Re-Imagining Pride is a series of six digital commissions from Tyne & Wear based LGBTQIA+ artists which explore the question what does P/pride mean to you?
I love working on super personal commissions, because they make me sit back in my chair, take a long, deep breath and go, 'hhhmmmmmmm....' When I saw the newest work that Curious Arts and Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM) was commissioning, I did exactly that, and just knew I needed to be involved.
Having been with my boyfriend Sam for over seven years now, it's possible that I have quite a few friends or work colleagues who may know that I'm bisexual, but it's never really come up in conversation. When it does come up, I always feel the need to justify my identity, to prove somehow that this wasn't an experiment at university but a series of important same-sex relationships I had from the age of 16 into my early twenties (as if experimenting at university means your identity is less valid - spoiler alert, it doesn't!) This was a commission that allowed me to ask myself: what does Pride mean to me, seeing as I pass for straight so much of the time? And what does Pride mean to the region I now call my home?
After a bit of thought, I decided to use the commission to work on a spoken word poem called Proud Geordie. It is a love poem for the North East, created using contributions of stories and photographs from the region's diverse LGBT community. The piece was designed to be spoken aloud, and celebrates the history, culture and natural beauty of the area, those of us who were born and raised here, and those of us who have called it home even for a short while.
I submitted both written and spoken versions of the poem to Curious Arts and TWAM, accompanied by a video slideshow full of gorgeous photos celebrating the people and places of the North East. I worked with more than 60 photo and story submissions from both friends and strangers - it was so nice to receive photographs of people enjoying themselves at Pride events gone by, standing a lot less than 2 metres away from strangers, a luxury we all took for granted!
The Creative Process
My immediate reaction to the brief was to make something positive and celebratory - I don't know if I just needed to make something positive in the current climate, or whether being a white, cis-gendered woman gives me quite a 'safe' view of pride and that came across in my piece. I certainly didn't want to gloss over the negative aspects of the community - aspects which were brilliantly tackled in a couple of the other commissions - but the stories that people offered me were reverent, they were about freedom and love and understanding, so I wanted to reflect that in my work. My own coming out journey definitely wasn't all rainbows and confetti, but there was just something about moving up to the North East that loosened a few knots inside my belly and allowed me to be myself.
As a whole, I think the six pieces commissioned give a great overview of how different people understand the term pride. The LGBT community is not one homogenous group and there are just as many conversations about identity and belonging going on within the community as there are outside of it. I often worry that I am not 'queer enough' anymore to be considered for projects like this, and I've had feedback on my poem from some other people who feel the same way. This has actually made me even prouder to have been commissioned - my inclusion in the line up has hopefully reminded a few doubters that whatever your identity, your relationship status or the last time you waved a rainbow flag, there is still space in the community for you.
Where can I listen / read / watch?
You can immerse yourself in all six of the fantastic Re-imagining Pride Commissions over at https://stories.twmuseums.org.uk/
Re-Imagining Pride is presented by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and Curious Arts and is supported by The Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund.