Robert Hampton

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3rd August 2014

Pride: the Fall
Posted by at 12.58pm | Gay, Liverpool | 4 responses

Back in 2010, Liverpool Pride was born. The powers-that-be decided that Liverpool needed a Pride event, a safe space to celebrate diversity and inclusiveness in a city scarred by homophobic violence. It was a fairly small-scale event and it was fun, with a great atmosphere and community spirit. It wasn’t just LGBT people and their friends who took in the event – ordinary city-dwellers, shoppers who wandered past, and rail passengers heading to Moorfields station all stopped to take in the festivities.

Then, next year, they decided that the safe space wasn’t big enough, and moved it to the Pier Head. It lost a little something from being moved away from the gay quarter, but it was still a fun event, as bemused tourists getting off the Mersey Ferry encountered drag queens.

Then, in 2013, they decided that the safe space wasn’t safe enough, and introduced a new security policy. The Pier Head was fenced off to keep the pridegoers caged in. People would have their picnics searched on entry and any drinks confiscated. There had been too much drunken behaviour in previous years, it was claimed. From now on, the only drunkenness tolerated would be from alcohol purchased at the official stands for £5 a go.

All guests will be searched

Then, they decided that they could no longer afford the safe space, and started charging an entrance fee. To celebrate diversity and inclusiveness now costs £11, for a wristband which allows a lucky few to walk down streets which are open to all the other 364 days of the year. The casual passer-by was, it seemed, no longer welcome in the gay quarter and had to find a route avoiding it.

They decided to abandon community spirit in favour of getting sloshed and watching music acts perform 15 minute sets. It was the Mathew Street Festival, but with drag queens.

The volunteers still rattled their donation buckets. In previous years we were asked to “help keep Pride free”. No word on their purpose this year.

Ah well, it was nice while it lasted. For what it’s worth, here are some pictures from the Pride march.

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4th August 2013

That time of year again
Posted by at 1.08pm | Gay, Liverpool | No responses

Liverpool Pride screenI have to admit I was worried about Liverpool Pride this year. First there was the announcement of a new security policy, whereby the festival site would be fenced off, with guards posted at the entrances to ensure no alcoholic drinks were taken in. It all sounded a bit draconian.

Then my usual partners in crime – Scott, Dave and Andrew – all backed out of attending for one reason or another.

Still, I decided to go anyway, and it turned out absolutely fine. Rather than take part in the march, as I have done in previous years, I picked a vantage point in Queen Square and let the march go past me. When I arrived at the main festival site at the Pier Head, the security personnel were friendly and easygoing. Well, they were for me, at least – I did see someone being summarily ejected from the area, presumably because he was causing trouble.

Northern Rail penI gave the Stanley Street area a miss – I had memories of previous years when I have been squished into The Lisbon with barely enough space to breathe, let alone reach the bar. Also, it was a lovely sunny day, so better to stay outdoors where it was warm and there was plenty of space.

The atmosphere was friendly and jolly. I saw people of all ages, gay and straight, all mingling together happily. There were some frankly amazing costumes on display as well.

The performances on the main stage at the Pier Head were quite good, with enjoyable sets from the cast of Rent in Concert, Kameelion and Sam Callahan. I didn’t stick around for what must surely have been the highlight of the day – Black Lace – in fact I found myself heading home at around 5pm because I am old and feeble and felt tired.

It was an enjoyable day all round, and best of all, I got a free pen from the Northern Rail stand. Result!

More pictures from the march below. As usual it was led by the Michael Causer Foundation, with participants from unions, student groups, political parties, gay organisations and… er, Nando’s.

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24th March 2013

Ecce Homo

Rainbow flag fluttering in sunlightGay rights and gay issues have always interested me, and you’ll find reference to them throughout my blog, right back to the earliest days. Nowadays, the reasons are obvious. However, for the first seven years of the blog’s life, I was hamstrung by the fact that I was out to almost no-one.

I thought I was being quite clever, carefully wording my posts in such a way that I could demonstrate I was a champion of gay rights without actually coming out and saying that I was gay myself. However, when I was finally brave enough to start coming out to people, a response I got more than once was, “I know, I read your blog.”

Waiting until the age of 27 to come out is not ideal, and it’s something I regret bitterly (especially as a lot of my friends and family already knew, or at least suspected). There are many reasons that I left it so late, but discussion of those reasons is something more appropriate for a revealing therapy session, rather than the blog. So, on with the flashback!

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5th January 2013


Continuing on from yesterday’s review of the year-type thing.

