FEATURE: Curious Festival | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: David Hoyle

Pride month may have been in June, but it’s only the beginning for LGBTQ festivities, with celebrations and festivals taking place throughout the summer. One such highlight in our own region will be Curious Festival, which returns from Sunday 1st-Sunday 8th July with a celebratory program of LGBTQ arts and culture aimed at increasing visibility, extending dialogue and broadening the understanding of the region’s LGBTQ community.

Art and queerness have long gone hand-in-hand, and because of organisations such as Curious Arts, LGBTQ artists and creatives are given opportunities to show what they’re made of. The 2018 programme places a focus on championing young people and queer artists of colour, with female-led exhibitions and discussions also emphasised.

The lecture programme this year is particularly strong. The Dragged Up In The North East talk on Monday 2nd at St Mary’s Heritage Centre in Gateshead will delve into the history of drag in the region, taking in everything from the pros and cons of the ‘RuPaul generation’ to mapping a family tree of the region’s Drag history; and an interesting panel event hosted by the Queer Arts North network invites local artists to discuss their needs through an artist development programme at the Curious Festival Hub (Wednesday 4th).

Slate, an organisation which supports black independent artists in the region, will take over Northern Stage for their contribution to the festival, comprised of a panel discussion hosted by Afshan D’souza-Lodhi on the issues facing queer black artists in the North East, plus an opportunity to enjoy new theatre projects by emerging practitioners, including Patrick Ziza’s Family Affair (both on Tuesday 3rd). There’s more theatrics on offer at Middlesbrough Theatre from Wednesday 4th-Friday 6th in My Night With Reg, which navigates the highs and lows of years spent during the AIDS crisis; celebrated local theatre maker Zoe Murtagh looks at the ‘gay icon’ phenomenon through a story of desire, gender and celebrity in her new show Iconography at Alphabetti Theatre; the life of actress and singer Marlene Dietrich comes under the spotlight in Dietrich: Natural Duty, a one (wo)-man show by Peter Green, also at Alphabetti (both Wednesday 4th-Thursday 5th); ARC in Stockton celebrates with cabaret, dance, comedy and live performance featuring work by avant-garde performance artist David Hoyle among others on Thursday 5th; Oona Doherty brings an extraordinary dance-theatre piece Hope Hunt And The Ascension Into Lazarus to Dance City, looking at themes of being white, male and disadvantaged (Friday 6th); experimental works are put to the test at Alphabetti’s Curious Scratch Night (Friday 6th), the Newcastle theatre also welcomes Kamaal Hussain’s exploration of migration and magic, Becoming Scherherzade, and Anne-Marie O’Connor and Kate O’Donnell’s film Mum, about a transgender character and the love between a mother and a daughter, both on Saturday 7th. The Vogue Ball is the perfect place to get dolled up on Saturday 7th at Breeze Creatives in Bamburgh House, with host Mutha Tucka presiding over live music, art and dance performances.

Young people are well-represented in the programme. Gender and identity comes under the microscope on Sunday 1st at Thought Foundation in Birtley, where a talk amongst a panel of young people, parents and organisations will look at gender and supporting young people; Live Theatre Is Curious will showcase the work of young people and their attitudes and thoughts on LGBTQ themes (Sunday 1st); and for much younger audiences, Seven Stories will be celebrating LGBTQ families with a variety of fun activities including a Rainbow Rave, an arty studio takeover and Drag story time (Saturday 7th-Sunday 8th).

Those with an interest in visual art will find much to enjoy at the Curious Festival Hub from Monday 2nd-Sunday 8th, located in Newcastle’s Central Arcade, where work by artists Carla B Turner, gobscure and IDa4 will be showcased, plus Stuart Langley’s HIV/AIDS awareness light installation, 36point7, will make a stop in Newcastle on its national tour; the ever-reliable Breeze Creatives will also host a variety of visual arts exhibitions until Saturday 7th; Stockton’s ARC present Words Bare, an LGBTQ print exhibition compiled by Mandy Barker, who highlights the experiences faced by the Tees Valley LGBTQ community (Thursday 5th July until Saturday 18th August); and festival goers are encouraged to have a go at creating their own life drawing with the help of (fully clothed) models at Sage Gateshead on Saturday 7th.

Outside at BALTIC Square, the Inflatable Church of Love invites anyone who wish to profess their love to each other – partner, best friend or dog – to get hitched on the Quayside in a giggle-filled (but not legally binding!) ceremony where anything goes (Saturday 7th).

On Sunday 8th, the festival finale will see a series of female-led queer arts, curated by musician Gem Andrews, take over BALTIC. Film screenings will feature amongst the varied programme, which also includes a discussion with Janina Sabaliauskaite and Jade Sweeting, co-curators of the On Our Backs: An Archive exhibition which ran at NewBridge Project in 2017 and documented the women-run erotica magazine On Our Backs. Their informal ‘show and tell’ event encourages visitors to join the conversation on erotica and lesbian visibility. A festival version of the Different For Girls web series will be screened, and audiences can enjoy a performance from Stevie Wonderful himself, the crowned ‘King of the Castle’ in the UK’s first National Drag King competition. Also at BALTIC on the Sunday night, Liz Aggiss delivers a ribald physical commentary on cultural society and sexual taboos in Slap And Tickle.


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