Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

6th July 2015

The long good Pride day
Posted by at 9.12pm | Gay, Out and About | 2 responses

Oslo really gets excited about Pride. The Pride Parade, traditionally held on the last Saturday in June, is preceded by a week of festivities. Even the trams are adorned with rainbow flags for the occasion.

Tram with Rainbow Flag

I’ve been rather sceptical about Pride recently. Just before I left, Liverpool Pride had announced a dramatic scaling back of its 2015 event. This was portrayed in the media as a disaster; personally I’ll be happy if this year sees a return to a more community-based event, rather than charging £11 to experience terrible music and overpriced beer.

Yes, I’m a grumpy sod, which meant that Oslo Pride was going to have to be quite special to shake me out of my funk. Could the Norwegians do something that Liverpool couldn’t?

Read the rest of this post »

19th October 2014

Miner Miracle
Posted by at 7.03pm | Films, Gay | No responses


I saw Pride a few weeks back, but because of my own ineptitude I’ve only just gotten around to writing about it. I’m really sorry about that, because it’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen and deserved better.

Let’s go back to 1984 and meet our protagonists: In one corner, a Welsh mining community devastated by pit closures and the long-running strike. In the other, a small group of gay activists struggling to cope with (sometimes violent) homophobia.

The leader of the latter group, Mark Ashton, identifies a common cause: both gay people and the miners are being attacked by the government, the tabloid press and the police – so why not help each other out? They form LGSM – Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners – and start rattling buckets.

This doesn’t sound like the setup for what has been described as the “Feel Good Movie Of The Year”, but it’s all based on a true story – one which has not received much attention. Jonathan Harvey’s 2010 play Canary, which I saw at the Liverpool Playhouse, includes a scene about it, and it came as news to me that such an alliance existed.

What follows is some riotous culture clash comedy, first as LGSM arrive in the miner’s village and clash with the gruff, traditional locals, then later as the union leader travels to London and addresses a rowdy crowd in a gay bar.

I won’t give away any more – suffice to say it’s an incredible film, with some great performances from pretty much every British actor you’d care to name: Freddie Fox, Andrew Scott, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine, and probably some I’ve missed. It’s an American actor who is the real standout: Ben Schenetzer as Mark Ashton is a standout, with a fiery, passionate performance.

It’s fascinating to watch this piece of history and see how far we’ve come in terms of gay acceptance and equality. However, in another sense we are going backward, as the dignity of workers is compromised and their rights are eroded. Watching David Cameron and his chums once again treating “union” as a dirty word while greedy bankers get away with all sorts, it’s easy to feel like we’re back in the throes of the 80s again. We’re in a world of zero hours contracts, a £500 “fee” to launch employment claims and threats to curb the right to strike. Thatcher may be gone, but her legacy lives on – unions are still “the enemy within” as far as our ruling class is concerned.

The ending is a true roller coaster of emotions, both happy and sad, but ultimately inspiring. It’s the first time ever that I’ve heard a cinema audience break out in spontaneous applause at the end of a film. I sat through the credits – not because I wanted to find out who provided the rostrum camera, but because I needed a few minutes to compose myself. It’s rare for a film to make me cry – we’re talking full tears down cheeks mode here – but this managed it.

It’s an amazing film – if you haven’t seen it, don’t wait for the DVD – try to track down a cinema that is still screening it. Gay, straight or bi – you’ll all love it. In fact, the only people who won’t approve are Tories.

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.”