Tuesday 23 September 2008

Tonight's the night

Tonight we - I - have a Celebrate Bisexuality Day event-ette to put on. In past years I've organised a variety of larger local events, with workshops, films, stalls and speakers in 2001, 2002 and 2006.

But tonight will be smaller; I've been busy with party conference season amongst other things. A smaller event is no bad thing - if we had 20 similar local gatherings going on instead of the two or three that are happening this year, how much stronger the bi scene as a whole would be. Maybe that's a chicken and egg problem. If you'd like to try and change these things next year, it's not as though it takes that much doing; but it's worth BCN doing a simple "how-to" guide perhaps.

Either way next year I'd like to be more ambitious with the Manchester event: not just a quiz but a raffle or tombola or somesuch. Donations of, or ideas for, prizes very welcome as comments!

Sunday 21 September 2008

Probed about Pride

Today I was interviewed by a student from a university down South who is looking into the interaction over the past 18 years between diverse communities, community groups, and Manchester LGBT Pride / Mardi Gras / GayFest.

It's a hot potato in some circles, both between moderate pragmatists who wonder whether the event can evolve to become less commercial in its image, and right-wing anarchoqueer hardliners. The former group are only just starting to more visibly seek reform; the latter have such a commitment to conformity that they would rather have no LGBT event in the city than keep the one we have, so they work to disrupt and undermine it rather than contribute and engage in constructive change.

Over here in the B corner, of course, we long ago noticed how excluded from 'LGBT' events we can be and got ourselves organised to create BiCon as an alternative: it's been going rather longer than Manchester Pride.

There is a Pratchett book which starts several times to emphasise that where a story begins is a matter of perspective of the teller, and that's an important factor here. In telling the tale of Little Red Riding Hood would you start when she meets the wolf, when she sets off into the woods, or go back to when grandma first wound up living all alone in a cottage in the middle of the woods away from everyone else.

If you've come to the city or become aware of local LGBT politics since 2003,and have chosen not to get educated about the past, it looks one way. There's a big monolithic Pride organisation which bankrolls lots of money into a couple of big organisations and smaller sums into a plethora of small projects. It's deeply enmeshed with the city council, and hard to see the borderlines where the council, LGF and GHT end and where the separate Pride organisation begins. And they've made the odd mistake along the way, though the main howler (charging individual people for marching on the parade) was retracted after being tried the once. It's very commercial, very much a showcase for big business emphasising its 'gay-friendly' credentials, and the focus is very very L/G, with much less T and practically nothing B.

However, if you remember back before EuroPride in 2003, it looks rather different. I'll come back and say more about that another time, but for now it would help greatly if in debating Manchester Pride's present and future, we could keep in mind its past, and not conflate LGBT pride the concept with LGBT Pride the Manchester event.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Bi Day

A few days ago BiMedia.Org reported
In ten days’ time it will be 23 September, and the tenth International Celebrate Bisexuality Day. What have you got planned to mark the date? It looks like there will be an unprecedented level of activity around the date across the UK and BiMedia.Org would like to have the canonical guide, so get in touch and let us know!
It looks like we'll have more going on than ever before this year; a small reception in Manchester, the big bi consultation event in Scotland, and probably a couple of other places joining in too. The international bi lists also have noticeably more chatter on the subject. After many years in which we stretched to make something happen anywhere, is Bi Day finally taking off?

Sunday 7 September 2008

BiCon Ltd

BiMedia.Org reports:
Following debate at the Decision Making Plenary of BiCon 2008, the organisation will be formalising its existence with limited company status. The decision was carried overwhelmingly by the conference and further details of the plans will be published in the UK bi community journal of record, BCN.
I think it might actually have been unanimous, that vote.

To shed a little light on it as a past BiCon runner: I think this is a damn good thing.

To shed a little more light on it: since approximately forever, any surplus made by one BiCon is handed on to the next team. This has meant that since the late 90s every incoming team has had some initial funding which they could use for publicity, venue deposits, meetings costs or what have you. Some BiCons run at a profit, some at a loss, but overall we have always had a little bit left in the kitty. Or sometimes a great big bit - £13,000 at one point I think.

This is great and means that for instance people on JSA can get involved in running a BiCon despite not being able to commit financially to it.

However it has also depended on a lot of luck. No-one has ever done a runner with the money, and no-one has run a BiCon that went so badly wrong that they wound up in debtor's jail after getting their sums horribly wrong or deciding to spend the past surplus on an enormous amount of cake. Either of those things could happen - and I stress I am not thinking of any BiCon organiser or potential organiser when I say that! If it did, we as a community wouldn't have any kind of come-back or recourse. We give organisers the money and trust them to behave. If they don't... well, we wouldn't talk to them any more. For some people that might be worth the £13,000.

A pair of limited companies on the other hand gives us some extra hands on the BiCon purse strings, and some protection for the assets built up over the years should things go badly wrong.

So by setting up as limited companies with boards running them we diffuse both the liability if it all goes wrong, and the opportunity to run off with the cash. It is a brilliant idea, and one which I particularly like since - as editor of the free fair and independent bi press - in order to protect BCN's editorial independence I really cannot be nobbled into becoming part of the Board for.

Saturday 6 September 2008


Something that came out of the Volunteering session I led at BiCon this summer was the dearth of public bi blogging.

Not that we aren't blogging as bis. There are lots of people in the UK bi community blogging their private lives on LiveJournal, to a degree that is really good if you happen to be a part of that 'clique' and potentially excluding if you are not. But that tends to be in "friends-locked" postings that are harder for people to find, and is general life blogging, 98% not about "being bisexual" or bi issues.

Some people are doing bi-life, bi-living, bi-politics blogging. Sue George being the most high profile example this side of the Atlantic. If I tarted this blog about a bit more I might move up in those stakes. But it's fairly isolated, individual thoughts rather than collective noodling and bouncing off one another.

However the blogosphere in other sectors helps to get that kind of community of debate going and can even get things noticed by journalists or spark activism. Might a stronger degree of blogging about bi stuff help lift the community and politicisation of the bi movement? It works in other fields, and the technique the Lib Dems use in LibDemBlogs was cited as a good example.

So it seems we might be set to do something like that, probably on bi.org, and BiMedia.Org has carried a call for Bisexuality Bloggers to drum up the first contributors. My inclination is always to make things like this be UK or EU centric: there are lots of US and North America resources compared to the rest of the world and you can feel drowned out in them as someone on another continent. But that'll be down to some further work and noodly discussions.

It won't happen this week, but it could be a very interesting site once it is up and running. It'll probably wind up being the home page on at least one of my browsers...