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Eyes of the World - Fleetwood Mac

People often complain that sometimes "political correctness" goes too far. I think that this is bound to occur where there are put in place a set of unwritten regulations that support a widely held philosophical or political viewpoint by which people are judged as a matter of course. Too often such rules are bought to bare to condemn individuals without consideration for the context in which the supposed offence occurs. The problem with this is that it suppresses reasonable debate on more nuanced understanding of the issues and, especially in these days of digital communication, often polarises views between two extremes. Friends of mine who are teachers at secondary school level tell me that nowadays they can't discuss many of the important issues of the day for fear of complaints and censure, even to the extreme of losing their job.

Back in the Labour borough of Islington, while equal opportunities was a major driving force for the Arts and Entertainments Department, "political correctness" was seldom an issue: we generally agreed with any strictures imposed on us, but sometimes the regulations would take over leaving the brain behind.

As mentioned in previous posts, in the late eighties and early nineties, Ros and I were the Islington Council officers who were representatives on the annual North London Lesbian Strength and Gay Pride Festival, which took place every June, for two to three weeks. The idea was to have events across the whole range of arts, sports and museums, specifically for the lesbian and gay community.

On the first year, I remember Ros saying that it would be great to include Sadler's Wells Theatre - who we funded - in the programme and, looking through their proposed programme, she exclaimed "aha, DV8, we'll ask them if they want to be part of the festival!" DV8 were and still are, although they "took a break" from touring in 2016, not inconveniently as it turns out, one of the most interesting and exciting, not to mention non-conformist, dance companies in the UK. I queried with Ros her conviction that they might be interested in being included as, to my knowledge they were not a company who were exclusively concerned with gay issues, but, undeterred, she reasoned "with a name like DV8 they must be gay!" To my surprise, they agreed to be a part of the programme, thus providing Islington with what Ros saw as a competitive "feather in the cap" over the other North London boroughs.

I then had to contact the guy who was putting the actual, physical programme together, one Andre from the Haringey LAGU (Lesbian and Gay Unit). I sent him the details: DV8 at Sadler's Wells, Friday night and Saturday night and so on, and thought he'd be delighted, but a few days later he rang me. After the normal greetings, the conversation went as follows:

Andre: there's a problem with the DV8 shows, I'm afraid.

Me: Oh dear, why?

Andre: well, the Friday night show clashes with the Lesbian Swim party at Camden baths. Can they move it?

Andre was not an arts administrator otherwise he'd have know that this was a ridiculous suggestion.

Me: No way, Andre, out of the question. Why can't they both be on the same night?

Andre: well, the whole point of the festival is that it is against discrimination against lesbians and gays. That's why it's so long, two weeks plus. If DV8 and the Swim Party are on the same night, then lesbians would be forced to make a choice. If they wanted to go to both, they wouldn't be able to. We'd be discriminating against them.

I thought for a moment.

Me: No problem. Surely Andre, they could go to the Saturday night show?

He agreed they could, and that was the end of the conversation. Five minutes later, he rang back.

Andre: I'm afraid there's a problem with the Saturday. It clashes with the Black Lesbian and Gay Disco Party Night at the Hackney Empire.

I was ready for this:

Me: No problem, anyone who wants to go to both, can go on the Friday.

I was ready for the third call, five minutes later.

Andre: the problem is, if you are a black lesbian, then you wouldn't be able to go to all three. You couldn't go to the swim-in, the party at Hackney Empire and DV8. You'd have to make a choice.

Me: You're right. We'll pull it from the programme.

Ten minutes later he rang again, and said that he'd discussed it with colleagues, and just this once we'd make an exception. In the ensuing meeting leading up to the following year's festival, I argued strongly that lesbian and gay people would prefer to be spoilt for choice, like someone transfixed by the range of goodies on offer in a posh box of chocolates, rather than be presented with "After Eights" night after night. And I'm pleased the committee agreed.

In the interests of equality, it's only fair that we play a track written by the final male third of the second great Fleetwood Mac line-up, Lindsey Buckingham, and of course the then latest in that long line of lead guitarists that started with Peter Green in 1967.

Buckingham's songwriting is a strong contrast to the other two, more poppy, more experimental and - paradoxically - more gutsy, providing the band with that full range of flavours that is so satisfying from every album this line-up produced, each a box of chocolates in itself. This time I chose "Eyes of the World" from their 1982 LP "Mirage".

As with most Mac tracks, it is underpinned by the solid, original engine room at John McVie on bass, and the ever-reliable Mick Fleetwood on drums, who I imagine playing on forever, through line-up after line-up, managing things behind the scenes, into their own Hawaiian sunset. Yup, that's where they live, now. I think they've got an island each.

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