We needed to find out more about Rainbow Fund, a charity recipient of money raised by Brighton & Hove Pride. Hearing that the wonderful Ms Zoe Lyons had been appointed as a patron of the Fund this year, it seems like a great idea to find out about the charity’s great work. Plus I get to speak to one of the South Coast‘s funniest women.
A Brighton & Hove based organisation, Rainbow Fund supports local LGBT and HIV/AIDS organisations. “They contacted me earlier this year, to ask if I’d become a patron,” Lyons proudly tells me. “So I’m lending my face to the brilliant work they do.”
Following the fundraising for Brighton’s ground-breaking AIDS memorial in New Steine Gardens, there was a desire to create a lasting legacy for the City. In addition to looking after the memorial’s maintenance, Rainbow Fund now offers grants of up to £5,000 to LGBT charities and organisations. With money being raised through several high profile events and activities, including Brighton & Hove Pride, the fund has received support from many of the leading local LGBT bars, clubs and groups.
Over the last five years, a wide range of local groups have benefited from the Fund, including MindOut, Lunch Positive, Allsorts, Sussex Beacon, Brighton Our Story, GEMS, LGBT Community Safety Forum, Pride Accessibility, Out In Brighton, The Justin Campaign, FTM and Older & Out.
The last charity on this list supports a cause Lyons finds fascinating, she’s adamant older people get a bum deal. ”It seems after a certain age, many people simply disappear.” So Older and Out provide informal, warm and friendly opportunities space for older LGBT people to socialise. It’s a much needed service, which supplies a need in the community that can often get overlooked. This makes it an ideal recipient of Rainbow Fund assistance. For younger people it’s easier to go out and be part of a scene. “After a certain age you simply slide off the scene. It’s the same across the board, whether you’re gay or straight.”
Despite her relative youth, the plight of many old people within our society is an issue Lyons is acutely aware of. If she wasn’t involved in the Rainbow Fund, she’d probably be doing something for Help the Aged. “It isn’t a sexy charity though. It’s an awful thing to say, but some charities are sexier than others, and they get all the attention.”
It’s easy to warm to the chatty and self-effacing Lyons, even when she’s talking down her achievements she’s managing to make me laugh. “I’m massive in Hove,” she declares. “That’s my strapline!” Although unafraid to point out British shortcomings, Lyons professes she’s not an acutely political comedian. She says there’s little worse than seeing a comedian try to tackle a big issue, without realising they haven’t the cognitive capabilities for a good job. “The skills I have I can pass commentary. But I’m pretty much an observational comedian. It’s what I do.”
Like most really good comedians, she’s only comfortable cracking jokes about things directly affecting her. It’s all about connecting. People might not share her worldview, but she can still make them understand it.
She jokes she became a comedian, because she had no other life skills whatsoever. “When every other door slammed shut, this one was ajar. Well it wasn’t ajar, I had to prise it open with a knife.” Despite going to university and drama school, Lyons still found herself with a definitive career path, that’s until she’d attended several open mic nights and thought: “I could be as bad as the people doing that!” It does seem those three years of drama school weren’t a waste, as she’s able to fake relaxation on male-dominated TV Panel shows like Mock the Week. “When I first when on it was terrifying, it’s a very combative environment. I’m older now, so I care less.”
Zoe Lyons hosts Bent Double, at Komedia Brighton, on the first Sunday of every month.