Northampton gives “Kiss Goodbye to Homophobia”

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Northampton’s gay community along with LGBT supporters across the country overcame homophobic threats to hold an anti-homophobia event last weekend, reports on the evening.

At 2.30 am on July 15th 2006, Michael Fardon finished his drink at the Boston Clipper in Northampton and set off home. That was the last time he was seen alive. His body was found one week later just 200yds away from the venue. He had been brutally attacked and murdered and then his body had been dumped in a rubbish container.

Matt Morris, the Licensee of the Boston Clipper, was devastated by this instance of violent vicious homophobia right on his own doorstep. What it brought home to him was that, despite the fact that the Civil Partnership Act sanctioning gay marriages is now on the Statute Books, and various means to promote homosexual equality are also in force, people are still being abused, attacked and even murdered purely because of their sexual orientation.

He decided to go out on a limb and mobilise the gay community, through a massive show of solidarity, into voicing its concerns that the current legislation was in many ways ineffectual and that many gay people still had a very real reason to live in fear.

He contacted a friend, drag artist Jet Black, and talked over his concerns and perceived way forward. Between them the two men conceived the idea of a celebrity concert featuring top gay and straight names on the gay entertainment-circuit which would hopefully stimulate an awareness of the situation facing many gay people all over the country, throw into relief this evil in our midst, and galvanise straight and gay public opinion in the hope that it would result in some kind of general statement or action to help combat this very real cancer in our society.

“Kiss Goodbye to Homophobia” was born.

The high-profile event was organised at the Boston Clipper for Sunday September 17th . Headlining the event was Hannah Jones, along with: the Cheeky Girls, Claudia Petrice, College Boy, Davina Sparkle, Etienne, Jamie Watson, Jet Black, Lizzy Dripp, Nikki French, Phil Lawrence, Pip Morgan, and Polara.

The top-flight show was to have two functions. Firstly it was to celebrate the life of Michael Fardon whose family had been unaware he was gay, so that the gay community could express its condolences and show that the gay ethos was as noble a life-style as any other.

Secondly it was to raise awareness of homophobia which although now illegal, was manifestly still active in society. This, it was hoped, would show how much work was still to be done within society in order to effect a change of attitude so nothing of the kind would ever happen again.

Then on Saturday September 16th the situation was thrown into even more horrific relief when three thugs walked into the Boston Clipper expressly to attack the staff with the presumed intention of scaring them from presenting the celebrity event the following day!

Mr Morris, the Licensee, was punched to the head and his partner, Peter Dean, the Assistant Manager and Licensee was so seriously hurt in the attack that he has been hospitalised with a broken ankle and a leg fractured in three places which is still waiting for the swelling to go down so that corrective surgery can take place.

This made him even more determined to go ahead with the planned show. The problem was not only on his doorstep, it had crossed his threshold and this convinced him even more that something had to be done.

The event started at 8pm when Anjona Roy from the Racial Equality Council gave an impassioned speech about hate crime and the importance of reporting every incident to the police. She then handed over to the Mayor of Northampton, Colin Lill, who also gave a very moving speech which contained a tribute to Michael Fardon as well as introducing the night’s entertainment.

This was acknowledged with the utmost dignity by Her Majesty herself – in the guise of Pip Morgan – whose camp humour got the audience in exactly the right frame of mind for the ensuing entertainment. Jet Black, the compere for the evening, then whipped the audience into a frenzy for a deafening chorus of Kiss Goodbye to Homophobia before delivering his own inimitable set of humour and songs.

Phil Lawrence, from Stars in their Eyes, took to the stage with an excellent song set followed by drag artists Davina Sparkle and Polara each with his own unique brand of humour. This was followed by College Boy, normally known for his highly original strip acts but on this occasion using his magnificent voice to wow the crowd with a set of highly pertinent songs from Broadway Musicals. Then came the highly talented drag performer Etienne to close the first half of the proceedings.

It is difficult to pay enough respect to the Mayor of Northampton who impressed everyone by the way he mingled with the crowd, talking to as many people as he could and entering whole-heartedly into the spirit of the evening. He was ably assisted by his wife the Lady Mayoress who raised £100 herself by taking her chance on the Bucking Bronco ride which had been installed in the garden for the evening!

Perhaps the most moving part of the evening came during the interval when Michael Fardon’s family asked to be able to take to the stage to dance to two songs that had been played at his funeral before which they thanked the Boston Clipper, and the audience assembled there, for this moving tribute to Michael.

The second half of the evening commenced with singer Jamie Watson who performed a highly entertaining set of songs. The Cheeky Girls followed him with their own highly-charged musical act to make way for the exuberant club-performer Claudia Petrice and then Nikki French of Eurovison Song Contest fame.

Lizzy Dripp was the final drag performer of the evening with his hysterically funny take-offs of musical celebrities before Hannah Jones raised the roof with her own style of club performance music and the evening came to a close with the entire cast of performers on stage singing I Am What I Am.

The evening was not only an unqualified success but also a moving example of how the gay community can pull together when something important needs to be said or done. It was a credit to Matt Morris and the people of Northampton, both the gay community and their many straight supporters who had generously helped by sponsoring the evening.

The organisers hope that through this tragedy, and the determination of the licensees, staff and punters of the Boston Clipper, a very firm and irreversible step has been taken to finally “Kiss Goodbye to Homophobia.”