The Road to EmPOW!erment

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Creating opportunities for diverse voices to be heard is at the forefront of what we do at Spread the Word, and so we were delighted to support Nick Field with his brand new initiative – Pow! Launched in 2018, Pow! offered LGBTQ+ creatives the opportunity to develop their practice and explore the possibilities of live literature, culminating in a public performance of their works at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

Following a call out, eight writers were selected for Pow! and to work with a number of high-profile creatives, including Katayoun Jalili, Hannah Silva, Malik Nashad Sharpe (alias Marikiscrycrycry) and Keith Jarrett. One of the selected Pow! writers, Alex Roberts has launched his own call out for a queer collaborator to work with him on a new project, that will be run with Camden People’s Theatre. Find out more in Alex’s blog below…

‘Six months ago, I was sat in a tiny boardroom in London waiting to meet an acting agent. I was feeling really nervous. Mostly, because I’d been told by a tutor that the person I was going to meet was a ‘a real character’ but in he comes, a man in his fifties wearing a floral shirt and he’s nice enough. We start chatting. During the conversation he makes a comment about my weight – saying I’ve got a bit of belly. I’m a tad offended but I dismiss this, thinking – he’s a bit blunt but I should give him a chance. He then asks me to stand up and undo my top bottom. After that he wants me to turn around in a circle slowly in front of him. I do it. He pauses before saying; you look much better like that. I sit down again feeling very uncomfortable. He then begins to round up the meeting by telling me that he thinks I’m very lovely however –  you do come across a bit gay.

I left feeling humiliated. I’d never written a thing before, but I started to write poems. Things about old boyfriends, about nights outs and stuff that riled me up. I had a few things I thought were alright, so I signed up to a Spoken Word London night. I dragged some mates along, necked three cans of Red Stripe and got up. It was nerve-racking. But really fun and it made people laugh. And a few people think. Afterwards, I spoke at a few other nights and carried on writing. Getting up without any notes and just speaking. It really built up my confidence and I decided to apply to a few writing programmes.

I got accepted onto POW!; a new initiative for LGBTQ creatives led by Nick Field in association with Spread the Word and funded by Arts Council England. At the end of the course, which ran from July-September, we’d perform our work at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, which was incredibly exciting.

Throughout Pow!, I learnt new ways in which I could be empowered by my queerness. I met some incredible poets, dancers and cabaret performers that encouraged me and the other selected creatives to use our sexuality and/or gender identity to fuel our material. It was there I started to make work that was totally and unapologetically queer. And I started by thinking of something that made me angry: Gay nightlife.

Gay clubs are the first port of call for so many queer people exploring their sexuality. Music, booze and boys. Too many boys. There have been countless times I’ve been felt up, propositioned or sometimes just flat out ignored if I’m with a woman. But I’ve gotten off easy. Recently a friend told me a story about a guy they knew who’d gone for a night out in Leeds. He met an older man who was a regular there, danced with him, kissed him and then left with him. The next morning this young guy was found dead three streets down with his head caved in. He been stamped on by this older man 20 times. After hearing this, I began to research violent incidents in and around queer spaces and I began to find out some more about violence between queer people. All of which occurred near gay bars or nightclubs or villages.

It got me wondering – what would drive a queer person to hurt another queer person? What would make someone betray a person supposedly of their own community? And are these bars and clubs the safe haven they pretend they are?

During Pow! I started thinking about the dichotomy of these spaces, how they can be a sanctuary for some and an oppressive place for others. I wrote a short comedy set about how as a teenager I longed to belong in these queer spaces but often fell short of their expectations.

Next month I going to be making a show that will attempt to push this idea further. The show – (working title, No Place Like Home) will be devised piece of theatre that explores violence between queer people in nightlife spaces. It is being made with Camden People’s Theatre as part of their Starting Blocks Programme and will culminate in a Showcase presentation on 16 March 2019. I’m currently looking for a queer writer-performer of colour to co-devise this show with me. We will be working predominately over two weeks to make 20-30 minutes worth of material for the Showcase. It will be an exciting opportunity to get to know an incredible Fringe theatre venue, but most of all, an opportunity to feel a little more empowered by your queerness.

For more information about the project and how to apply please see this post on my Twitter here. And if you have any questions, drop me an e-mail!’

The deadline to apply for this opportunity is 27 January 2019.

photo credit: Lea L’Attentive



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