I am immensely proud of this contribution to Queer Spaces – a production produced by @Rootstouring. It is well written and I am no performer but I wanted to give it a go. I didn’t do bad all things considered. Mostly though, I am proud of making a small contribution to a dyke history archive which is, of course, a part of the LGBTQIA history archive. We were there, we were queer and we weren’t going shopping 🙂
In a previous blog post I pondered on what ‘queer spaces’ are
My contribution to the Roots Touring production of ‘Queer Spaces Live!’ was a reflective piece on, specifically, dyke bars I frequented in my younger days. I spoke about how the UK community/communities of queers fought so hard for the right for any and all spaces to be inclusive but we hadn’t, arguably, considered what we might lose once they are.
Thanks to the amazing Tyler Whiting for the photo!
Almost all of the spaces I came out into and grew up in have gone. Some we are well rid of (Wednesday evening community centre women’s discos, bring your own booze, finished at 10:00, dodge the mean feral youths who waited for us on the way out) but other spaces were places of growth and love and fun and adventure. They were places to meet and belong. They were uniquely lesbian and gay spaces – The Alex, Vox and Sill in Hull, The Marlborough, the Candy Bar and Revenge in Brighton. Four of those venues are closed. One is no longer a dyke bar but advertises as ‘everyone is welcome’. Only one specifically identifies as a specifically gay venue.
Does it matter? Should we lament the loss of so many distinctly queer spaces or celebrate that everywhere is potentially our space now?
I don’t know
What was fascinating about the Queer Spaces Live! production was that each of the performers spoke of claiming space in one way or the other, but a thread throughout each was that the spaces needed to be claimed. Whilst people were radically empowered to take the spaces there was a centrality to the essential nature of the spaces as queer; as distinct; as vulnerable.
The performances within Queer Spaces Live! Suggested to me that Queer Space is still, on the one hand contested for its challenge and, on the other hand, a place for forming identity. Queer spaces are still places of resistance. Do they need to be distinctly queer spaces to offer this?
I don’t know – but I think so
The Roots Touring Company created a queer space. It is what it does. For me there was an exciting circularity to the space being created and what the performers did with it – and that it felt like a space of bold activism as well as the creation of beautiful art.
I must give a shout out to the people involved. Oh. My. Days. My colleague performers were extraordinarily talented – and generously supportive of my own lack of performing talent (note: I am now a BAFTA level talent on acting ‘milling about’ thanks to their teaching – I owe you guys 🙂 ).
• Phoenix Andrews
• Emma Bates
• Joy Cruickshank
• Erin Enfys
• Arden Fitzroy
• Max Percy
• Ela Portnoy
• Eliza Beth Stevens
presented stories of growth and love and challenge and joy and each were MAGNIFICENT. Keep an eye out for these names because they are uniquely and breathtakingly talented and they are going to take over the whole world. I can hardly believe I had the privilege and joy of sharing a stage with them.
None were forced to be involved in the performance. Like me, they chose to be in it – to invest their time and energy and share their powerful, compelling stories and lay themselves open to critique. It seems fairly safe to presume that also like me, they thought this was an important space to create. Were we individually and collectively invested in the creation of a specifically queer space?
(Eliza and Ela at Portal Bookshop in York. An inspiration for Eliza’s monologue)
I think so
I have to also give a shout out to the team that made Queer Spaces Live! happen. Producer Steven Atkinson, Director Ali Pidsley and Dramaturg Frazer Flintham. Despite the fact that I am literally old enough to be their mother and we play for different teams, I have a bit of a crush on all of them. A magician once told me that magic only looks convincingly effortless with hours and hours of work and commitment to being the best. These three created magic. They held the making of the performance so carefully and safely they enabled us all to grow. I am a better human being, more confident, and proud of myself because of their talent and I will literally never forget them for enabling me to perform
(Steven, Frazer and me after rehearsals).
Queer spaces provide us with places we can be ourselves and lower our defences. They give us a place for celebration and being together – and also places where we can value each other.
Queer spaces are where we are but not everywhere we might be, is a queer space
Until we can be confident about inclusivity, queer spaces have a crucial role in resistance to oppression.
Thanks to Roots Theatre Touring Company for creating one.
I’ve been lucky enough to be chosen as one of the writers contributing to the ‘Queer Spaces Live!’ project. Developed by Roots – the queer Yorkshire touring theatre company and support funded by Arts Council England and The National Lottery Community Fund – the project aims to make collaborative work about ‘queer spaces’. The stories created will be shared at two live performances at the Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough and the York Theatre Royal in March 2022.
I don’t struggle to make stories. I have far more stories than I have time to either write or craft. I know exactly which story I want to tell and contribute but the notion of queer spaces is so loaded with history and politics and pain and joy it feels incredibly important to me to tell it right and to tell it well.
I’ve been pondering on what exactly a queer space is
Is it about the environment – ‘in-space’ and ‘out space’? Certainly back when I came out there were very definite places where one could be reasonably safely out, and other spaces such as work where it was critical to be ‘in’ (teacher in 80s Thatcher Clause 28 Britain for example). As I write this I am mindful that there are many places in the world where ‘in-space’ is still the only safe space.
Is it about architecture? Dance floors in clubs, sites of sanctuary and refuge and the unlearning of shame, closets which concealed but also protected us.
I think of queer effort and energy put into constructing alternatives to heteronormative spaces and how over history they have changed from the dodgy, poppers smelling dens of debauchery of my youth to the out-and-fucking-well-proud-get-over-it-girlfriend cruises and high-end apartment complexes. We queers changed space.
I think about how the personal is political and how we inhabited and embodied space, strutted like peacocks affirming ourselves and others and how in the taking of space we didn’t always take enough care about who was taking what from whom.
I think about queer history and experiences of queer spaces back in the day and contemporarily being different for each of us for a myriad of complicated and politically loaded reasons.
And I wonder if I can do justice to all these stories.
Gratitude to Sand Crain for the flag on building and Juliette F for the dancing queens images – via Unsplash. Appreciate your work guys. Thank you. xx