Written by AFP Fellow and Out of Joint Assistant Producer Tom Ryalls
The Queer Art of Fundraising
I am both a producer and an artist, it’s almost like having two brains, and each side is often having an argument with the other. One of the most common clashes I have is articulating queer performance to funding bodies in a way which respects the work but also speaks the language of the funder. I want to try and tease out his tension in this blog and do some thinking about how we might change the funding landscape to better support queer performance and art.
I had no desire to be a writer or an artist in school, the arts in my Doncaster school were largely represented by seemingly ancient Shakespeare plays we laboriously studied in cramped classrooms. It wasn’t until I found a copy of “Beautiful Thing” by Jonathan Harvey in a charity shop that this changed, suddenly this idea that art was something to be owned and created by working-class queer people took hold of me. I became obsessed with one stage direction:
“Tentatively they take each other’s hands and start to slow dance to the music. They are lost in each other”
However, when I was reading that play at 18, the story of another gay man my age was hitting the local headlines. Steven Simpson was an 18-year old autistic gay man who was set on fire and killed at his birthday party not too far from where I lived. It felt like the world had a simple message for me:
Success in society = heterosexuality.
The two boys dancing obviously didn’t conform to the idea of success society had so diligently taught me to crave. If I wanted to be an artist and tell these stories, did this mean I would be a failure instead? I didn’t really know how to answer that at 18 so I buried it instead and tried to forget about this idea of being an artist.
Subconsciously though, I began to be drawn to failure but it was always framed as simply an unfortunate step on the way to success. It was “The Art of Failure” podcast by The Tate really helped me change this. After talking about failure as a route to success, at the end Scottee offers a more radical notion. They mention a project they did called “The Worst of Scottee”, In it, they got a psychotherapist to ask people why they hated Scottee. They say in the podcast it’s about “his failures with other humans” and I think the most interesting thing for that piece of art is that, failure is the point of it, it is a performance and a staging of failure.
In staging the failure Scottee opens up the space for people like me, newer artists who are scared to fail, queer and working-class artists who have that unresolved question at the centre of them stoping them making art. That piece of work unravelled the tension inside me and allowed me to answer the question that had held me back for so long.