New Queers on the Block
New Queers on the Block was one of the longest gestating projects in the Marlborough Pub & Theatre’s 10 year history. Based in Brighton, a crammed and competitive local arts ecology, the Marlborough have always had a desire for the work made by the fantastic LGBTQ+ artists they support to be seen more widely in the UK. Consistently, they were also receiving comments and concerns from the LGBTQ+ artists they work with about the limited number of touring opportunities and contexts in which they could situate their work nationally. With the support from their extremely helpful Arts Council England Relationship Manager (shout out to Debs Butler), they started conversations across the country to locate partners who might be interested in being part of this fledgling network. Some partners developed organically, some they sought out, capitalising on the wide network of LGBTQ+ artists the Marlborough has supported over the last decade. The partners ranged from smaller NPO venues, to grassroots LGBTQ+ organisations, an important feature of the project being local audience ambassadors that helped bridge the gaps between new audiences and arts organisations. Within the programming of NQOTB the Marlborough wanted to make space and give priority to queer artists of colour and trans and non-binary artists who may face additional barriers to touring their work.
In November 2018 the Marlborough completed the first NQOTB tour, taking a mixed billed programme of short works featuring Rachael Young, Hester Chillingworth, marikiscrycrycry, and Stacy Makishi who were joined by a local LGBTQ+ artist in most locations and hosted by Ophelia Bitz.
They learnt an enormous amount from delivering this tour and the considerations required to take an intersectional group of artists to places where they wouldn’t normally think to present their work. There were moments of real challenge where the Marlborough questioned their approach as producers; the specificities about the queer communities in each location that they could only really understand through doing the first tour, which made them reflect on their cultural privilege.
There were also moments of triumph where they really felt like they were reaching new audiences and when their mixed bill of artists felt like a unified company that was offering support and solidarity. The overarching and consistent experience through the first tour was of the ingenuity, resilience and vibrancy of queer communities nationally in what are highly challenging circumstances, politically, socially and economically.
Moving forwards, the next phases of the project are about amplifying what is going on in each of our partner locations to give a greater sense of the regional distinctiveness of LGBTQ+ experience, and to embed artists more deeply in these places in order to support sustainable ways of touring that place real value on the experiences of artists and audiences. The Marlborough are excited to continue working with the local queer artists they have commissioned in each location to support their artistic development, and working with venues to broaden their curatorial scope. In the midst of widespread political uncertainty, it feels essential that the LGBTQ+ communities connect more nationally, to give each other strength.
On 13 March 2019 the Marlborough will be releasing a documentary film charting the experience of the first NQOTB tour supported by The Space, titled New Queers on the Road.
Date Posted: 26 February 2019