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Becky Tebbett

Becky Tebbett, born 1980


The origins of Artpride 10
Setting up Artpride/Artpride 2006 - 20
Artpride 2007 30
Prejudice and discrimination in the arts 40
Views on Birminhgham Pride 50
The Artpride group 60
Birmingham Girls
Coming out – initial awareness 90
Coming out to self, friends and parents 100
First time on the gay scene 110
Image and identity 120 150
Nightingale 130 140 240
Ethnic mix 160
Getting information 170
Birmingham Girls 180
Fox 190
Angels 200
DV8 210 220 230
Homophobia 250 260 270
Police 260 270
Changing laws 270 280 290 300
Civil Partnerships 290
Section 28 280

10 The origins of ArtPride

Becky is an artist. She explained the background to ArtPride. "Artpride is a group of women that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgendered anything like that come together because there's are a lot of creative people, creative women out there that do things ... but they haven't really got anywhere to display their work or any way of way coming together networking, meeting each other, talking to each other but they're all sort of doing it very individually. Artpride was meant to be a way of bringing everyone together but also exhibiting everyone's work on a regular basis as well."

"It was originally born out of me running away to (Skala) Eressos (on Lesbos) and living on the beach for about seven weeks and having a bit of an Epiphany when I was there and deciding that I had to do something with my life and thinking I would either do Artpride or open a community gay-like bookshop, or a gay cafe. I chose Artpride."

20 Artpride 2006
“I was 25 when I started Artpride, in November 2005 I got together with a group of women who had had a similar idea. We decided that we wanted to do something that would coincide with the next Birmingham Pride, in 2006. We had a meeting every month and then about two months before then we had a meeting every week or so. We didn't know what we were doing; we just had to pull something off. We had to be as cheeky as possible and get as much as we could for free as we didn't have any funding; bringing the women together."

“The first Artpride happened, Artpride 2006, during Birmingham Pride, May Bank Holiday weekend. We put a small exhibition over about three venues or so. We had a stall and we got lots of things for free because we were really cheeky. It's all grown from there. We now have a management committee and we're constitutionalised."

30 Artpride 2007
"We tried applying for some money with the Arts Council but they didn't really want to know; but we got £5000 pounds National Lottery funding in 2007 to put on an exhibition in a more organised and proper way with like a nice catalogue and flyers and everything; and we've got a website. We wanted to do something for women who have never kind of had this opportunity before.”

40 Prejudice and Discrimination in the Arts
"Being gay and being a woman you kind of have a double whammy of prejudice to go against when you're being an artist. There are a lot of straight bloke artists out there who get their work exhibited. Being a woman and being gay you have two barriers to go across so I wanted something specifically for that. And it's grown and hopefully it will continue to grow."

50 Views on Birmingham Pride

“The first Pride I went to (2003) was more chilled and slightly studentish which was quite nice, but by 2005 we felt that the community aspect of Birmingham Pride was getting to be non-existent. That's not something that any of us in the group wanted. People who had been out a lot longer remembered a time when the community was a lot more the focus of Birmingham Pride. A lot of people felt it was getting more commercial; too commercial in fact. A lot said we want to bring out the community a bit more."

60 The Artpride group
Becky described the diversity of the Artpride group members which includes people who identify as lesbian, gay, queer, transgendered, disabled, registered disabled, persons with mental illnesses and people from ethnic minorities (Afro Caribbean). The age range is from 27 up to 65 years old.

The Artpride group now has a management committee made up of 5 people, a chairperson (Becky), treasurer, publicity/Marketing, website moderator and a secretary, and a membership of around 30 people. The group is advertised through the Birmingham Girls e-mail group. “There are some women that come and go, sort of fluctuate. Some people aren’t even creative but just want to be part of the network and kept in the loop. On a good day there’s about ten people there, on a bad day there’s about four. We (originally) had the meetings at The Fox, but the place we meet now is ABplus, where we don’t have to pay any money and we can make our own tea and coffee. The thing we were always up against is money”.

