Queer self-defense and art workshops for Hackney residents this summer
Learn about the history of art and Queer protest in Hackney and make your own placard, or come along to an LGBTQIA+ self-defence class with the Bender Defenders, where you can get fit and have fun.
This summer, the Council’s Hackney Pride 365 team, is enlisting local Queer activitsts to help teach residents of today about social movements in the past that have helped effect positive change for socitey. Looking at what can be learnt from these movements and used to support social justice needs of the future and today.
The free events are taking place in Haggerston Community Centre, and are being run over three separate days to allow as many people as possible to attend, while also ensuring people are kept Covid-19 safe.
Bender Defender LGBTQIA+ Self-Defense Class
Haggerston Community Centre
Sunday 1 August - 12noon
Saturday 14 August - 12noon
Sunday 22 of August - 12noon
Space is limited sign up online here: https://benderdefenderaugclasses.eventbrite.co.uk
Hackney’s first gay self defence course was set up in Dalston in the 1980s in response to homophobic hate crime. Sadly over 30 years later, these issues of hate crime are still occuring. To ensure people have the skills and are able to feel that bit more confident a group of residents have set up Bender Defenders, running regular fitness and self defence classes for the LGBTQIA+ community in East London. As well as helping people with fitness, the sessions support good mental health. Bender Defenders classes are taught in a light-hearted, fun way and also offer a sense of community.
Bender Defenders is a new street self-defence movement. Across the UK there have been more and more homophobic and transphobic street attacks. I would never encourage anyone to start a fight with someone else: the use of physical violence should be avoided at all costs and it should happen only when extremely necessary. I want our community to become familiar with the law around self defence and when to use ‘reasonable force’. Learning self-defence and doing fitness training as a Queer community is really important. Regularly exercising increases your self-esteem and can reduce stress and anxiety. Probably reading this is gonna make some of you uncomfortable as you’ve heard it and read it a thousand times…but it’s true! Come and try out our classes if you want to. Feeling nervous at the idea of coming is absolutely normal, everyone feels that way the first time they come. The main vibe of the class is “very chilled and friendly”. Rules aren’t many! Show up, have fun and make friends if you want to. Everyone has different fitness levels and experience in the group, this is not supposed to be stressful or a “toxic super macho” space! I look forward to meeting you all.
Community power, resilience, strength, revolution and loving transformation has never been more necessary in a system that doesn't support the most oppressed. That is why we are so grateful for Hackney Pride 365 for catalysing this necessary, exciting and empowering programme for our ever-changing city. Wherever in the world there is tyranny there has always been resistance and so it is a joy to be part of Bender Defenders, Rebel Dykes, ACT UP and our allies as we fight back!
Queer art and protest in Hackney
Haggerston Community Centre
Sunday 1 August - 1:30-3:30pm
Saturday 14 August - 1:30-3:30pm
Sunday 22 of August - 1:30-3:30pm
Space is limited sign up online here: https://queerprotestandart.eventbrite.co.uk
Placards and art are an integral part of protest, from the art of Keith Haring in response to the AIDS pandemic, to the handmade signs of the Gay Liberation Front founding Pride in the UK over 50 years ago. The power and emotion people put into their placards and protest art adds a resonance and powerful charge to these grassroots movements. With bold text and graphics offering to educate and inform the viewer in a short moment of time. The workshop aims to explore this, and look into the history of art in protest, including in Hackney using information from Hackney Museum, as well as showing people how they can prepare their own materials.
Protest brought me to the person I am today; it was my introduction to my culture, my history, and my community as a Queer, Trans person. Having learnt nothing of the Queer community's glorious struggle to gain liberty at school, it was watching an ACT UP documentary at the age of 25 when lightning struck. The power in their chanting voices, and the identity conveyed through their placards brought me home to myself. Today, on trans pride I march with my own placard proudly insisting on my identity in a world still hostile to so much of who I have come to love as my core self. Placards are more than cardboard and marker pens - they're a badge of honour, an unwavering punch of resistance, proudly visible and unashamed. Together in this workshop, we'll dig down to the roots of your/our collective and individual resistance, and let the world know that we are proud!
I came of age in the 80's, I was a young working class Queer teenage punk, squatting in Hackney and Camden town area's. The squatting scene along with my first girlfriend introduced me to 'Marx, socialism, anarchism, feminism and queer activism’ and to be honest I've never really looked back. Becoming involved in direct action against Thatcher's government who at that time was legislating against my actual life, seemed a natural step to take and was an important part in forming my political and queer identity. I have ever since been involved in direct action and politically engaged at various levels in all manner of pushbacks, from protest riots, small sit ins, environmental action groups, chaining myself in trees. to voluntary work and direct action in support LGBTQ asylum seekers. For me being queer is still a political position as much as a personal one.
After the past 15 months of the pandemic, as Pride Month ends, it’s good to see Hackney Pride 365 events restart. As well as being creative, fun, and educational, these events also carry an important message that our rights as a society are hard won, and that grassroots movements have a strong history in Hackney of effecting positive change and winning rights we can so often take for granted. Before the pandemic we had sadly seen a rise in transphobic and homophobic hate crime. I’ve consistently said there is no place for hate in Hackney and we are rightly working through Hackney Nights with venues, as well as our community safety team and the police to respond; but we also we need to learn lessons from these past movements and empower our LGBTQIA+ communities to ensure Hackney’s streets and spaces are safe for everyone.