Archive for January, 2013

Jack Wolf on Literary Trans-gressors

January 28, 2013

jack wolf

When? Saturday 23 February
Where? M-Shed, Bristol, Princes Wharf, Bristol BS1 4RN
What time? 2.30 pm

Jack Wolf explores characters and writers who were (probably or possibly) transgender and discuss his research into real life 18th/19thC women who chose to live as men. He will also discuss the challenge of writing a trans character in a historical novel whose experiences are as real as possible yet still make sense to modern readers. Jack’s novel, The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones, has just been published by Chatto & Windus to much acclaim and was recently praised on Radio 4’s Open Book..

Free but donations to OutStories Bristol project welcome. Tickets via or on the door


Michael Dillon: The Man Who Invented Transsexuals

January 17, 2013

Michael Dillon


When? Saturday, 16 February
Where?  M-Shed, Bristol, Princes Wharf, Bristol BS1 4RN
What time? 2.30pm

Michael Dillon was the first person in the world to undergo medical gender transition from female to male. Oxford educated, he trained as a doctor and played a key role developing the modern medical view of transsexuals. He also assisted with the UK’s first male-to-female gender surgery. Cheryl Morgan explains how the modern history of trans people began here in Bristol, and how two World Wars helped make this gender revolution possible.

Free but donations to OutStories Bristol project welcome. Tickets via on the door

Diana Souhami on Lesbian Lives: Bristol 2 February

January 16, 2013


When? Fri 8 February
Where? Bristol Central Library, College Green, Bristol BS1 5TL, 0117 903 7200
What time? 7 pm

Diana Souhami’s biographies explore the most influential and intriguing of 20thC lesbian (and gay lives). The subjects of her unflinching eye include Radclyffe Hall, Garbo, Cecil Beaton, Gluck, queens of the Parisian demimonde, Natalie Barney and Romaine Brookes, and Violet Trefusis, who had a passionate, eccentric affair with Vita Sackville-West. She has also written about the nurse Edith Cavell, and the story of her stay on ‘Robinson Crusoe’ island.  Her latest book, Murder at Wrotham Hill, examines the case of a murder that took place in Kent shortly after WWII. All her books from Gluck to Coconut Chaos are being rereleased by Quercus in February, in paperback and Kindle formats.

More information on Diana Souhami’s website.

Book via eventbrite, at the library or on the door.

Neil Bartlett at M-Shed Bristol on 2 February

January 14, 2013




What? A talk by Neil Bartlett

Where? M-Shed, Bristol

When?  2.30pm, 2 February 2013

A writer, director and performer whose work is steeped in gay men’s histories, Neil Bartlett’s first book, Who Was That Man? about Oscar Wilde was published in 1988. He has also written several novels, including Mr Clive and Mr Page (which weaves together incidents from the lives of Gordon Selfridge and Rock Hudson) and numerous plays, including A Vision of Love Revealed In Sleep, about gay Jewish East End artist Simeon Solomon.

Anyone who is interested in LGBT literature and history must come to this event.

Donations to OutStories Bristol gratefully received. Book via or turn up on the day.

There is Nothing Like A Dane

January 4, 2013

This article was originally published in the December 2012 edition of Diva magazine

It’s BAFTA 2012 and the Specialist Factual winner has just been announced. Its producer is flustered after being kissed by the award’s presenter. “And breathe…” she says, fanning herself. “I’ve got a bit of a girlcrush on Sofie,” she splutters. “And relax…” She’s just been handed the award by Sofie Gråbøl, aka Deputy Superintendent Sarah Lund in The Killing, which returned to BBC4 for a third series mid-November. Lund has that effect on women.

Lund (never, ever just “Sarah”) is lynchpin of the Danish drama, which, despite niche viewing figures, attracts countless obsessive followers who are fixated on the monomaniacal, unsmiling detective. Tickets for November’s Q&A with Gråbøl at the BFI sold out in under an hour and at the Scandinavia Show at Earl’s Court in October, people queued just to look at jumpers like those worn by her in the show.

Numerous women have a man-size girlcrush on her: Jennifer Saunders shoehorned a 50-second Lund cameo into AbFab’s Christmas special. The Duchess of Cornwall engineered three separate meetings with Gråbøl during a four-day state visit to Denmark. She has set social media’s hearts collectively a-thud: “HUGE girlcrush! STOP BEING SO DAMN GORGEOUS!”; “I am 99% hetero, but I believe that I am somewhat in love”; “I just started watching it with hubby and we’re addicted. I think she’s gorgeous!” There’s also a loyal lesbian following: Emma Kennedy has written The Killing Handbook; Stella Duffy mentioned being “a little in love with” with Lund. Val McDermid – who’s created several iconic crimefighters herself – is a fan: “She’s up there in the pantheon, she’s definitely well on the way to being a classic of the genre,” she says.