BBC Television CentreJuly (actually, the end of June, but I wrote the blog post on 1st July) saw me make a trip to the legendary BBC Television Centre to watch a recording of Pointless. It was a most enjoyable experience, even if the Central African Republic didn’t come up as an answer. I’m seriously tempted to go back as a contestant.

Liverpool’s Festival Gardens reopened after many years of dereliction. The government announced a whole load of railway improvement schemes, coupled with further plans to price-gouge passengers. I bemoaned the tendency for reviews to oversimplify things with a simple score.

I fretted about Global Warming (and now, after experiencing a week of unseasonably mild weather, I’m even more worried). Heat of a different kind in Liverpool city centre, as preachers continued to claim everyone was going to Hell.

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5th August 2012

Ponderings on Pride
Posted by at 12.34pm | Gay, Liverpool | No responses

Yesterday’s Liverpool Pride event coincided with a torrential downpour of rain during the march itself, which meant that umbrellas were as much a part of the parade as rainbow flags and sailor hats.

Liverpool Pride march at Lime Street

Still, the weather cleared up later that afternoon and there was a big crowd again at the Pier Head. It felt like a much more confident event than last year, with none of the “oh noes we have no money” feeling that pervaded in 2011. Everyone there, who ranged in age from kids to pensioners, seemed to be having a good time.

Looking forward to next year!

3rd August 2012

Countdown to Pride: Oh, just some general comments
Posted by at 10.04pm | Gay, Liverpool | No responses

It’s nearly here! Tomorrow at noon the Liverpool Pride march sets off from St George’s Hall, leading in to an afternoon of fun and frolics as Liverpool’s gay community and its allies take over the Pier Head and Stanley Street for the day.

The Liverpool Echo is appealing for photos, and you can guess which ones are likely to appear in Monday’s paper: yes, among the thousands of people at the event, there will be the outlandish ones: bondage fans wearing leather chaps, men wearing dresses, other men wearing very little at all (although last year it was a bit too chilly for that).

There are complaints from some quarters (see this comment piece on Pink News, for example) that Pride is doing more harm than good. While colourful floats, thumping dance music and rainbow-draped sexuality is a lot of fun, pictures of hedonists and drag queens don’t really do much for the image of LGBT people, especially when the battle for equality is not yet won. I respectfully disagree. While I appreciate and share the desire to appear “normal”, I don’t believe that Pride is “harming” the ongoing campaign for equality in any significant way.

Let’s be honest: the people who tut disapprovingly at Pride events are not usually fans of the gays anyway. Does Cardinal Keith O’Brien distinguish between the gay leather fetishist and the gay smartly-dressed accountant, when he describes their relationships as “grotesque”? When Brian Souter poured huge amounts of his personal wealth into campaigns against the abolition of Section 28, he wasn’t specifically targeting the twinks parading with glitter in their hair and tight Speedos – he despised us all equally. Peter Bone will still think that gay marriage is “completely nuts”, even if the two women involved are smartly-dressed suburban Daily Mail readers.

So, my advice to anyone celebrating Pride tomorrow: get out there, enjoy it and wear whatever you want, whether that’s a leather thong or a sailor suit or (gasp) jeans and t-shirt. To quote a wise man: “If we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for who we really are.”

30th July 2012

Countdown to Pride: Queertet
Posted by at 6.58pm | Stage | No responses

Tucked away on the second floor of an anonymous building, located down a little side street off Liverpool’s dock road, behind a McDonald’s drive-through and amidst abandoned industrial units, is The Lantern Theatre.

Tonight was my first time there, to see Queertet, a set of four short plays, each with a gay theme. The show is one of several events being staged as part of the Pride Fringe.

The Lantern is an intimate venue – a little too intimate, perhaps, as we were packed in like sardines and despite the best efforts of an oscillating fan, it got very warm in there. I was seated just a few feet away from the stage, but at times I struggled to see what was going on as the seating isn’t tiered.

The posters mentioned that the plays would be introduced by two people from Channel 4’s My Transsexual Summer, but they weren’t there, for reasons which were not explained.

The plays then. Linda & Sue was a story of two women in love, until jealousy rears its ugly head. Half a Bottle Gone follows the events of one night where three friends enjoy a little bit too much wine, which results in some uncomfortable secrets being revealed. Sweats was set in a sauna, with a fun duologue between two regular patrons, who spend the entire play wearing towels (and sometimes no towel – and there’s me without my opera glasses).

The first three plays were excellent, but the finale was a tour de force – Madam Reprobate, an amazing about a university student brings his posh boyfriend to his council estate home to meet his very working-class mother. An amazing sitcom script peppered with filthy one-liners, brought to life by sparkling performance from the three actors, who managed immaculate comic timing despite the music bleeding through from the cabaret bar downstairs. It brought the house down.

