Coronavirus – Day #85

Well, what a day!

Things began overnight with a certain very rich writer of dubious children’s books spouting transphobia over her Twitter feed. I had to unfollow and block one person, but in general I was very proud of the way my own personal social media bubble rallied round. Good show, people!

Just about when that was starting to die down, the Black Lives Matter demo began in Bristol. I wasn’t able to attend, and indeed many of the Black people I know stayed away because of health fears. Cleo Lake and some other community leaders organised an online protest with the hashtag #BristolTakeTheKnee, which I participated in. And then I got on with some work.

The next thing I knew, people had toppled the statue of Edward Colston and dumped it in the harbour.

For those of you who don’t know, Colston made an huge fortune from slave trading. He did pay some of it back by donating money that helped the city, but that’s no excuse for all the lives he destroyed. However, because of that philanthropy he had various things in the city named after him, and a statue erected in his honour. Much, if not all, of this was done in late Victorian times long after the slave trade had been abolished and when the white population of the city had managed to forget its horrors.

The Black people of Bristol did not forget. For decades now they have been campaigning to have Colston’s name removed from the city. Many of my friends from Ujima have been involved in that. Members of the white establishment have fought them every inch of the way. Last year the concert hall agreed to change its name, but attempts to even acknowledge Colston’s unsavoury habits on the plaque on his statue were ferociously resisted. We all know what happens when attempts at calm and reasonable protest are blocked.

A couple of things are worth noting. Firstly the actual act of toppling the stautue seems, from the video I have seen, to have been done by young white men. When Tim Maughan wrote about the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft in Infinite Detail he wasn’t joking, and didn’t make it up. Secondly, while Avon & Somerset Police maintained a presence at the demonstration, they did not attempt to intervene or attack the crowd. Those responsible for actually toppling the statue will be investigated, but public safety was maintained and there was no violence. This sounds very different from what police in London and Manchester have been up to.

The government is, of course, livid. I would not fancy being Marvin Rees (the Mayor) or Sue Mountstevens (the Police Commissioner) tomorrow morning.

I understand that the BBC has given air time to both David Olusoga and to my friend Olivette Otele, both of whom are more than capable of explaining just why so many people in Bristol want Colston gone.

And now I have to make a radio show. It will air on Wednesday, but I should deliver it by the end of tomorrow. And I won’t have time to do any interviews. I have been collecting civil rights songs to play.

The Dan & Cheryl Show

Today I did my thing with Dan Vo for the Queer Britain Lockdown Hunt. It was a lot of fun. I covered a range of queer history books ranging from the 20th Century back to the 2nd. I also mentioned four science fiction and fantasy books. They were:

  • Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
  • Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
  • Friday by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Triton by Samuel R Delany

Obviously there’s a huge amount of queer SF&F that I could have mentioned, and I tweeted about several others, but those four had interesting stories. To find out why I chose them, you’ll need to watch the show.

On #QBLockdownHunt Tomorrow

Those of you who have been following the Queer Britain Lockdown Hunt on Twitter will know that each Friday Dan Vo has been getting people to search out particular items of significance in queer history. We’ve done badges, we’ve done postcards, we’ve done t-shirts and fliers. But tomorrow the object will be books.

As you can imagine, that’s right up my street. Dan has kindly invited me to join him at 3:00pm to chat about books. I’ll be showcasing some science fiction novels of significance, and also some books from much further back in time that are important to queer history.

Dan also has several other guests through the day, including the fabulous Diana Souhami who has written several books on the lives of famous lesbians. The full details are in the tweet below.

Coronavirus – Day #77

Another day, more stuff written. Today has been quite exciting from a local history point of view.

These days Fridays are Queer Britain Lockdown Hunt days. Queer Britain is a project that aims to build a bricks and mortar queer museum in the UK. Every Friday my lovely pal Dan Vo does a Twitter takeover where they focus on one particular type of queer memorabilia. Today the object was badges, of which I have plenty. So I did my bit and tweeted some photos.

During the day Dan does brief interviews with various queer celebrities, much as he has been doing for Museum from Home. His first guest today was Sue Sanders of LGBT History Month, who had some announcements to make.

