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Looking Back over 2020

Despite 2020 being one of the most challenging years for quite some time…from a personal perspective, there is much of which I can rightly be proud.

The year began brilliantly with my first ever trip to Cuba. For many years I longed to visit this Caribbean island… and I was not disappointed. Of course, in the time available (3 weeks) it was only possible to explore parts of historic Havana, the port of Cienfuegos, picturesque Trinidad, and the furthest point east… Camagüey, before having to head back through Santa Clara, the site of Fidel Castro’s decisive Revolution victory, a peacefully quiet stay at Los Remedios and a final few days to enjoy the pristine beaches of Varadero. My trip back to Havana was by Viazul, an economical form of tourist transport with which I had become familiar along with taxis compartidos (shared taxis which could be even cheaper). Apart from spending the last night in a five star hotel, the rest of the time I stayed in people’s homes. It makes for an exciting adventure getting to know the country and its people as well as providing an excellent opportunity to converse in Spanish and become accustomed to local dialects.

Old Sugar Plantation near Trinidad Cuba

Allsorts of Love

Before coronavirus restrictions came into force, in February I gave a keynote speech at the first ever NHS North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare Trust LGBT Conference entitled ‘Allsorts of Love’ (after the sweets – liquorice allsorts). This was closely followed by a Terrence Higgins Trust ‘HIV Live Talk: What do we know about HIV and ageing? from George House Trust in Manchester. Clive Blowes who organised, filled in for a missing speaker and chaired the session has since sadly died after a short illness. Clive was an enthusiastic, committed HIV activist, he founded the Before 1996 Group for long-term HIV survivors. He is greatly missed.

North Midlands LGBT Older People’s Group

Working at funding bids for the group has been a rewarding experience. Perhaps I would feel differently if the bids had not been successful…but they were! As a consequence there’s a heap more work for me to do. But it’s not all hard graft….more of a double edged sword…because I reap the benefits of regular online communication and by taking part in creative activities like practical crafts, dance and singing. There is great joy in making something of which you can be proud. Whilst my bookmaking might not have been the best in the workshop, I am proud of the notebook I created. (see below)

Notebook started at November Bookmaking Workshop and finished afterwards

Inky Cloak Inside Out Digital Drama Club

Meeting and working with this talented group of people has been one of the highlights of the year. I discovered the group in September. In fact the it had been running since April 2020. Basically, it’s a weekly digital drama group to help older LGBTQ+ people stay connected and keep creative in the midst of Covid-19.

The group has evolved over the course of 2020. We have played improvisation games. We have devised short scenes on the fly. And helped participants shape monologues about some compelling aspects of their lives. Some of these monologues were put together in a live show on Zoom to a sold out performance on Thursday 10 December. Inevitably, there were technical issues…but nonetheless, our individual pieces had a terrific impact and moreover, we didn’t want the show to be a just one-night wonder. Consequently, we have made clean recordings of our monologues which should be available soon. Watch this space!

North Staffs & District Organ Society (NSDOS)

This year I have sorely missed the organ proms at the Victoria Hall and the outings to organs of interest by NSDOS. Fortunately before restrictions kicked in, we were able to celebrate the Society’s 60th Anniversary with a splendid lunch at the Borough Arms Newcastle. We had one more organ prom and a trip to Derby before the first lockdown came into effect.

Remarkably, when restrictions were relaxed over summer, I was able to organize rehearsals and oversee the Members’ Annual Concert at Holy Trinity Church, Hartshill. It helps that I am now the organist and have a set of keys for the church. After a few last minute cancellations, we ended up with five performers which, in the circumstances, is quite an achievement. Of course everyone had to wear masks and follow a console cleaning protocol advised by Jonathan from Henry Groves & Son, Organ Builders of Nottingham…who did such an amazing job with the rebuilding of the organ following severe water damage.

Plans for concerts in January and February of 2021 have had to be postponed. Hopefully, once the nation is completely vaccinated, we might be able to meet up once again.

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