What does Lund have, then, that Scott or Bailey lack? After all, these are tough ’tecs too, with difficult jobs and complex lives. According to Radio Times’ Alison Graham (“I certainly have a slight crush on her”), Lund is magnetic because she is unlike any woman on television: “The convention of tough, female heroines is that they may be very clever at what they do but they’ve always got to have chaotic personal lives and they always have to go home and fall apart. Which she never did. She’s every woman who doesn’t drop to bits.”

Loving Lund means putting in hard work: plots are bleak, particularly series one, dealing with the ripple effect of the murder of a teenage girl. Episodes are long, subtitled, with little action and sparse dialogue. But stick with it and you’ll be rewarded by a character so intense she makes Frankie Alan seem like Amy Childs. (Incidentally, Gråbøl was playing characters who have sex in morgues when Frankie was still playing with Action Men.) 

It’s brooding intensity that lies at the core of her appeal. Tamsin, 30, says: “She’s so moody and inscrutable and that’s incredibly appealing.” 32-year-old Camilla agrees: “She’s complex. You never quite have her figured out, which makes her totally compelling.” For Jayne, 28, unpindownability is the key to her allure: “I read an interview in which [Gråbøl] said she made a conscious decision to ‘play her like a man’ in terms of her emotional detachment and non-reaction. That brings an interesting – even verging on gender-play – element to Lund, which is never a bad thing.” Lund is ostensibly heterosexual (she had a husband; there was a boyfriend; although relationships, not even with her own son, aren’t really her thing) but the way she talks, moves, dresses and compartmentalises her life, all resonate with lesbians. As McDermid says:That sort of difference, that being apart, speaks to the lesbian experience because for a lot of lesbians, that’s part of their early experience, being the outsider. I’m not alone, probably in seeing aspects of my own experience in Lund.”

McDermid also admires the fact that she’s “someone who’s clearly a ‘no shit’ figure”. She can stop planes, swagger into cellars or deserted abattoirs without hesitating – meaning she’s invariably shot at and knocked about the head with blunt instruments. McDermid says “she takes hold of a situation without a second thought, without a backward glance,” and, indeed, all the women I spoke found her fearlessness intoxicating. “She’s so gutsy and brave,” says Camilla, while for Jayne:  “She’s so competent and capable, she wouldn’t take any shit – and she looks like she could administer throw-down!”

So is Lund a superhero in chink-free armour? For Graham, she probably is: “We want her to be vulnerable because that’s what we want from women. But I’m not sure she is.” Yet for 23-year-old Bethany, she’s this extraordinary mix of incredibly stern and tough and no-nonsense while also being a bit of a mess.” Lund is played with such subtle strokes that any vulnerability is only ever whispered and it’s up to us to infer weakness from her Nicotinelle addiction, or softness from her sweater, which Bethany says ishot, because it’s sort of ridiculous. She’s so stern and unfrivolous that it’s cute she wears a semi-goofy jumper.” For McDermid the jumper is intrinsic to Lund’s lesbian appeal: “The jumpers [are] very lesbian.  You know, in the winter, your big thick jumper, because you’re going to go out and chop logs – or at least look like you’re chopping logs.”  Whichever way you look at it, the now iconic knitwear is etched in the national consciousness, appearing in everything from Vogue to Primark. If you’re currently sporting a Nordic-patterned anything, then be certain the hand of Lund is behind it.

A stony-faced cop in an adorable snowflake jumper is never going to be easy to put in a box so, while for McDermid “she’s on the side of the angels,” for Jayne “Lund epitomises the ultimate anti-heroine.” Watching the programme, you sense she may be concerned less with right vs wrong and more with always being in the right, and that she’s not a million miles from Patricia Highsmith’s Thomas Ripley. That character, also rather androgynous, has a steely determination for having his own way and –like Lund – woe betide anyone who gets in the way. In fact, Gråbøl herself recently said in a Danish interview:  “I’ve always felt […] she’s more associated with the perpetrator than the victim.”

We may find out more in series 3, which promises to focus on her private life, filling in gaps from her past: let’s just hope it doesn’t colour in all the blanks. What’s certain is that this series is the last. So what next for Lund? Everyone I spoke to want her to find happiness – they also agreed that this could only come through work. “If she gets all lovey-dovey then all the things that make Lund who she is would be made a mockery of,” says Jayne. Graham agrees we’ll never see Lund in The Great Danish Bake Off: “She’d let us all down if she moved to a cottage with Bengt [her boyfriend from series 1] and baked rye bread,”  while for Tamsin, “Lund would never settle for happily ever after.” McDermid believes “finding love and happiness would be terrible for her! It would undermine everything we know about her.”

So does that leave only one thing? Camilla says “If she gets killed off I’ll be devastated.” Of course, Lund being Lund, she could go out in a Butch-Cassidy-and-the-Sundance Kid-style blaze of glory, leaving us dangling on a string just wondering if that really is the end or if, just maybe…?

If you aren’t already addicted to Lund, this is your last chance to tune in. Trust me: you’ll never hold a flashlight the same way again.