Why and how we could use some of the main stage “down time”, in between entertainments, to build community connections.
At some point an idea came to me, and I thought I’d write it up here: partly in case I get to do it, in which case this might help to explain… and partly in case I don’t get to do it, and someone else wants to run with the idea :-)
At most gigs – Pride stages included – there’s usually some changeover time in between performers before the next act is ready to start. At Prides, often there’ll be an MC doing some talking to fill in the gap.
A main stage “more than filler” item I remember was at Leicester Pride one time in the run-up to an election: they invited the local Parliamentary candidates up on stage, and each made a little speech. I really liked having that woven into Pride, not least because it must have encouraged the candidates to think about their LGBT potential-constituents.
On the other hand, sometimes I’ve heard something from the main stage that I actively dislike:
Dodgy jokes, e.g. sexist.2
Making unfriendly-ish fun of someone in the audience.3
“Are there any lesbians here?”
Crowd goes ”Yeeeeaaaaaahhhh!”
“Are there any gay people here?”
Even more ”Yeeeeaaaaaahhhh!”
“Are there any… straight people here?”
A few people go ”Yeeeeaaaaaahhhh!”
Something missing perchance? ;-) 4
But mostly the in-between-acts content is neither off-key nor particularly interesting… just banter off the top of the MC’s head, or else recorded music like happens at lots of “ordinary” gigs.
And then I think to myself: this is not the only possible use for this valuable time!
Here’s a crowd of mostly-local, mostly-LGBT people. Around the area are lots of LGBT groups, which probably not all those people know about. Why not use the opportunity to catalyse some coming-together?
In other words, I’m thinking we could fill the gaps between main stage acts by giving the crowd little bursts of information about local community groups and projects, similar to a kind of radio show.
If someone from a group was up for being interviewed, there could be a tiny interview. Or someone could come up and just make an announcement themself about their group or project.
Or if no-one was available from the group, or they felt too shy to come up on stage, or if they had reasons not to be as publicly out as that… then the MC could just read out a little description, including some way to get in touch.
Too boring? For most people, probably not more so than the idle banter option. But especially interesting to the people who are hearing for the first time about a local group they might want to join. And heartening for people who don’t often see “people like them” reflected on the main stage.
Too complicated? Well, it does complicate things slightly on the day: you have to pick interludes the right size so as not to push the schedule late, and you have to allow for the fact that some parts of setting up (i.e. line checking / soundchecking) are on the noisy side for having announcements made over them.
What also needs management is letting people know they have that opportunity. I’d envisage a combination of (a) planning beforehand via the web, and (b) on the day, occasional announcements explaining whom to find at the back of the stage if you want to use the opportunity.
It’s been done already? – If it has, I’d love to hear how it went, & what worked & what didn’t work.
Thoughts / improvements? Feel free to tell me what I’ve missed :-)
1. Single Bass & activism: I don’t relate to those as two entirely separate things: SB has an activism strand to it, both in the song content and simply as queer/bi visibility of a kind. But that’s another story for another day.
The first time I was called “greedy” it was by a drag queen at the Michigan Pride Festival. She wasn’t talking to me directly. She was calling out audience members in the unapologetic, hilarious, and crass way only a drag queen can, asking one attendee if she was a lesbian. The woman said, “No, I’m bi.” The drag queen responded, “Oh, you’re GREEEDY.” Everyone laughed, myself included. But I also left thinking, “So that’s how it is.”
As to sexism, here’s a good thread on gay men joking about women:
Misogyny is part of our society, and young boys are taught its values in relation to women. Some of those boys grow up to be gay men.
3. Unfriendly-ish fun: Not from Pride but from a gay club around 1996, I remember a painful-to-watch episode of body-shaming from the MC, aimed at a young man who was up on stage as part of a Mr Gay UK event, who was thin rather than the MC’s ideal of muscular. That one was a lot worse than “unfriendly-ish”.
Part of the dynamic is simply that existing prejudices and stereotypes are likely to come out when people are trying to be funny. (The aforementioned example from Emily D comes under this heading too.)
4. Something missing: And the answer is of course… any recognition of the bi [update: or trans!*] people there. Bi erasure is “a thing”; it’s common in both mainstream culture and lesbian/gay spaces. I found some fascinating stuff recently about the dynamics of it (inc ideas on the seemingly-odd phenomenon of why lesbian & gay people are so ready to align with mainstream culture in this respect). Might write more about that some time soon.
[* though, thinking about it a bit more: that also brings up the whole question of: even at Pride, do people want to shout out what their identity is? You can go to Pride without being 100% out. Plus, some trans people relate to their trans history more as history than as "current identity". So there are subtler ways in which that audience-participation attempt could've been unwelcoming for some people in the audience, or made it less of a safe space.]