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Birmingham tower block focus of LGBT film

By Amanda Caroline  •  September 26, 2022  •  30
Sean BurnsIMAGE SOURCE,SEAN BURNS
Image caption,
Sean Burns made the film on 16mm cameras

A film about two tower blocks associated with the LGBT community is to be shown this weekend during Birmingham's 25th Pride festival.

Clydesdale and Cleveland Towers, known as Dorothy Towers, is home to members of the city's gay community.

Filmmaker Sean Burns has interviewed current and past residents who share their stories and discuss the impact of HIV in the 80s and 90s.

Dorothy Towers will be screened in Digbeth from Friday until Sunday.

Mr Burns, from Birmingham, said he was interested in researching the city's history from a queer perspective as it was not often celebrated.

"I have been going out in Birmingham since I was a teenager so it's something I've been aware of for a long time and I kind of knew that this was a place that particularly gay men lived," he said.

"One of the first things that appealed to me was that the name sounds like a fabulous drag queen and I couldn't believe that this name that was so camp existed still.

"They're also known as Fairy Towers and Pearly Gates."

One of the two tower blocksIMAGE SOURCE,SEAN BURNS
Image caption,
Clydesdale and Cleveland tower blocks are collectively known as Dorothy Towers

He said he wanted his film to link the past and the present and look at the fashion and culture of the era and the legacy of HIV.

"I think it's the responsibility of my generation to look into that shadow and those people that were lost," he added.

"This is a project that's about material memory... the experience of people and how it become embedded in the fabric of the building and the material of the city."

Jose Arroyo, who lives there and appears in the film, said he was pleased the film was about Birmingham, which has a rich LGBTQ+ history.

"These are our lives, they take place here and we have [as rich] a history as anywhere, at least in relation to ourselves."

He said although he had been living in the tower block for 22 years, he had not met other people that appeared in the film.

"This being a centre of the gay community in Birmingham I think is part of the pleasure of living here and worth historicising and documenting."

The Pride festival runs across the city on Saturday and Sunday and the film can be viewed at Vivid Projects in Digbeth.

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