fine writing by lesbians and gay men since 1999
PREVIOUS PRESS RELEASES
UK Equalities Minister Presents Cultural Award
to Kyrzygstan LBT Group
London, 16 May 2009
UK Equalities Minister, Maria Eagle today assisted with the long-delayed presentation of the 2006 Sappho in Paradise Book Prize.
Awarded to Labrys LBT group in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan for their outstanding work in publishing the ground-breaking Labrys LBT magazine (which has since evolved into a website), an actual handover ceremony of the annual Book Prize, announced in 2006, had not been feasible until today.
The formal conferring of the yearly-presented Diploma and a signed, First Edition book from the British Paradise Press LGBT publishing collective had been delayed by both distance, and the significant difficulties faced by Kyrgyz lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people.
Labrys' magazine and kyrgyzlabrys.wordpress.com website voice this rarely heard community of a faraway people, living in the mountainous Eastern reaches of the former Soviet Union.
After considerable attempts to make the usual 'in person' presentation of the 2006 award, through communication with the Kyrgyz recipients, a presentation was settled for today's major Faith, Homophobia, Transphobia and Human Rights Conference, taking place in London. Internationally recognised Muslim and Christian scholars, theologians, the lay public, and panels of reputable speakers, including Trevor Philips, Chair of the UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission, came together at the conference to review progress and discuss future steps in British equality legislation, which can advance anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people.
From the conference podium, International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network Secretary General for Literature Ian Stewart called upon the kind offices of Equalities Minister Maria Eagle to formally confer the Book Prize before some 200 delegates. In reading the diploma citation from the podium to the packed convention's morning plenary session, Minister Eagle's naming of the Labrys LBT group resulted in a spontaneous eruption of cheers and sustained applause from the assembled delegates, for such a duration of time that the Minister movingly arranged first the diploma, and then the prize First Edition book, a copy of British gay author Paul Mann's Paradise Press novel, 'Nailing Frank,' displayed together in front of her, during the continued cheers and clapping.
Ian Stewart commented, "I was standing on the platform behind the Minister, and when she named the Kyrgyz Labrys LBT group this massive hallful of people just erupted into this huge, noisy, and continuing expression of support. It was deeply moving to see the beaming faces and goodwill of the many excited delegates, applauding and cheering the efforts of Kyrgyz lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. I am sure that this vivid experience of LGBT self-empowerment will remain with Minister Eagle for a long time as a powerful experience of her tenure in the British Cabinet; and I hope that Kyrgyz LBT people can view the conference podcast to see it too."
The Sappho in Paradise Book Prize
The Sappho in Paradise Book Prize is conferred annually by the International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network (ILGCN), a worldwide voluntary association of lesbian and gay cultural workers.
The ILGCN is a zero-budget organisation, founded in 1992 at the Paris World Conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). The cultural network seeks to broaden access to lesbian and gay culture across national borders, through a busy programme of international awards, exhibitions, conferences and artists' visits. An Information Secretariat in Stockholm regularly issues newsletters, media releases, and maintains a website (www.ilgcn.tupilak.org) where past issues of Erato, the network's publication, detail the many activities undertaken over the years.
In 1997 Britain's longstanding Gay Authors Workshop set-up Paradise Press as an LGBT publishing collective. Relying upon volunteer effort, Paradise Press has built a noteworthy community presence through book sales, reviews, public readings, several standing-room-only launch events, and a website. Paradise Press often hosts workshops for LGBT History Month, London Pride Festival Fortnight, and the International Day Against Homophobia. Titles currently in pre-production include the second nationwide Paradise Press LGBT story and poetry anthologies, to be launched in 2009/2010.
Paradise Press participates internationally through the ILGCN Sappho in Paradise Book Prize. The Book Prize is awarded to deserving groups or individuals who forward the lesbian or gay written word. Recipients receive a diploma and a signed, first edition Paradise Press book, which are formally presented to them in person.
Previous recipients are:
2002 - 'Nash Mir' ('Our World') Magazine, Ukraine
2003 - Tallinn Rainbow Library, Estonia
2004 - Atena Press, Latvia, and Gay's the Word Bookshop, UK
2005 - Gays & Lesbians of Zimbabwe Resource Centre, Zimbabwe
2006 - Labrys LBT Magazine, Kyrgyzstan, and Normal Publishing Collective, Sweden
2007 - Riga Rainbow Library, Latvia and Kaos Magazine, Turkey
2008 - Gay Rights Uganda Website, Uganda
Presentation ceremonies have taken place in various countries, including the UK.
Note that the May 16, 2009 presentation to the Kyrgyz Labrys LBT group represents the handover of a Sappho in Paradise award which was announced in 2006 (we also have yet to convene a handover for the 2007 Turkish Kaos Magazine recipients).
