Transgender Day of Remembrance - 325 Trans murders #TDOR2017 | Katy

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Entrepreneur, activist, thinker, writer, speaker on business, equality, diversity, human rights, gender, LGBTIQ, motivation, economics, social change, faith, language. Polymath, geek, comedian, Hebraist, linguist, theologian, philosopher, techie, bibliophile, gardener, cook, guitarist.
Transgender Day of Remembrance - 325 Trans murders #TDOR2017 | Katy

Transgender Day of Remembrance – 325 Trans murders #TDOR2017

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2017

Every 27 hours a trans person is murdered, over 2,600 the last 10 years – that we know about. A number that is rising annually and particularly affects those in the Americas but also in nearly 70 other countries around the world. 
 
Whilst nobody in the UK was knowingly killed this year, nonetheless, Ruth Hunt, CEO of Stonewall described Britain today as “at an absolute crisis point in how it treats trans people”, in no small part down to media attention. 
 
“Britain is no longer considered a safe part of the world for trans people to live in…It should be considered a national embarrassment that this is where we now are as a nation.” – Ruth Hunt, Stonewall

Double Jeopardy

Trans women of colour are the most likely to be killed of all transgender people. Instead of horrific headlines of transphobic killings it would be great to see more like this one, celebrating the political victory of poet, activist and social historian, Andrea Jenkin, winning a seat on Minneapolis City Council:
 

Andrea Jenkins makes history as first openly transgender black woman elected to public office in US – The Independent

Jenkins is one of eight trans people elected to office in America this November. That is what we should be making the headlines for and not the violence. 

Media Spotlight

TDOR Profile pic of Katy Jon Went
TDOR Profile pic of Katy Jon Went

But today, trans people are in the news for the shocking recurrence of their frequent murders. It seems recently, however, that they’ve been in the news every day. Frequently, there are 2-3 trans questioning or outright transphobic articles in The Times alone, not to mention other papers daily, and continuous TV and Radio programmes to boot.

 
Today, Ed Miliband “hit out at the inaccurate coverage in the press, accusing newspapers of propagating a “moral panic” similar to the anti-gay coverage seen in the 1980s.” – PodCast
 
Trans people’s lives are already under a microscope as part of their transition pathway, but to be so in the media spotlight too puts their private and social lives up for involuntary discussion and invasive dissection.
 
Lucy Meadows took her own life in 2013 in strong part due to “the toll the press was taking on her mental health”, says her former partner. “The media later claimed, [that] by putting out an “official” letter, the school [where she taught] had “officially” placed Lucy’s transition in the domain of public interest.”
 
A Day of Statistics, Sadness & Solidarity
Instead of the prurient public interest being in trans ‘sex changes’, former lives, and scaremongering fears of ‘sex pest perverts’, the media should be concerned about the levels of abuse, bullying, murder and suicide that so blight trans lives.
 
Last year, saw 295 trans and gender-diverse persons added to the list of those killed for being trans. This year that number is 325, up 10%. It went up 9% in 2015-2016 too. Improved news monitoring could account for it but hate and visibility are also on the rise.
 
“These figures only show the tip of the iceberg of homicides of trans and gender-diverse people on a worldwide scale.”
The majority of the murders occurred in Brazil (171 up 48 or 40% from the previous year), Mexico (56 up from 52), and the United States (25 up from 23), adding up to a total of 2,609 reported cases in 71 countries worldwide between 1st of January 2008 and 30th of September 2017.
 
  • 5 trans people were killed in Europe (down 50%)
  • 25 in the USA (11x more likely than in Europe)
  • 53 in Mexico (50x more likely)
  • 171 in Brazil (120x more likely)
You are 25x more at risk in the US than in India but 7.5x more at risk in Pakistan than India. For all its talk of being the “land of the free” you are just as likely to be killed (in the street, or your home, etc) for being trans in America as in Saudi Arabia! (More data)
 
Hate crimes against trans people in America were up 44% in 2016, according to FBI data. 
 
“Since the election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, there has been a notable increase in the vitriol and anti-transgender rhetoric — from the top levels of government down through the rest of American society.” HRC Report
  • The majority of murders were of trans women (80% in the US)
  • 62% were sex workers (4% were hairdressers & 2% artists)
  • 69% of the reported murder victims in W.Europe were migrants
  • 86% of the victims in the US were people of colour and/or Native American
In many countries, trans and gender non-conforming people live riskier lives, not by choice, but usually as a last resort due to the oppression, rejection and lack of rights within their cultures and societies. Many struggle to find work to survive, let alone to transition, and resort to sex work and/or flee their countries as migrants. Either or both of these paths putting them into the line of fire of greater exploitation and risk.
 
These numbers do not include suicides, the countless thousands who take their own lives – around 40% try, twice as many consider it. Sometimes it is the result of an attack:
 

These numbers are people. [Some of the names…]
 
These numbers are too many.
 
These numbers barely scratch the surface of the actual violence trans people experience, as much goes unrecorded, or cause/status unknown. Many countries don’t mention trans status in reports of violent death or in their internal statistics – particularly in anti-LGBT regimes and regions. Again, many may be killed in their acquired gender but the death not be because of it, of their pre-transition life simply not known about.
 
In addition to violent deaths, 1-in-2 trans people experience domestic abuse and/or sexual violence (DASV). Trans men and women alike often suffer in silence and fear that shelters and services won’t be there for them.
 
81% of trans people have suffered physical and/or verbal abuse.
 
Are they not women if people and society perceive them as such and treat them equally badly?
 
Yes, their social and biological experience when growing up is not that of natal women but many in medicine now recognise a biological rather than purely psychological basis for the origins of gender dysphoria.
 
“Considerable scientific evidence has emerged demonstrating a durable biological element underlying gender identity.” – The Endocrine Society
How then can some in society – conservative religions, some feminists, right-wing journalists, think that being trans male or female is something that we can fight against? 
 

Intersectional Feminism?

The personal is political and it’s hard to avoid the political, for murder is as personal as it gets. The irony that this was a rallying cry of late 1960s/70s Second Wave Feminism and yet is also the lived and embodied risk of being trans is not lost on me. Women regularly experience sexism and discrimination because of their sex. Black women even more so, adding racism to the crimes against their person.
 
The majority of feminists recognise the intersections between sex, sexuality and colour, not to mention class. Again, most modern and particularly young student feminists recognise the further intersection with gender identity. A few do not, and instead regard trans women as a threat to gendered spaces and trans men as traitors erasing butch lesbianism.
 
The conflation of sex with gender and/or sexuality is an issue needing better education to better understand people’s authentic ‘born this way’ identities.
 
Don’t scapegoat us as perverts and rapists. Don’t harm us and kill us. Instead, be allies, support us to be ourselves, and let’s bring these murder, abuse, and suicide rates down next year!

What can we do?

