Michael Bancroft - NZ AIDS Memorial Quilt

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride in zero.com. So, Michael, we're standing in a room now with approximately 150 panels from the New Zealand aids quote project. Could you tell me a wee bit about the history of the project, [00:00:19] the New Zealand aids crew developed from the one that started in America and about 1985. And it started there because people wanted away that was significant to them, of remembering. Initially, the hundreds of men and women and some children who are dying from HIV and AIDS related causes. And that seemed to be the right thing at the right time. It just caught on that virtually in certainly in the United States, particularly in the areas of San Francisco and LA and New York, at really caught on virtually everyone who died, families, lovers, friends, were making panels up for the men, they started to bring them together as blocks of panels, about 12 foot by 12 foot. And then they started to use significant days, like World AIDS Day, which had been established as first of December, to display them. And also, a bit later on the eight candlelight memorials, which were generally held in May, they would also use them then. And the whole idea was not only remembering, but it was also to try to use them as what I'll call an education prevention tool. So that people by seeing these quotes would think of the people that they stood for, think they acquired this infection through choices that that made, in some cases through no choice simply because they had got it through a, an infection of blood transfusion before they realized what was happening. And in parts of America, of course, a huge drunk injecting population. And people were using exchanging dirty needles, basically, and people who didn't know they had the virus, whether in passing it on. So they were used for that purpose, as part of education prevention. And then a New Zealand called Bruce Burnett was over in the states around the mid 80s, when all this was starting to catch on, and he became HIV positive himself. And when he returned to New Zealand, he gave the idea that we needed assistance, we needed clinics, and that was health and Bruce it clinic, for example, started. And initially, a group of people in Wellington got hold of the idea with some guidance from Bruce, of creating a panel. And so in actual fact, in 1988, a panel was created in memory of a gentleman called Peter Cuthbert. So we can actually trace the New Zealand section of the quote, it was called in America, they called it initially the names project. And then that developed the idea of the eight core, but later on. And so it's always been known as the AIDS quilt in New Zealand, from 1998. [00:03:45] And gradually, [00:03:46] the number of people dying, increased, the number of panels increased. And so in the late 80s, early 90s, in New Zealand, to create I Memorial panel started to become what I will call the norm for remembering, and, and so that was how it started, [00:04:10] was Peter, the first person in New Zealand to be diagnosed with HIV right? [00:04:16] Now he wasn't [00:04:18] when I first became involved in the work of HIV, and AIDS in 1988, they'd already been a few deaths. And all I can remember hearing was that the first person who died was someone who wasn't even known until he had actually died, that it was HIV that had taken him. [00:04:43] So in the mid to late 80s, how was HIV and AIDS? Don't within the community? How did people perceive [00:04:53] that pretty negatively initially, because, apart from the ignorance of the fact people, I didn't even know what it was. And it was saying to be this new Scourge because it was hitting in America, they generally the gay population, or is it became later no men who have sex with men too wide, and the whole concept of that. And, of course, many of the what I'll call fundamentalist [00:05:25] groups and religious sects, [00:05:27] and some major denominations, and certainly Christianity, I wouldn't know about the others. Just perceived, the whole thing is a curse on the scourge from God for the immorality of homosexual behavior, the fact that they fairly quickly discovered that it would appear to have commenced in Africa, and then they hit the sexual population. And even to this day, you know, if they are, I couldn't tell you the exact figure, but I know it's well over 40 million, probably 80 to 90% of those are in continental Africa, where it's rampant through the heterosexual population, it's not a gay disease. But that was how it was seen in those early years. And so, in New Zealand, for example, [00:06:21] one of the first things that start to happen [00:06:23] was a lot of the men who were succumbing, had come from Christian backgrounds, and whether or not they acknowledged the Christianity and insane terms of church going to things like that. When it became, they became aware that they were dying, they families became aware, it really heightened spiritual aspects spiritual sense. And a number of them started to [00:06:55] ask for church support. [00:06:57] And it was a red at that time 1988 that I actually became formally involved when, in Auckland, they started what became known as the interfaith aids ministry network, which was a group of church ministers who came together to say, people are dying, regardless of what they're dying from, they need the support of their pastors, they need the support of their church communities, they families need that support. So we have to show that the face of the church is going to be there for them. And as a say, when when I started, I was at that time a Roman Catholic priest, only recently ordained, I've been a teacher prior to that. And [00:07:48] I was a few like the Catholic representative, [00:07:51] we had [00:07:53] Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, we had an view of some of the statement. So I made around homosexual law reform, we had a great contribution from a major in the Salvation Army, [00:08:09] because [00:08:10] he acknowledged, I'm not saying officially on their behalf. But he certainly acknowledge that they've made some errors in the way in which they spoke about things. And he wanted on behalf of the Salvation Army can be able to say, to say, we're here to help, we had a Jewish rabbi. And at one stage, we had a Buddhist person to put a smoke, but it's very closely associated with the Buddhist community. So it wasn't only a Christian group, it was an interfaith group. And even if we didn't have people say, who were Buddhist, or Jewish, or whatever, dying at the time, it still meant there were people available, there were people there for it. And so when people were dying, there were people being caught up. And that's how I got called upon basically, why after the other after the other in the late 80s, early 90s. At times, I would be involved with three or four dying people at the same time. And it became difficult in the community generally, because what was happening was that we'd go from one funeral to the next. And, you know, you'd be at today's funeral and kind of looking around thinking whose will be next and, and at those times, of course, you had so many HIV positive men, or as they more often said, people, they use the term full blown aids in those days, which made it even more of a scourge. You're like, Yeah, something that was megaton fisted, you were fully blown, which was a horrendous way of talking about it. But that's what happened. So we hit that kind of situation, where people just needed people. And I gained a reputation for being someone who cared who came from a church, the Catholic Church, which was pretty outspoken still, in terms of its teachings about not only homosexuals, as such, but homosexual activity, [00:10:14] and, of course, very hard to [00:10:17] draw distinctions between the person and how they express their love. And just saying, No, no, that's all sinful, bad, all those sorts of things. So they were all those tensions. Overall, I found that I was hugely accepted. And I never really met a, an antagonistic and nasty person at all, I just cared for lots of great [00:10:46] guys who were dying, [00:10:49] and help them through, in many cases was there at the time of their death. And they conducted a funeral support with the families. And today, up to two 20 years later, in some cases, I still beat families on the street to remind me of those days. So it was a positive thing that came out of negativity. The only negative thing I would say [00:11:15] about the churches [00:11:16] and wasn't surprising was that a lot of what were called the more fundamentalist churches, would still deny that they had any members in their churches who were gay. Or sorry, homosexual, they wouldn't have referred to them as gay as such. Generally, they certainly wouldn't have got AIDS because that was sinful. So we do have we don't have any of those people. So they were never part of our interfaith network. So where did those people come to the ministers of the mainstream churches? [00:11:55] Did you find that families denied either sexuality or AIDS I try, but [00:12:03] for the most part, no, particularly the ones who are affected once, of course, their sons for the main. In some cases, there were husbands who became HIV positive, who were either known or not known to the apartment as being homeless, sexually active. And that was a big shock. In some cases, wives finding out their husbands leading double lives. Parents finding out that the head of gay son or lesbian daughter who didn't actually know but as I've said before, because most of them were, gaming was really me and I was dealing with most of the time. Some parents were absolutely fantastic, held their sons and their arms and cried, and walk with them. The whole journey, there were a few who didn't understand. I'd never heard of anything really horrendous or nasty. [00:13:07] I heard of the old case where [00:13:09] people said, Oh, no, we don't want anything to do with you. But eventually, they seem to come around. Now, whether it was a social phenomenon or not have no idea. But the number of [00:13:23] gay guys [00:13:25] who were HIV infected, who had a solo period situation was quite interesting. There were a huge number of mothers and sons, and a lot whose fathers have been gone from their lives years before, rather than suddenly finding out they had a gay son who was HIV positive and taking half know that it just seemed to be like that. And that was, in itself, quite curious thing. So a tremendous amount of the caring and support that went on in the gay community was from women, mothers. And they were in terms of the New Zealand aids quote, yeah, you've only got to talk to the people in with the making the first quotes, you've got to see photographs of the making them. And there were women everywhere. And I if I hit the time, and all the names, I could say, that's the mother of seven. So that's the mother or the sister or the grandmother and that sort of thing. [00:14:25] So do you think the the majority of people that passed away, had quotes made for them? [00:14:33] In the early years, I wouldn't know if it was the majority, but certainly a high percentage. But when we think that we have in New Zealand, about 140 of the panels, that's the individual memorials in total, and to the best of my knowledge, it's somewhere between 809 hundred deaths in New Zealand. [00:15:02] It it's really only, you know, a fraction of the people. And [00:15:09] the reality is that the last panel that we received, I think was created in the very