Homocult (Published in Kink 7.99)

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I went to my first Pride in 1993. I didn’t know anything. Whiney, pushy, shallow queens were still exotic and endearing to me; radical lesbian feminists were still worthy of my fear and respect; and alcoholic, ugly, dullard, identikit bar dykes were my ultimate desire. Ah, halcyon days!

My strongest memory of that Pride is of walking to Brockwell Park. Someone had pasted the route from Brixton station with these totally great posters. They were rude, funny, angry and everywhere. Some people had tried to tear them down, I didn’t know why. In my foetal-queer state I hoped the rest of Pride would be like this, boy I was so wrong, but at that stage I was too dumb to care. I remembered the name on the posters: Homocult.

A year or so later Simon found a copy of the Homocult book. By now I was overjoyed to witness lively, thrill-seeking queers shit on their own tired lesbian and gay community. Sometimes I’d see people wearing Homocult t-shirts but the group itself remained a mystery to me. Years later I found out that one of Kay’s pals was in it, I had to know more, and P agreed to talk and be published too!

CC: I wanna know what Homocult was.

P: Or is, probably, I don’t know, it might still be going! It was a group of people with a fascination for amphetamine sulphate and alcohol, who were a bit pissed off with a lot of things and excited about lots of things, like about not wanting to be victims. We thought politics was just so dull, and we wanted to have a laugh and put a message across and do things.

CC: How many were in the group?

P: Originally, I wasn’t part of the original line-up, there were…two?

CC: And was it one of those things where you pretend that there’s many more people involved than there actually are?

P: Of course, it’s a total Situationist kind of thing, but it did actually work! People wrote to us and said “Oh I love you, I love your book, can I photocopy it, can I put it on flyposters, I’m gonna stick it on lampposts round where I live,” and by default it becomes a huge organisation, you don’t know how many people are involved, but there was a core of about six.

CC: And what kind of dates are you talking about? P: The others had been doing bits and bobs for years but the Homocult book was in ’92, so roughly I suppose over a five year span, maybe 1990-the mid 90s. The Europride thing, where everyone got upset about it, was in 1993, that was the height of it really.

CC: What was that?

P: That was when we used this picture of a girl with a swastika on a collection tin. Pride that year was being called Europride and we were taking the rise out of the fact that it sounds very funny. They got very upset and threatened to sue us. Michael Cashman, who came out at that time, and all these other people were saying “Oh! They’re really disturbing!” And lots of people in Manchester who were organising the scene at the time, which was starting to kick off, were distancing themselves from us.

CC: What kinds of things did you do?

P: We did lots of work in Manchester, where we were based, we had a couple of stabs at doing indie clubs before they became fashionable, we did a thing called SCUM and a thing called The Beehive, we did that a couple of times, but we found that in Manchester at the time we were fighting an uphill battle. But it was good, we had a good laugh and I enjoyed it.

We did Gays and Lesbians Support the Miners we wanted to support them because they were all right, you know, just working class people trying to survive. We did this thing at The Hacienda and we had an argument with this guy who wouldn’t let us put up our displays because poverty wasn’t in keeping with the club. So we did this big girly strop, and then I hit him, and then I think I got banned, and Mr X stayed and put the posters up.

We did a lot of flypostering. I remember once, I think we were putting up the ‘You Must Marry’ one along Oxford Road in Manchester and this bloke came past and we ended up chucking the paste at him and having a big fight! Just bad things! We’d often do really mad things!

We did some [bad stuff] with Manchester Police, saying Homocult were responsible, and also with Flesh, which was a club that supported that whole gay career scene. That was what a lot of it was about, feeling alienated and doing something about it.

We were really opposed to that Stonewall thing which was all “we’re just victims” and the only way you can ever seem to escape victimhood by their criteria is by being wealthy, you know “The working class are just victims” and I thought “No, we’re quite happy in our communities; I know my neighbour, I know Ethel next door and I know John upstairs with the kids”. They try and tell you that there’s distance there when a lot of the time there isn’t, people do suffer but a lot of the time there isn’t that distance. And I think I’ve a lot more in common with these people than with some faggot in Sackville Street.

