Charlie Kiss: activist

12 Mar

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  Charlie Kiss is active in Unison and the Green Party but started campaigning years ago – setting up a youth CND* group whilst at school. This led to trips to Greenham Common peace camp*, scene of big protests against nuclear missiles during the 1980s, as well as two periods in prison, including Holloway. Charlie lived at Greenham for a year and a half before moving back to London aged 18 and starting to work as a printer. After transitioning from female to male, 17 years later he changed career and currently works in local government housing repairs. Having been homeless, Charlie is passionate about fighting for housing and reversing the worsening inequalities of wealth and privilege. Q&A with Nicola Baird

Charlie Kiss at the Olympic women’s bike race. My last name is Hungarian. I always think I must have cycling in my blood- partly because having a Colombian mother (there are always lots of Colombians on the Tour de France) and partly because my great great grandfather emigrated to England from Hungary and his son set up a bicycle shop in Chiswick.

Charlie Kiss at the Olympic women’s bike race. My last name is Hungarian. I always think I must have cycling in my blood- partly because having a Colombian mother (there are always lots of Colombians on the Tour de France) and partly because my great great grandfather emigrated to England from Hungary and his son set up a bicycle shop in Chiswick. “I love the freedom of cycling and would do more day trips if I had the time.”

Q: What was your early life like?
I was born in Paddington to a Colombian mother and English father, but I moved around a lot when I was young. I was brought up in London, Devon, Somerset and Yorkshire due to my family splitting up. I went to a comprehensive school in York for most of secondary school but I spent time in London often, with my dad and I always knew I’d return.

Q: How did you catch up on your education?
I obtained a place at the London College of Printing (now the University of the Arts London College of Communication), and a grant, so studied printing and business studies. I then worked in print production management and was also a director in a worker’s print co-operative for more than six years. Later I studied post graduate economics at Birkbeck College and also for an MA in International Relations at Middlesex University, all by evening class.

Charlie Kiss (far right) at a lesbian and gay protest march in the late ‘80s. Photo credit 'Paul Mattsson'. SPELLING? I left home at 16 and before getting involved with the anti-nuclear protest at Greenham Common, I immersed myself in the lesbian scene in London (long before I transitioned to male obviously).

Charlie Kiss (far right) at a lesbian and gay protest march in the late ‘80s.  “I left home at 16 and before getting involved with the anti-nuclear protest at Greenham Common, I immersed myself in the lesbian scene in London, staying with friends in North Holloway (long before I transitioned to male obviously).” Photo: Paul Mattsson.

Q: How well do you know Islington?
Very well. I spent a lot of my 20s and 30s going to bars and clubs in Islington and visiting friends here, so it feels very much like home. I live off Holloway Road now and I go to either The Lamb, The White Swan or the Two Brewers for a drink. Apart from the cars, I quite like Holloway Road – there’s a good mixture of shops and lots of cafes to choose from. I generally like greasy spoons such as the Hope Workers Cafe, 111 Holloway Road,  or the Rendezvous Cafe in Highbury Barn.

I used to live in a council flat but now I’m in a housing association flat. I think it’s always worth getting involved, so whereas I was once on the Tenants & Residents Association committee, now I am on the Newlon Housing Association scrutiny committee where we monitor contractors’ performance.

One of the few places lesbians could meet was in the small basement of a pub called the Carved Red Lion on Essex Road.

In the 1980s one of the few places lesbians could meet was in the small basement of a pub called the Carved Red Lion on Essex Road. It’s now the Winchester.

Q: What was the lesbian scene like in Islington in the 1980s?
One of the few places lesbians could meet was in the small basement of a pub called the Carved Red Lion on Essex Road. The sign is still there at the top of the building (it’s now the Winchester). I recall there was even a non-smoking night on a Thursday – quite advanced at the time!

Later a club called Rackets started (named as a women’s sports club to reduce suspicion) and eventually moved to the Pied Bull (now the Halifax next to M&S) on Liverpool Road. I visited both often. There was also the very popular bar, the Fallen Angel on Graham Street. I was once sitting there when a brick smashed through the window – that’s the reason why windows of lesbian and gay establishments were usually boarded up in those days.

I regularly visited the feminist bookshop Sisterwrite, which was at 190 Upper Street – for books and to meet people. In those pre-internet days the notice board was also full of interesting adverts for flat shares and information on various groups. I remain a firm believer in feminism.

Q What inspires you about politics?
I am involved in the Green Party as much as I am because they are the only party that have the most policies I believe in, like a firm commitment to reject nuclear weapons, for reducing inequality, for doing something about climate change and for listening to evidence based science and importantly, (I have been in another political party so I can compare), the Green Party has very good democratic structures.

Charlie Kiss will be standing as a Green Party candidate in the Highbury East ward for the Islington council elections in May 2014

Twitter @charliekiss

Words*

CND – Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, http://www.cnduk.org/ is at 162 Holloway Road, N7.

Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp – in 1982, 30,000 women held hands around the six mile perimeter of the Greenham Common base camp in protest against US cruise missiles being put there. There were countless non-violent direct actions in the following years. See more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenham_Common_Women’s_Peace_Camp

Hope Workers Cafe, 111 Holloway Road, London N7. Tel: 020 7607 4741.

Rendezvous Cafe, 16 Highbury Park, London N5 2AB. Tel: 020 7226 1604

Over to you

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z list of posts, or the A-Z of jobs to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. 

If you’d like to feature on this blog, or make a suggestion about anyone who grew up, lives or works in Islington please let me know, via nicolabaird.green@gmail.com. Thank you. 

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right), @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

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