Curious Arts Festival, exploring and celebrating Queer Arts, By Mandy Barker
After working on the Curious Festival Brand earlier in the year, we were really excited to attend the festival in the North East, which took place at the weekend.
What is Curious Arts Festival?
Curious Arts Festival is an annual celebration of LGBTQ culture across the North East. It is a festival across five days, exploring and celebrating LGBTQ culture through the arts. It is a not-for-profit organisation and strives to improve the quality of life of LGBTQ communities, their friends and families by promoting visibility and opportunities for audiences and artists.
Why do we need it?
Curious has many advantages including: increasing visibility, dialogue and understanding of the LGBTQ community. The festival is a meaningful celebration with a strong moral social compass for positive change around the LGBTQ communities, and the way art and expression can impact this and bring people together.
Phil Douglas, producer and art director created an engaging, moving and innovative programme of events across the region. There were performances, exhibitions, workshops and panel discussions, all focused on celebrating difference and Queer Arts.
The launch of Curious was at Northern Stage, and I was proud that my self initiated project/exhibition Words Bare was part of the festival (Words Bare will be exhibited at Northern Stage until July 27th). The open evening incorporated a performance from New Writing North’s Proud Words LGBT+ reading group, young people showcasing their own work which was very relevant to Words Bare; Shorty, by Hester Chillingworth, and Petrichor a new work in development by ZENDEH.
Thesus Beefcake, a piece by Panic Lab, was performed at Dance City on the Friday. Theseus Beefcake journeys into the dark labyrinth of masculinity, colliding mixed martial arts, death metal, American frat culture, rodeos, pornography and Greek mythology along the way. Joseph Mercier and Jordan Lennie push against their personal thresholds of pain and pleasure in this unforgettable duet exploring masculine excess, fantasy, friendship and competition. It was an immersive piece that was thought provoking and personal, with Joseph and Jordan sharing their own stories they have faced around the expectations of masculinity.
The finale at was held at the beautiful Baltic Art Gallery on Sunday and had a real sense of energy, depth and celebration. Each performance had a strong social focus to provoke, question and celebrate the history, present and future of the LGBTQ community and the arts. The evening included a piece from the fabulous Kate O’Donell, iconic David Hoyle, amazing Pi the Meme and an incredible piece A Blighted Life, choreographed by Gavin Coward. A blighted life is concoction of world dance, raw physicality and fleeting commentary exploring contrasts in extreme attitudes towards homosexuality from around the globe.
Every part of the festival was memorable, with a high quality of performances. Each had depth, positivity and emotion throughout with a strong focus on social change. We were blown away and already cannot wait for next year. So much love, hope and positivity for LGBTQ arts in the region – it’s the future. Hat’s off to Phil for bringing it all together, an amazing job.
The North East is an exciting place to be, the current movement of the arts and LGBTQ cultures both underground and commercially is fuelling and we cannot wait to watch it grow, and be part of it.