We did some things with Underground magazine, which is now defunct. I wrote some things for that and we put posters in, and then they called us racists. We had this Black Bastard picture which was about having a black boss, I think it was too beyond the pale, but I think a lot of it at the time was about just pushing people’s buttons.

One of the last things that we did with Homocult was a fanzine called Infected which was anti-HIV/AIDS, which is what we were all interested in. My boyfriend died and I got interested in it. That was quite uniting for us and I liked that a lot. I think there is still a real void, people assume that there’s a real consensus on AIDS but actually they’re wrong, people who offer a different view are being silenced.

CC: In general, how did people respond to Homocult?

P: I think people saw us as obstructive, as violent. There’s a western liberal consensus that “well, everything’s allowed, actually, and difference is allowed but only if it fits in with our consensus” which I think is the same as saying that no difference is allowed. Lots of people were like “Wow! This is really scary! It’s like nothing I have ever seen before.” Others said “Ugh, it’s our community and you’re just trying to spoil it.” There was violence on a couple of occasions, with people getting really nasty with us.

On the one hand people liked us because they saw us as artists, “Oh you’re artists, we want you in the club” but then they find out what you’re doing with your art and they don’t want you in! So there’s this love/hate relationship with you all the time.

We’d provoke them, we’d go to this chi-chi bar where they’d invited us and start eating all their buffet, and getting the drinks in, and not playing by their rules, so they don’t like you, and you soon get alienated.

But with wider things, like the council, and certain gay councillors, they just despised us! The Hulme Regeneration thing was just a government quango so they were separate from the council, and they liked us, they helped us to do lots of posters and but in the end they didn’t and that was because of pressure from the council.

CC: At the time how did you feel about criticising your own community?

P: Oh, really good because I hated it! I just hated the lot of it! I think now the difference is that I don’t go on it. But this idea that you’re supposed to have this gay identity, you know, that you’re a minority…it’s like this thing, the nail bomb “bringing minorities together,” well, hey you’re not a minority, you’re a human being, you’ve got humanity in common with everybody else, stop trying to pull yourself apart from other human beings, it’s like “Oh, I like yellow sandals so I’m just going to be in a group for people with yellow sandals!” It’s just…naff isn’t it? I like to shag blokes and that’s as far as it goes for me. I think most of the people in Homocult felt that that we weren’t buying into a lifestyle.

CC: What kind of influence do you think Homocult has had?

P: I think it was really important. John Maybury on Channel 4, he lifted it and didn’t pay us. I think it’s much bigger than that actually, like in advertising and stuff. The imagery and a lot of the language that’s used now, words that weren’t allowed, like “queer” and stuff. I think Homocult were responsible for normalising these words. Five or ten years ago queer was a social no-no.

CC: Bizarrely, I think a lot of mainstream queer businesses use quite a lot of Homocult imagery.

P: Definitely! Of course! Because it’s been around now it’s safe, but at the time it was too new and a bit scary, like “We can’t quantify it, we can’t value it, we don’t know.” When it’s new it looks big. The only thing about pretending it’s a huge organisation is that you get away with it for so long but eventually people will want to see you on the streets! People used to say “Oh, where are the rest of Homocult?” and it was basically three mad speed-freaks!

CC: What don’t or didn’t you like about Homocult?

P: There were a lot of things that were agreed collectively that actually I didn’t agree with sometimes, and we’d have a row about it. People would come up to me and say “You’re in Homocult and you said this…” and that would get iffy because people would start to think that I represented the whole group.

CC: I’ve got one more question, which is kind of about Anti-Gay, about how that’s been commodified as yet another gay identity, and because I think Homocult started off the idea of anti-gay I wondered if you had any comments about it?

P: I think you’re right. I think Anti-Gay has become a philosophy for people, even those in the mainstream of gay culture in London, like Popstarz, who say that they’re not part of the scene when quite clearly the man has tapped completely into the scene! He’s created a channel of his own which is just as hard to escape from as the others.