Celebrating the LGBT community through arts and culture

Posted By Arts Council England on 06 March 2017

February was LGBT History Month – 28 days dedicated to raising awareness about equality, promoting the benefits of diversity and helping to overcome prejudice through education.

The arts provide an incredible opportunity to break down barriers, promote understanding and change perceptions. So, inspired by Schools OUT UK's LGBT History Month, we’ve pulled together some of the great LGBT projects that we support.

From theatre productions and museums through to live art and spoken word, we fund an amazing range of projects that illustrate why our diversity is what makes us great.

But before we jump into to those projects, here's a little more about this blog's inspiration. LGBT History Month was started in 2005 by Schools OUT UK and takes place every February. Over the years it has gone from strength to strength and this year it boasted more than 1,000 events. In 2015 the team started LGBT History Festival OUTing the Past, which always includes original theatre commissions that tell the story of important moments in LGBT history - all of which have been supported by the Arts Council.

The projects

In 2015, Shame Chorus took Sigmund Freud’s famous ‘talking cure’ – a mode of psychoanalysis where the patient talks in order to allow the therapist to uncover hidden, repressed and unconscious desires – and turned it into an uplifting exploration of sexuality and shame through song. Have a look at this great film about the project.

In the South East, ‘Out in Oxford’ charted an incredible journey around Oxford city centre through the eyes of the LQBT community. It saw 50 volunteers work with museum staff to create the University of Oxford’s first cross-collection trail.

Some of the items on the ‘Out in Oxford’ trail included a $50 US banknote countermarked with ‘Lesbian Money’ and a Japanese Noh Theatre Mask famous for its fluidity, allowing actors to portray either gender.

A man dressed in drag for Pitt Rivers Museums Hopes and Fears event.
Hopes and Fears event at Pitt Rivers Museum. Photo © Suzy Prior.

In the South West, IGNiTE is an exciting series of residencies, workshops and live-performances featuring talented artists from across Bristol’s diverse communities. Created by Trinity Community Arts, IGNiTE provides an important platform for world-class artists whose work is provocative and challenges people’s thinking.

A big part of this is work developed by LGBT artists and communities, such as Dickie Beau’s poetic performance ‘LOST in TRANS’ and johnsmith LIVE: whatever being – a mutant medley of live electronic music, lipsync and drag metamorphosis.

A man is stood on stage almost naked. He is wearing a a mask made of cloth, white angel wings, a leather harness and a cloth pouch.
JOHN SMITH, In Between Time Festival at Bristol Trinity © Manuel@DARC.media

Coming soon in London is a bold exploration of queer urban sexuality via a mash-up of glittering tribal Vogue-ball culture and Shakespearean archetypes. Theatre and entertainment company Team Angelica present – ‘Shakespeare's Legendary Children in the House of Fierce’.

A Black and Asian-led cast from the Netherlands and the UK will present a dynamic queer warrior romance, accompanied by the driving beats and witty lyricism of grime culture. Public workshops throughout the process will share the company's creative development and encourage emerging artists to get involved - particularly from the Black gay 'underground'.

Did you know Burnley in the North was one of the UK’s battlegrounds for gay and lesbian rights in the 1970s? To mark the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act, LGBT History Month commissioned The Burnley Plays - two new pieces from Inkbrew Productions to recreate this amazing forgotten history. Both plays – The Burnley Buggers’ Ball and Burnley’s Lesbian Liberator – will be performed as a double bill in February and March at the original sites of the events in Burnley and as a showcase in Manchester and Liverpool.

Two women are sat on steps, one behind the other.
Judy Holt as Mo and Emily Spowage as Mary Winter in Burnleys Lesbian Liberator. Photo © Shay Rowan.

And in the Midlands we have SHOUT, a festival of queer culture that gives a platform to voices and experiences of the LGBT community. SHOUT celebrates diversity, challenges views and pushes boundaries. The festival will be returning to Birmingham in November 2017, but until then you can enjoy its line-up of screenings, talks and events at Birmingham LGBT History Festival.

This is just a small handful of the organisations, people and projects that we are able to support thanks to public funding from the National Lottery and the UK Government.

A huge crown is enjoying the performance of Miss Behave's Live Game Show, with toilet rolls and signs thrown in the air.
Miss Behave's Game Show. Photo © Dan Govan.

Find out more 

Visit the LGBT History Month website