Empire strikes back for Sappho

Share
Related Topics
A WOMAN in a black trilby and a Mafia suit took the microphone. 'On Saturday the first ever disabled lesbian conference took place in London,' she said. 'We passed a resolution to send a message of support to Jane Brown - 'Keep on Fighting]' '

The speaker and her band, The Tokens, thereupon burst into radical song: 'Keep on fighting for the right of every lesbian teacher to be free / For the children of the countree and the dyke communiteee . . .'

The applause for this, from the 400 or so who had turned up at a benefit show to raise money for the campaign backing Jane Brown, was wild. Ms Brown is the Hackney primary school headteacher who turned down a chance for some pupils to see the ballet Romeo and Juliet partly because it was blatantly heterosexual.

Certainly there was very little of the latter problem at Thursday night's benefit. The papers had billed the event as a tribute to political correctness. It was so, to the point of self-parody.

'It's so PC' proclaimed The Token at the microphone 'It's even got disabled lesbians - and some of them from an ethnic minority] Survive that]'

Cheers rang around the imperialist red and gold splendour of the Hackney Empire. It was here that some of Ms Brown's pupils could, if she had allowed them the chance, have appeared in their own dance version of Romeo and Juliet, professionally choreographed.

Instead Ms Brown's adult supporters were on that stage, for a cost of pounds 7 each - the same as the subsidised tickets offered to Kingsmead's children to watch the Royal Ballet in action - offering a chance to see the kind of entertainment acceptable to the politically sensitive.

The evening started on a jolly note with a little Jewish folk music and a song of struggle. The keynote of the evening was to be oppression, coming from every direction, from the Tories, the meeja and left- wing Hackney Council. 'Lesbophobia,' proclaimed The Tokens, 'reigns behind the walls of the Town Hall.' Richard Reiser, from Hackney Teachers Association, who made a short speech in between the early acts, seemed to believe, startlingly, that these three forces are united in a conspiracy to support John Major. 'Why did it (the Jane Brown story) break the weekend after Westminster City Council was all over the papers for gerrymandering? . . . This story suddenly comes out, five months old,' he said, his words fired with wild suspicion.

It does not seem to have been a very successful conspiracy. Jane Brown has kept her job, thanks to Tory legislation transferring power to school governors. After a short performance of zoo-like noises by a human voice and a violin, Carol Straker performed a modern dance to some Rastafarian music. 'I am blackness, I am identity, take me,' sang the accompanying voice. 'I am black history, I am black culture.'

A 14-strong 'mainly lesbian' choir, the Pre-madonnas, followed this with a song about equal pay.

'There's just one thing in this modern day every dyke needs to come out and say - I am here and I'm here to stay,' they sang in sweet harmony. A parent from Ms Brown's school read a message of support, and the first half of the benefit finished with a saxophone quintet. Those who had not left for the bar during the zoo imitations now moved there to order halves of lager and bitter. The audience, 90 per cent of whom were female, with a high incidence of short-back-and- sides haircuts, Doc Marten boots, leather jackets and small silver earrings, chatted and greeted one another. In the queue in the ladies a couple of women discussed the topic of the evening, homophobia.

It would be wrong to say that the event was without humour. Its highlight came when Julie McNamara, a brilliant performer, sent up Libby Purves and sang a long ballad about how she, Julie, is so smitten with Sue Lawley that she takes off her clothes to watch her on TV. She followed this with a prolonged equal opportunities joke about homosexuality among birds.

But overall the drum-beat message of the evening was so monotonous and subfusc that when Tara Teresa came on to perform a graceful Indian dance complete with sari, ankle bells and necklaces she seemed shockingly frivolous.

In the world of PC - or equal opportunities, as Ms Brown's supporters prefer to call it - skirt wearers are a minority group, and lipstick is a label. Angela Mason from the gay rights pressure group, Stonewall, took the platform. On my left a Hackney teacher seemed nearly asleep. The booted young woman on my right had departed.

'What did Sappho teach her girls except how to love?' asked Ms Mason, comparing Ms Brown to Ms Sappho. Sappho, she said, had been respected. 'The political correctness that I oppose is the political correctness of John Patten (hisses from the audience), who thinks he has the right to impose his narrow bigoted morality on us and our children.' (Applause.)

The show was running half an hour late. A band ended the evening with music. 'Special thanks to the audience,' said Julie McNamara, star of the night, breaking into another PC/EO joke. 'I'd like you all to have my babies. As soon as I get them back from Social Services, they're yours.' The audience filtered out, smiling. As entertainment, it had had its jolly moments, as well as its dire ones. Like Romeo and Juliet this had been a show full of paranoia, conspiracy theory and factionalism. It had certainly been blatantly homosexual.

About half a dozen children had watched its first half. Blatant bias in sexuality is, it seems, in equal opportunity circles, acceptable for children's viewing - so long as that bias points the right way. Where oppressed minorities are involved, impartiality is incorrect.

(Photograph omitted)

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Media Sales - OTE up to £30,000

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Developer

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique & exciting opp...

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The economics of the stock market is simple really: buy and hold

Ben Chu
Jeb Bush's campaign will emphasise both his conservative record as a former governor of Florida and his commitment to building a more inclusive Republican Party  

American democracy is up for sale, and it’s a warning to us all

Shirley Williams
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border