If the launch of new three-week festival, Turn on Fest is anything to go by prepare for a smörgåsbord of talent – with watermelons and crumpets!
After a glorious rendition of ‘Don’t rain of my parade’, host Belinda Scandal, looking fabulous in a black jumpsuit with sparkly orange bolero to match her hair, introduced us some of the artists who will be performing during the festival to the full house audience!
First up is, Jackie Hagan, who speaks about two shows on consecutive Saturday nights of the festival: Mother’s Ruin: SPEAKS & Mother’s Ruin. Jackie, a multi-award-winning poet, comedian and playwright, is known to drink cut price lager from her false leg, although last night she enjoyed a glass of wine from the bar. These shows promise glorious queer cabaret and performance by LGBTQ+ artists from Manchester and beyond.
Next, we were promised watermelons smashing on the stage in a newly commissioned work, ‘As British as a Watermelon’ by Mandla Rae. Mandla explains that this show is based on their experience of being an illegal immigrant in UK, the journey they have been on to apply to the British, and what that means to them. Mandla said: ‘It’s exciting to see new work by queer performers in Manchester, especially that there are lots of new names performing’.
Another new commission, ‘Twisted Bollywood’ will see two mothers discuss preparations for an arranged queer marriage for their daughters. There will be a spot of Bollywood dancing in Stand By Your Trans, where gender minorities take centre stage, and you can sign up to Manchester’s first trans open mic.
Turn on Fest is a showcase of Manchester-based LGBTQ+ artists, theatre, cabaret, panel discussions, development workshops hosted by Hope Mill Theatre in collaboration with Superbia (Manchester PRIDE) and Mother’s Ruin. The event has received funding from the Arts Council, enabling the commission of four new pieces of work from a diverse group of artists, which includes dance and new writing.
‘We hope that this is the start of something exciting for those individual artists who have won commissions”, says Joseph Houston, artistic director of Hope Mill Theatre “After a call out – which received an incredible response – we worked with Superbia to choose a group of four artists to work on an idea and see it through to a short, staged piece of work. From dance, to spoken word to the idea for a new play, we can’t wait to share these exciting pieces which hopefully one day will be seen through to a fully realised production.
“We hope that the festival will eventually become an annual event for our great city.”
Greg Thorpe, Project Manager for Superbia, a programme of new work at Manchester Pride, welcomed the new festival: “Superbia at Manchester Pride works with LGBTQ artists all year round and we are so excited to support this new platform to share their work at one of our favourite venues in the city. We will be co-curating the Turn on Fest for 2020 and we know it will be a thrilling and necessary addition to our queer arts calendar.”
Greg was joined at the launch by some of the artists in the Superbia portfolio who are performing at Turn on Fest. These include: Maz Hedgehog, renowned poet, Superbia Chapbook author and established live performer, will be forming a longer solo stage show in the festival. James Henson, talked about ‘Nobody’s Watching’ taking part as one of five dancers from the LGBT community, who return to dance, to show its empowerment and the complex relationship of the LGBT community to the formalities and traditions of the dance world. There will also be a chance to catch Wolf Hours, where artist, Minute Taker performs an intimate musical and vocal score, accompanying a series of stunning new short films.
Following such a funny interview with the performers and writers at the launch I’m looking forward to ‘Barbara’. The show is based loosely on the grandmother of writer and performer, Mark Croasdale. On her death, Mark’s grandmother gifted Hope Mill Theatre the gorgeous baby grand piano you can see in the bar. And he remembers her sing-songs around the piano, as well as her candle-lit suppers, and her crumpets (with butter – no jam). The show features music from the 40s and 50s, including music found in the piano stool after it had arrived at Hope Mill. Mark says he’s not sure what his grandmother would think about the show since at one point she (played by Mark) will be doing a tap dance, but, in the price of the ticket, you will receive a crumpet, and in respect to Barbara – only with butter – no jam!
Another must-see for me is headline show, ‘Absolute Certainty’ from Qweerdog Theatre, which explores the complex issue of dealing with homophobia when no one wants to talk about it. A favourite from the Greater Manchester Fringe, it is being revived for Turn on Fest.
Turn on Fest at Hope Mill Theatre runs from 14 January to 1 February 2020. See hopemilltheatre.co.uk for details.