First up, the LGBTHM theme for 2021 will be Mind, Body & Spirit. Sue also announced the five “faces” of 2021, one of whom will be Michael Dillon. That’s a perfect choice (if I do say so myself, ahem!). Dillon was an Oxford graduate, and keen thinker, a champion rower in his younger days, a deeply spirital person, and later in life the first Western European to become a Buddhist monk.

This means, of course, that I am likely to be rather busy next February. I’ve already started the planning process, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to bring you some as yet unknown Dillon facts when we get there. Watch this space!

Out in the world, the UK government continues to be a laughing stock (or laughing at us in the case of Matt Hancock, the Minister for Death). But events here have been overshadowed by the unfolding disaster in the USA. When I saw the rallies that Donny Little Hands did for the Police Union in 2016 I got the impression that he saw a heavily armed police force as his own private militia that he could turn to should he need military backup. It gives me no pleasure to see this coming true.

Anyway, my very best wishes go out to all of my friends in the Minneapolis/St.Paul region, and to all African Americans wherever in the country you might be.

New Book on Angela Carter

It is a big week for local history on Bristol. A new series of David Olusoga’s popular A House Through Time starts tonight, and this time he’s come home to look at a house built by a wealthy slave trader.

In addition to that the lovely people at the Bristol Radical History Group have published a new book. Mostly I wouldn’t bother telling you about such things, but this one should be of interest. Angela Carter’s ‘Provincial Bohemia’ is an examination of the radical counterculture communities that flourished in Bristol and Bath when Carter lived in the region between 1961 and 1976. Author Stephen E Hunt hopes that the book will shed light on Carter’s influences during these formative years. The book even has a rave recommendation from Eugene Byrne. You can buy it direct from the lovely people at Tangent Books.

Coronavirus – Day #63

Well that was an exhausting day. And I have five more to go. Of course it didn’t help that I had the #QBLockdownHunt thing to do as well.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it all. Please to tell your friends if you did. There must be some more people out there who would be willing to give a few pounds to help One25.

Here’s the link to the fundraiser.

I have no idea what is happening back in the UK. I hope Bozo doesn’t manage to destroy the country before I get back.

Life in Pompeii #GiveItUp125

As promised in my last video, here are some pictures from the Last Supper in Pompeii Exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. In case anyone is worried, that’s not a real dormouse in the pot.

If you want to learn to cook like a Roman, here is a modern edition of Apicius. Or you can get the original for free from Project Gutenberg.

And before I forget again, here is the Delia Smith recipe for zabaglione.

The Queer Britain #QBLockdownHunt Challenge

A quick break from Virtual Italy to note that there’s another charity campaign going on today. Queer Britain is a wonderful project that aims to create an actual bricks & mortar exhibition of LGBT+ life in the UK. Today my friend Dan Vo is running an awareness campaign on Twitter and is asking people to find t-shirts and fliers that relate to queer history and post about them. He’s also interviewing a whole bunch of fabulous people. I have rather a lot of material, so I decided to channel my inner Dan and make a video. This covers a lot of my work with OutStories Bristol, how I got involved in doing LGBT History Month Events (sorry Sue, you are stuck with me now), and a little bit about the tragedy of the UK’s lost trans history archives. The latter is an excellent example of why Queer Britain is so badly needed. There’s also a little bit of science fiction in there.

Exploring Rome #GiveItUp125

On my way back from Bologna I spent a day or so in Rome seeing the sights. I barely managed to scratch the surface of the things there were to see. If you are going to Rome, you need several days, and you need to book tickets for the various attractions well in advance or you won’t get in. Even then you may have to queue a long time to get into the Vatican.

Anyway, here are some photos. Huge thanks to my dear friend Francesco Verso who met up with me in the evening and took me around the part of the city where he grew up.

We’re Live! #GiveItUp125

In case you missed the announcement on Twitter, yes, the #GiveItUp125 challenge is now underway. I am in Virtual Italy, and I’ll be posting Italian content on various social media throughout the day. There will be music, tourism, books, and of course food. Here, in best Blue Peter tradition, is one that I prepared earlier.