We need to:
  • end discrimination at work, in training and employment opportunities
  • provide decent healthcare
  • create healthy environments at school to explore identity and expression
  • recognise that Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence happen to trans women and men too, at the hands of cisgendered men and women
  • ensure prejudice is rooted out of criminal justice and police systems
  • provide legal protections against online and offline hate
  • end the language of violence* and exclusion between TERFs, as well as other vociferous transphobes, and Trans
  • develop positive dialogues rather than debate our right to exist
  • foster greater unity with allies of the wider LGBT+ and feminist communities

[*I denounce all #punchaFemiNazi, #punchaTERF, #punchaTranny memes and tweets, because no form of violence, real or humorous should be being encouraged.] 

Trans flag and candles, TDOR, UEA, 20 Nov 2017
Trans flag and candles, TDOR, UEA, 20 Nov 2017

TDOR Commemorations

TDOR Profile pic of Katy Jon Went
TDOR Profile pic of Katy Jon Went

TDOR remembrance meetups were held around the UK including London, Liverpool, Brighton, and Norwich, as well as around the world including Paris and New York and dozens of other locations.

Norwich, my adopted home city held two TDOR events, one at the UEA attended by over 80 people (Concrete Online report), and another outside the Forum, with 40-50 people including the Lord Mayor and representatives of the CofE clergy. Speakers included me (Katy Jon Went) using the text above, Evie Thomas of UEA, and poetry read by Sarah Corke and Poppy Rose. 

I was most impressed by the number of allies that attended, showing that society and Norwich in particularly is openminded and accepting in the main, and supports the rights, lives and wellbeing of trans and gender non-conforming people, despite media articles to the contrary.

Nine years of Norwich Pride and decades of trans support groups stretching back to Barbara Ross, OBE, Oasis and now more than half a dozen active groups supporting trans youth, non-binary, trans men, trans women, and families of trans, mean that Norwich provides a generally safe and supportive environment for trans people and gender dysphoric youth.

Trans Day of Remembrance 2017
Trans Day of Remembrance 2017
Transgender Day of Remembrance - 325 Trans murders #TDOR2017 | Katy

Lies, Damned Lies & Tory Jeremy Hunt’s Mental Health NHS Statistics

Lies, Damned Lies & Mental Health Statistics

This month saw World Mental Health Day. For the other 364 days of the year, we are forgotten. Austerity Britain has affected mental health services more than most. Despite promises to ringfence the NHS and bring parity between physical and mental health, this has not happened. Instead, beds have been cut, jobs have not kept pace with population growth, and my own trust, NSFT, has been placed back into special measures again, after being the first mental health trust in the country to be sanctioned in this way by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in February 2015.

Mental health awareness and NHS service provision improvements are sorely needed as referrals have risen 20% in Norfolk and Suffolk, but staffing and beds have been cut. Complaints, locally, have risen from 430 to 592, 2013-16. The latest CQC report criticised inadequate staff and bed levels but praised staff the caring attitudes of staff as ‘good’.

The recent Stevenson/Farmer ‘Thriving at Work’ report has demonstrated the need to promote mental health at work due to its annual near £99bn cost to the UK economy.

  • 2010-20 will be the most austere decade in NHS history
  • 2010-17 UK population rose 5%, mental health staff up 0.87%
  • 2011-14 33% rise in Police cases with mental health component
  • 2010-13 56% rise in self-harm and suicide
  • Mental health at work costs UK economy up to £99bn
  • Entitlement to be seen <18 weeks applies to mental health too

A week ago, BBC Radio Norfolk ran a mental health week focus with Stephen Bumfrey featuring it each afternoon, and coming together with Nick Conrad, Sue Tebble and myself, on Friday 20th, for an hour-long special. (iPlayer episode – 2hr 32m in

On Radio Norfolk’s Matthew Gudgin programme, the BBC’s Bob Carter challenged Theresa May to apologise to the people of Norfolk and Suffolk for having the worst mental health trust in England. Listen to the interview below:

Theresa May

During a recent visit to Archant, home of the EDP, in Norwich, the Prime Minister said:

“overall if you look across the country there is a good record of actually being able to move trusts out of special measures” – Theresa May

This makes the failure to resolve the local NSFT crisis all the poorer. Patients, or the politically correct – ‘service users’, have complimented the staff but criticised the system, waits, and other failures. Patient deaths and out of hospital suicides have increased whilst beds and budgets have been cut. Hundreds of patients were sent out of county owing to the lack of beds, up to 225 miles away!

In 2012/13 the trust reported 53 unexpected deaths, 105 in 2013/14 and 14/15, 139 deaths, rising again in 15/16 to 158, and 140 in just 9 months of 16/17. When standardised for age it is above the average for England. The figures have risen across all regions during NHS austerity under this government, from 47 per 1,000 to 59 in England – up 25%, but from 44 to 66, a rise of 50% in Norfolk & Suffolk.

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has boasted that provision for mental health has “got better” and that he has increased staffing by 30,000 posts. The reality of the lie, and statistics do indeed damn him, is that 4,100 mental health nurses, 4,596 mental health trust beds, have been cut, and just 692 extra staff employed  – an increase of just 0.87% over seven years, despite population growth of 5% during that time – so, in other words, a cut!

“Although NHS funding is rising in real terms, current plans mean that 2009/10 to 2020/21 will be the most austere decade in NHS history. Total spending on the NHS in England increased by an average of 1.2% a year under the 2010-15 coalition government (0.9% for the UK), and is set to increase at the same rate under the current Conservative government. Between 2009/10 and 2015/16, spending increased from £109.1bn to £119.0bn and is planned to rise to £123.2bn in 2020/21. This growth rate of around 1% is below the historical average for the UK of 3.7% per year.”The Health Foundation

In Norfolk and Suffolk, primary care mental health referrals rose 20% between 2013-16, nearly 7 times faster than the population increase.

Wider Societal Impact

Norfolk has a pioneering mental health within Police HQ service, but nationally, there has been a 33% increase in cases with a mental health component 2011-14. As much as 40% of Police time is spent dealing with mental health-related issues.

Eighteen Weeks, as if!

Under the NHS constitutional pledge, patients have a right to be treated within 18 weeks of referral, including mental health.

“the new waiting time standards will be as follows: 75% of people referred for talking therapies for treatment of common mental health problems like depression and anxiety will start their treatment within 6 weeks and 95% will start within 18 weeks.” Pledge of 2014 to be delivered by April 2016.

Yet, the wait for some treatments can be more like 18 months. Just try requesting something more complex than CBT or other less time-limited ‘quick-fix’ therapies. IAPT referrals seen within 6 weeks were apparently 93-96% in Norfolk and Suffolk.

My personal experience, and that of several friends, has been of much longer waits. Calling the acute care line at weekends can result in complete ignorance or lack of access to your medical records. Support lines have historically been cut. People fall between the cracks, and I know too many people no longer with us due to mental health funding and systemic failures.

Discovery or Recovery

Discharge centred mental health, is solution based, with as much an an economic imperative as a wellbeing focus.

“securing a minimum of 50 per cent recovery rate from treatment” NHS

Mental health in Norfolk has a Recovery College, a course-based approach to improving wellbeing. I prefer to see it as a discovery-centric way of improving self-management with community support. Some mental health issues do not just resolve, yet the NHS insists on “developing a recovery culture” (p13) in mental health which fails those with long term or lifetime conditions.

74% of NSFT patients represented with mental illness symptoms within 6 months, compared to a national figure of 63% (2015 data).

IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) approaches such as CBT serve best those with mild to moderate conditions, whereas moderate to severe need additional and more specialised help, as e.g., with OCD.

Suicide Risk

Between 2010-13, there was a 56% rise in self-harm and suicide across 52 NHS mental health trusts. It has been suggested that the over-capacity of up to 138% and staffing cuts has increased the risk of incidents.

I find the language, even if it has a clinical meaning, and the reality of response to people at risk of suicide, horrifying. The provision of “low level psychiatric support” was referenced in a Norfolk and Suffolk response it its higher than average suicide rate:

“There is a gap between the Wellbeing Service, the counsellors employed by GP practices and what is on offer via the mainstream mental health services. Suicide rate in Norfolk & Suffolk is high. GP referrals to MH are only accepted 20% of the time. GPs are left to manage risk the rest of the time.”NSFT, pp11-12

The apparent aim is a “reduction in referrals to mainstream mental
health services by offering more low level psychiatric support in primary care.”

Care not Cuts

What worries me, is the low level of funding, of staff, of beds, and the cure rather than care attitude of the system. In contrast, the caring attitude of the staff is to be praised, and they need additional in-work support themselves to be able to deliver services under such tight austerity conditions.

Transgender Day of Remembrance - 325 Trans murders #TDOR2017 | Katy

Jean Cocteau’s Play, The Eagle Has Two Heads, Hostry Festival Norwich

Jean Cocteau’s, The Eagle Has Two Heads, Review

Peter Barrow (actor & backer) and Stash Kirkbride (artistic director) together make up the PBSK partnership that puts on the annual Hostry Festival in Norwich. This year their main play is the L’Aigle à deux têtes by Jean Cocteau, written in 1943 and first performed in Brussels, Lyon and Paris in 1946. The French play both became a film and was ‘adapted’ by Ronald Duncan for English productions as “The Eagle Has Two Heads”. Whilst Cocteau once unfairly derided his translation as “preposterous”, the performance, staging and script, on the opening night (continues till 29/10), were superb.

Melodrama Revival or Tragicomedy?

“It’s a revival of a long lost French melodrama, a romantic play not seen in Norfolk since 1947 when it was performed at the Maddermarket Theatre.” – Stash Kirkbride

Although, Cocteau himself, would rather see it as comic tragedy uniting a “human play” and “great rôles” in “intellectual theatre” with “violent action”. Take the sarcastic bite of these lines, for example:

The Queen: “I have not shown my face to a living soul, except to my reader, Edith. It is questionable whether she has a soul. It is still more questionable whether she is alive.”

Cocteau has sections of Hamlet read during the seemingly multiple plays within a play and references a resurgent theatre in suggesting that the King was killed for building theatres and the Queen criticised for her love of the arts and actors in the family.

The Queen: “…they all wanted to become actors. that was impossible, so what could they do but turn their lives into a play, each living his own comedy. But I dreamed of making mine into a tragedy.”

There were times when I wasn’t sure whether laughter was appropriate in this tragedy, for there were great comic moments and fantastic verbal put-downs by the two leading female roles, and to a lesser extent by the resurgent Stanislas when not in cowardly assassin or fawning lover mode, as for example when he calls the Queen on her conceited notion that suicide was insufficiently dramatic a death.

“All love is a little death, and great love is suicide.”

For those with a knowledge of French, back-translating the dialogue led to some great double entendres, including le petit mort above,  perhaps unintentional, but it added to the depth of the typically French philosophical and somewhat sexy melodrama – or tragic farce, at times.

Tracey Catchpole & Adam Edwards - Hostry Festival 2017, THE EAGLE HAS TWO HEADS by Jean Cocteau. Photo © Simon Finlay Photography
Tracey Catchpole & Adam Edwards – Hostry Festival 2017, THE EAGLE HAS TWO HEADS by Jean Cocteau. Photo © Simon Finlay Photography

Historic Setting & Political Commentary

“On a wild Autumn night circa 1910, a reclusive Queen dines alone in one of her many castles mourning the loss of her late husband. An assassin appears – he has come to kill the Queen but instead he falls hopelessly in love with her. For a brief moment in time their love blossoms, but it is not long before the corridors of power begin to echo with disapproval. And so, it must all end even before it has begun… but how?…” – Synopsis, Hostry Festival

Indeed, the play has echoes of Romeo and Juliet‘s tragic romance. This 20th-century play, set in the late 19th – loosely based on the “strange death of Louis II of Bavaria” – is, in addition, interlaced with questions of anarchy, the poetic temperament, philosophy of ideas, court intrigues, and even class commentary.

Lucy Monaghan (Edith de Berg) & Christopher Neal (Duke of Willenstein) - Hostry Festival 2017, THE EAGLE HAS TWO HEADS by Jean Cocteau. Photo © Simon Finlay Photography
Lucy Monaghan (Edith de Berg) & Christopher Neal (Duke of Willenstein) – Hostry Festival 2017, THE EAGLE HAS TWO HEADS by Jean Cocteau. Photo © Simon Finlay Photography

The latter almost creates a play within a play as the supporting actors Lucy Monaghan (Edith de Berg) and Christopher Neal (Duke of Willenstein) carry on their own drama of love, jealousy, position and power among lower order nobility.

The Queen: “Those who are born slaves are free. Compared to us who are imprisoned in this tyranny [love, or indeed royalty].”

Meanwhile, enter the anarchic poet peasant with royalist leanings, with his uncanny resemblance to the dead king, on the anniversary of his death. The hermit Queen, not seen in public for years, has her own anarchic and heroic leanings, owning a copy of the poet’s seemingly anti-monarchy poem. She both dispenses with and asserts class and court etiquette in dialogue with Stanislas – a fact which he gains courage to take advantage of, to both the Queen’s dismay and pleasure for she hates cowardice. He, nonetheless, recognises that it is all within the Queen’s gift and that she is “the axis around which all men must move”.

“You are in the presence of your Queen. Don’t forget it.”

But then comes the distinction, is he, or indeed she, against the office of the Queen, rather than the person? For it is the crown that wields the power, not the wearer alone. Who is to be assassinated, the idea or the individual? Typically French revolutionary political ideas mixed with high philosophy.

Stanislas: “I am not hating my Queen. I fell in love with a cause and let a cold idea ravish me. So that when I broke into your room I was nothing but a mad idea.”