early 2000s. So, you know, it's seven or eight years since anyone's made a panel in UCL, not because we haven't continued to talk about it. It's just I think people have moved on, in the ways they remember, you know, and nowadays, and this is why we're moving towards where they are aids quilt, you know, as you've seen here, you know, there they had half a football field, if we had every single one of them on display. You just can't do that anymore. For people who know, the city of Oakland, for example, and no at a square. Well, the AIDS quilt completely spread out fills the whole of IoT a square. I think in one occasion, they were taken to Parliament, and they filled the whole full court of Parliament, and Willington, so it fills that fear space. So that's why we're actually now working towards the photographic record, and the creation of a website, which will keep the memory counting, which will keep the stories. And hopefully, we'll be able to give people an opportunity to create quotes. In terms of the new technologies that we have, that people can go online and gradually, as a family or as an individual, can gradually develop a quilt that can become part of the whole cool project, it's quite possible that will see a resurgence in the next couple of years, once it all get underway. [00:16:59] Out of the 140 panels, how many of the guys did you know personally, [00:17:05] I would say probably about 60 to 70% of the ones on the panels we have. And again, as I've said, that's basically through the huge amount of care that I was called upon to give. And I don't think it's a particularly good reflection. But at one stage, I was keeping a record just of every single person that I met. And it was something like 40% of all the people I met, were actually have some Catholic background. Now, they weren't coming to me as a priest at that time, simply because they were Catholic, was just the fact that they needed support. And shall we say, word got out, but there was a priest involved in the community. So there might be a little bit of skewing of the figures from my point of view that there were so many Catholics simply because obviously, people were directed in that way. But what, what has generally happened is that, as with all things, in this case, I say it but good reputation to get was that I was able to care in ways that people felt were appropriate for them. So I've got asked, therefore I can look at the panels of the quotes and say, cared for him, walk the journey with him, buried him that his coronation service, whatever the case may be, in greater numbers, a lot of others in New Zealand Kota, when you think that, you know, I will say there are about 140 panels I've actually helped care for and still care for some HIV AIDS related people who are still very much alive today, and that's over 140 in itself, just me. And when you get in there a couple of thousand HIV positive people in New Zealand, it's only a fraction, I'm not carrying a load. There are others doing it too. And families that we can't forget that there are still families, [00:19:14] there are still lovers, partners, who are caring. [00:19:19] And [00:19:20] the greatest challenge these days apart from a sad been that more and more people are still getting infected and a lot of them so you have, which doesn't kind of make sense with all the education that we've tried to do. It just doesn't seem to make sense. But people have to make their own choices. And they do. And so that's how it happens. But, you know, we've still got hundreds and hundreds of HIV positive people. But alongside that, we've got new medications. And as I've mentioned to you, when we're been talking about some of the panels, that some of the people there, you know, not literally one week, were told that they were HIV positive and did the next person that was a measure of two or three weeks, or a few months [00:20:10] or a couple of years. [00:20:12] And they were gone. And I think there were two aspects to that. One was that treatments were in the early stages. And also there was a kind of a what I'll call a psychological aspect toward that, because everyone was hearing about all these hundreds of deaths in America, and to a certain extent, and Australia to at that time that people thought there was no chance. So instead of carrying on going to work every day, and taking the pills, people would say, Oh, well, I've already got a couple years to live. So I might as well enjoy myself. So they stopped working, they stopped doing they almost became invalid without not denigrating the reality of the realness, but they almost gave up. Whereas now a lot of the people that I see and that I work with, have been taking pills for 20 years. And you can meet them in the street and you wouldn't have the faintest idea, their HIV positive, or they still go out and do a day's work. Because the medication, lifestyle and all that. So we went through a whole generation, so to speak, of people who had to readjust, they sold their homes, they were men who are selling their homes, because they thought they'd be dead. So sell your house, go and have a trip overseas, you know, prepare the funeral. And 1520 years later, they're still around, [00:21:43] they had to go and find a job again, they gave up work [00:21:48] expecting at all be over in a short time. Nowadays, you could be working alongside someone living alongside someone who lives with HIV and AIDS every day. Unless they happen to get really secure. generally not even though [00:22:06] one thing that struck me looking at a lot of the panels was the guys, a lot of them seem to be passing away in the 30s. And this is going back to the kind of mid to late 80s. That would have been your generation. [00:22:20] Thank you very much for saying that would have be by generation. But