May 16, 2012

IconEvent review: Transpose, Literary Edition

Last Saturday (12 May 2012), around fifty queers and allies from around the south-east crowded into a small London bookshop-cafe to listen to trans and trans-friendly artists read poetry, sing songs and tell stories, and to take part in an auction to help London’s queer institution Roz Kaveney promote her new book in the States.

Organiser and compere CN Lester seemed on top form, with the experience behind them of last year’s two successful Transpose events. Knowing many of the attendees by name, they gave the evening the atmosphere of a cheerful house party full of good friends, while also balancing a demeanour of organised, efficient professionalism. Performers sat all around the room when not onstage and chatted with the audience while up there, breaking down performer-audience barriers and contributing to the intimacy of the event. This was very much something collaborative, created by and for our community.

Performances varied from slam poetry to epic piano pieces. I especially enjoyed Maki Yamazaki’s acoustic filk on wheelchair accessibility, while Hel Gurney’s fairytale exploring identity, relationships and the tension between pleasing one’s partner while staying true to oneself set off knowing, empathetic nods all around the room. Lyman Gamberton and Elaine O’Neill offered up evocative, beautifully spoken poetry, and Roz Kaveney finished the set by reading an extract from the fantasy novel that sparked the event.

After a break to explore the shop’s collection of books and their excellent coffee, an auction to fund raise for the book tour ensued. It was wonderful to see the unusual and creative things on offer – items included hand-made bow ties and collars, cross-stitch themed on request and a screen print by Fox of My Trans Summer. Two of the poets who had performed earlier offered up personalised poems, and there were chances to experience an afternoon learning make-up techniques, to take singing lessons, or simply to enjoy a coffee date with Kaveney herself. After running the fast-paced and noisy auction, and occasionally calling up attendees as auctioneers so that they could bid, Lester took to the stage to finish the evening with some of their soaring, now-familiar songs.

It was wonderful to attend a queer event with such a strong focus on performances by trans and trans-friendly people, and to be reminded that art created by and for our community is varied and valuable. With hints from Lester of more Transpose coming later this year, I’ll very much look forward to the next installment.

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Ludi Valentine


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