Apsidistra Books Presents Lit Up! LGBT Literature and Art Fair
In their event Lit Up!, newly launched independent book retailer Aspidistra Books teamed up yesterday with Vada magazine and the Gay Agenda to bring Manchester its first LGBTQ literature and arts fair. As well as book stalls showcasing a wealth of literature especially hand-picked by the Aspidistra team, the programme was jam-packed with the best talent from the local LGBTQ community.
Jamie Starboisky from Queer Media UK presented a brilliantly selected series of short films to kick off the proceedings. Especially moving was director Ahmed Ateyya’s documentary short ‘To Be Destroyed’, which follows the work of artist Sara Davidmann. Davidmann, who places issues of gender fluidity at the core of her artistic practice, stumbles across a full envelope reading ‘Ken’ – the name of her late uncle – ‘To be destroyed’. What she unearths is her relative’s struggle to negotiate a queer identity within the confines of traditional familial values. That the envelope ended up in Sara’s hands, and not those of her ashamed family, seems a serendipitous prod from fate, lending particular poignancy to the art that Davidmann creates which gives life to the identity that Kay was unable to fully live out.
The live section of the show which followed was positively oozing with talent and masterfully compered by Jonathan Mayor. As well as doing a stellar job at incensing the audience’s anticipation for the live acts, he brought hilarity to the stage with his personal anecdotes. Whether relating the time he chased a top hat thief down the street while adorned in a luminescent dress, spiky jet-black creepers and copious amounts of bling, or reliving the shame of a coked-up journey home surrounded by decent and upstanding commuters, it is impossible not to be drawn in by Mayor’s dynamism.
Adam Beyonce Lowe brought his signature lurid lyrics to the microphone, opening his set by belting out a sexed-up rendition of the Lord’s Prayer. Adam is unapologetically fabulous, proclaiming in one piece “You call me a fruit / and I agree: […] Peel back my layers, […] and bite me”. But Lowe’s content is far from all frivolity, his lyrics revealing a keenly tuned sensitivity for metaphor. From declaring himself, ‘the apple that announces the gravity of a given situation’ to steamily evoking the ‘bruised-lit underworld’ of a fetish club, Lowe’s words are deliciously depictive and a delight for the ears.
Next in line was Gerry Potter, whose prose is made for performance, his rhythmic verse laying down a beat that the poet and audience can’t help but groove to. In ‘Homage to the Dead ‘Ard Scally Girl’, he irreverently dissects the character of Tiffany Bling, who “doesn’t know much about art, but if it fucked her off she’d fight it”. Undulating between the satirical and the emotive in ‘What Is This Thing Called Gay?’, he lays down a moving manifesto: “This isn’t for Lady Gaga, Shirley Bassey or Madonna / This is for unity, integrity and honour.”
Abi Hynes, known for her live poetry as well as for running cabaret collective First Draft, performed two of her solo pieces. Abi’s talent is rare, and difficult to pinpoint: it lies somewhere in her ability to be tender and funny, cheeky and insightful, all the while evoking a vivid lyrical tale. In ‘Gaming for Girls’, Abi took an incisive look at gender roles through the eyes of a female videogame character who, from the other side of the screen, witnesses the ritual congregation of men around a games console. The character is a player’s archetypal right-hand woman: mutely efficient and patiently waiting for instruction from the lordly, lounging males in their world of in-jokes and pizza. Abi finds truth, beauty and pain in the mundane – a poet of real vision.
If you missed the event, Aspidistra Books have plenty more LGBTQ and literature-centred events in the pipeline, starting with founding member of The Smiths Dale Hibbert talking with Dave Haslam about his new memoir Boy, Interrupted at Manchester’s PLY on the 28 August. See the event here.