90 Coming Out – initial awareness
Becky was living in Worcester, when she came out in 2002, aged 23. “I kind of had lots of thoughts about that sort of thing way before then. I decided I knew when I was about thirteen or fourteen. I always said to myself that I was bisexual but in a way that was a way of not making the whole gay thing too strong. It was a way of saying that I was gay in a bit a way without saying the whole thing sort of to soften the blow without going the whole way, a half-way house kind of thing. I kind of suppressed it and it wasn’t until I was 23 that I said ‘Enough is enough, I can’t do it anymore, no, I’m sorry.’

100 Coming out to friends and herself
“I went to a gay night at a local club in Worcester that was on a Tuesday on a weird day of the month. I ended up kind of screaming and running home. It was all very dramatic. I was going along and I was kind of questioning. I was walking home with a couple of gay guys I’d met in the club and they said ’Why are you going to a gay night ‘cos you’re obviously not gay? You left your boyfriend at home’. At first I was defensive, and I was saying, ‘Yeah I am, don’t talk to me like that, I am’ and it was sinking into my head what I was saying. I was thinking to myself, ‘Bloody hell, I am’. I was like ‘Actually yeah, I am. Oh my God, I am, I really am. Wow!’. It was this big realisation like an explosion in my head. I was running home and I was crying, really emotional. Everything just made sense. My head just felt like it completely exploded. Before I ran home I went to my friend this gay guy’s house I was shouting up in the street trying to throw stones at his window going ‘Wake up, wake up I’m gay! I’m gay! He shouted out of the windows ‘Piss off, shut up, you’re going to wake up all the neighbours. Go home and tell your boyfriend.’ I was in tears when I got home. Complete relief, total release, really weird.

"I had to come out to my parents. I came out to my parents about a week later. That was in 2002."

110 Coming to the Birmingham Gay Scene for the first time
I only knew about it (the Birmingham scene) because there were a couple of guys who used to come up to the scene really often from Worcester and I was friends with them and they said ‘Hey do you want to come up with us?’”

“To come from Worcester to Birmingham I thought I was in like in London or somewhere. Oh my God there’s all these pubs and bars, and all these people out in the evening. The amount of people, I was just amazed. Because I’d never been anywhere … that many gay people in one place. I didn’t even know that there were that many gay people in the world let alone in Birmingham. I just felt really really completely star struck by it all. ‘Oh my God, all these people. What are they going to think of me?’. We went to the Nightingale Club and I got drunk and danced with women. They’ve got groovy lights. ‘I can dance all night and get pissed and no-one’s going to tell me off’. My head was full. I was just wanted to laugh and jump around and just be completely stupid all the time. I was completely awestruck with everything”. Becky later met her first girlfriend in The Gale.

120 Image
When she first went on the gay scene, Becky recalls thinking “‘Am I wearing the right thing? What do gay women wear? What kind of underwear am I meant to wear? What kind of haircut am I meant to have? How should I have my hair? Should I have it tied back? Should I put gel in it? Am I meant to wear make up? Am I not meant to wear make up? Are they going to fancy me? How am I going to get anyone to kiss me? Are they going to think I’m straight? Am I meant to be a certain way?’ You think all these things when you’re just coming out then you realise after a time that it doesn’t matter. I was so paranoid about everything. Fitting in and whether you’re going to look good to other people. ‘Oh God, everyone’s going to look at you when you walk through that door’.”

130 Experience of The Nightingale 2005

By November/December 2005 I was coming to Birmingham every Saturday night. I used to leave Worcester on the night and try to get into The Gale (Nightingale) before 10p.m. when it was free. I would spend all night in The Gale then get the first bus home back to Worcester again. I’d be in The Gale from 11 o clock in the evening till about 5 or 6 in the morning and just dance as much as possible and make a complete and utter fool of myself on stage. I used to come on my own. I just didn’t care. I’m going to be myself and I don’t care who knows about it. I was a bit out loud and proud. I’d had all my teenage years stored up did it all in my early twenties instead.”