Adam Edwards as Stanislas - Hostry Festival 2017, THE EAGLE HAS TWO HEADS by Jean Cocteau. Photo © Simon Finlay Photography
Adam Edwards as Stanislas – Hostry Festival 2017, THE EAGLE HAS TWO HEADS by Jean Cocteau. Photo © Simon Finlay Photography

As with the incognito Empress Elisabeth of Austria’s assassination in 1898, the assassin was attacking the system:

“I am an anarchist by conviction…I came to Geneva to kill a sovereign, with object of giving an example to those who suffer and those who do nothing to improve their social position; it did not matter to me who the sovereign was whom I should kill…It was not a woman I struck, but an Empress; it was a crown that I had in view.” – De Burgh (1899). Elizabeth, empress of Austria: a memoir, pp326–327

Staging & Acting

Hostry Festival 2017, THE EAGLE HAS TWO HEADS by Jean Cocteau. Photo © Simon Finlay Photography
Cellist Ivan McCready – Photo © Simon Finlay Photography

The fast-paced three-act play opens with an opulent open stage, set in the round – well a square (squircle?), with raised seating on all four sides. The backdrop is a large piece of double-headed eagle art by local Russian artist Gennadiy Ivanov.

A live cellist, the excellent Ivan McCready, sits at one corner of the stage adding real musical backing overlays and that resonant wooden tone that only a cello provides.

Tracey Catchpole as the Queen - Hostry Festival 2017, THE EAGLE HAS TWO HEADS by Jean Cocteau. Photo © Simon Finlay Photography
Tracey Catchpole as the Queen – Photo © Simon Finlay Photography

I was sat on one of the four front rows, next to the cellist and to a card table that the Queen and leading actress sat at during the play, giving the audience a rare intimacy and experience of the action. And, action it was at times, with erotic embraces,  intense thumping dialogue, and not a few near and acted deaths taking place at the audience’s feet.

The actors threw everything into their craft, faces were stretched, contorted, angry, impassioned, spitting, “acting without restraint” like a Jean Marais (Cocteau’s lover) in Les Parents Terribles. This was something Cocteau wanted to restore to modern theatre, including a reading of Hamlet within the play, “with as much violence as [Stanislas] put into [his] last insult.”

“The appearance of a comedian-tragedian is the great novelty of the theatre today. By exaggerating the comic lines he manages, without seeming ridiculous, to put on the sublime grimaces of which the screen deprives us.” – Jean Cocteau

Tawa Groombridge as Tony - Hostry Festival 2017, THE EAGLE HAS TWO HEADS by Jean Cocteau. Photo © Simon Finlay Photography
Tawa Groombridge as Tony -Photo © Simon Finlay Photography

Even the deaf and mute role of Queen’s servant was acted with strength, poise and dignity by Tawa Groombridge, despite the scripted abuse by another role.

The calmer role of courtly Baron, yet no less conniving, Chief of Police, was played by actor and executive producer, Peter Barrow, presenting a foil to the rollercoaster love and hate, life and death, of the other interplaying roles.

Baron & Chief of Police, Peter Barrow - Hostry Festival 2017, THE EAGLE HAS TWO HEADS by Jean Cocteau. Photo © Simon Finlay Photography
Baron & Chief of Police, Peter Barrow – Hostry Festival, Photo © Simon Finlay Photography
Tracey Catchpole as the Queen - Hostry Festival 2017, THE EAGLE HAS TWO HEADS by Jean Cocteau. Photo © Simon Finlay Photography
Tracey Catchpole as the Queen – Photo © Simon Finlay Photography

To be honest, the Queen (Tracey Catchpole) rightly steals the show as both actor and author of some of the best lines, including lengthy monologues, that are far from monotonous because of her range of presentation, and constant movement to ensure that all four sides of the audience can be played to. Tracey describes the role as a “gift of a part”.

In fact, the gifted part was meant to be that of Stanislas, since: 

“The Eagle Has Two Heads was written…in part as a favor for Cocteau’s lover and favorite leading man, Jean Marais. Marais asked for a part in which he did not speak in Act One, shed tears of joy in Act Two and fell backwards down stairs in Act Three.” – The Harvard Crimson

The Harvard article goes on to compare Cocteau to David Lynch and The Eagle Has Two Heads, to Wild at Heart and Twin Peaks. Elsewhere, it has been compared to an inverted Beauty and the Beast!

Adam Edwards as Stanislas - Hostry Festival 2017, THE EAGLE HAS TWO HEADS by Jean Cocteau. Photo © Simon Finlay Photography
Adam Edwards as Stanislas – Photo © Simon Finlay Photography

Adam Edwards, does play Marais’ part well, but the stage presence and gravity of role mostly lie with the Queen’s lines. The to and fro of their interaction, the ebbing strength and weakness, love and morbidity, truly make the play stand up.

The Hostry play runs from the 23rd – 29th October – tickets here or via 01603 598676 (Theatre Royal box office).

Transgender Day of Remembrance - 325 Trans murders #TDOR2017 | Katy

World Mental Health Day improving wellbeing for all of us

The shift from pathologising terms like mental illness, disorder, nervous breakdown, has been gradual, and we are seeing more reference to mental health and wellbeing, differences, spectrum diversity etc. This has been a long time coming, since from 1-in-4 to 1-in-3 of us will experience a mental health condition or episode in our lives, if not more of us.

What keeps us from giving up?

The very tools of survival that I’ve learned to use to attempt to thrive rather than just die or dive back under the duvet covers actually aid all of us. They’re very basic, and not pharmaceutical, though some are chemical – or at least release the endorphins (endolphins as I like to call them) and oxytocin type chemistry that aids wellbeing.

When speaking at an event in London last weekend, I was asked how, “how do you keep going, how do you remain strong?” The answer, for me at least, is that I’m stubborn! Practically speaking, though, I talk and walk, and when it’s going well, I walk the talk.

Caring Talk Saves Lives

I talk to people, I talk to myself, to my thoughts – giving them voice and an opinion (but no power) at the table in my head, and I talk to my diary. Well, I write, I reflect, I repeat – yes, I realise that circumstances, feelings, moods, anxieties, they come round in repeating circles, and I begin to recognise that I survive, that I’m still here, despite my best efforts to end that.

I also walk, I get outside as often as I can. Although, that’s not often enough as insomnia and mood disorders often keep me in bed half the day. Inertia destroys all my best intentions. Last weekend, though, I managed something rare, to swim twice and walk 5 miles in a day, taking in my environment and the beauty of the world around me. Fresh air and exercise help, if only we can kick the black dog off long enough to get outside.

Being bipolar, my mood can shift drastically and quickly in the same day. I’ve learnt to be kind to myself, and to forgive, be in the moment, and treat or reward myself for getting stuff done that would otherwise pile up and compound my anxiety.

Laughter is good medicine

I’ve also learned to both respect my mental health conditions, and to healthily take the piss out of them – not others, not the suffering, not the issues, but to occasionally make light of them so that they have less of a hold over me.

Speaking of laughter – Stephen Fry has said of suicide:

“There is no ‘why’, it’s not the right question. There’s no reason. If there were a reason for it, you could reason someone out of it, and you could tell them why they shouldn’t take their own life”

He is spot on. Although every story is different, mine nearly ended 5 years ago, but I am happy to be here now.

