Way to Go, Tom Daley

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.

Welcome Back, Norwich Pride

Last Saturday Norwich Pride was back painting the town pink after a three-year absence because of you know what. And it was back with a bang – bigger, brasher and better than ever. Our bus into the city was transformed into a pride express, stuffed with jolly rainbow people from town and county. After arriving in the city, we joined the crowd of many colours heading to the centre and pitched our tent along Gentlemen’s Walk to watch the parade. It ran late. Turns out that a cast of thousands wanted to get in on the act, so it took a while to gather them all up.

When it did set off, the exuberant mega-march just went on and on and on. It was truly heartening to see a long chorus line of so many young people putting it out there, happy and unafraid.

Norwich Pride is fully inclusive, everyone welcome, no one turned away. Why? Because it’s free. Some other pride events are now ticket-only. I get it, really I do. Many are run on a wing and a prayer and a bad weather day can result in a wash-out, leaving a trail of unpaid bills. But not everyone can afford the price to be proud, especially right now. Just like the NHS, let’s hope Norwich Pride remains free at point of access for many, many years to come.

Belfast – Should We Stay or Should We Go?

I was a little nervous when I took my seat to watch Belfast, Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical film about the life of a working-class family in late sixties Belfast. It was a time when the Troubles really exploded on the streets, and I was dreading being slapped about the face by the grim senselessness of sectarianism.

But despite the nightmarish backdrop, there’s something incredibly warm and generous about the film. Set to a Van Morrison soundtrack (with a little help from Love Affair’s Everlasting Love) and shot in radiant black and white, the tender and funny script has a simple question at its heart – leave for a brighter future ‘across the water’ or stay for kith and kin and all that’s familiar. It was a choice faced by generations of Irish people – including our own.

The sparkling cast really deliver – anything with Judi Dench gets my vote – and despite the eye candy that is Jamie Dornan, the stand-out performance has to be from Jude Hill as Buddy, the young boy around whom the story revolves.

Do they stay or do they go? Here’s a clue. Sir Kenneth Branagh is now one of the UK’s foremost actors and directors.

Here’s the trailer…

Heroes in Heels

Soppy, sentimental old fool that I am, I’m a sucker for a tear-jerker. I cried during the opening Circle of Life scene of the Lion King when I first saw it in the West End many moons ago. And I started to blub during the first few bars of Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace and carried on sobbing right through to the finale. Pass the Kleenex.

Last year Liam and I watched the film version of Everybody Talking About Jamie on Amazon Prime. There’s a scene midway through – a flashback to the dark days of the early nineties when the gossip on the street was of a ‘gay plague’ and gay men were dropping like flies to a hostile crowd.

A few brave folk fought back, and the rest, as they say…

“Even the Iron Lady couldn’t stop the show.”

It’s a time I remember well. Too well. Who could forget? Here’s the scene that had me bawling.

But then there are tears of joy too. We also saw Six, a musical about the wives of that old lecherous tyrant, Henry the Eighth. Despite their bleak destiny – divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived – the show delivers an uplifting, defiant message. It’s a message that seems to have struck an inspirational chord with young ladies everywhere judging by the audience at Norwich’s Theatre Royal and the flash mob at the Tower of London, where two of Henry’s queens lost their heads. The young faces say it all. Right, ladies, it’s time for your crowning glory. You’ve earned it.

Now that’s how to teach history.

Made in Dagenham

Released in 2010, ‘Made in Dagenham’ is a gritty, evocative and warm-hearted film about the female workers at the Ford car plant in Dagenham, East London, who, in 1968, downed tools to demand equal pay for doing work of equal value. The machinists faced a barrage of patronising and often vicious opposition from every side – from the management at Ford UK, their paymasters across the pond and the Labour government of the day but also from their male co-workers and their union, run – you guessed it – by men. Evidently, solidarity only applied to the hairy-arsed blokes on the assembly line.

It was a time when a woman’s place was in the home and even those who had to work to put food on the table were routinely paid less than men because, well, they were just women, after all. Thankfully, times were a-changing. The strike was ultimately successful and led to the 1970 Equal Pay Act.

A musical adaptation followed in November 2014, opening at the Adelphi Theatre in London. It’s now doing the provincial rounds and we saw the production by the Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society at Norwich’s handsome Theatre Royal. Am-dram it may have been but top not notch am-dram it was with sparkling vocal performances, light-footed routines and a real sixties vibe. We caught the matinee, joining the grey herd who laughed, gasped and clapped their way through a clever and often very naughty script, witty lyrics and jolly tunes. Mind you, the nice people from St John’s Ambulance were on standby with their defibrillators – just in case it all got too much.

Here’s how they did it in the West End…