Glasgay! Archive Publication

In 2018/19 the company produced an Archive Publication celebrating the significant legacy of the Glasgay! Festival which ran from 1993 to 2014. The publication features 200 pages of colour photographs of artists, events, productions, launches and parties which occurred over the 21 years of its lifespan.

Here’s an extract of a speech given by Steven Thomson, longstanding Producer of the Festival (2004-2014).

Just over 25 years ago a group of artists, along with theatre producer, Cordelia Ditton and Dominic D’Angelo cooked up the idea for a new lesbian and gay arts festival. Cooked up somewhere between a Citizens’ Theatre dressing room and an Edinburgh party, the name of the festival was Glasgay! – a cheeky pun on Glasgow city suggested by an Edinburgh Doctor.  And so it began.

Over 21 years the festival produced a multi-arform programme featuring not only new and emerging talent in Scotland but also some of the finest LGBT talent of the time.  It featured the work of 3 national poets, Edwin Morgan, Liz Lochhead and Jackie Kay; 1 major Hollywood film director, John Waters, Warhol factory artists a such as Penny Arcade and slew of UK national talent such a Sir Ian McKellan, Rhona Cameron, Leigh Bowery, Bette Bourne, Neil Bartlett, Alan Carr and so many more.  Despite modest funding Glasgay! always managed to shoehorn in international artists not only live in performance but increasingly through its film programme.  We featured the likes of Annie Sprinkle, Scott Capurro, Diamanda Galas, Richard Move, and DJ Derrick Carter.  These many many artists helped shape the way for what is now a wider societal acceptance of equality that has turned into legislation and a new civic movement across our lands and overseas.  We can truly say that we were in the vanguard of that movement and at many times at its cutting edge.

By 2015 however that equality movement had reach a turning point, 5 years after the arrival of the Equality Act of 2010 our funders decided that they no longer wished to fund the festival. They told us it was old, established and mature.  In fact, our audience were still largely under 35.  Perhaps the funders were not seeing every packed show or film we were at. 

We felt compelled to remember and honour Glasgay!.  It had given us so much, so many great memories, tears, laughter and sometime downright anger and protest.  There were some hard years at the start, with negative press decrying our existence, crying hell fire and damnation.  That bad press, the protests and the backlashes are well documented and if you are interested you can read some of these in Glasgay! Archive which is now held at Glasgow University.

However, ultimately, we realised that Glasgay! and its collective memory and any archive publication could not rest on the opinion of one writer or some dodgy red top’s headlines.  No the legacy of Glasgay! was in its people, the artists, the audiences, the events and productions, the many, many launch parties.  So what we have ended up with is a glorious 200+ page colour photo album of all of those years.  I would say though that the early years were harder to document as less was saved but there are some golden treasures there.  The fabulous t-shirts and early Glasgay! logos by Kate Charlesworth.  The Gay Jeans sew on badges from 1999/2000.  The Glasgay! Flag carried at Pride.  And also the many slides and small photos saved by curators.   Two slides that struck enormously were photos by Paisley photographer, Ian Passmore who did some work with school children at the LGBT Centre in Dixon Street in 1999. Ian’s exhibition was on the effects of Section 28 and in making the work some kids chose to hide their faces in fear of coming out.  20 years later we have a commitment from the SNP Government to support the Time for Inclusive Education and we have yet to see an Education Act that will effectively ensure that no child suffers from the fear of freely expressing their LGBT identity.  Our work is not done!

Here in this wonderful resource, is an inspirational catalogue, an educational tool, a record of several generations and reminder to all you NET kids out there – save everything, document your lives, remember your work because others will forget us, overlook us, ask you why does it matter, “oh you LGBT folk always shoving it down our throats”.  So here you go society choke on this cos we were fabulous!

Steven Thomson (14/02/2019)