OutStageUs, Hive North’s annual competition to discover new writing within and about the LGBTQ+ community, is open for entries. Quays Life talks to Mike Lee, Hive North Executive Producer and co-writer of #BeMoreMartyn: The Boy with the Deirdre Tattoo, to find out more.
Why is it important for you to have a writing competition for LGBTQ+ creatives?
Mike: “We believe it’s super important to have a writing programme specifically for LGBTQ+ creatives because it creates a safe, supportive, and empowering space for them to express their unique perspectives and experiences. By focusing on LGBTQ+ stories, we’re shining a light on voices that have often been underrepresented or marginalised in the arts. OutStageUs is a fantastic way for us to build a diverse and inclusive creative community that champions the rich variety of experiences from within the LGBTQ+ community. Plus, it’s a great way to inspire change and foster understanding by sharing these powerful stories with a wider audience”.
OutStageUs is now in its 6th year. What has happened to some of the previous winners in that time?
Mike: “We’ve been lucky enough to work with some incredibly talented writers over the past 6 years who have shared with our audiences some incredibly powerful and inspiring stories. For some of them, it was the first piece of theatre they’ve written, but they’ve gone on to continue to write, inspired by the process. Writers have collaborated with other artists they’ve met during the process including the actors, and created some wonderful work. Past writers have written full length scripts which have been successful at festivals around the country. One of the writers from our very first OutStageUs in 2017 has gone on to become a writer for EastEnders!”
In this time have you noticed any changes in the types of LGBTQ+ stories people are wanting to tell?
Mike: “In the early days, stories tended to focus on coming out stories, or personal struggles. We’ve found over the years that writers are more willing to explore complex issues that are often not seen on stage. Last year for instance, Alice Hancock’s ‘They’ explored what it meant to be a non-binary lesbian, with the characters on stage really enlightening the audience in an entertaining and accessible way. The stories have certainly got more challenging year on year as the community responds to what is going on in the world around us.
“It’s great to see a variety of work, though, including lots of biographical work. Paul Fairweather, a long -time activist and ex-councillor wrote, ‘Birthday Waltz’ for last year’s event all about his experience of loss during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It was a wonderful, raw piece of theatre that celebrated the communities resilience in the face of much opposition”.
Does the new writing entry have to be from a new writer?
Mike: “Absolutely not, the work just has to be new. We want fresh perspectives, but the writer can be experienced or a complete novice. For us, it’s all about the story and what the work has to say to the audience, and about our community”.
What are you looking for in a winning submission to OutStageUs?
Mike: “For OutStageUs, we’re really looking for those unique and captivating stories that showcase diverse experiences and perspectives within the LGBTQ+ community. We want to see authentic voices, engaging characters, and powerful narratives that resonate with audiences and spark meaningful conversations.
“We’re not just focused on technical perfection – we want to see the heart and soul behind work! So, we want writers to bring their creativity, originality, and passion to the table. We don’t want writers to be afraid to tackle challenging themes or explore unconventional ideas, as long as they contribute to a compelling and thought-provoking story.
“At the end of the day, we want to celebrate the incredible talents of LGBTQ+ creatives, so want to encourage people to go ahead and let their imagination run wild, share their truth, and create something that truly reflects our LGBTQ+ community”.
Who judges the winners?
Mike: “All of the scripts are read by at least two of our readers, made up of the Hive North creative team plus LGBTQ+ industry professionals including other writers and LGBTQ+ performers. To ensure we run a completely fair process, all of the scripts are numbered and read blind, with no identifying details of the writers included. The scripts are then shortlisted, and the shortlisted writers will be invited to chat to the creative team to discuss their idea and where the script may go from this point. The team will then curate the final scripts to be included in the final show, which ensures we represent the intersectionality of the LGBTQ+ community”.
Why did you choose to focus the competition on short 10-minute scripts?
Mike: “The event started as a short script night, and has just continued that way. We want to create a night of eclectic theatre, and we find it gives the night a really exciting vibe. If there’s something you don’t like, you know it’ll be finished soon and the next piece will be on, so it helps to keep the audience’s attention. It’s also a really great way of allowing writers to cut the flab and get to the crux of their piece. It means that there’s nowhere to hide, and because pieces can’t ‘overstay their welcome’ on stage, the writers have to really focus on what they want to say”.
The winning entries get to have their script performed at The Lowry. What is involved in preparing for that after the winner announcement?
Mike: “Once the final list of scripts has been announced, the writers will be invited to take part in script development working with a team to adjust, edit and hone their script to make sure it’s the best it can be. Whilst this is happening the team at Hive North will be busy casting professional LGBTQ+ actors, across all of the multiple roles to be in the final production before rehearsals begin at the start of the performance week.
“It’s a bit of a whirlwind project, the performers are often cast in two or more pieces, so they have a really tough job to tell all these different stories. The actors will work with directors and stage managers to bring the pieces to life through the rehearsal process and then it’s show time. The writers are all invited to come and watch the performances and network in the bar after the show, which creates such a lovely, safe and joyful environment as people discuss what they’ve just seen on stage”.
How will the winner be announced?
Mike: “There’s no final winner, but the final line up of up to 10 scripts will be announced on our social media by the end of this month. We’re really excited to see what exciting stories we get this year, and what creative ways writers will find to engage audiences”.
How can people find out more?
Mike: “To keep up to date on all things Hive North, people can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @Hive_North and for full details on OutStageUs, they can visit our website at hivenorth.co.uk/outstageus. The performances will take place in The Lowry’s Quays Theatre on 14 and 15 July and tickets will go on sale soon”.