Rainbow Aphorism Walking Tours
With Huw Lemmey, Paul Flynn, Rebel Dykes, Milo Bettocchi, Theo Gordon and Catwalk4Power.


This series of walking tours invited artists, writers, activists and academics to reflect on the work of David McDiarmid. Taking Rainbow Aphorisms as a starting point, the tours traversed Clapham and wider South London, stopping at key sites of interest and taking a closer look at different aspects of gay culture as well as the impact and legacy of the AIDS crisis, exploring subjects ranging from pop music’s reaction to the AIDS crisis, to the relationship between homosexuality and espionage.

Read more about David McDiarmid and Rainbow Aphorisms

  1. Writer Paul Flynn explored British pop music’s reaction to the AIDS crisis. The witty, often ironic messages found in McDiarmid’s Rainbow Aphorisms borrow from popular culture and comment on society’s reaction to the AIDS epidemic. Inspired by McDiarmid’s quips, Flynn discussed the pop music and culture that defined a generation. Responses included discussions of Bronski Beat, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Boy George, Neneh Cherry, FreddieMercury and Pet Shop Boys.

    Flynn also interrogated the cataloguing of desire and danger in pop at a moment when they collided with extraordinary cultural impact ‘at the moment when the counterculture took control of the mainstream’.


    This walk began at 78 Railton Road, SE24, the site of the former South London Gay Community Centre, before exploring Brixton and finishing at Studio Voltaire in Clapham.

    About the contributor

    Paul Flynn a journalist and author of Good As You: 30 Years of Gay Britain. He began writing at City Life magazine in Manchester and is currently the Senior Contributing Editor at Love and a columnist for Attitude and Grazia. He has previously been a contributing editor and writer at i-D, Pop, Dazed, Fantastic Man, The Gentlewoman and GQ Style. He has written for the Guardian, the Observer, the Sunday Express and the Sunday Times newspapers.

  2. Writer Huw Lemmey explored the complex relationship between homosexuality and espionage in the British imagination – from the Cambridge Five and the Vassall Scandal to London Spy, a BBC drama based on the mysterious death of GCHQ employee Gareth Wyn Williams. This walk took place across sites in South London that relate to historical and fictional stories of spying, from the 1930’s to the present day.


    The walk started outside the Houses of Parliament, made its way past MI5, through Pimlico and Vauxhall, and finally past the US Embassy before it finished at Studio Voltaire in Clapham.

    About the contributor

    Huw Lemmey is a writer and author based in Barcelona. He has written for the Guardian, New Humanist, Icon and Architectural Review, amongst many others. Chubz: The Demonization of my Working Arse, his first book, was published 2015 by Montez Press.

  3. Writer, artist and academic Theo Gordon and Catwalk4Power member Charity, led a tour through the queer history of Clapham and Brixton, paying special attention to activism and the AIDS crisis. The tour explored art made in the United States between 1987 and 1996 which addressed the socio–political crisis that was the AIDS epidemic, with a particular focus on the invisibility of women in discourses surrounding HIV and AIDS.


    This tour started at Studio Voltaire, explored Brixton and Clapham before finishing at the Two Brewers.

    About the contributors

    Theo Gordon is an independent writer, artist and academic working in London. He gained his PhD from The Courtauld Institute of Art in 2018, this focused on art of the AIDS crisis the UK and USA in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

    Catwalk4Power is a community-building initiative, led by Positively UK Women and Act Up London Women with a focus on how HIV/AIDS impacts on women’s lives. The activism generated by this community group raises public awareness of HIV stigma, inequality and power through the framework of fashion. The project carries a strong political message while recognising the resilience and strength of women living with HIV.

  4. For this, the last in our series of walking tours, Fisch from the London Rebel Dykes and researcher Milo Bettocchi, formerly of the south London queer squatting collective House of Brag, explored the history of 1980s lesbian London – from the Brixton Black Women’s Group in the 1970s, to the stories of the Rebel Dykes of the 1980s, right up to the House of Brag in the present day.


    The tour started outside the Ritzy Cinema, Brixton and ended at Studio Voltaire, Clapham.

    About the contributors

    Fisch (Karen Fisher) is a member of the London Rebel Dykes and squatted in South London during the 1980’s. She performs as Drag King Frankie Sinatra, producing and hosting the very popular night King of Clubs at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, which features luminaries of the groundbreaking Drag King scene.

    Milo Bettocchi, formerly of the House of Brag (a south London queer squatting collective) is now a PhD student researching histories of anti–racist, feminist and LGBTQIA squatting in Brixton

  5. Benedict Johnson

Studio Voltaire
1A Nelsons Row
London SW4 7JR

Open Wednesday–Sunday, 10 am–5 pm.

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