Last year New Year’s Eve pyrotechnics were all big bangs but no punters. The pandemic saw to that. This year, punters were back in force, lining the banks of the Thames. To mark their return, London Mayor Sadiq Khan put on a show of shock and awe. There were nods to various events from 2022 – the lionesses’ historic win in the Euros, fifty years of London Pride, standing tall with Ukraine and, of course, remembering Her Maj. The sky exploded like a million party poppers, a spectacular musical extravaganza to celebrate London’s extraordinary diversity and strong sense of inclusion – a city for all – and it was a marvellous sight to behold.
Yes, folks, it’s that time of year when big money is lavished on those big-budget Yuletide TV ads with a social conscience – ads to make you smile, make you cry and make you think. I know it’s all about the relentless commercialisation of Christmas and a crude attempt by big business to convince us all that they’re the good guys really. But, if they’re well done and have a laser-sharp message then they can strike the perfect note and, hopefully, make a difference. Every little helps, as they say at Tesco. Here are my personal favourites from the UK, Germany and Spain.
Despite coming from a football-obsessed family and a football-obsessed country in a football-obsessed world, I’ve little interest in the beautiful game. But starting tomorrow it’ll be wall-to-wall coverage of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Unless I move to Mars or become a hermit for the duration, it’ll be impossible to avoid the unremitting flood of games, goals, news and views coming at me from every direction. But I’m not a total killjoy. Even I hope our home countries of Wales and England do well.
But here’s the rub: how did a country with little or no tradition of playing football, no venues to speak of and summer temperatures hot enough to melt the slap on a drag queen’s face win the bid to host the big daddy of all competitions? Record bungs and backhanders, naturally – or so it’s alleged. Associated football is drowning in the filthy lucre, the richest sport on the planet, so there’s a bottomless pit of petty cash to go around. At least some sense has prevailed and kick-off has been postponed to late autumn so players and fans alike don’t drop dead in the heat.
Setting aside the well-greased palms, there’s also the small matter of civil rights – or lack thereof – in the oil-rich nation ruled with an iron fist by an absolute monarch. When it comes to the footie, Qatar may be strictly Sunday morning kickabout but it’s in the top flight for limited freedoms for women, enforced (and sometimes deadly) labour akin to modern-day slavery and oppression of LGBT people. Of course, this won’t stop the circus rolling into town to take the Sheik’s shilling.
The beautiful game just got ugly.
PS. It now seems FIFA’s President, Gianni Infantino, thinks being teased at school for having red hair and freckles is the same as being banged up in a Qatari hellhole prison for being gay. What a prat.
At the tender age of 12, Rob put on a full-blown Disney parade for his giggly Grandma. In dodgy wigs and improvised costumes, he gave her Ariel, Belle, Mary Poppins and Mickey Mouse while doting Dad acted as stagehand, sound technician and general props-body. It didn’t go well.
As much as I dislike the whole ‘we’re all queer, now’ thing, I jumped at the chance to see My Son’s a Queer, written and performed by Rob Madge at Norwich’s trendy Playhouse Theatre. It’s received some spectacular reviews, selling out at London’s off-West End Turbine Theatre in 2021 and taking the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe by storm. It’s currently on national tour before heading to yer actual West End this October. We saw the single-handed touring version and it was glorious – a fabulous autobiographical tale of Rob’s upbringing as a Disney-obsessed, uber-flamboyant child delivered in words, music and old family videos.
Just an everyday ordinary family with an everyday extra-ordinary child; the love – and sometimes the exasperation – shone brightly through those old movies. Despite the teachers, the bullies and the rejection, Rob stuck by his sequins and, thanks to Rob’s courage and loving family, proved beyond doubt that home is where the heart is. This isn’t always the case for the child who’s just a little bit different. We laughed a lot, we cried a bit, we jumped to our feet at the end. The simple answer to the question but what can you do? to parents everywhere is just roll with it; it will bring you endless joy.
Our rainbow day came hot on the heels of the opening ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham earlier that week. Eccentric, multicultural and with a distinctly steampunk feel, it was a gloriously quirky start to the games. Check out the amazing pictures from the Guardian.
For me, a spectacular high point of the show was Tom Daley, Olympic champion diver and growing national treasure, carrying the Queen’s baton flanked by gay rights activists each holding the LGBT progress flag high and proud.
Seen by over one billion viewers worldwide, they were there to spotlight the barbaric situation where in over half of Commonwealth countries homosexuality is illegal and also where, in three of them, the maximum penalty is execution. Just think about that for a moment. That’s another good reason why we need pride events.
But now the ‘Friendly Games’ – and they were terrific – are over for another four years, will Tom’s rainbow flag-waving make a lasting difference? We can but hope.
Click the image below to see the footage on the BBC.