in in the 80s. I guess Sure. It was the late 30s for me. And yes, I was seeing my peers dying. And in some cases caring for my PS die. Walking the journey with a guy that I was in the same primary school class with secondary We grew up together, we did everything together, so to speak, before he moved overseas, you know, and walking that journey. And then later years meeting, who is a school teacher that taught so even younger. But no, that was one of the hardest things a lot of people found was to put it bluntly, looking into the next coffin and see another young body. And not everyone despite some of the horrendous pictures we saw. Not everyone died looking like a skeleton. And of course, as time went on to win, funeral directors became better educated and understood the whole disease because there was fear, or even among funeral directors that they couldn't treat a body or embalmer body or that anyone could see it after death in case they caught it. Then they started to be educated and realize that, hey, it doesn't work like that. So we have the R Us at the good fortune to me, in the 2000s where a person can look as beautiful and dangerous did her life. Say it though it is you know, and, but to look at one person after another in their 30 something Why? Very hard. And there were lots of couples around tokenize, you know, had formed a relationship. I did see it funerals we are guys in the early 30s have been together for nearly 10 years, meet each other almost and the night clubs, got on well together, flattered together and live together. And then because many people had open relationships and got the infection, maybe never told the other that they've been out and playing around. Or both of them have been out and playing around. And all of a sudden they both discover their HIV positive. One didn't know whether to blame the other or someone else you know. So there was that kind of thing happened to did. Amazingly, there weren't a huge number of relationships, which I found, where people split up, you know, where one person became HIV positive, and the other was still negative. By some amazing gift of love, one to the other people carried on together and cared for each other until death. [00:25:26] Of these panels still being shown in public, [00:25:30] not very often these days. And the main reason is that anything that's developed is the core pedals with materials that are, you know, easily marked or perishable, and so on various lemons and Cotton's that, as you've seen there, so quite intricate things that have been put together, quite beautiful things put together. But in the very early days, people would put all sorts of things on these panels, without thinking that one day, display them all around New Zealand and taking them to churches, the rye school shopping centers, that opening and closing moving them around, [00:26:16] that they would get dirty, and start to deteriorate. And then we started [00:26:22] to discover and this was happening, you know, 15 years ago, probably when I was involved with a quilt quite early on was that we couldn't get them played with take them to dry cleaners, it's a sorry, if we were to clean that material that we're perish, or we can't do anything, we'd have to pull the whole thing apart and try to clean each level. But so that's been a huge problem. That's been an international problem, which has forced in most countries, it's happened in America, it's happened here in New Zealand, and Australia, yeah, where they end up in some form of storage. And despite the fact that many countries are New Zealand as one where we look upon them as a national toner, and national treasure, getting someone to actually put them. For example, if you've got a gallery or a museum that was willing to take, they have their own rules and regulations about what they can do, how much of anything they can display. And we all know that, you know, any museum will tell you that, you know, maybe see at any one time you are seeing 10% of its collection, and they just keep rotating it. So that's another issue for us. If we put them in permanent storage in a museum or gallery, people won't have the access to them. But now we can't get people the FCC, simply because they many cases deteriorating. So really, the only times now that people get a look at them will be at candlelight memorial services, which are held in the third Sunday of May in New Zealand. And World AIDS Day, whatever day that falls on. [00:28:17] We're [00:28:18] a pedal or a block of them will be seen, you know, from Oakland to America or Qatar or wherever. When that requested we seen them. But again, only a small number of people get to see them. So there's an actual factors. Another reason, and gives us the impetus to work on this idea of a website because then once everything's recorded on a website, whether you live in Auckland, [00:28:47] Wellington and Christchurch, [00:28:49] or in the middle of Africa, [00:28:52] and you think oh, I wonder if so and so if I had a quote made in New Zealand, you can type in their name. And then welcome if it's there, the quilt, [00:29:03] the story that lies behind [00:29:05] this description of it. Or if there isn't, [00:29:08] there will hopefully [00:29:11] be the possibility of creating virtual quilts in the future where your friends and families could say, Oh, well, we never had been made a time we were to say it or wasn't the right way for us, but now we could do it. So that Memorial will continue to live. You know

This page features computer generated text of the source audio - it is not a transcript. The Artificial Intelligence Text is provided to help users when searching for keywords or phrases. The text has not been manually checked for accuracy against the original audio and will contain many errors.