Happy 5th Birthday to Polari
Today, December 3, is Polari Magazine‘s 5th birthday. Here Polari’s editor writes about how it stepped off the virtual pages this year and into the sensual world.
The 5th year of Polari Magazine was a fast-paced one, with many events happening off the virtual page and in the sensual world. The relationship between an online arts & culture publication, and a real world arts & culture organisation, is one that will animate Polari’s 6th year.
It all got started in January 2013 with Polari ‘s role in establishing the Pride Arts Programme. The newly formed London Community Pride was set up to regenerate London’s Pride celebrations, and one of the board’s members, Wendyl Harris, asked us to help her revive the Pride arts festival of days gone by. Along with Helen Bee, LCP’s volunteer coordinator, we set up the programme of events. We also built the website that made the Programme possible, and it was a cornerstone of the new Pride. Even the Prime Minister, David Cameron, sent his congratulations.
© Dan Hall (Click Images to enlarge)
As part of the Pride celebrations, I decided to write a play. In The Life: A History of Polari was hosted at the St James Theatre in June. The idea was to stage a radio play as a nod to the BBC’s Round the Horne, the 1960s programme on which the characters of Julian and Sandy mocked the censors with their use of the Polari lexicon. Yet long before Julian and Sandy, Polari was only understood by the initiated. It allowed gay men to talk openly about what they thought of the man next to them, what they did last night, and who they did it to, all without being understood by the average person on the street. The play mixed narration, sketches and characters to trace the history of Polari back to the 15th century.
At the same time, Polari’s Arts Editor, Michael Langan, had collaborated with Tate to host a tour of the Tate Britain’s galleries called Queer Britannia. The event was so popular that it was oversubscribed. It was in fact so successful, so well received, that the Tate asked Michael to run the tour as part of the celebration day that opened Tate Britain’s new and renovated spaces on November 23. The tour was packed, and over capacity, with around 400 people.
The artist David Shenton had an exhibition that was featured in the Pride Arts Programme. Polari interviewed David, and off the back of that he started a new series of cartoons to be published in the magazine, ‘Polari Safari’. David has chronicled gay life since the 1970s, and to have him as part of the Polari team is a great honour.
The most difficult and involved project I volunteered in this year was The Green Carnation Prize. 5 judges read a great many books published this year by international LGBT authors. It was an exhausting and rewarding experience. The book that won the prize, Far From The Tree by Andrew Solomon, is one that will change your life.
Polari Magazine has had a whirlwind 5th year, and that’s thanks to the commitment of its contributors, who have kept the content fresh and alive as we diversified into projects that stepped away from its day-to-day running. And so happy 5th birthday to Polari and a year that has been, as E.M. Forster wrote of Beethoven’s 5th in Howards End, defined by “the gusts of splendour, the heroism, the youth, the magnificence of life and of death, amidst vast roarings of superhuman joy”.