STEVEN Thomson reckons there were two “transformative moments” that encouraged the creation of Glasgay!
Section 28, that odious legislation preventing the “promotion” of gay lifestyles, and the coming out of Ian McKellen. It’s true that the festival’s original organisers, Cordelia Ditton and Dominic D’Angelo, spoke of a “climate of fear and uncertainty” and it’s also true that Ian McKellen lent his support in that first year, with a performance called A Show for Glasgay! None of them, surely, would have believed that 20 years later, the festival would not only still be going strong, but would have grown to be a month-long event encompassing theatre, music, visual art, film as well as comedy and club nights.
This year’s programme is packed with original commissions, including work by Jackie Kay (The Maw Broon Monologues), playwrights Stef Smith and Martin O’Connor. There’s comedy with Craig Hill and Tina C, historical drama about the legendary London private members club The Gateways and subversive performance art, The Worst of Scottee.
There is also the defiantly mainstream, the RSNO playing a live accompaniment to a screening of The Wizard of Oz.
Recently, some have questioned whether Glasgay! has lost its radical edge (it’s not an issue that the festival is trying to dodge given the event on 16 October, What’s Next For Queer Performance?) but how could it be any other way? In 1993, there was no Equality Act, no Civil Partnerships Act, never mind (fingers crossed) an Equal Marriage Act. In the last decade the LGBT community has taken huge strides towards acceptance and inevitably that will be reflected in a curated festival. But it doesn’t mean that all the stories have been told nor that all of the struggles are over.
Thomson has been in charge since 2004, a year in which protests took place on the streets outside the Tron, where Clifford’s Jesus, Queen of Heaven was performed, one placard bearing the statement: “God: My Son is not a pervert”.
The tabloids had a field day and the folk running the festival had to confront pickets on their way to work.
It may have been tough (“profoundly challenging” is how Thomson puts it), but he also insists they emerged “stronger and renewed and with a greater sense of purpose”. Looking at this year’s programme, who could argue?
• Glasgay! Festival, Scotland’s Annual Celebration of LGBT Culture, runs until 9 November