If you like what I’m doing here, please consider donating to One25 who are doing amazing work in Bristol, putting themselves at risk to help those who have nothing.

And now, time for that Zabaglione…

Today on Ujima – One25, Greek Robots & Mental Health

My first guests on today’s show were Amy & Lu from One25. Amy explained why the women that One25 helps cannot simply stop doing sex work during the pandemic. Most of them don’t even have homes, let alone any other source of income. Lu then chimined in with details of this year’s fundraiser. I’m delighted to see that I’m now up to 78% of my initial target. What I’d love to see is us hitting 100% by launch time on Friday, and then I can set a new target for the 6 days of the campaign.

Next up was my new academic pal, Maria Gerolemou from the University of Exeter. Like me, Maria as a passion for ancient automata. Those of you who have heard my “Prehistory of Robotics” talk will have a good idea of what to expect. The rest of you, prepare to be astonished.

Finally I welcomed back Subitha from CASS to talk about two new mental health campaigns. You can find out more about the #SleepSoundBristol and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek projects at the CASS website. And do please write in to tell them about someone who has been kind to you.

This week’s show also includes tributes to two tiny giants of the music business who sadly left us in the past week. They were Millie Small, who hit #2 on both sides of the Atlantic in 1964 with “My Boy Lollipop”, and Little Richard without whom the likes of Prince and Elton John would have been very different musicians.

The playlist for the show is as follows:

  • My Boy Lollipop – Millie Small
  • Street Life – Roxy Music
  • Money Don’t Matter – Prince
  • Sun Goddess – Ramsey Lewis & Earth, Wind & Fire
  • Chrome Shoppe – Janelle Monáe
  • Dance Apocalyptic – Janelle Monáe
  • Dream within a Dream – Dreadzone
  • Everyone’s a VIP to Someone – The Go! Team
  • Long Tall Sally – Little Richard
  • Good Golly Miss Molly – Little Richard
  • Keep a Knockin’ – Little Richard
  • Lucille – Little Richard
  • Tutti Frutti – Little Richard
  • The Girl Can’t Help It – Little Richard
  • By the Light of the Silvery Moon – Little Richard
  • House of the Ancestors – Afro Celt Sound System

You can hear the entire show via the Ujima Listen Again service. It will be up there for a few weeks.

Coronavirus – Day #48

Well that was great. Museum from Home was hugely successful. I’m really happy for Dan and Sacha, who have put a lot of effort into this. Who knows, maybe they’ll get their own TV show one day.

In among all the museum and free ebook excitement I found time to sling some chicken curry into the slow cooker, so that’s food sorted for a few more days.

Bozo has apparently announced that the UK is past the peak as far as virus cases goes, and the data is still supporting that. On the other hand, we are still running at well over 500 deaths a day, so if we lift restrictions now things could get a lot worse very quickly. And the government has still not made any significant steps towards managing the exit process.

Coronavirus – Day #47

Today I did the shopping thing. It all went very smoothly and I now have enough food to last me another two or three weeks. Interestingly the food selection in Tesco seems to have reduced somewhat since last time I was there. The cheese selection in particular was very disappointing. This suggests that Lockdown is having an effect on the food economy.

One thing that is plentiful is toilet paper. There was loads of it on the shelves. Some of it was even on sale.

On the other hand, there is still not a spoonful of flour to be had. Why that should be I do not know.

I saw only three people wearing masks. Two of those were Japanese. But everyone was well behaved.

Life continues to be busy. In addtion to the new Salon Futura, I have been working on this year’s fundraiser for One25, the Bristol charity that supports local sex workers. You may remember that last year I walked 125 miles for them. This year I will be giving up something for 125 hours. And no, it won’t be chocolate. There will be more about that next week.

Tomorrow is #MuseumFromHome Day on the BBC. I will be on social media much of the day to support my pals Dan and Sacha. I also have a contribution of my own to launch tomorrow.

And of course tomorrow there will be a new piece of Lockdown Reading.

Phew!