MERSEY ART BEAT

Ho­mo­topia takes over Liver­pool for Novem­ber

Pride Life Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Since 2004 Ho­mo­topia has been pro­mot­ing the best of queer art and cul­ture across Liver­pool. The fes­ti­val has grown from a hand­ful of events to a month of world pre­mieres and ex­clu­sive com­mis­sions bring­ing au­di­ences to the city from across the coun­try.

In the be­gin­ning, Liver­pool City Coun­cil was pre­par­ing its suc­cess­ful bid to be­come Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture and wanted to en­sure that it in­cluded the gay, les­bian and trans com­mu­ni­ties in its cul­tural plan­ning. The coun­cil ap­proached the­atre di­rec­tor Graeme Phillips and lo­cal ac­tor and pro­moter Gary Everett to pro­gramme a num­ber of queer cul­tural events over a few nights in Novem­ber.

“From the very start we wanted to pro­gramme high qual­ity, ex­cit­ing the­atre, dance, com­edy, mu­sic, lit­er­a­ture and visual art that drew on the LGBT ex­pe­ri­ence but en­gaged with ev­ery­one,” says Gary, cur­rently Ho­mo­topia’s Artis­tic Di­rec­tor. “We be­lieve cul­ture ex­pe­ri­ences bring peo­ple to­gether and chal­lenge prej­u­dice and I think that’s shown by our au­di­ence re­search. Our au­di­ences are split equally be­tween gay and straight and num­bers and have grown ev­ery year so we must be do­ing some­thing right!”

Ho­mo­topia con­tin­ues to re­ceive support from Liver­pool City Coun­cil and in 2012 it be­came the only ex­plic­itly LGBT arts or­gan­i­sa­tion to be­come reg­u­larly funded by the Arts Coun­cil of Eng­land. It is now the only an­nual queer arts fes­ti­val in the north of the coun­try.

So what can first time vis­i­tors to Ho­mo­topia ex­pect?

“It’s hard to pick out a few ex­am­ples from the last nine years,” Gary Everett con­tin­ues, “be­cause there have been so many high­lights.

“We brought Tales of the City au­thor Ar­mis­tead Maupin to St George’s Hall in 2007 to read from the same stage as Charles Dick­ens had read from, which Ar­mis­tead loved as he’s a big Dick­ens fan.

“In 2008 we staged a ma­jor ret­ro­spec­tive of draw­ings by Tom of Fin­land which was so well re­ceived we were asked to tour it to Fin­land and Swe­den and we also co-com­mis­sioned a won­der­ful piece of the­atre about Carry On ac­tor Charles Hawtrey called Jig­gery Pok­ery. The mes­meric ac­tress Amanda Lawrence was on stage alone for over an hour por­tray­ing Hawtrey and about 40 other char­ac­ters. That was very spe­cial and wouldn’t have hap­pened with­out Ho­mo­topia’s support.”

“Vis­i­tors this year can ex­pect a num­ber of treats – as it’s our tenth birth­day we’re spoil­ing our­selves! Our big ex­clu­sive is John Wa­ters ap­pear­ing in his one man show This Filthy World. His ap­pear­ance at the Liver­pool

Phil­har­monic Hall is his only visit to the UK this year so all trash and filth lovers should book their tick­ets quickly.

“We’ve also been work­ing for the last year on a ma­jor mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tion about the life of April Ash­ley which runs for a year from Septem­ber 2013 in the Mu­seum of Liver­pool. April was born in Liver­pool in 1935 as George Jamieson and went on to have a mod­el­ling ca­reer and an in­fa­mous di­vorce that set a le­gal prece­dent for any­one who wished to change sex.

“We won a large grant from the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund to present April’s ar­chive of photographs and per­sonal ef­fects along­side a time­line of trans his­tory and oral his­to­ries taken from mem­bers of the trans and gen­der queer com­mu­nity. I don’t be­lieve there has been another ex­hi­bi­tion like it ever be­fore in this coun­try.

“We have also ex­clu­sively com­mis­sioned Boy George to cre­ate his first visual art ex­hi­bi­tion with artist Mark Wardel (aka Trade­Mark) and he will be com­ing to town to talk about his life and the themes of con­structed iden­ti­ties that in­spired the ex­hi­bi­tion.

“Then there’s the David Hock­ney ex­hi­bi­tion of his early sketches and the premiere of a show we have com­mis­sioned from the tal­ented Ly­cra-wear­ing, award-win­ning Le Gateau Cho­co­lat called Black... re­ally, the list goes on and on!”

Gary is the only full-time em­ployee and the small Ho­mo­topia team works from an of­fice too small to swing any cats. How­ever, they don’t just run the fes­ti­val. Ho­mo­topia has also grown into a so­cial jus­tice or­gan­i­sa­tion cre­at­ing its own NUT-backed ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme against bul­ly­ing and ho­mo­pho­bia called Project Tri­an­gle and stag­ing two Hate Crime Con­fer­ences, one with young peo­ple’s groups and the other specif­i­cally tar­get­ing staff in the so­cial hous­ing sec­tor.

LGBT artists have been pro­grammed to take their work out into the com­mu­nity and, through Ho­mo­topia’s Lavender Days sched­ule, sev­eral shel­tered hous­ing schemes have wel­comed af­ter­noons of com­edy and mu­sic.

Bev Ayre who has de­vel­oped Ho­mo­topia’s re­la­tion­ships with Mersey­side Po­lice and the so­cial hous­ing sec­tor ex­plains:

“As a gay or­gan­i­sa­tion we knew it was im­por­tant to chal­lenge ho­mo­pho­bia and trans­pho­bia in our com­mu­nity. The fes­ti­val does this just by pre­sent­ing queer work but we wanted to build on this through­out the year.

“Mersey­side Po­lice have been very sup­port­ive from the start. We both want peo­ple to un­der­stand when they have been vic­tims of Hate Crime and feel con­fi­dent in re­port­ing that to the Po­lice and the Po­lice want to show that they are an in­clu­sive or­gan­i­sa­tion. We also know that many peo­ple suf­fer abuse in or around their homes which is why we started work­ing with hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tions. The con­fer­ences are a way of rais­ing the is­sue of ho­mo­pho­bia along­side trans­pho­bia and get­ting peo­ple to start think­ing about fair­ness and equal­ity and how that might in­flu­ence their lives and jobs.”

The first ten years has seen Ho­mo­topia grow phe­nom­e­nally into a vi­tal com­po­nent of

“It’s our tenth birth­day so we’re spoil­ing our­selves with a num­ber of treats!”

Liver­pool’s cul­tural cal­en­dar and it’s that di­verse cul­tural of­fer that has helped bring more week­end vis­i­tors to the city than any other in Eng­land out­side London.

So pack your overnight bag and book your ho­tel and if you come to Liver­pool in Novem­ber ex­pect queer cul­ture you won’t see any­where else in­clud­ing much that’s free - the David Hock­ney, Boy George and April Ash­ley exhibitions for a start).

Happy Ho­mo­topia!

JOHN WA­TERS

TRANS­FORMER TRANS­FORMED BY TRADE­MARK 2013

BOY GEORGE PIC­TURE DEAN STOCK­INGS

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