Press releases and photos of the presentation ceremony typically draw web and print coverage in LGBT and mainstream media worldwide.
International Award Presented to UK Asylum Seeker
London, 9 October 2008 -- Kizza Musinguzi, editor of gayrightsuganda.org, has been awarded the 2008 Sappho in Paradise Book Prize.
The publishing award is conferred annually by the International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network (ILGCN), a worldwide voluntary association of lesbian and gay cultural workers.
Mr Musinguzi fled extremist homophobic brutality in Uganda, and is an asylum seeker in the UK.
Gayrightsuganda.org documents the organised campaign of violent religious and state-sponsored homophobia sweeping the strategic African nation, with the support of the Anglican Church and UK arms manufacturer BAe.
The 2008 Book Prize, a signed, First Edition copy of Graham Robertson's novel 'A New Man in Old Steine,' was presented to Mr Musinguzi by Ian Stewart, chairman of Paradise Press and Secretary General for Literature to the International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network, at a demonstration sponsored by the National Union of Students, outside Uganda House in London on Uganda's National Independence Day.
"This award has to go to the many people in Uganda who are still suffering from homophobic violence," said Kizza Musinguzi on receiving the Book Prize.
(See gayrightsuganda.org for the current state of affairs in Uganda, including the latest developments around BAe and the Anglican Church.
"It is deeply moving to see our 2008 book prize awarded to Kizza Musinguzi and gayrightsuganda.org," said ILGCN Literature Secretary Ian Stewart. "The worsening situation for lesbians and gay men in Uganda at the hands of the Anglican Church and BAe reveals the violent homophobia with which the UK
Establishment is happy to be associated, in callously exploiting some of the world's most vulnerable people.
"Scholars consistently document these same British corporate and religious interests deliberately wiping-out, long ago, the many timeless African social structures which embraced indigenous homosexual men and women,"
Stewart continues. "Eradicating this longstanding social order, generations ago, set the original groundwork for slavery and colonisation.
"Highlighting for the greater public these noxious goings-on by British institutions, gayrightsuganda.org provides us with a rarely heard African perspective -- and this under the most harsh conditions, of a truly tenuous exile."
Stewart added, "I wholeheartedly wish Kizza Musinguzi the best in struggling through our privatised British asylum system, which once again sees the few reaping their dirty profits, in disproportionately excluding from the UK informed lesbian and gay commentators, like the hugely brave editor of gayrightsuganda.org"
The International Lesbian & Gay Cultural Network was founded at the 1992 Paris World Conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association.
Since 2002, in association with the Paradise Press consortium of UK lesbian and gay authors, the ILGCN has annually awarded the Sappho in Paradise Book Prize.
The Book Prize is awarded to deserving groups or individuals who forward the lesbian or gay written word.
Recipients receive a diploma and a signed, first edition Paradise Press book, which are formally presented to them in person.
Further information on the Sappho in Paradise Book Prize, and on many other ILGCN activities, conferences and awards, can be found through the ILGCN Information Secretariat, at www.ilgcn.tupilak.org
Gay's the Word bookshop, in the heart of London, has been a centre of gay studies, literature and the gay community for over twenty years. Paradise Press members frequently shop there and the press has often held book launches in the store. However, competition from the internet and chain bookstores is threatening the shop's existence. Paradise Press offers Gay's the Word its full support in its efforts to keep open and makes the following statement:
"All of us at Paradise Press, the publishing collective of UK lesbian & gay authors, have been distressed to hear of the dire situation at Gay's the Word. We've been passing the worrisome news around our friends & networks, in hopes that funds enough might yet come in, to keep-up this invaluable national resource.
"As a small, grassroots, community publishing initiative (grown out of the longstanding Gay Authors Workshop) Paradise Press has drawn immense support from the clued-up staff at 66 Marchmont Street, in finding readers for our hugely varied books.
"From queer commandos; disabled lesbians; the new man in Old Steine; through ghostly 'Queer Haunts,' to the 1950s purge -- beyond selling all the cool 'zines, novels, poetry & story anthologies we've published over the years, friendly GTW staff have (so often!) stayed late without pay, to host some wildly successful launch & reading events: bringing swathes of NEW lgbt writers into print. Try getting that from a chain bookshop!"
turns the spotlight on England's shame
"Rid England of this Plague is a terrifying and vivid eye-witness account of the 1950's purge of homosexuals. It is a cautionary tale that should be compulsory reading for judges, police and moralising politicians." is the judgement of Neil McKenna, celebrated author of The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde.