140 Comparison of the Nightingale from 2002 to 2007
When Becky first went to the Nightingale in 2002 she recalls “Everybody was just kind of like really happy. It has changed a bit. People seem to be more imagey these days than they were. People didn’t give a shit basically about what they looked like much so long as you were having a laugh then you were sexy and it didn’t matter too much that you had the designer top on or if you looked really good in those jeans or not. Lots of alternative people not just kind of sceney people all the time. More individuals that’s why I didn’t mind going on my own. Then, there weren’t so many straight people there. You wouldn’t see lads in there. Not so many groups of people. Now I see lots of groups of people going out now, like hen nights even gay hen nights. I’ve seen straight people going in the Nightingale more. I’ve seen fag hags, women who go along in their little heels as they see gay men as some kind of fashion accessory”.

150 Lesbian appearance and identity 2002 - 2007
Becky talks about lesbians’ behaviour in the nightingale: “Once they’d had a drink they were quite full on. They would kind of grab you and snog you”. Becky talks about changes in lesbian identity “There were a few lesbians. They didn’t wear heels or skirts, definitely not, more like a nice shirt and a pair of jeans, their hairstyles were short or funky. There was a kind of weird nobility in having short hair and looking kind of dykey”. Becky suggests that they were thinking: ‘Get out of here and you just look straight. In the general public you don’t even look gay whereas I do and I have to put with all of that so I’ve got more status’. Women whose hair wasn’t short or funky must be straight or Bi; if you had longer hair it was much harder to pull, much harder. But it’s getting fairly acceptable that you can have longer hair now.

160 Ethnic mix

Becky says that on the scene in 2002, there were more white people then, it wasn’t so properly mixed. “I think there’s a more equal mix of people out now than there was a few years ago”.

170 Getting information about what is going on
When she first came out, Becky found it hard to get information. “It was hard. You’d pick up a Midlands Zone whenever you could see it as that was your one access to be able to get any information. You used to get them from the entrance to Angels or Clone Zone.

180 Social networking through Birmingham Girls e-mail group
Becky talked about Birmingham Girls, an e-mail network for the lesbian / queer/ bisexual women’s community in Birmingham, set up in 2004. "It's the social network of lesbians in Birmingham and it's not sceney, not like for finding someone ‘who I can sleep with now?’. The one way that lesbians can get in touch with one another and talk to one another is through Birmingham Girls. You just have to send out an email about something and someone is bound to get back to you about your particular interest. A lot of things wouldn't be there if it wasn't for Birmingham Girls. It is a bit kind of invisible. Because it's on the internet and because it's e-mail it can be hard for new people coming out to find out about it. It helps that it's in the Community Section of the Midlands Zone and things like that. I didn't know about it straight away. I found out about it by talking to people and e-mailing people. I don't think they get any funding they're all volunteers.”

Becky reckons they should get funding for posters - “I'm sure if they did their membership would just go through the roof. I think there's about 3 or 4 hundred. It doesn't come across as being a really sceney thing. But what you've got to think is that those hundreds of women are people who are not visible in any other way. They're not really sceney.”

"It's a bit weird. People think that they're not that many gay women or lesbians in Birmingham. But there are but not all of them are that sceney. They can be invisible but that doesn’t mean that they don‘t exist, but most people think that they don’t exist. If you take something like Birmingham Girls you realise that they do exist."

190 The Fox Bar (Lower Essex Street)
“The Fox is the premier lesbian venue in Birmingham. I think it was their ten year anniversary this year but that's from Andy the manager. It’s kind of a secret venue because it’s hidden from the main Hurst Street.”

200 Angels
“Angels is a bar on Hurst Street. “It kind of burnt down (I couldn’t believe it) then built up again”. Becky feels that the old Angels, pre-rennovation was much more comfortable. “When I first came out (2002/4) it was a lot better than it is now. It had a couple of pool tables that weren’t the brand spanking new tables. The balls weren’t perfect. Not perfect walls. Not flat screen TVs. The tables didn’t have little cards on them. The sofas were just chilled out sofas. You didn’t want that. You were more interested in cheaper beer than anything else. It had an atmosphere of easygoingness about it. A lot of students and ex-students went there and just people who wanted to chill on a Saturday. Somewhere where you could just wear a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. You didn’t have to dress up. You didn’t have to worry what other people are going to look at you. Groups of people, just mates, friends, just wanted a game of pool and a pint. Probably younger 18 -30, rather than any other age group. I felt really comfortable in there and I was 25. It was a good mix of people 50/50 men and women. At certain times of the day you would get more guys or more women. Women are more into the kind of afternoony playing pool and having a pint. Towards the evening you would see more guys.

