Polari turns 4 today. It’s about to turn yet another corner, writes the editor, and reinvent its mission to explore the LGBT subculture.
Polari turns 4 today. It’s been a year since we changed the format of the magazine and now we’re about to change the some of the things that it does so that we can better realise its aims and objectives.
The idea behind Polari has always been to explore and understand the LGBT subculture. That’s also about understanding LGBT history, and how that history informs the way we live now. The mainstream LGBT media is fairly ahistorical for the most of the time. I am not saying that it has to be concerned with heritage. But someone has to be.
I think it’s still true, even in the age of social media, that journalism is the first draft of history. No one is sure who said it first, but like all quotes that sound Smart Alec it’s attributed to Oscar Wilde. It’s highly improbable that Wilde was the first to say it, but he may have been the first to record it.
Anyway, since the invention of the internet this has changed, but not as much as you might think. There’s always a canon in history, and for the most part it’s the job of the academic to work out what the canon is. There are hundreds of people on the internet writing about the way we live now in a manner that the mainstream press isn’t. The problem is that unless someone records this, or makes sense of it, it can be lost. The British Library has started to wrestle with this problem, and it now archives websites of cultural importance. Polari was approached earlier this year and is in the process being archived.
Academics, too, are keeping track of LGBT subculture and history, but the problem is that not many people read academic books. Nor do they want to. And Queer Theory is all too often about taking a simple idea and making sure no-one outside of academia can understand it. The daily news websites move so fast in the rush to be first that there is little or no analysis in the stories, whereas the magazine has the time to take the long view. But when it comes to heritage you still you have academics on one side, and the cheerleaders for Kylie, Dr Who and naked torsos on the other.
The reason we started Polari was to address what there is, and what there can be, in between. That’s why we’ve always said that it’s about life, not lifestyles. It’s not a commercial magazine, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t have a commercial appeal. We also wanted to create a platform for new writers and contributors so that its readers can also have an active role in how their heritage is understood and conserved.
We are proud to announce that in this coming year we’ll be taking that idea further. For the last 4 years, Polari has been run as a voluntary community project built from love and a lot of hard work. We are now a Community Interest Company. A C.I.C. lies somewherebetween a limited company and a charity but is designed to serve a specific community demographic. This status will allow us to take the work we have begun online out into the real world. We will start running projects next year that are all about understanding and conserving LGBT heritage. It’s an exciting development in the life of Polari and that is what we will be focusing on in our 5th year.
I want to round off with a remarkable quote from Alvin Toffler, who defined something he called “future shock” to describe the experience of many in a technology-led world that is fast changing. And he came up with this idea in the late 1960s. He said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”. It’s that process of redefinition that defines the internet age. What we have to do is to make sure that a sense of the past, and how that informs the present, is not lost in the process.