Sunday, 21 October 2012

Bye bye Pink Paper

The Pink Paper has closed down.

The Pink meant a lot to me: when I first came out onto the LGBT scene, there it was: a tabloid sized newspaper, free and available in big piles in bars, in the foyer of the students union, on a display rack in the library ten miles away when I needed a lifeline to the real world in university holidays.  It started publishing a few years before I came out, at what became a crucial time in queer politics when shortly after its launch the Conservatives unveiled 'Section 28', the Labour-endorsed law which sought to wipe out homosexuality by making the mention of its existence illegal.

So a campaigning national weekly free newspaper must have been a shot in the arm for the mobilising queer campaigners (all the talk of the era is that it was 'lesbians and gays' but I am sure there would have been a good fistful of bis and transfolk and allies in the campaign too).

Bankrolled, as I understand it, largely by its more advertiser-friendly sister paper Boyz, the Pink was worthy, communityish and newsy.

It wasn't always the friend of the bi reader. From its aversion to admitting to the b word in editorial (one that stuck with me was a caption that said "[name] who described herself as bisexual, [at some do or other]", a contortion of words that would never have been used about a gay person) to its personal ads pages with a plethora of lonely hearts wanting a GSOH but "no bisexuals". Looking back, 'no bisexuals' was one of the few requirements in lonely hearts ads in the Pink Paper that never got turned into an abbreviation: you wouldn't want one to slip through the net saying they thought NB meant Nice Bum.  But until you got deep enough into the community to find out about BiFrost or BCN, it was the queer press you could find - and it was every week, not every month or three.

I'm told it highlighted the commitments of each party to lesbian and gay (yes...) rights at one general election with a front page quoting the three manifestos' commitments to the gay community. Each got equal space: a third of the page was full of text from the Liberal manifesto; one third was blank bar a paragraph for Labour; the third column had nothing to spoil its emptiness.

Some time in the 90s, presumably as income from 08x premium rate chatline ads waned, there was a brief relaunch as a paid-for A4 magazine. They knew they had oodles of readers who read the  paper every week, surely as a nicer-looking magazine it would fly off the shelves? It was an enormous flop, and the publishers beat a hasty retreat with a re-relaunch as a free A4 magazine soon afterwards.

The Pink had annual readers awards, in a growing list of categories (think "best redheaded barmaid in a lesbian bar in East Anglia goes to...") and a few times I took it upon myself to try and rock the vote to get the bisexual community noticed in the Pink.  When it worked, that got BiCon listed as one of the five best queer events of the year two years running - once coming third ahead of Glastonbury and London Pride. Manchester's BiPhoria took fifth place in best LGBT community group too.

As the web appeared in every home and every pocket, the Pink Paper's time as a print title came to an end. I still have half-a-dozen or more old issues knocking about my home, and when I pull them down from the shelf they are fond reminders of a harder time, charting the progress of LGBT rights as the news becomes less sharply political as the locus of political debate became less sharply hostile, bringing memories of long-lost friends and dancing til dawn, of who I was dating or of aching for that first lover to come into my life. It's a sensual thing: you won't ever get that with browsing an old web page.

The Pink Paper was at times frustrating, on good days it gave a warm nod to bisexuality on page 17 and on bad days it erased us out of all existence; but then we would all run things a little differently if it was our own choice. In its time it was a force for good, and among all the "no bisexuals" notes in the personal ads there were a host of TLAs that taught me a lot about the dos and donts of dating.  Bye bye Pink. Thank you for having been there.


  1. love this site – it's a great blog – may i suggest you get an rss feed.

  2. There is one - at the bottom of the page where it says "Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)"