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Introduction from Festival Artistic Director, Brian Merriman:
Welcome to the 13th Festival, where we will pass our 3,500th performance.
It is an exciting year, not only will we commemorate the lesbian and gay heroes of 1916, but heroes of the present day too – our guests who bring their stories for the first time from Russia and Iran. It is so important that we can provide a stage for all in Dublin – the birthplace of Oscar Wilde. We rely on you to be their audience – to hear their stories and affirm their LGBT theatre.
Alan Turing and Oscar Wilde form a bridge before and after 1916 to the present day and to have companies bring their work to you from Ireland, UK, USA, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, Spain is important. Our first partnership with the Kings Head Theatre in London demonstrates clearly that Dublin is a recognised hub for celebrating the contribution and stories of LGBT people worldwide through theatre as an artform.
Despite this incredible profile worldwide, we are still 100% reliant on voluntary effort to bring this unique form of theatre to Irish audiences. We still have no office, no staff, no reliable resources which is unequalled in any other event operating at the scale we do. How do we do it? Two key elements – our volunteers and our audience! Companies make huge sacrifices to come to Dublin and our volunteers work tirelessly to ensure they are supported, that you know about it and that we co-produce quality theatre, giving a stage for the first time in Ireland to great LGBT theatre.
Thank you to all who continue to support us, to our grant aiding bodies the Arts Council, Failte Ireland and Dublin City Council, our sponsors and the many people who keep coming forward offering help and filling our theatre seats!
Please continue to enjoy this diverse programme of drama, comedy, music, history and identity. Follow us on social media and mention us frequently in your own posts. Please step forward with a suggestion or support – we love to hear form you! To all who have brought us to our 15th season (we had two winter festivals) – thank you.
Looking forward to meeting you again during the first fortnight in May! We are all part of the IDGTF 2016 – Are You?
Thank you for your invitation to speak today – it is rather a narrow topic and I am sure, having been alphabetically ordered, that by this stage, the distinguished speakers have already covered the issues comprehensively. So I will try to take a particular perspective. I want to ask some questions and set you some challenges.
LGBT people are like all others, born with distinct characteristics that complete their identity. These characteristics can be used positively or negatively in policy and culture, to lead a fulfilled life or to justify the placing of barriers on the road to personal, social and economic freedom and participation, not encountered by other people. How do we cope with that? LGBT people come to expect and tolerate a higher degree of discrimination. We always have. We became tougher, as so many young people who found they were no longer connected with family or community, in a way they were schooled to expect, became independent in their need to survive. The strong ones did anyway. It is comforting to speak in the past tense about that, but it is not wholly accurate.
We all have our differences. It’s what makes life interesting and it is of use. As the recent referendum demonstrated – society needs its minorities. Why? Because minorities often create the opportunity for the majority to come together, to finally do the right thing and what celebrations ensue! Just as was said post decriminalisation – ‘sure you are all legal now, what’s the problem? This is not an accurate analysis of what our life experience is or what has been embedded in a workplace and societal culture.
Watch out for the signs. I worked while doing my Masters here in UCD on a school show and noticed that within a day or two, many students made a point of telling me one of the teachers was gay – I was never told anything personal about any other teacher. Section 37 of the EEA allowing religious bodies to discriminate in order to protect their religious ethos was not born as a measure to discriminate against LGBT employees, it was born to protect a minority religion from being subsumed by the majority religion’s ethos in the healthcare system. Beware of the law of unintended consequences. I recall when civil partnership was introduced, public servants who applied for their legal entitlements to seek ‘marriage’ leave were now risking endangering their employment, if they worked in the health or education sectors. The majority religion was delighted to support the minority religion’s rights, smartly recognising the exemption as a licence to discriminate against another minority they found far more threatening.
As we celebrate this new equality, we pay little attention to the legacy issues. To those who were prohibited from getting married or believing they could sustain a relationship, as families ignored their need to love, it is too little too late. Those whose compulsory singlehood, means that even if they had a partner at 65, this legislative reform came too late to provide for pension qualification, as they retired before 2011 and the discrimination remains ongoing for those people in their older age.
At one time, the common bond of shared discrimination united us – there is a divide now – a generation who are born free and those who were not – it is vital not to leave them behind as we stand on their shoulders. I see many signs that that is exactly what will happen in our new freer culture.