Seek help

Seeking help early before one is neither in the mood or position to seek help is important. Sadly, waiting lists are such that it can be a year or more wait for short dose CBT and that is often such a sticking plaster rather than a long-term improvement to wellbeing or coping. 

I’m back in therapy for the second time in ten years, and it feels incredibly healthy. It’s not a sign of failure but of active involvement in one’s own health management.

MAD, BAD, GAD, and quite possibly SAD

I seem to collect three-letter-acronym conditions, so that I’ve been diagnosed with multiple Affective and Anxiety Disorders. Their intensity varies and sometimes I’m the boss, sometimes they try to be. Again, a diary helps me see that I do bounce (well hobble) back eventually, and they never, any longer, keep me down permanently.

Again, a diary helps me see that I do bounce (well hobble) back eventually, and they never, any longer – I hope, keep me down permanently.

 

 

 

 

Transgender Day of Remembrance - 325 Trans murders #TDOR2017 | Katy

EU Referendum a year on as divided Britain unites against Hard Brexit

The State of Brexit Britain

A year on from the EU Referendum and Brexit Britain remains as divided as ever – inflation is up, nurses are down, hate crime is up, wages remain down, banks like HSBC, Barclays, Nomura are moving staff to Dublin and Frankfurt. With 2 years, at least, to go of this 3-10 year once-in-a-half-century change, one consensus is emerging – Britain, on the whole, is against “Hard Brexit“. Where is Theresa May steering Britannia, towards exactly that! What is Jeremy Corbyn doing? In words, he is against a hard Brexit, but in action, he is facilitating it, as more Shadow Cabinet MPs take a stand against Brexit, in favour of their Remain constituencies. Indeed, a new political party is needed, and is forming, to block Brexit or campaign for early re-entry, for it is clear that in a few years, if not now, the majority will swing once more in favour of EU membership, as a majority of people under 45, businesses, and Londoners – the engine of economic Britain’s prosperity, already desire.

Latest Polling Statistics

  • 85% of youth want to remain in EU
  • 80% of Londoners want to maintain the same rights
  • 66% think “No Deal” would be a “Bad Deal”
  • 60% of Britons now want to stay EU citizens
  • 58% are against leaving the EU without a deal
  • 55% are in favour of a “soft” Brexit
  • 55% think a coalition of parties should negotiate with EU
  • 51% would now vote remain, against 49% for leave
  • 48% are in favour and 43% against a referendum on EU deal
  • 45% think Leaving is wrong decision, 44% the right decision
  • 44% more people think we should fight to Remain in EU than 2 weeks ago (36% v 25%)
  • 37% have confidence in the PM’s ability to negotiate Brexit
  • 31% expect a poor deal, 26% a good EU deal & 15% no deal
  • 22% think that the government is doing a good job on Brexit

Sources: Survation | UK Polling Report | YouGov

37% of the UK (those who voted Leave) have made this BrexitShambles happen, but perhaps the fault lies with 100% of the Tory decision makers who created the situation and the naively simple “Yes/No” referendum when it is clear that people had more complex questions they wanted answering, i.e., immigration, sovereignty, trade, justice, education, arts/science/cultural exchange, reciprocal EU rights etc.

Rights of EU Citizens living in the UK

“73% of voters would like either to protect or extend the rights that current citizens from other EU countries have to vote in the UK; 48% wanted to see the right to vote extended from local elections to general elections, while 25% wished to keep the status quo. Only 10% supported the government’s position of withdrawing EU citizens’ right to vote in local elections.” – The Guardian

The Brexit Gamble

Brexit remains a gamble, and one we are losing. We are bargaining with our citizens, youth, businesses, and EU workers. The tide is turning towards remaining or at least avoiding Hard Brexit. If not now, then in 5-10 years, the increasing youth vote and decreasing elderly vote would ensure a majority want EU membership. A short term decision last year to avoid Tory votes being lost to UKIP will have lasting repercussions on people at the beginnings of their educational, cultural, and economic working lives. We need to think about the future, not the past.

Transgender Day of Remembrance - 325 Trans murders #TDOR2017 | Katy

A Week is a Long Time in Politics as Labour now leads over Tory minority

Labour now ahead at the polls!

Labour leads Tories in post-Election polls
Labour leads Tories in post-Election polls

A week really is a long time in politics, as Labour surge and Tories entrench to fight onto their minority Government. The latest post-election polling has Labour on 45% (+5) and the Conservative Party on 39% (-3) that means in another election Labour would win, but in all likelihood still fall short of a majority – making a progressive rather than DUP regressive coalition the best way forward. All this is another reason the Tories are shoring up deals with the devil to stay in power. The poll was in the Mail on Sunday and from Survation who had the Tories on 41 and Labour on 40 on 7 June predicting a hung parliament, and hence the most accurate poll.

Theresa May’s Leadership

Change in political party leader ratings
Change in political party leader ratings

Whilst “strong and stable” is clearly parked like the hastily hidden away EdStone in 2015, Theresa May still feels like she can hang on whilst the Tory Titanic sinks.

Just 38% now think Theresa May should stay on as Prime Minister, 49% think she should resign.

Again, only 39% think Theresa May is a good leader, but now, the same number think that of Jeremy Corbyn, up from 15%, whilst Theresa May has fallen in trust and respect from 54%.

Hard or Soft Brexit?

Two Party politics
Return to Two Party politics?

Whilst the Tories stubbornly call for ever harder Brexit, the DUP and Scottish Conservatives want a softer one. If this was an election called to confirm a strong majority for Brexit negotiations, then May has lost her mandate for it. 

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Tories, may be tempted to break away from the English and Welsh Tories in order to fight for a very soft Brexit and to campaign against the DUP amidst their anti-LGBT and women views.

“The pattern of seat results suggests that seats in Remain areas saw significant defections away from the Conservatives.” – Electoral Calculus

Tactical voting clearly played its part with people moving from minority parties to the main two in order to vote “anything but Tory” or for BluKIP, i.e., UKIP voters hoping to shore up the Tories. Seemingly, many UKIP voters also returned to Labour.

Goats for Votes?

Goats have often been used to persuade people to register to vote for the first time. My old university, UCL, did this year, and local to me, UEA, has done in the past.

Today, old goats were in the news, not because climate sceptic Michael Gove was made Environment Secretary – right up Donald Trump and DUP‘s street, but because the Queen’s Speech may be delayed. It turns out that the speech is written on goatskin (well heavy parchment now) and it takes 7 days to dry the ink and so the whole political process has ground to a halt. And so, #goatgate is born! 

Back to the Future?

Whilst the Tories criticised Labour for appearing to go back to the 1970s, their own manifesto programme of a return to the 1950s – fox hunting and pre-EU, has now been torn up. It was clear that young people voted for a Jeremy Corbyn future in droves.

Theresa May has today apologised to the Tory 1922 Committee (who feel that 2017 is way too modern) saying,

“I got us into this mess and I’ll get us out of it”. – Theresa May

More Laurel and Hardy than Strong and Stable!

Perhaps, foxhunting, OAP hounding, goatskin, will mean the swansong of the pigheaded Tories and Theresa “Kitten Heels”. (Any more animal allusions I could get in there?)