In the early 1950s the Home Secretary, Sir David Maxwell Fyffe, claimed he would 'Rid England of this Plague' - the plague of homosexuality. "Paradoxically," says author Rex Batten, "It was the reaction to the zeal with which the Establishment carried out the Home Secretary's behest that resulted in the setting up of the Wolfenden Committee when the first steps were taken to rid of the plague of Homophobia
That period, now labelled the 50s Purge, is the setting for Rex Batten's novel. It is based on his experiences in coming to terms with the Law, Media and Church when being gay labelled you a 'Pest to Society'. "I wrote it as fiction," Mr Batten explains, "To give me more scope, and a wider perspective, in creating the atmosphere and feeling of that era."
The reaction of a student who had seen that period as almost ancient history says everything. "I knew of the high profile cases that made the national press, but this book brings alive a world in which two ordinary young gay men asked for nothing more that to be allowed to live as a stable gay relationship in the London 'queer' world that has not been previously documented. The arrest in Dorset, on charges of gross indecency, of Tom's first lover, brought the police, the probability of jail, and the appalling realisation that the press coverage could destroy their families. And this within living memory! The interrogation by the police is graphically described, as is the offer of immunity from prosecution if they will turn 'Queen's Evidence', though there is a certain irony in the twist that they did not fit the stereotype queer."
The two young men turn to the Church for consolation and Tom is forced to examine his conscience to decide if he was corrupted when members of the army and navy helped to develop his sexual identity in the latter years of the Second World War. He had to face his Armageddon being groped on the underground coming into Queensway! He lost that particular battle, but it set him on course to win the war.
Alan Keslian, author of Goodmans Hotel comments, "In the days when same sex love was illegal, following his natural desires leads Tom into a frightening and soul destroying brush with the law. Yet many he meets hold on to their principles, believing a better, kinder way must be found."
Rid England of this Plague was this year's award in the International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network's 'Sappho in Paradise' Book Prize, given to those working to advance the lesbian and gay written word; the recipients were the library project of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe. Signed first-edition copies of the book, with a framed diploma, were presented to GALZ co-founder Oliver Philips, during ILGCN's October 'Moonbow' Lesbian and Gay Cultural Festival.
"Zimbabwe is a country where access to information and Freedom of Expression are not guaranteed," said Mr Philips, at the award ceremony. "Since 1994, Lesbian and Gay people have been denied access to all official channels of information, whether it be television, radio or state-controlled media, and our voices have been substituted by a sustained campaign of vilification directed by state agents.
"Since 1995, GALZ has remarked on the flailing situation facing other numerous supposed minorities and perceived enemies of a state in the grip of ZANU-PF. These include physical violence, attacks on racial minorities, a laissez-faire attitude to those living with HIV/AIDS and the determined undermining of those holding a different political opinion - the latter divorcing themselves from a bankrupt African Nationalist Agenda upheld by cracking pillars of repressive legislation.
"As the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, we have been encouraged to find all alternate means possible to counter state-instigated homophobia. The introduction of the Resource Centre with a book and video library and an accompanying positive acquisition policy, including publication of GALZ titles such as 'Sahwira', 'Understanding Human Sexuality and Gender', 'African Homosexualities: A History', and 'Lesbian and Gay Organising in Africa: A Manual'.
"GALZ thanks the ILGCN for belief in a small organization to fulfill the important role of promoting a Human Rights culture in Zimbabwe where vital matters of Gender, Sexual Orientation and Gender Expression are properly understood and appreciated by all."
26 June 2005 Paradise Press and the Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive are co-hosting "Lesbian and Gay Writing, Reading and Publishing - perspectives and opportunities". This event, with presentations, readings and workshop about lesbian and gay writing is being held as part of this year's London Pride Festival at the Hopkins Room, Stratford Library, The Grove, E15 from 2.30 to 4.30. Admission is free.
For more information on this year's festival, check the website.
7 January 2005: Paradise Press is pleased to announce the publication of The Seaman's Mission by Paul Mann, author of the acclaimed novel The Queer Commando (also from Paradise Press). Mann's latest book is a collection of fictional stories around the seafarer's life, with the emphasis on variety and humour.
From a Passengers' Entertainment Officer who doesn't like passengers to killer lion, from a bored ship's surgeon to a chance meeting in Cochin, The Seaman's Mission gives an overview of a world that today has all but disappeared.
"Mann's time at sea didn't go to waste. The short stories crackle with bitchy, salty wit. "The Entertainments Officer" features a camp passengers' entertainments officer who can't stand passengers, and in "Breakfast Cabaret", the tedium of a sea voyage is overcome by the outrageous goading of the Captain by the ship's doctor. It's by turns funny, sexy, moving and unexpected."
"a riot of acerbic wit and authentic characterisation"
"If you're looking for something completely different to read, Big Boy, this may be it. But you've been warned, Sailor."