There is also a human reaction on our side. When you are no longer different, nobody wants to interview you – and I know some NGOs are finding this new normality quite an adjustment, as are young people who created a media identity from being ‘different’. We are not. We must not create issues for the sake of maintaining profile. I asked Messrs Manning and Mills on Twitter would they ever be invited to speak anywhere by the Iona Institute once the referendum was decided? I’ve been proven correct. A dysfunctional society rendered us different because it was incapable of inclusion. The new Republic thrived on finding, ostracising and punishing difference – ask the Magdalens, the institutionalised children, people with disabilities and many others including of course ourselves. Perhaps we will finally no longer need to explain ourselves in our families, in our communities and in our workplaces? That will help.
It is held that customers are more likely to ‘do business’ in a place where you can ‘see yourself’ behind the counter. How many LGBT citizens see themselves reflected in their workplace or service providers? Diversity means difference – but it is not acceptable for us to wait to be declared or labelled different or to accept any such declaration. It is for employers and the service providers to develop the knowledge and capacity to respond to difference. In doing so, it will clearly see the merit and ability of all workers. Those who don’t, or don’t want to embrace this equal opportunity, may plead the ‘cost factor’ in accommodating diversity. How much does changing your attitude cost? – nothing. Attitudes change more rapidly when there is leadership from the top. Attitudes that have been embedded in workplace culture for decades, will not be changed in any meaningful way overnight. They will not be changed by holding a conference, tolerating a small diversity project, setting up an LGBT committee, while concealing the old ways at the core. Real change means invoking the merit principle and sticking to that in the workplace.
It is important too that the outcome of the referendum does not push our detractors underground, where they can influence and thrive. There are those who wish to maintain discrimination and they exist, but dangerously are perhaps now less visible. There is an advantage in being able to see ‘the enemy’. Discriminators must be told clearly that it is they who now behave differently, by being out of step with an inclusive, pluralist society. The boomerang of difference must be swiftly returned to those who seek to discriminate. The responsibility to explain such behaviour is now theirs, not ours.
Human rights are not something one group gives to another – they are something you
I was never openly discriminated against – people knew that I had learned to tackle that form of discrimination head on. What I encountered was far more covert. It is the whisper at the coffee break at the interview panel. The slight hesitation at the reference phone-call, the mention of your family status, or of course the physical gesture. And people in positions of privilege, still sore at the defeat of exclusionary Ireland will, like the Masons, still find a means to use their codes and ‘handshakes’ to get their prejudiced points across.
I have during my career been present at many a human rights discussion. I have heard a ‘human rights’ protector proclaim that the current ‘gay agenda’ was to ‘tell people not to kneel down at mass’ or as another protested that she had’ given two of them a lift in her car one day’.
So while the electorate’s message is clear that we are no longer different – the challenge has always derived from the fact, that we accepted the shame and the ill treatment in the past. Do not accept being treated differently now. Your personal life can remain that or you can share it openly in work. What is different and shameful is ongoing discrimination and whether it is on this ground or any other. We have learned the hard way – our commitment to combating discrimination should not be just for ourselves, but to combat all forms of discrimination. Where its existence can be tolerated, it can be reborn.
I have always believed in equality, and even I found it a challenge to fight blatant, hurtful, discrimination. I was giving a talk one day and when I left, I asked myself what I was going to do about the discrimination I was facing. In order to seek redress we need to ‘out ourselves’. So I did take on two bodies. One a bank and the other a service provider and challenged their harassment and discrimination. (Give details of cases). I practiced what I required of others, challenged and won. It wasn’t easy, but putting up with discrimination is worse.
Nobody here needs special treatment in the workplace of the future – we need equal treatment. Though the laws protect us from discrimination in employment and in the provision of goods, facilities, services and accommodation, we who have made progress, now have an ongoing duty to challenge the concealed actions of those who cling onto their powerful positions, where they can discriminate, covertly, at will.
We are stronger now. Our self esteem and mental health is better. Our families are more loyal, our communities more welcoming. We have a right to expect fairness and to be judged only on our many merits. We each must work to ensure that, not only for ourselves, but to prevent other minorities accepting or facing what we did. Ireland is a better place now, but our duty is to embed a new culture of respect in workplaces and communities where none previously existed. Ireland has been cosy without that for 100 years. It’s a lot of time to make up for.