Transgender Day of Remembrance - 325 Trans murders #TDOR2017 | Katy

Gender, LGBTQ, BME, Disability – MPs Diversity in General Election 2017

Representation in UK Parliament

Just how representative of the UK population as a whole were prospective parliamentary candidates and elected MPs in terms of gender, sexuality, disability, religion and colour/race/ethnicity? 97 new MPs joined the house, and Ken Clarke MP was re-elected as its oldest member and Father of the House. It is well known that, hitherto, the UK had the most LGB ‘out’ Parliament in the world, but not the most gender balanced, how has that changed after Theresa May‘s snap general election?

Gender | LGBT+ | BAME | Disability | Religion | Education | Summary

Gender: Female MPs compared to Male MPs

2017 sees 208 female Members of Parliament, up from 191 in 2015 (196 after by-elections). There were many seats where both the main candidates standing were female. 29% of candidates were women, 32% of those elected were – both records for the UK but not the world.

We were 46th in the world tables, we are now 39th. Guess who is first? Rwanda with 61% women, second is Bolivia with 53%. All others are less than 50%. Sweden (#6), Finland (#9), and Norway (#12=) are the top European nations, all Scandinavian. The first Western European nation is Spain at 14th and Belgium at 19th. Germany is 22nd but France 63rd! At this rate, 2062 would see gender balance in the UK Parliament. 

Labour fielded 40% women, the Green Party 35% (statistically, of course, 100% of their MPs are female!), UKIP had 13%. Of those elected, there is wide variation among the political parties. Labour have 45% (119) and their leader in Scotland but never England (except as caretaker). Meanwhile, there are just 21% (67) among Conservative MPs despite a history of two Prime Ministers and their leader in Scotland. 

Interesting that the DUP, the Conservatives in Scotland, and the Tories in England and Wales are all led by right-wing women, one of whom is anti-gay, another is gay, and another shifted to same-sex equality (through persuasion by a female LibDem MP) after a prior voting and campaigning record against it. Being a woman, it seems, is little impediment to political power in the UK. Indeed, add in Plaid Cymru, SNP, and for two weeks, even UKIP, only Labour (England and Wales) and LibDems haven’t been led by a woman.

Being female is no guarantee that one will hold pro-equality, pro-LGBT views. We now have a triumvirate of female-led parties forming a “confidence and supply” alliance to keep the Tories in power that may be in breach of the Good Friday Agreement.

LGBTIQ Sexuality & Gender Identity

With 45 openly LGB MPs (19 Tory, 19 Labour, 7 SNP) that’s also a record and 6 up from 2015 – at 6.9% that’s close to the supposed 6% openly LGB numbers in the population (much higher among young people, of course). None among the 12 LibDems, though their female MPs balance at 4 out of 12 is somewhat restored.

Seven Trans and two Non-Binary candidates stood (just 4 in 2015, so, more than doubling) but none were elected, several have stood in council elections before. Eddie Izzard continues to hint that he may stand as an MP.

UK LGB MPs are the highest proportion anywhere in the world. We have the most rainbow Parliament – quite an affront to the homophobic DUP with whom 19 LGB Tory MPs may now have to do electoral business with.

Since 4.5% of the people standing for election (147/3304) were openly LGBTQ, it means that LGB candidates are up to 1.5x more likely to win. Tories and Labour had 7% LGBT candidates, SNP 17% and 20% of their elected MPs, despite reduced numbers. Surprisingly, only 2% of Greens (same as UKIP!) and 4% of LibDems were. White gay men outweigh any other LGBTQ demographic 5x and are the most likely to be elected. Curiously almost zero LGBT candidates stood in Greater East Anglia! There’s an opening for me yet 😉

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic MPs

Of the 147 LGBTQ candidates, just one was BME, in 2015 that was two – both shamefully low, though we don’t know the number of non-out candidates. However, 51 BME MPs were elected on 8 June – an increase of 10. At 7.8% this is just over half of the 14% general population representation.

Britain also elected its first MP of Palestinian heritage as Layla Moran for the LibDems “overturned a Conservative majority of almost 10,000 votes to win the Oxford West and Abingdon. Moran won the closely contested election by only 816, gaining 26,252 votes.”

Disability Representation

Just four openly physically disabled MPs were elected, 0.6% of Parliament, compared with 16% of the UK. Mental health is so stigmatised, one wonders if it were possible for someone to be ‘out’ with a diagnosed long term condition and an MP, other than depression and anxiety that affect 1-in-4 of us, and undoubtedly affect MPs similarly. It would be great to see a bipolar MP, to show it is possible to manage a bipolar life.

Religion

The new Parliament sees the UK’s first female Sikh MP, Preet Gill and its first turbaned male Sikh, Tanmanjeet Dhesi. Both are Labour MPs. In the past we’ve had 5 Sikh MPs in the last 15 years but never wearing a turban in the House of Commons. 

In the wake of the Manchester concert bombing, it is perhaps significant that the city elected its first Muslim MP, Afzal Khan – who was also ten years ago their youngest and first British Pakistani and Muslim, Mayor of Manchester.

Education

It shouldn’t matter, but it is interesting nonetheless with accusations that the Tories were run by the Eton and Bullingdon Club set, and even many who stood as Labour leader being Oxbridge educated.

The Sutton Trust believes that 51% of MPs were educated in comprehensive schools, and just 29% at public schools (ie privately educated). It is still disproportionately biased to private education, therefore. 

Summary

In conclusion, our LGB representation continues to be the highest in the world, across the three largest parties – but not elsewhere, and close to the assumed proportion of the general population. Several Trans, Non-Binary and similar, stood but at 9 out of 3300, they are about 10x underrepresented in standing, and to date unelectable; are they being stood as no-risk candidates in unelectable areas, that’s an analysis I’ve not done yet. On gender, we are getting there slowly, but ranking 39th in the world is a poor result, albeit an improved one. Realistically with parenting issues, 45% of Parliament would be a good showing for women, rather than the 32% we have. BME and disability remain woefully underrepresented. How a Tory deal with the DUP, who are anti-diversity on just about every count, can be squared with Parliament and the electorate’s ever-progressive diversity, remains to be seen.

Transgender Day of Remembrance - 325 Trans murders #TDOR2017 | Katy

London Bridge is Falling but its people rise in love not hate

London Bridge is NOT Falling!

It’s a beautiful day outside but it was an ugly night. The terrorist incident overnight in London brought out the best in the many and the worst from a few. Three perpetrators are now shot dead. Seven innocents (at this time) are counted among the dead and nearly 50 in hospital, several critical including a number of police officers. Whilst “London Bridge is Falling” may have trended on ISIS channels, #HopeNotHate, #LondonIsOpen and #SofaForLondon did here.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Hope and Hospitality

Most of London resorted to opening their homes in response, a taxi driver tried to run down one of the attackers, a policeman lies in hospital injured during the 8-minute long initial and immediate response to prevent further carnage. The London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and several politicians called for “normality” and not changing our way of life.

