It is often said that some of the best things in life improve with age, and at Polari Literary Salon’s Tenth Birthday Party, we are informed that 10 years is a long time in gay years, making Polari precisely 40 years old!
Polari began their LGBT literary community in November 2007 in the upstairs room of a pub in Soho. They quickly outgrew their original home, and are now based at the Southbank Centre, where they hold literary events every month. Their birthday is part of their Arts Council funded anniversary tour, stopping off at Southbank Centre’s fourth edition of Being a Man Festival, which addresses the challenges of masculine identity in the 21st Century.
The night features an eclectic and talented roster, introduced by Polari, the main man himself, host and curator Paul Burston, resplendent in a top hat, suit, and silver scarf.
First on stage, Carey Wood, has swapped the East Coast of the USA for Wales, but still delivers a series of punchy poems punched out on a typewriter, typically no longer than 5 seconds, in a characteristically raspy, gin soaked New Jersey husk.
Next up, Bisi Alimi is a Nigerian public speaker and gay activist, famous for coming out on Nigerian TV. He talks about racial and sexual identity in the midst of the EU Referendum result, about being gay and African, and avoiding arranged marriages to local village girls back in Nigeria.
Playwright and actor Alexis Gregory reads a verbatim piece on being a young working class gay man navigating the 1980s aids epidemic, that has the audience rapt and emotional, but with plenty of laughs along the way.
Fergus Evans tells a slightly surreal coming of age story about a boy’s relationship with an anthropomorphic bear in Florida that feels peculiarly comforting, like being read a bedtime story.
To finish is Jonathan Harvey, writer for Coronation Street, Beautiful Things, Gimme Gimme Gimme, and many others. He reads an extract from his first book, ‘All She Wants’ a hilarious kitchen sink comedy on working class northern gay life, and the pitfalls of a disappointed, unsympathetic, and fickle family.
Polari has aged gracefully over the years, and with no signs of stopping anytime soon, the London literary scene awaits their 80th birthday in 10 years time! 4/5
Review written by Evan Parker.
Polari: Tenth Birthday Party was shown on Friday 24th November at the Southbank Centre as part of Being A Man Festival. For more information on Being A Man Festival, visit here…