rights, you’ll lose them. I was also on Miranda’s show explaining why the supposed 50th anniversary of “decriminalizing” homosexuality is anything but. It took us until 2003 until all of the laws criminalizing gay sex were off the statue books.

Nevertheless, Pride was once again a massive success. We had more room than ever before, and we filled it all up. The Community Tent, where all of the volunteer organizations were housed, was once again a heaving mass of humanity. The infamous gay weather control once again assured blazing sunshine. A fabulous time was, it seemed, had by all.

That did not mean that we all just gave ourselves over to partying. I missed the march due to having stayed home to watch the Lions game, but I understand that at one point, when they were held up by something or other, some students from Bristol University took the opportunity to stage a little protest and explain why Pride is still important. Part of that included reading the current Trans Remembrance List. Good for them.

I spent much of my time behind the main stage with the Shout Out crew. They have so many volunteers now that they don’t really need me, but I like to get on air during the broadcast to remind listeners that Ujima cares about Pride too. I wasn’t terribly interested in most of the acts, but I did want to get to see Jordan Gray and I’m glad I did.

I know nothing about talent shows. I never watch them, and mostly I have no idea who any of the winners are, let alone the contestants. However, many of the trans folks I follow on Twitter were very enthusiastic about Jordan, who appeared on a show called The Voice last year. She made it through to the semi-finals. That has got her numerous invitations to appear at Prides.

Jordan began her set by introducing herself. It went something like this. “You have probably heard that I’m transgender. If you don’t know what that means, it means that I used to be unhappy, but now I’m happy.” That’s a brilliantly simple and clever line, and I will doubtless steal it at some point.

What I won’t do is follow her example of proving the point. Jordan has a perfectly good female singing voice. But she’s a fan of Johnny Cash and did a couple of covers, including occasionally dropping into the Johnny Cash voice just to prove that she could. No way am I doing anything like that in public. The crowd loved it, though.

Out beyond the main stage there were load of younger people in evidence. Freedom Youth and Mermaids ran a Young Person’s Area. And there was also a Family Area for the littlest attendees. To keep the kids happy, a bunch of drag queens were telling stories. I donated a copy of Marcus Ewart’s 10,000 Dresses. I hope it went down well.

By mid afternoon the venue was so full that the security team had to put a temporary stop on people coming in. Late comers were understandably peeved. There were a lot of seemingly straight people at the event. I even saw one idiot sporting a Straight Pride t-shirt. But then again, some of the straights were there with a purpose. I spent a bit of time on the OutStories table and while I was there we were approached by a middle-aged couple looking for Mermaids because they wanted help to support their trans child.

The thing is that with an event that size you can’t have it all go the way you want. There were no major disasters, and for that Daryn, Freddie and their team deserve huge congratulations. That evening at the official after party I am being told that the security staff were operating a very strict binary gender toilet policy, which is very much not Pride policy but you never know when some random security guy is going to decide to invent rules so he can throw his weight around.

Is Pride getting overrun by straights? Not exactly, it is still extravagantly queer, but it is a great party and loads of people will come for that. Do we still need it? Absolutely. Does it bring out the worst in some people? Sadly yes. But all of the bad stuff gives you opportunities for teachable moments. Right now I think Pride is still doing good work.