Khan is emblematic of London’s diversity, its first ethnic minority and Muslim Mayor. I lived in central London for 7 years and it’s a place of community and cohesion despite its differences. The Blitz spirit lives on 77 years later, though the Londoners who embody it are more diverse but no less united against attacks on their open city.

Emily Thornberry, shadow foreign secretary said we need to:

“defend the essence of London as a multicultural and multiracial city.”

It’s a spirit, well – a beverage, that saw some hurling pint glasses at their attackers and others fleeing the scene pint in hand! Others fighting back including a Spaniard with a skateboard and a Romanian man with a crate.

Immigration and Integration

The political campaign and election on 8 June must go ahead, as democracy is part of our culture that needs defending. Needless to say, some will be calling for clampdowns on immigration, increased surveillance and security, and Muslim bans, like Donald Trump has. What we need is not necessarily less immigration, but more integration, more community, less conflict. I live in Norwich, a city whose response to hate is community and cooperation. Our security should be intelligence-led, not driven by fear.

More Love, less Hate

Back in 2012, Norway suffered an extremist attack on its young people. No, not an Islamist terrorist, but a far right xenophobe, Anders Breivik. There are many kinds of terrorist – but the response to them all should be along the lines of their Prime Minister:

“Our response is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity…We will answer hatred with love.” – Jens Stoltenberg

Hate and Islamophobia

Whilst messages of hate and hope circulated on social media, Katie Hopkins called for the incarceration of “the lot of them”, deportation, and even blamed the attacks in mock humour on food deprivation during Ramadan fasting. Who are this “lot”? All Muslims? When the IRA used to bomb London we didn’t round up all the Irish!

That’s the language of Donald Trump’s white and right Christian America, who nonetheless just returned from visiting Saudi Arabia and like the UK exchanging arms contracts worth billions.

Faith and Ideology

Friday, I was invited to a Shabbat meal at which another ideology’s desire to kill a people of an alternate belief was discussed, today many will go to church and pray. Yesterday evening Sikh Gurdwaras opened to people in need during the terror attack, as did many Londoners. Faith or no faith, nationalism or internationalism, it’s the actions and adherents of extremist ideologies, the interpretations and “twistings” of beliefs that lead a few to latch hold of isolated texts as justification to kill and maim. Those texts only excuse fighting if “oppressed” or denied freedom of expression of Islam – take away the oppression and the justification of military jihad is gone.

“if anyone saves a life it should be regarded as though he had saved the lives of all mankind.” – Quran 5:32 (but see interesting context and alternate interpretations and its Jewish origins here)

The fact that last night’s terrorists wore fake suicide bomb vests makes me think these were “inspired by” ISIS rather than orchestrated by.

The issue remains that they recruit, radicalise, foment extremism. They are able to celebrate terror on social media with virtual impunity. Free speech should never include hate speech and incitement to violence and terrorism. But even if we stop that, terror preaching behind closed doors wouldn’t stop. The funding of terror needs to stop too.

“Muslims everywhere are outraged and disgusted at these cowards who once again have destroyed the lives of our fellow Britons. That this should happen in this month of Ramadan, when many Muslims were praying and fasting only goes to show that these people respect neither life nor faith.” – Muslim Council of Britain

Practising Muslims in Britain and the Muslim Council of Britain condemn these attacks each time, so we can be clear this is not Islam attacking the West. 

“There will always be particular groups which take views that are different from the mainstream but what is clear over the weekend is the extraordinary level of condemnation by every significant Muslim leader we know and every significant Muslim body we know.” Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

Kabul should be indicative of that too, with 100 killed in the last few days there during Ramadan and a funeral, Muslims are the majority victims of extremist Islamist terror. They are waging war within Islam more than they are waging war outside of it. The violence is as much sectarian and territorial as it done “in the name of Allah”, a claim opposed by the majority of other Muslims. 

“Kabul has just suffered one of the bloodiest weeks in years, leaving its streets devoid of life and its residents gripped by fear – and feeling unprotected.” – Al Jazeera

Historically, Christians killed Christians in the name of interpretative differences, empire and territorial gain. They also targeted Muslims in the past and as recently as Bosnia. The story is repeated across most religions and ideologies. Settling differences by destruction not constructive dialogue.

True Muslims, yesterday, were praying and fasting not killing and maiming. They were celebrating Ummah – the “community” of its faith, not the extremism of its terrorist false prophets who seek to divide and destroy by preying on the vulnerable with the promise of heavenly gain after earthly jihadist carnage. 

“Yes, there are evil Muslims who have carried out acts of terror, which are totally un-Islamic. The sooner we stop giving any credence to these evil people by attaching the label of the religion to their evil the better it will be for us, because by giving them that label we are giving them a platform that they seek to legitimise their evil ways.” – MCB

Practice peace, preach peace, encourage love not hate. Engage and educate!

Discriminate too – YES, yes discriminate between terrorists and people of faith, don’t tarnish all people with the same brush. Hate against Muslims rose five-fold after Manchester. Let it not deteriorate further.

Origins of Terrorism

The reasons people become terrorists are complex and though they include taking a cut and paste approach to the out of context and out of time scriptures of a religion, they also include revenge for bombings on family members by Western interventions in the Middle East.

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”. – The Bible, John 8:7

It is undeniable that Saudi Arabia, Iran and others have contributed to the rise of extremist ‘Islamist in name’ terrorism, but also that the USA encouraged Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in the past, then invaded Iraq, Afghanistan etc; the West including Britain bombed Libya and Syria – the primary recruiting grounds of recent terror attacks.

Using military might to crush terrorism by creating more collateral damage victims only recruits more terrorists who’ve lost a brother, mother, daughter in a less-than-precision bombing raid.

A better way?

I don’t have answers, but what is clear is that returning hate for hate and bomb for bomb is not working. It is only perpetuating and escalating.

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” – Einstein

You don’t solve an issue or many conflicts in any permanent way using the same weapons with which they are being waged. There is no lowest common denominator to which we must sink, it’s not a race to the bottom and basest instincts of people. We need a higher level of consciousness and rising above with which to end the recruitment to humanity as its most hopeless when it seeks to take the lives of others in the name of any ideology of hatred. 

 

 

Transgender Day of Remembrance - 325 Trans murders #TDOR2017 | Katy

Love Your Local Market – Norwich, 17-31 May #LYLM2017

Love Your Local Market

Norwich Market
Norwich Market

LYLM is a campaign to celebrate and make relevant our markets. The oldest form of commercial trade, many have suffered from superstores, out of town shopping parks, and the online revolution. Keeping them fresh and vibrant remains a challenge. That said, many entrepreneurial migrant people have established stalls and brought international flavours and variety to traditional trades and ownership.

Norwich Market

Today is #LYLM2017 day at Norwich Market from 10-4pm. Historic Norwich Market is especially loveable! It’s mentioned in the Domesday Book, and one of the oldest and largest in the country. It’s been in its present location for 900 years pre-dating the surrounding buildings.

