Ahead of the first Queer Rrriot Liverpool Pride event, Shaun Ponsonby talks to poet Mo Thu Lu about the need for an underground alternative to the mainstream Pride event.
Mo Thu Lu is a performance poet.
He has always played around with poetry, in fact it runs through his family, and from the sounds of it he may have taken the art form for granted in his younger days. “I didn’t understand how powerful it could be until I saw the show Def Jam Poetry,” he says. “After that, I fell in love with slam poetry and eventually started performing.”
He will be performing his poetry this Saturday at Queer Rrriot Liverpool Pride, an alternative to the Pride celebrations, which are being headlined by Marc Almond behind St George’s Hall.
Queer Rrriot will be showcasing queer artists from all walks of life, while also celebrating the LGBTQ+ community in a more radical way than the more mainstream Pride would dare. It is to be an inclusive event that celebrates liberation, not assimilation.
The idea behind Queer Rrriot is to pay homage to the fact that the first Pride was a riot, and that the first Liverpool Pride was set up in response to the aftermath of the murder of a young gay man named Michael Causer in 2008.
The event will also be charitable, with profits being donated to the Michael Causer Foundations as well as Liverpool Action For Trans Health.
But aside from the official blurb, there are many in the queer community who feel slightly ostracised by the direction of the official Pride events.
“With the constant move towards the mainstream, the queer community excludes people in the name of acceptance, or at least that’s how it feels,” Mo tells me. “For me personally it seems the more we tried to get accepted by the mainstream media and the general public, the more we give up of our identity. For example, the idea that homosexuality is biological seems to imply that the choice to be with someone of the same gender would be bad. But if you can’t help it, then it’s okay. I shouldn’t have to apologise for who I am.”
Mo is a transgender man, and consequently, has witnessed the pecking order in the queer community first hand; “Representation in Pride tends to be gay, lesbian, then trans in that order. Bisexuals, asexuals, and intersex to name a few get totally left by the wayside. Besides the drive to make it family friendly means that certain relationships that are stigmatised, like polyamory for instance, are pushed out.
“Certain communities are definitely neglected, but I’d also say things like queer refugees, or other less cheery issues are ignored. I can understand why, when it comes to things like Pride you would rather focus on the positives, and I think mostly focusing on that is fine. But you can’t ignore the things that are still happening.”
Perhaps there was a time when it was deemed necessary to mainstream queer culture in order to become more accessible for the masses. After all, change is a lengthy process, and sadly compromises must be made in order to make progress.
Pride will obviously always have its place, and as Mo himself says, there are positives to the movement; “It is important to have a positive celebration of our community, and I do also think that making things accessible to people who don’t normally come into contact with the queer community is important. It makes us real people and harder to ignore our struggles when they do happen.”
However, the overt mainstreaming and narrow perspective now feels like an old fashioned idea, and the team behind Queer Rrriot are taking the first steps in providing a viable alternative. With the recent rise of right wing politics, they wanted to put on a more politically minded and inclusive event that celebrates creativity and diversity of the queer community by showcasing local bands, DJs, poets, performers and artists – something for those of us who aren’t into the commercial gay scene. This isn’t a protest, so much as an attempt to create something new.
There are a number of segments to the day.
In the afternoon, there will be free activities and performances. This is where Mo will be performing his poetry. “The first two poems will be more general but obviously based on my own experience. The last poem will be focused on being trans. I think often trans people are viewed as a separate category from gay, lesbian, or bisexual. But trans people can be any of those as well. So I feel it is important to perform poems based on different aspects of myself.”
Poetry won’t be the only thing on offer. There will be live graffiti display, stalls, drag artists, talks and some extra fun in the form of a Trump piñata. While all this goes on, there will be an eclectic blend of alternative music that you’ll never get to hear on the gay scene, from punk to funk, metal and grunge, a bit of drum ‘n’ bass and a whole lotta queercore.
In the evening, the music starts up. Queen Zee & The Sasstones top the bill, one of Planet Slop’s very favourite bands in the world. They will be joined by Qfolk, who has a voice often compared to Tom Waits, and the incredible Linster Sangster.
From midnight, the DJ’s take to the decks with Aurora Juliet Erskine Da Silva bringing funk, house and electro, before DarkAli adds some jungle to the mix.
In all seriousness, it feels far more exciting than watching Marcus Collins and Atomic Kitten on the main stage of Pride, and Mo obviously agrees; “I think we’re moving in the right direction by having alternative options alongside the main Pride event, but I would also say that maybe making an effort to reach out to communities that are largely forgotten will be important in the future.”
Queer Rrriot Liverpool Pride takes place on Saturday 29th July at Foxy’s Lomax. Daytime events are free, although a donation is welcome.
Music begins at 8pm, and tickets are available here.