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I Am A Poem: Folkestone

Image - Vince_Laws_Long_Blue_Self.jpg

Poet, artist and campaigner Vince Laws takes over Georges House Gallery, The Old High Street, Folkestone, from February 3-15. Expect visual poetry, text art, protest art, performances, events, and the chance to get involved.

I send greetings and solidarity to Folkstone LGBT History Month. It’s important to reclaim our hidden history and celebrate the huge contribution that LGBT people have made to human culture and civilisation. Knowing our history is crucial to understand who we are and to feel pride in our identity and community. This sense of self-worth is vital for our mental and emotional well-being.

Celebrating LGBT history starts local and goes global. Thank you for helping make it happen in Folkstone.
Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

Celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Trans History Month at 12 noon in the gallery, on Friday 3 February. Those attending include The Mayor, Deputy Divisional Commander of Police Tim Smith, and Folkestone MP Damian Collins who will cut the pink ribbon.

“I think it is important that people are allowed to be themselves in a safe and secure community and I am very proud that this event is taking place at Georges House Gallery in Folkestone to highlight and celebrate LGBT History Month.”
Town Mayor, Councillor Sue Wallace

The Artistic Launch, 7-9pm the same day, will be opened by Tate Modern curator Marcus Dickey Horley, and will feature performance poetry and song from Vince Laws and guests. There will also be a site-specific text installation using coming-out stories and messages of support.

“This is truly a wonderful response to LGBT History Month, we are proud that the month calls forth such creativity and support. We can only hope that such work eradicates homophobia and transphobia and enables everyone to learn and celebrate the wealth of talent and diversity of our community.”
Sue Sanders Co Chair of LGBT History Month

On Saturday 4 February, from 1-4pm there’s a Human Library in the gallery, designed to combat prejudice, come and borrow a human ‘book’ and chat together for 20 minutes. Previous book titles have included HIV+, Blind, Bipolar, Wicca Priestess, Gay Christian, etc.

On Thursday 9 February, from 6.30pm there’s an invitation only performance of Vince’s poetry play The Small Frayed Knot.

On Saturday 11 from 12 noon there’s Pop-Up Pride, everyone welcome, poetry, song, speeches, and who knows what else. Queer calypsos guaranteed.

Finally, on Tuesday 14, there’s the St Valentine’s Day Poetry Massacre, details from the gallery.

All this, plus Adopt a Pansy, the Marcel Duchamp chess challenge, and Badger the dog, who will be exhibiting his homage to Tracey Emin!

All events are open to everyone. As Oscar Wilde said, “You don’t have to bat for us to admire our balls.” Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm, (later for special events) all events are free.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 17 January 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 18 January 2012

Vince Laws puts his pants on the line for the Pope

The Politics of Protest
As explained in my previous blog I’m protesting the Pope’s visit to the UK with a visual poem, THIS POPE IS PANTS. BBC Radio Suffolk offered to interview me if I had a Suffolk connection. I rang a friend who owns a pub in Suffolk and got permission to lie and say I could hang three strings of THIS POPE IS PANTS bunting on the pub during the Pope’s four day visit. I got my interview!

Immediately before the pre-recorded interview took place the presenter told me I could make my point but I had to say I was criticising the Roman Catholic Church, not the Pope. I was still considering this new information when the interview started, and went really well until the presenter asked me quite specifically, was my protest aimed at the Pope or the Roman Catholic Church?

I hesitated, I couldn’t lie, my protest is very clearly aimed at this current Pope, not at Catholics, "Both," I said, and then listed my complaints against the man himself. "He’s P – a protector of paedophile priests, A – against abortion always, N – No condoms never, T – trashes lesbian gay bisexual and trans people’s human rights, and S – supports segregated education."

So 23,000 listeners got to hear my protest poem = a result. But by now the pub owner had rung me twice and emailed me once (after I put the phone down on his second rant!) to insist he was mad to ever say yes, when actually he never said yes!

Now I have three strings of THIS POPE IS PANTS bunting and nowhere to hang it. Except I do. Rather than go and stick it on the railings of the Catholic Cathedral in Norwich, or waste time and money taking it to one of the Pope’s gigs, I’m going to hang it on my own home, a tiny cottage in the country, and send out a photo and press release and see where it goes.

You can listen to the podcast of the interview on BBC i-player. The podcast is 3 hours long. I’m on after 2 hours and 5 minutes, after Robbie Williams sings 'Angels.' Exercising BBC balance, as always, my bit is followed by an interview with a Catholic priest.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 14 September 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 14 September 2010

Vince Laws takes up the OUT140 challenge to tell a coming-out story in 140 characters

I told my parents I was bisexual when I was 16. They said "go to your room."
I’m involved in a project on Twitter called OUT140, which has collected coming-out stories from the LGBT community, their friends and families, told in 140 characters or less (i.e. a tweet on Twitter). Some participants then made their stories into 12-second films, which were shown on the giant Fusion screen in Norwich, Europe’s biggest public access screen, for 2 weeks in January 2010.

Mother said i wud rather you were a prostitute than a lesbian. 
Next, community filmmaker, Shelly Telly, who devised OUT140, adapted it to be shown on 2 old tellys during the Norwich Dandies exhibition in May 2010. We collected more stories and currently have over 200.

When I told my cousin my daughter is gay she asked, "Do Lesbians have wombs?"
Now OUT140 is being shown on a giant plasma screen at the Norwich Arts Centre, while 39 of the coming-out stories have been blown up and stuck on the walls. I chose one story to turn into a piece of text art, a found poem, which hangs in the bar. It reads: Grandma asked Mum if I had a boyfriend. Mum said I was gay. Grandma said has she got a girlfriend then?

I like Grandma’s immediate acceptance and the fact that this short story contains 3 generations of women. I collected used greetings cards from members of the LGBT community and cut them into individual letters. Greetings cards are the invisible threads that join us to our friends and family. I stapled the cards to hanging threads, and hung the piece about a foot from the wall so you can read the shadows. 

Rejection, everywhere. Church sed: possessed by demons. Hell. Threw my jeans & LPs away. Wore dresses for Jesus. Kept away from friends.
It’s easy to think that LGBT people have it easy now, everything is legal, society has moved on, but actually coming-out is a very individual experience. Only recently I chatted to a 40 year old gay man who lives at home and cares for his homophobic mother and as a result has never had a partner, never allowed himself the chance to be in love, and won’t do so until she dies. 

The difficult part was coming out to me. Being gay made me feel filthy, unworthy. Then meeting Him I realised there is nothing wrong with me
OUT140 is at the Norwich Arts Centre until August 31. 

You can read and add to the OUT140 stories on Twitter
You can watch some of the OUT140 films on

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 9 August 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 11 November 2010