St Peter Mancroft and Norwich Market
St Peter Mancroft and Norwich Market

St Peter Mancroft was financed by the market’s merchants and its graveyard expanded taking in a row of the market because of 14th-century bubonic plague and famine deaths. All stallholders retain the right to hold their weddings in the church and to be buried there.

Norwich Market, Gentleman's Walk
Norwich Market, Gentleman’s Walk

St Peter’s Street used to be called Over Row and Gentleman’s Walk, Nether Row. Haymarket, Maddermarket, Timber Hill and elsewhere held additional city markets.

In the 16th-Century there were 37 butchers alongside the oranges and lemons, sugar, figs and prunes – then considered exotic international imports. Also, somewhat exotic, the 17th-Century saw lions, tigers, camels and jackals, displayed at the market, alongside “unusual people”.

Ice cream on Norwich Market
Ice cream on Norwich Market

Public punishments were also carried out at the market at its Guildhall end where the stocks and pillory were located.

Norwich Union (Aviva) was founded, over 200 years ago, to provide fire insurance to stalls and shops around the market.

The market now, once again, celebrates an international city with food and provisions from many countries as well as organic, vegan, and community-social enterprises. You can also buy hoover parts, DMs, flowers, clothes and more… Support and love your local market today.

Norwich Market, support it to keep it open and prosperous
Norwich Market, support it to keep it open and prosperous
Transgender Day of Remembrance - 325 Trans murders #TDOR2017 | Katy

Theresa May Brexit Suicide float provokes mixed feelings in Norwich

Brexit Suicide float arrives in Norwich

Brexit Suicide Float outside City Hall in Norwich, photo by Katy Jon Went
Brexit Suicide Float outside City Hall in Norwich, photo by Katy Jon Went

On the eve of BBC Question Time in Norwich, not just one political demo but two protests against the Government took place. One was anti-austerity/Tory and gathered outside The Open where filming was taking place.

The other was anti-Brexit whose centrepiece was a German carnival float with the sensitivity of a French Charlie Hebdo cover in the spirit of Spitting Image satire – how about that for European unity!

French artist but UK resident for 30 years, Laure Olivier Minns, drew attention to the sad state of the satirical statue, in an interview with the Norwich Evening News:

“Look at the state of her head already, it’s a sign that she isn’t strong and stable.” – Laure Ollivier Minns, EDP

Questionable Taste

Brexit Suicide Float in Norwich photo by Katy Jon Went
Brexit Suicide Float outside the Norwich Forum, photo by Katy Jon Went

The humour was not to everyone’s taste, and as someone who has experienced suicide attempts, I found the subject matter challenging. The image of Theresa May shooting herself in the mouth was meant to be about Britain committing political suicide by Brexit. Instead, the image was profoundly personal evoking strong reactions.

Perhaps, it should have been Britain shooting itself in the foot, rather than the mouth, it may even be seen as an own-goal. Some erstwhile Remainers refused to attend the rally as a result, others like myself had mixed feelings.

Brexit Suicide Float in Norwich photo by Katy Jon Went
Brexit Suicide Float going past Open and Anglia Television in Norwich, photo by Katy Jon Went

During the evening I had several conversations with passers-by about suicide but few about Brexit. One car driver stopped and said he agreed with what we were doing and supported Remain but having lost a family member to suicide found the imagery distasteful.

Another person found that it conjured up allusions of male-on-female violence. I critiqued that view and pointed out that male suicide by gun is a much higher figure than female suicide fatalities. Well, it created a debate, but perhaps not the one intended. Much as Antony Gormley’s recent rooftop-edge human sculptures up at UEA.

Laure defended the choice to bring the float to Norwich and use it as one expression among many of people’s feelings about Brexit. She said:

Brexit Suicide Float in Norwich photo by Katy Jon Went
Brexit Suicide Float: Laure Ollivier Minns, Katy Jon Went, Joan Pons Laplana L-R

“The message is clear: BREXIT IS TOXIC. And that I guess is at least something we all agree on. So this May’s float might not be everyone’s cup of tea in terms of ‘bad taste’ for some, however, I truly believe that it is so important for FREEDOM OF SPEECH to be respected and protected.

Visuals such as the float or other creative means like some ingenious cartoons show humour through carrying angry voices and it is a way to soften anger too strong for words and at the same time be totally spot on in delivering a strong message. Humour is so important to cherish and use through tragedies and political dilemmas to also lighten up the atmosphere. Likewise many creative placards that are conveying strong messages through cartoons of sorts, make an important impact in seconds and make people smile relating to that message or/and provoke a reaction. So what? I think it should. It is a way to be heard.

Brexit Suicide Float outside Jarrolds in Norwich photo by Katy Jon Went
Brexit Suicide Float outside Jarrolds in Norwich photo by Katy Jon Went

We can’t expect everyone to agree on each of those creative means to carry our voice forward and it does not mean that the placard of Billy-next-door is a reflection on what we all stand for. We all have our own individual way of expression, shared by other groups or not, and we should remind ourselves that we are marching for the same goal: Pro-EU / stop Brexit > which are both about MAKING OUR VOICE HEARD whatever slogan one chose or art form used.”

Nonetheless, the satire also made the point that most provocative art and humour do, that life is sometimes messy and uncomfortable, opinions differ and divide; it was certainly a talking point – whether it was Remainers shooting themselves in the foot with a tactless float, or Brexiters committing political suicide, we’ll have to wait and see…

Düsseldorf Carnival Brexit Suicide Float

The satirical Karneval float created by Jacques Tilly depicts the British Prime Minister with a ‘Brexit’ gun in her mouth first debuted Düsseldorf Carnival in February and was subsequently used by the Unite for Europe campaign and March 2017 events in the UK.

The float is currently on a British tour and arrived in Norwich on the same day as the BBC’s Question Time took place at The Open.

Satire or Serious Message?

Düsseldorf’s Karneval regularly features political satire but this year with Donald Trump, Netherlands’ Wilders, France’s Le Pen, Turkey’s Erdogan, along with Britain’s Brexit, there was plenty of material.

The stodgy stereotypical image of German humour is clearly way off the mark as these floats were right up Charlie Hebdo‘s street and could have walked off the Spitting Image TV set. Humour, like art, both protests and provokes. I hope the conversation shifts away from the rather visible satirical attack on Theresa May and instead remains about the political and personal damage that Brexit may do to European relations and EU nationals living here, as well as threats to Britain’s prosperity and cultural tapestry.

Norwich Anti-Austerity Protest

Vince Laws: Oscar Wilde, "Cripple the System" Quote
Vince Laws: Oscar Wilde, “Cripple the System” Quote

The serious message about austerity and cuts and their impact on the disabled, the poor, and the most vulnerable was also protested outside the BBC filming by Vince Laws, Jan McLachlan, Tim Hughes and many others.

“If the system cripples you, you must cripple the system” – Oscar Wilde

OK, so Vince made that one up, but the #fakenews quote got you thinking and googling its source! What Oscar Wilde did say was – “Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit”.