On March 28th, ACT UP London hosted a film screening followed by a panel discussion at The Cinema Museum in Kennington – ‘Cut Sexual Health Services Over Our Dead Bodies’. We were inspired by Kings Fund analysis exploring the effect public health grants being cut has on sexual health services. The aim of the evening was to mobilise a growing coalition of healthcare professionals and activists.
2019 sees the 40th anniversary of the Radical Faeries, so we screened ‘Hope Along the Wind’. ‘Hope Along the Wind’ documents the life of Harry Hay, who founded the Mattachine Society in the 1950s and was a founding member of the Radical Faeries in the 1970s. Both groups pioneered radical and modern sexual freedom.
The film follows Harry Hay, founder of the Mattachine Society and later the Radical Faeries. A radical gay activist, Hay provided a space in which queer groups were able to come together and discuss life and politics openly, and experience the sexual freedom that society repressed. The name of the film comes from a member of the Mattachine Society who stated, ‘The Mattachine Society spills hope along the wind’. The film illustrated that community building within marginalised groups is an effective tool for standing up to the oppressor and gaining power and momentum as the oppressed.
Following the film we held a community discussion about sexual freedom and liberty. Hosted by Tresca Wilson and LeaSuwanna Griffith, our panelists explored how minority cultures engage with the majority, how dissident voices cope with ignorance/opposition and how activists get sidelined by assimilationists in the mainstream – resulting in austerity. The full list of panelists is as follows:
- Ray Malone (NHS Anti-Swindle Team, ACT UP London)
- Patrick Braithwaite (Radical Faeries, founding member of FaeNA – a subgroup within the faeries dedicated to addiction)
- Sophie Williams (Docs NOT Cops)
- Miqhael Kannemeyer (Radical Faeries, ACT UP London)
- Silvia Petretti (Positively UK CEO, Catwalk for Power)
The panel discussed the sinister cuts being made to the NHS. We are faced with growing deaths from chemsex, longer waiting times in clinics and a declining mortality rate – people aren’t being allowed to live! Sophie commented that the huge amount of pressure being put on NHS staff due to the 22 million pound deficit means people are no longer wanting to pursue a career in the NHS. Alongside cuts to the NHS, the interplay between systemic racism and sexual health service cuts is becoming more endemic and NHS privatisation is becoming evident with the first private accident and emergency clinic soon to open in the UK. (Cleveland Clinic at the U.S. Embassy).
All agreed that we need to mobilise and focus on movement building. However, this doesn’t just mean the most vulnerable and affected should be fighting on the frontline – we need a wider coalition of allies. Ray demanded that society sees the re-emergence of community health councils and public influence over the running of the NHS. Patrick stated that one of our main focuses should be rolling out PREP and ensuring community outreach to rural areas. The cuts we are facing in the current ‘hostile environment’ aren’t coincidental or tragic, they are strategic and an issue of political will.
To quote Steve Biko, ‘The most potent weapon of the oppressor, is the mind of the oppressed.’ The consensus of the evening was that we are NOT going to be stamped down, we are NOT going to let the current hostile environment beat us, we are going to be RADICAL and FIGHT BACK.
ACT UP! FIGHT BACK!
All profits from the evening went to Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), a movement against male suicide – the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.
Thanks everyone for coming!