On the 13th of March, we hosted a screening which has been on the cards since the beginning of Film Club: Pride, with the original activists.
The film tells the story of queer activists in 1980s London, who raised money through the LGBTQ community to help support the Welsh miners of Dulais Valley through the miners’ strike. Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners are an inspiration to many contemporary activists, both for their uncompromising declaration of solidarity and for the comradeship which was built with the mining communities. The miners’ arrival at 1985 London is a powerful moment in queer history. To find out more about LGSM, this article is a great place to start, and the wonderful Gays The Word is always worth a visit.
As the credits rolled, and everyone wiped away tears to the tune of ‘Solidarity forever’, we invited our panel to the stage. We were joined by Mike and Gethin from LGSM, two of the original activists the film is based upon, along with Ida, Julyette and Harry, representing Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants. Founded in 2014, this group of queer activists fight to challenge the racist narrative and hostile environment that migrants face in the UK. The panel reflected on the power of the story of LGSM, and the countless solidarity groups it has inspired around the world. The censoring of the extent of LGSM’s socialist origins was revealed, leading to the wonderful but NSFW quote… ‘there were only two things banned from the script: fisting and socialism’. The activists from LGSMigrants shared their work in protesting Britain’s hostile immigration policies, and demonstrated the importance of keeping queer solidarity alive.
The event was in aid of two wonderful charities – Oasis Cardiff and Welsh Refugee Council – who work to make refugees feel welcome and supported in Wales. We raised a massive £1250, so thanks to everyone for all the support
Love You To Death is an uncompromising documentary, which shows in the starkest terms the reality of domestic violence in the UK. On average, two women in England and Wales are killed every week by a current or former male partner. This statistic betrays a systemic societal corruption, and yet as an issue, violence against women remains largely undiscussed. The film seeks to break this silence, telling the stories of seven of the 86 women killed by their partners in the UK in 2013. It is a difficult watch. It gives us chance to get to know these women; their personalities, their quirks, their lives, and the families left with only stories to share. At the same time, it reflects our system’s complete failure to protect them from the male perpetrators who ultimately ended their lives.
Following the film, we hosted a panel discussion, centred around what can be done to support women at risk of male violence. We were joined by Vanessa Engle, the film’s director, along with Ngozi Fulani (the founder of Sistah Space) and Garbiela Quevedo and Stefanie Alfarez (representing Latin American Women’s Aid). The panel reflected upon the deadly consequences of cuts to women’s support services. Austerity measures have decimated grassroots services, which often form the first point of contact for women seeking help. The compounded difficulties for BME women to find support was highlighted by both Sistah Space and LAWA representatives. Barriers such as institutional racism, language, cultural norms, and immigration fears compound to create a lack of truth in traditional services, which often do not fully consider the varied needs of women from different communities and cultures. Sistah Space and LAWA are two organisations which explicitly set out to rectify this problem, and provide BME women with the vital services they need. It is integral that these organisations are supported, but also that people proactively support the women in their lives and look out for signs of violence.
When planning the evening, we wanted to reflect the incredible strength of women’s solidarity. We wanted to pay tribute to those fighting for women’s equality, and to protect our most basic right to live a life free from violence. We hosted an exhibition of art, with the work of 24 artists, entitled ‘Still We Rise’ – a tribute to the courageous life and writing of Maya Angelou. We hosted a ‘Notes of Love’ stand, where we wrote notes of solidarity for women who have experienced sexual violence. It is a beautiful project created by My Body Back Project, who work to support survivors of sexual violence.
The evening raised £350, which we donated to Latin American Women’s Aid (LAWA) and Sistah SPACE Against Domestic Abuse.
We started our 2018 programme in our new home, The Institute of Light – a beautiful, independent cinema hidden under the railway arches of London Fields.
The evening began with a beautiful display of photography, all shot across various locations in Palestine, by two photographers – Sam Dearden, whose work documented Palestine’s then-fledgling skate scene, and Mouna Kalla-Sacranie, whose technique of dual-exposure illuminated a familial and serene snapshot of Palestinian culture (one rarely reflected in Western media).
Our first film of the year brought together an unexpected combination: skateboarding and Palestine. Epicly Palestine’d follows the rise of Palestine’s skate scene, and the rebellious teenagers who are leading the trend. With skateboards a scarcity, they are resourceful – sharing boards and alternating turns as they compete to be the first skater in Palestine to nail each trick. The backdrop of the occupation is ever-present, with the separation wall looming in several shots. In this light, the freedom of skateboarding becomes more pertinent, as the skaters reimagine their ‘conservative towns’ and occupied lands as a concrete playground for kickflips and ollies. In it’s telling of the rise of skateboarding in Palestine, the film also reflects the wonderful work of Skatepal, a grassroots charity which has been working to fuel interest in the sport in the area. The passion built into this project is clear.
Following the screening, we were joined by Theo Krish, the director of Epicly Palestine’d, and Dani Abulhawa, a Skatepal ambassador and an academic focusing on skateboarding, gender and politics. We discussed the importance of giving Palestinian children the opportunity for healthy escapism, creativity and a community subculture built by and for them. Skatepal is first a foremost a gathering of skateboarders, united in their love of the sport. The day-to-day reality of living under occupation was central to the conversation, again reflecting the power of helping these children feel part of a global community, in which their voices can be amplified.
The evening was hosted in aid of Skatepal, raising £400 to support their ambition to create a self-sustaining skate scene in Palestine.