Minister and leading MPs turn out for gay festival launch

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All three major political parties were represented at the launch of GFest at the Palace of Westminster yesterday.

David Lammy MP, Minister of State at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and patron of the gay arts festival, said that it was historic to be launching it in a building where two decades ago MPs passed Section 28.

He said that as a former Culture minister, he knew the need for specialist festivals, and the vital role of the arts in satirising “those that are puffed up.”

A gay festival was needed in a world where Iran hangs gay people “for being in love,” he added.

Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the arts play a role that legislators cannot – delivering societal change.

He cited the film Brokeback Mountain as a good example of art helping to change hearts and minds and urged GFest to reach out to the heterosexual community.

Lib Dem frontbencher Lynne Featherstone said that “artists are street fighters” and the festival “gives voice to the mute.”

She said that an exhibition in Finsbury Park would bring gay experience face-to-face with the diverse groups that use the park.

“No-one should be a slave to conformity and GFest is helping to remove those shackles.”

Trevor Phillips, the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said the festival would enrich understanding of gay experiences.

He warned that worsening economic conditions may lead to less people being out at work and “that is why the work of artists is so important. It is the narrative that makes it possible for people to change their minds.”

Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of Stonewall, novelist Sarah Waters and Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes also attended the launch event.

The 18-day festival provides a unique platform across London for Queer Arts – principally created by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) artists from diverse backgrounds.

GFest, which is supported by, will be dedicated to creating an acceptance of ethnic and sexual identities through the arts.

The festival will feature short film screenings, performance events and a visual arts exhibition, programmed for November 10th to 28th.

It hopes to become a major established arts event by 2012, when London will host the Olympic Games. Last week Pride London won the right to host World Pride in 2012.

Minister and leading MPs turn out for gay festival launch

L to R – Trevor Phillips, Lynne Featherstone, Jeremy Hunt, Ben Summerskill, David Lammy.