Since they’ve redecorated, Becky doesn’t like the new effect “They didn’t have colours on the bar like they do have now. It didn’t have flashing lights. I don’t care about flashing lights on a bar to be honest. They put this weird frosted thing on the windows. They put that on like a modesty type thing. You could see all the way through the bar. It was really light and airy. It was nice. It was different to everywhere else, which is what you want really. You don’t want somewhere that’s the same as everywhere else. It was good looking at people walking past, to get to Route and The Gale and DV8 and The Fox so people have to go past there. All the women have to go past to get to The Fox so you get to look at them”.

“Angels has gone for a higher class thing now and I don’t think that that’s really that good. I think people wanted more of a chilled slightly studenty feel place to go and there’s nowhere like that really to go on Hurst Street. It’s all going high-class which is nice, you want that sometimes, but not all of the time. You want somewhere that’s relaxed where you don’t have to sit nicely with your legs crossed because you think everyone’s looking at you which you do feel in a lot of the poncy places there are now”.

210 DV8 in the mid 2000s
Becky says “DV8 was even more studenty. It was a more chilled out, studenty version of The Gale (Nightingale). The Gale has a more ‘Euro-poppy’ commercial kind of look to and feel to it. It was really obviously that they were trying to be really spangly and sparkly. DV8 didn’t try to do that. They are more alternative. This is a room. This is alcohol. We’re going to do what we want to do. Just really alternative. It bothered even less whether it was painted a bright spanking colour or not. There was a bar as soon as you go in on the right hand side. There were some steps up to a drinking area and a viewing bit where you could see the dance floor. You could check people out from the top bit. You couldn’t tell if you were being looked at.”

“Then they had the main big room which was like a school hall, almost which was the main dancing room where you spent most of your time in there. They had a little room around the back. The main room was like a big square with old carpet on the sides and a dance floor in the middle. It was so dark in there that you couldn’t really see that much. It was always packed as well. “

They always use to sell some really strange drinks like some Alco-pops like lime or blue flavour or raspberry. They didn’t have like The Gale these semi-naked guys giving out freeze pops or lolly pops which used to be really cool at The Gale.”

“DV8 was a lot more alternative although they probably played a lot of the same music they took a lot more risks with their music whereas The Nightingale had lots of different floors DV8 were just going to play this one kind of music in one big room but definitely more alternative, more weird stuff, more retro stuff. More alternative people went there. You might even see a Goth in there. People used to dress more whacky. People would never wear a smart shirt to DV8, it’s more like jeans and a nice shirt. Not smart probably because they thought it was going to get wrecked. Cause the carpet could be a bit sticky in places. DV8 was more ‘anything goes’ so there was probably a bigger mix of people than went to The Gale.

“I remember there being mostly white people in The Gale and mostly boys. There used to be big groups of lads in the chilled out bit of The Gale looking down on everybody else - those kind of white, middle-class people. DV8 was more ‘anyone can come in here’”.

220 Twiggy
Becky describes ‘Twiggy’. “Twiggy, the strangely dressed, quite often in heels kind of welcomer to DV8 club. Twiggy would talk to people in the queue, would chat to people as they came in, have jokes with people, just have a laugh really, kind of be something completely different. You’d never get that in any other club. He wore clothes ‘like a weird version of a Muppet, slightly bondagey, kind of camp but really twisted camp like dance stuff. Something that you would wear on the stage but if you were doing a performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and it was all kind of a bit fluorescent and bright with lots of feather boas”.

230 Bar staff in DV8
Becky says the bar staff in DV8 “were really nice; always really busy. They never used to have enough bar staff in there so they were serving people really speedily. You used to have to wait ages for a drink. The people on the door were always really nice as well.

240 Door staff at the Gale
“There used to be this lovely guy at The Gale who used to have a chat with you, ask if you were OK and say ‘Hi, are you alright?’ He was always ‘Hi, how are you, how’s it going? What you up to?’ He was really sweet, really nice. He was basically the person who took your money.

