In June 2016, I threw myself into an immersive theatre…
This Thursday 23rd, I’m chairing It’s Vauxhall Question Time – 2015 Election Special (live from The RVT).
Will we lose this precious venue? Is Vauxhall still the LGBT party hub it used to be? Are we about to see cuts in HIV services? Where have all the flowers gone?
It’s widely thought that this will be the oddest election in living memory. Everything is up for grabs. Nobody looks like they’re about to seize power without compromises and the electorate seem to swing from rampant indecision to mopey apathy.
Watching the BBC Election Debate 2015, it was hard not to feel a deeper confusion about who to applaud and where one’s loyalties should settle. While it was quite bizarre to have Cameron and Clegg absent from the proceedings, it also transpired to be a blessed relief.
The electorate seem to have concluded that many situations can be greatly improved by reducing the number of politicians involved. Whether that’s a dub-step rave in Hackney, a factory under threat of closure or a TV debate, we mostly wither and shrivel at the thought of a politician’s presence.
The truth of the situation is that there isn’t really any party leader who inspires the kind of qualities that make you keen to hear their policies, beliefs and vision.
It wouldn’t have mattered which of the current crop chose not to appear on the TV debates, because we bitterly tolerate most politicians. We never miss them.
Unfortunately, Nigel Farage bucks this trend, by inspiring rabid devotion from his worrying supporters and delivering an unpredictable frisson to every event he deigns to appear at. Can’t stand the man, or his menagerie of malcontents, but I’d miss them if they weren’t there.
The irony of course is that UKIP is the party equivalent of a grumpy, suburban drunk. Yet, compared to everyone else, Farage brings the dubious excitement of an out-of-date firework that’s been soaked in port, petrol and HP Sauce. ‘Go on, light it, see what happens!’
The most cheering aspect of the BBC Election Debate was the fact that the women completely stormed it. This undeniable triumph highlighted how unjust it is that women are so poorly represented in the field of politics.
The watery, slippery string of men that are foisted upon us from Westminster and beyond, suddenly seem even more dispiriting when compared with a slew of fierce women who seem to be sincere.
The trio of women at the BBC Election Debate may have been inspiring, but as a voter, present a curveball to one’s convictions. Nicola Sturgeon ruled that debate like a boss. She was the only one who sounded unscripted, well-informed, authentic and rigorously passionate.
It was hard not to cheer her, but one can’t. I don’t support an independent Scotland. That’s her raison d’être. This tragedy confuses me.
Natalie Bennett should be my poster girl, but keeps underwhelming me. I have a hippy heart. I don’t like war. The world needs to be rid of nuclear weapons and the UK should lead by example.
It upsets me that the UK has a War Ministry and a Minister for Defense, but no Peace Minister. See? Hippy.
Until everyone got in a flap about Trident last week, I’d forgotten that my non-nuclear dreams are actually quite fringe. Guess kids today are more familiar with GHB than CND.
Heart and soul
Green campaigners, more than anyone, should project heart, soul and fire. It’s understandable that the Greens have plumped for a corporate look, in order to be taken seriously, but it doesn’t jive with this sour voter. I’d rather someone with pink hair, a knitted poncho and some leftfield gusto.
Natalie Bennett is too beige. She makes me mildly anxious and vaguely disappointed. Anyway, when I heard the Greens wanted to stop alcohol on commercial flights, well, let’s just say my wavering love for them wandered off to a different disco.
I’m a political animal. My beliefs are passionate, occasionally radical, heartfelt and born of experience.
However, this election doesn’t seem to offer much opportunity to see my aspirations become reality. It’s all about swallowing bitter pills and downing dubiously mixed cocktails. That’s fine, in my social life, but it’s less appealing when it’s how your country is run.
Live from the RVT
This Thursday 23rd I’m chairing It’s Vauxhall Question Time – 2015 Election Special (live from The RVT). Panellists are Gulnar Hasnain – Green Party, Adrian Trett – Liberal Democrats, Kate Hoey – Labour, James Bellis – Conservative. The event has been organised by David Robson, Chair of the Wandsworth LGBT Forum.
I’ll be in Dimbleby drag, asking questions and making sure the panel have the space to answer. Obviously, one can only aspire to have a wisp of that broadcaster’s gravitas and knowledge, but I’ll certainly do my best to remain impartial, pseudo respectable and largely sober.
There’s much about this event that makes it rather exciting. First of all, there’s the presence of Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett, Liberal Democrat candidate for Vauxhall.
He recently told Buzzfeed of his HIV status, making him the first openly HIV positive candidate to contest an election in the UK. It’s a breathrough to be applauded, obviously, but can it really have taken this long?
Depression and orgies
The fact that this admission came via a grim narrative featuring wrestling porn, depression, bareback orgies, chem sex and bullying only serves to make it all the more unique.
While this refreshing honesty caused unsurprising bile in some tabloid quarters, one can only imagine his story may chime with some LGBT residents in the area. The question remains, are you more, or less likely, to vote for someone, if you’d seen them at a sex party?
It’s likely that one of the big concerns at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on Thursday 23rd will be the future of the very venue whose roof we’ll be under. The loss of the historic pub to the corporate interests of a property developer is proving an understandably emotive issue that’s sure to escalate in the coming months. A campaign is already under way.
Is Vauxhall being rinsed of all the filthy gays to make way for the shiny US Embassy? Are rent increases gonna force gay and independent businesses from the area as the bland big boys carve up the turf?
Are we about to lose the last London bastion of queer creativity, genuine community, legendary drag history and live performance art, to a block of dreary flats for absent millionaires? That remains to be seen.
If you want your voice to be heard or have a question for anyone on the panel, please come down. It’s gonna be lively.
Listen to Radio 4’s Today show interview RVT punters about their voting intentions.