Homotopia is deeply disappointed to be dissolving our partnership with Arriva.
We have been working together with Heart of Glass on a community arts project, which includes the designs of LGBTQIA artists on the exterior of buses, with a focus on bringing positive messages to the people of St Helens. While Arriva has offered allyship to the LGBTQIA community in the past, their promotion of far-right preacher Franklin Graham has forced us to question what this allyship means.
Our concern is focused, not merely on the publication of the adverts, but the response by Arriva to our worries and fears for what impact this might have on the safety of the LGBTQIA community of the city-region. What you put in the public realm matters, this is why we believe that art in public spaces can change hearts, minds and raise visibility. Arriva’s response has been an answer that seems to be copied and pasted, that doesn’t make us feel our concerns are being heard but that we are a PR nuisance.
Franklin Graham continuously speaks against the rights of LGBTQIA people and is even quoted as applauding Putin for “protecting Russian young people against homosexual propaganda”.
Hate has no place in our city. By giving a platform to Franklin Graham, Arriva is part of the profile raising of an individual whose message poses a real danger to LGBTQIA people, as well as to Muslims and other marginalised communities.
We would welcome dialogue with Arriva and would consider continuing our work with them if an apology was issued and a renewed commitment offered to the LGBTQIA community. We do not feel Arriva has heard us. Allyship does not mean ticking a box or changing a social media icon during June, it means standing up for rights, actively listening to marginalised voices and working together to create a better society for everyone.
Due to the advanced stage of some of this project, Heart of Glass/Homotopia artwork will appear on Arriva buses over the next couple of months. We are respecting the wishes of the artists and communities involved in its development and will therefore see out this part of the project. However, we are now actively seeking new partners for the later stages of this exciting project.