‘Police were raiding gay bars wearing gloves and masks’: What it was like to live through the Aids crisis in London | The Independent

Four decades after the Aids epidemic, Russell T Davies’ Channel 4 drama It’s a Sin has moved viewers and received critical acclaim. Christobel Hastings meets those who lived through the crisis in London and asks how realistic the portrayal is.

Forty years ago, reports of a mysterious new illness swept through the gay community. What started as a handful of cases in the US soon spiralled into a worldwide epidemic and, by the end of the 1980s, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Aids) had claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. But decades later, stories exploring the impact on the British gay community have largely gone untold.

It was inevitable, then, that Russell T Davies would spark conversations with his powerful new drama, It’s a Sin. The show follows the lives of three young gay men, Ritchie Tozer (Olly Alexander), Roscoe Babatunde (Omari Douglas) and Colin Morris-Jones (Callum Scott Howells) who move to London in 1981. Along with Ritchie’s university best friend Jill (Lydia West), the group converges in a dilapidated flatshare and set out to explore everything the city has to offer: friendships, house parties, and plenty of wild sex. But as the chosen family embrace their newfound freedom, tragedy looms on the horizon.

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Opening Doors London offers friendship to the most vulnerable and isolated in the community by way of a weekly visit from a volunteer.

Queers Built This is a project about queer inventiveness and DIY culture then, now, and tomorrow.

It seems somewhat counterintuitive that a membership organization called Opening Doors London would be thriving in the middle of a pandemic. Based in central London, the charity typically does exactly what its name suggests, hosting 45 different groups and activities for LGBTQ people over age 50 each month, from film nights and creative writing workshops, to community gardening days and coffee mornings. Perhaps the most vital of all its social offerings, though, is a befriending service that gives companionship to the most vulnerable and isolated in the community by way of a weekly visit from a volunteer.

Given that a recent Stonewall report found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people over 55 are more likely to be single and live alone, the COVID-19 outbreak has left older LGBTQ people at an even greater risk of loneliness than their peers. By the time social distancing was enforced in the U.K. on March 24, however, Opening Doors had a creative solution to the suspension of its face-to-face services: a free telefriending service. The newly launched helpline quickly began offering around 470 people on the charity’s postal list a weekly phone call with a volunteer, giving increasingly isolated members a chance to chat with someone familiar.

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Every year, as summer beckons, Pride month arrives in a burst of colour. Around the world, rainbow flags fly high and revellers turn their faces proudly towards the sky.

The multicoloured flag has united the LGBTQ community for over 40 years, and though it remains a universal symbol of pride, liberation didn’t always come in vibrant technicolor.

In fact lavender — a subtle hue that shifts between light pinkish purples, and gray and blueish tones — has had, despite its whimsical nature, its own historical significance in representing resistance and power.

The making of a colour trend

Like many aspects of queer culture, it’s not surprising that lavender’s unique colour symbolism often skirts under the radar, especially when it comes to mainstream society.

In Western culture it started life as a colour of desire, thanks to the lyric genius of 7th century BC poet Sappho, whose papyrus fragments told of her erotic predilections for younger women with “violet tiaras.” Fast forward a few centuries, and in the 1920s, violets were still drawing together members of the lesbian community, who gifted the delicate flowers as an expression of sapphic interest.

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