Our annual Table Quiz takes place on March 22nd from 8pm. Tickets are €40 for a table of 4. If you don’t have a table come along and we will find a way to accommodate you.
Hosted by TV3’s Conor Clear join us for great prizes and a raffle.
A letter from Brian Merriman, Artistic Director of the IDGTF to the Irish Times regarding the controversy about the level of female representation in the Abbey’s 1916 Centenary Programme.
Sir, – The “grant cake” that too many depend on is too small. Creativity today is about conforming to pre-established criteria and frameworks designed by committee.
We’ve a question for #wakingthefeminists, which we support, how many of you have engaged with our unique International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, which has staged and supported 3,000 performances of new works that prioritise feminism, identity (and masculinity) since 2004?
We identified that there was a paucity of women writers and opportunities for their work to be seen, so we worked on it. We mentored, fundraised, risked knowing audiences would be small, but created a valuable space. In total, after 12 years of identifying and supporting this vital work, we get combined (arts and tourism) grants of €71 to stage each performance and to run the festival. Has anyone ever raised an eyebrow, bought a ticket or during this debate referred to our achievements in this field long before it began trending on social media? The real debate should be about why people are excluded from theatre and accessing resources when they are doing what theatre should be doing. If all the feminists and their supporters turned up at our exceptional programme of feminist theatre staged in Dublin this year, we wouldn’t have had so many empty seats and so many female artists left in debt.
It’s cool to fill the Abbey Theatre when the cameras are there – it’s more valuable to support theatre when it’s being created and performed at bargain prices, in the hope that authentic voices can be heard in a sector crying out for invigoration and relevance. – Yours, etc,
Gay Theatre Festival,
We will at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 14th to 19th August and if you have have a production we might be interested in we’d like to hear from you. We have taken productions from every Fringe for the past 10 years and we hope that 2014 will be no exception.
Click here to find out about what we are looking for.
Click here to find out about submitting to our 2015 Festival.
For more information, to get in touch or tell us about your production please contact our Artistic Director Brian Merriman at email@example.com.
Finally if you are looking for Festival tips with an LGBT relevance follow us on Twitter: @GayTheatre
The nominees and winners of our Festival Awards were announced at the closing Gala Night and Awards in the Sugar Club on Sunday May 18th in front of our audience, guests and companies.
Again this year it was challenging to choose just one winner in each category and we congratulate all of our winners and nominees.
Micheál Mac Liammóir Award for best Male Performer
Nick Atkins – A Boy and a Bean
Matt Tedford – Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho
Zion Ashkenazi – Jean Genet
Rob Ward – Away from Home
David Leeper – At the Flash
WINNER: Matt Tedford
Oscar Wilde award for Best new Writing:
Nick Atkins – A Boy and a Bean (Australia)
David Leeper and Sean Chandler – At the Flash (USA)
Hilary McColum – Lesbian Style (Northern Ireland)
Rob Ward and Martin Jameson,- Away from Home (UK)
Zion Ashkenazi – Jean Genet Son of a Bitch (Israel)
Nicholas Spagnoletti – Civil Parting (South Africa)
WINNER: Jean Genet, Son of a Bitch
Doric Wilson Award for Inter-Cultural Dialogue:
My Dorian (USA) for university collaboration
Aunty Ben (Ireland) for bridging the generation gap
Acting Out with Tits Up (Ireland) for Community Drama
Away From Home (UK) for tackling homophobia in sport
For The Trumpets Shall Sound for presenting the experiences of war and the trenches
WINNER: Aunty Ben!
Eva Gore Booth Award for Best Female Performance:
Kayleigh Hawkins as Nora in For the Trumpets Shall Sound (UK)
Therese Prendiville as Grace in Grace and Maggie (Ireland)
Amy Flood as Tracey in Aunty Ben (Ireland)
Sarah MacDonnell from Two from Provincetown (USA)
The Ensemble from Lesbian Style (Northern Ireland)
WINNER: Lesbian Style: Michelle Wiggins, Abby Oliviera, Claire Dooher, Mel Bradley!
Patrick Murray Award for Outstanding contribution to Irish Gay Theatre
WINNER: Annick Thijs, Director of Volunteers IDGTF
for outstanding dedication to the Festival