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Message of support
I am really pleased to have been asked to say a few words at tonightís launch, both to talk about this wonderful LGBT Arts Festival and also to highlight the importance of continued engagement between the strands of racial and LGBT equality.
Wise Thoughts, who helped organise this festival are based in Haringey and I have been proud to work with them over the years to highlight these issues. They are fantastic organisation and one of the few who champion and deliver projects for the BAME and LGBT communities.
In my time as Culture Minister I was passionate about increasing the diversity of the voices we showcased in our great arts institutions, I believe we have made significant progress, but we couldnít have done this without the contribution and passion of people like you.
It is through events like this, and the recent launch of the new INIVA building at Rivington Place that we are reminded that equality is indivisible and that art must continue to challenge and tackle the issues of culture and identity. For me it is a fundamental truth that people should be allowed to express their own individuality; not just pigeon holed by one cultural identity, prejudice or definition.
So to be speaking at this event makes me especially proud, because I passionately feel that we in London have a unique opportunity to bring to light the diversity of the global LGBT community and the contribution that its artists are making around the world to discussions about equality, culture and diversity.
G-Fest is about highlighting the often ignored issues of ethnicity and sexuality. I know from many of my gay Black and Asian friends that whatever their career or artistic focus prejudice has sometimes led to a double discrimination from both their own community and the predominantly white arts and gay establishments.
I am excited that this is now changing, and I see this celebration of art and culture as evidence not only of the energy and diversity out there in the creative communities, but also the appetite amongst the wider LGBT and arts going public to listen to these diverse voices.
Todayís artists be they from the UK, Iran, Hong Kong, Europe or America must be part of the wider dialogues we all need to see more of if we are to expose the myths of a clash of civilisations and embrace the diversity of mainstream and underground cultures around the world. It is often only through art that we can provide a mirror to these dilemmas and help resolve these conflicts. These narratives are often little known in their own countries, never mind our own, but I hope here they can inspire people to reach out and think beyond their narrow definitions of gender identity, sexuality and ethnicity.
Alongside this celebration we must not forget that from Ghana to Iran horrific prejudice continues and that many LGBT people around the world are still suffering discrimination. I know from talking to colleagues in the Foreign Office that we are working hard to ensure that LGBT rights are fully on the agenda at the United Nations and other institutions, and that Human Rights abuses including those against LGBT people are regularly raised by our diplomats around the world.
This is not always going to be an easy fight, but I know we are starting to see progress. We know that be it in the 1980s campaigning against Apartheid or now combating HIV/AIDs or supporting pro-democracy campaigns that we must work together. Where regimes seek to restrict freedom it may start with the arts community or gay and lesbian groups; but that the clampdown on trade unions, press and independent political parties is never far behind if we fail to stay united as a Human Rights movement.
I am proud of our progress at home on the age of consent, civil partnerships, goods and services protection, and gender recognition legislation, however, Iím not satisfied, and know we still have more to do. More to tackle homophobic bullying; more to tackle workplace prejudice; and more to tackle hate crime. Yet, I say on all these issues the Government is listening and is committed to taking action.
So finally as a person committed to equality in all its forms I again thank Wise Thoughts and all the other supporters of this festival for organising a show case for these artists and their thought provoking films and exhibitions. The dialogue continues, the campaigning continues and the struggles continue, but I believe we have made great strides and hope this festival with all its creative passion will entertain, provoke and inspire in equal measure.
Member of Parliament for Tottenham