PinkNews.co.uk speaks to London scene legend Gary Henshaw about why he is pushing for a permanent London AIDS memorial in the capital.
The London AIDS memorial group was founded on December 1st 2009 by Gary Henshaw and Swarmite Ananda. Its aim is to provide a permanent AIDS memorial where people can gather to remember the ones who ‘succumbed, dying bravely, defiantly and with no knowledge of the battle ahead.’
What is the motivation behind this project?
Losing so many friends to AIDS and having no place to remember them.
Swarmite Ananda and myself have created a Facebook group and see ourselves as “ball rollers” who can build up enough interest to see the idea becoming a reality.
We think that so many people have forgotten about those who have died of AIDS in the rush to see HIV as a manageable disease; the concept of which has become debatable.
How has HIV/AIDS affected you personally?
AIDS and HIV have had a devastating effect on my Life.
During the Nineties people I knew started dying and I was not used to young people dying.
In 2001 my closest friend Albert Died, it was a terrible experience and only a couple of years later my other best friend Brendan died too.
It is on their Birthdays, the anniversary of their deaths and on difficult days that people need a place to go. For me a memorial would symbolise their continued presence in my life.
Where are you hoping to get the funding from?
We are not funded by anyone yet as the project is in its infancy but the response has been amazing and we have had offers from a wide range of people who want to offer their skills to raise the money.
Organisations, individuals already involved in HIV/AIDS projects and club promoters have all put their names forward to help.
Where would you like to see the memorial located?
It will be up to the new start-up forum group to begin the process of considering locations. Our discussion board on Facebook is full of ideas and locations but we are fully aware that it depends a lot on funding and London borough co-operation.
The most common feedback so far though is that it should be in a central location and that it should be situated somewhere quiet enough for people to pay there respects peacefully.
What do you think the memorial should look like?
All we know is that Brighton has a statue, Manchester has a beacon of Light and London has nothing. We aim to create something unique to represent London’s multi-cultural energy and street style that attracts visitors from all over the world.
Manchester ran a design competition while Brighton commissioned a sculptor to create a wonderful monument.
I think it makes sense for London to hold a design competition, when you consider the talents that reside here, and the amount of people affected by HIV/AIDS.
How long do you think it will take for the project to happen?
We have aimed for London World Pride 2012 to have something in place even if it is an exhibition of where and what it would be.
Has there ever been any other similar group before in London’s history?
To our knowledge, no one has created such a project in London which is why we got over 1,500 members in less than a week on our Facebook group page. People kept saying – why hasn’t this been done before?
Why do you think the project has been given so much support from the gay community?
So many people from London’s gay community, especially those who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, have had HIV/AIDS affect them and there loved ones.
On world AIDS day we held a fundraising event at Ku Bar for a great charity called ‘The Food Chain‘ and our customers helped to raise over five thousand pounds in one night, I think that is shows how much support the gay community is prepared to give to the fight
We are making huge advances in HIV/AIDS treatment but that fact remains that it still casts a large shadow over the LGBT community and I think that the gay community has consistently shown their determination to stand together on this issue.
If you would like to join the London AIDS memorial group click here.
Gary Henshaw is the creator and owner of the Ku Bar chain of gay bars.