Named after Brian Kennedy, the LGBT activist and journalist who was key in setting up the first gay choir in the UK and Ireland, this award recognises the contribution members of our Proud Voices choirs make to our choral community and is given out at the Hand in Hand festivals. There are three levels of award: bronze for 10 years, silver for 20 years and gold for 30 years in a UK and/or Irish LGBT choir.About Brian Kennedy | 2015 Award Winners
At the inaugural awards at Hand in Hand Brighton 2015, Rose Collis gave this speech to introduce Brian Kennedy.
'It’s an immense honour and pleasure to be asked to present these inaugural Brian Kennedy Awards. And it’s entirely fitting that this ceremony is taking place in Brighton. Brian moved to Brighton in 1977 to continue his studies at Sussex University. He quickly became a leading light of the Gaysoc – which I should point out was not an item of designer pink underwear.
As well as setting up social events, Brian took part in a number of campaigns against anti-gay violence, biased local press coverage and, in particular, police harassment. In his diary, he wrote, ‘Heard the police chief is very anti-gay and is out to “drive the queers out of Brighton”. One day gays may wake up in Brighton and bite back.’ Well, we did! And not just in Brighton!
In 1983, Brian joined the co-operatively run London listings magazine City Limits, as first editor of its lesbian and gay section Out in the City. For two years, on one day’s pay a week, he made that section one of the most vital and popular sections of the magazine, while also ensuring that lesbian and gay issues were covered throughout the rest of the magazine.
During those first two years, Brian had consistently pushed for the section to have a lesbian co-editor. As he joked, he could be many things to many people, but being a lesbian wasn’t one of them. In 1985, the magazine finally found enough money to pay for that co-editor – and, to my immense surprise, I was appointed. For the next four years, Brian and I worked tirelessly with meagre resources and unrelenting pressure to produce a section that we believed and knew was so important to our community.
At that time, Out in the City was the only section of the mainstream or alternative media guaranteed to give equal coverage to lesbian culture and politics. And that in itself is a credit to Brian’s foresight and understanding of the diverse and specific needs of different parts of the community.
But then Brian was a man of great vision: he envisaged what the community could be and devoted his energies and talents to bringing about positive changes that would lay foundations for the future. He helped found the London Lesbian & Gay Centre; he was secretary of the Gay Business Association. And, crucially, Brian was one of the first journalists in Europe to write about AIDS, and to campaign for government action in combatting the disease.
It was an ironic tragedy that such action came too late to save Brian.
But, of course, we have one of Brian’s greatest legacies here today. The Pink Singers, which he founded with Mark Bunyan, was the UK’s first gay choir and is now the UK’s largest LGBT choir. I can scarcely believe that it’s nearly 25 years since we lost Brian. But he is here with us today. This festival is part of his vision, and part of his legacy. We haven’t lost his voice: for it can be heard every time one of our choirs sing of equality, of justice, of love and of pride.'