250 Homophobic experience at McDonalds Cherry St New Year’s Eve 2004
“I had come up to Birmingham with my girlfriend. We were in McDonalds in Cherry Street right in the centre of Birmingham, the one near the cathedral. It was New Year's Eve 2004 and we were all completely in the spirit of it, in a jovial mood, and we were being a bit obvious that we were girlfriends, saying ‘Oh sweetie’ and kissing and cuddling and being affectionate with one another, saying 'I love you'. There were four or five black guys, about 16, 17, waiting in the queue in front of us and they obviously noticed that we were lesbian. They kind of took the piss out of us and we completely ignored them. These guys were calling me 'dirty lezza' 'disgusting' and really horrible things. They were being pretty nasty, but they ended up going away, thank God! We were still waiting for our McNuggets to be cooked five minutes later, and I was standing by the front desk when one of them ran back in and punched me in the head a couple of times. I fell unconscious on the front desk of McDonalds; I was out for about ten or twenty seconds, I can't remember. The manager didn't even close the store or anything. My girlfriend was freaking out. I had to ask the manager to call the police, but the Police didn't come even though we called them. We waited half an hour, an hour. Well I thought ‘I'm not letting this ruin our New Year's Eve’, I've been looking forward to this for how long, I was so determined. It was terrible”.

260 Homophobic Incident - New Street Station 2005

Becky describes a further homophobic incident. "At Birmingham Pride, May Bank Holiday 2005, a load of Asian kids about fourteen, fifteen, sixteen again gave us loads of abuse outside New Street station. I was being all lovey dovey with my girlfriend. My mistake. They said 'Oh my God, Oh my God, you're real lesbians. Bloody hell. Go on, are you gonna snog her? Horny? You're dirty disgusting. You should be killed.' Their tone was nasty. There was a whole load of them which made it worse, all round us in a circle. It took a policeman coming over and rescuing us and telling them to go away for it to stop. We talked to him afterwards and he said 'This has been happening all weekend because people come to Birmingham for the Pride weekend and it's alright when it's in the Gay Village but stuff does happen’. He told us a guy had been completely knocked unconscious in New Street station”.

270 Changing law and the police response
There wasn’t much we could do in 2005 because that law, the one about inciting homophobic hatred, hadn't come through. “Even though it's modern times and we've got rules and laws. People aren't getting murdered but still there's lots of harassment happening now.” Becky continues to be the victim of homophobic abuse and harassment. “We've had to go to the police. This girl's just been arrested in Birmingham near where I live because I'm getting homophobic harassment off her. I've found the police a lot more helpful. The police felt empowered by the laws and everything and because of that they feel like they can do more. Then they take you more seriously. They are pretty much dictated to by the laws that there are and the things that they can do and it doesn't really matter if they want to help you if they can't help you because of the laws and the way they are then they can't do anything about it that's why they couldn't do anything about it years ago”.

280 Laws changing for Lesbian & Gay People - 54.00 -
Becky is pleased with recent changes in the law. "I think it's brilliant; it's all for the better. People can live kind of more the way that they are these days. I do think that gay people should be able to get married. I think Civil Partnerships are a half-way house, o keep the peace. I don't think it's fair. I think it's a bloody good thing from where we were but I think that we've still got room for improvement.”

290 Section 28
Becky is pleased that Section 28 (clause 28) has been repealed because she’s thinking of becoming a teacher. “I wouldn't be even thinking about being a teacher if it wasn't for Section 28 being abolished. It was something I had to deal with when I was at school in Worcester. I had a big argument with my Deputy Head at the time. Even though I was 16 I was like 'Why haven't we got an official thing on lesbians on homophobia and stuff?’ and his response was ‘Section 28 says we can't,' - so I was waiting for that one to go.”

300 Employment Legislation
Since the introduction of new legislation protecting LGB people from discrimination in employment, Becky says "I feel safer at work. I’ve been sacked because of being gay. It's kind of like a sly thing but it's obvious that you don't like me because I'm gay. I feel so much more protected. I can actually have the confidence to say things and to do things, go for things. Whereas it would be in the back of my mind what if…..I feel like I'm protected now”.