Queertet was only on for two nights, last Friday and Saturday, but it was a great deal of fun, and I’d definitely come back to see the next show Grin Productions produce. And it cost just £8 for a ticket. Bargain!

31st December 2011

2011 – more like Twenty E-Heaven!
Posted by at 5.04pm | It's My Life | No responses

2011 will surely be remembered as the year I lost my blogging mojo. Certainly from August until mid-December, there has been a dearth of postings. Well, it has been a quiet time in the world, after all.

The lack of activity here on the site is in stark contrast to the activity in my life. There’s been a hell of a lot going on for me – I just, er, didn’t tell you about it.

Travel was on the agenda: this was the year I left the UK for the first time in 25 years, when I visited visited Estonia. Less exotically, I started my Station Master blog (currently in hibernation, but back with a bang in 2012, I promise). I also found time in September to celebrate my birthday with a weekend in London, and had a smashing day out in, er, Birmingham.

Yes, 2011 was the year I got out and about a lot. I didn’t even allow the swiping of my iPhone, by an expert pickpocket, to dissaude me.

I got up close and personal(ish) with McFly at their Liverpool concert, after my friend Andrew got tickets. I also saw Beautiful Thing, in its original stage incarnation, in Manchester. I failed, however, to get tickets to the Olympics.

An event which required no tickets was Liverpool Pride, which was great fun despite a funding shortfall which enforced a change of location. 2011 was really the year when “gay” really did mean “happy” for me. The cap on it all came in the Autumn, when I gained and then lost a boyfriend (it lasted only a few months, but the important thing is it happened).

Finally, with only days to go, I fulfilled one of my new year resolutions for 2011, by doing a videoblog – believe it or not, this grainy, poorly-lit video promises great things for the future.

So that was 2011. Hopefully 2012 will be just as, if not more rewarding for me. Maybe I’ll even write a blog post or two about it. Or not. Happy New Year everybody!

7th August 2011

Liverpool Pride in Tweets

Liverpool Pride 2011 logoYesterday was Liverpool Pride 2011 which I attended with my friends Scott, Andrew and Jamie. It was an amazing day and a fun time was had by all. It was great that the event was able ahead despite budget shortfalls and an enforced change of location.

I was going to do a full write up of the day, but my heat-of-the-moment Tweets from yesterday seem to capture the atmosphere quite well, so they are reproduced below for posterity.

10.33am: Why is there no “Straight Pride”?

11.01am: Sufficiently disorganised that I managed to leave the house without my phone. Quick dash back and I’ve missed the train I wanted to get.

11.33am: Crowds are gathering! #liverpoolpride

Photo of people assembling outside St George's Hall

12.05pm: And we’re under way! #liverpoolpride

Liverpool Pride marchers get under way

12.14pm: #liverpoolpride

Photo of Liverpool Pride marchers

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28th June 2011

Queer Head
Posted by at 9.59pm | Gay, Liverpool | No responses

*Yes, I’m sorry. It was either that or “Mersey Fairy”

Regular readers of this blog (all three, perhaps four of you) will remember what an excellent time I had at Liverpool Pride last year. As someone who had been closeted until a fairly late age, it was an exhilarating, liberating experience. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it actually changed my life for the better.

I am looking forward to this year’s festival, which will be held on 6th August 2011 at the Pier Head.

Wait… what? They’re moving the festival out of the city’s gay area? That’s a controversial move, and true to form there’s been a lot of comment (much of it negative) on the official Facebook page. What do the organisers have to say for themselves about this?

Obviously, we were disappointed to have to move out of Dale Street and the gay quarter but, like just about every charity at the moment, we have had to tighten our belts in order to survive. Closing such a huge area of the city centre is a difficult and expensive operation, so we had to look at a range of alternative spaces for Liverpool Pride, including some outside the city centre. None of the other options even came close to the Pier Head in terms of accessibility, grandeur and, dare I say, fabulousness!

My irrational knee-jerk reaction was one of disappointment, but on reflection I don’t think it will be too bad. The Pier Head is a good open space, the Three Graces will provide a wonderful backdrop to the celebrations, and there will be comedy value from bemused tourists, alighting from the Mersey Ferry, mingling with drag queens. AND it’s only a five minute walk away from the gay quarter! Don’t be so lazy.

It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing – which is what we were close to getting, if the rumours are to be believed. It’s also better than having to pay twenty quid to walk around streets that are free the other 364 days a year, as happens at many other pride events.

Don’t let a few naysayers spoil the party. For the good of the whole community, Liverpool’s Pride must go ahead in any possible form. Onward and upward!