Top image: Performance artist, Cheddar Gorgeous, 'We Only Happen At Night', Manchester International Festival 2015. All photos by Lee Baxter.
Our club night, Drunk At Vogue, was invited to host the launch party for Manchester International Festival at the Pavilion Theatre, Albert Square in July 2013. We styled the event as an immense disco and invited drag performers from The Family Gorgeous to work with us to produce a combination of extravagant nightclub meets stage show. The main draw at MIF 2013 was Kenneth Branagh's Macbeth. We opened the show with three back-lit, fan-blown, smoke-swathed drag performers in postmodern witch outfits, lip-syncing to Cerrone's 'Supernature'. At the end of the night we recruited audience members to join the 'Drunk At Vogue Community Gospel Choir' and brought them on stage in disco choir shawls and giant flags to close the show. It's a night people still talk about... The event was a sell-out and we were invited to return in 2015.
This time we formally collaborated with Cha Cha Boudoir to produce an event that combined a giant nightclub with Cha Cha's original stage performances, containing elements that referenced MIF commissions, including Bjork, Red Riding Hood and Alice in Wonderland, and subjects like paganism, transformation and transgender expression. We incorporated original voiceovers by performance artist David Hoyle to draw a narrative thread through the evening as we moved between DJ sets and stage extravaganzas. The title, 'We Only Happen At Night' referenced both the Geraldine Hunt disco classic and the unleashing of creativity that comes from Manchester's queer creative nightlife, of which we are a proud part. I think we managed to top 2013...
After thirty years of bringing quality independent arts and cinema to Manchester, the iconic Cornerhouse closed its doors in April 2015. As a final intervention/celebration, and part of the wider Playtime exhibition, Panamanian artist Humberto Vélez brought together a team of curators, artists, directors and producers, including myself, to give the beloved venue a creative send-off before it was re-born as HOME.
Occurring in two parts, a daytime and evening event, The Storming saw the Cornerhouse building symbolically ‘stormed’ by a choreographed parade of people, including diverse art practitioners, a local disabilities group, the Manchester School of Samba, drag artists, a women’s motorcycle gang, a breakdancer crew and many others, symbolising the open democracy of art.
The evening portion event was a full-on party with a line-up of DJs dispersed throughout four floors of the building, spliced with original performances, art installations, dance classes and more, referencing the multi- and cross-discipline history of Cornerhouse programming.
As Musical Director, my role involved a mix of creative control, curating, soundtracking and producing. I compiled sound and musical effects for the dramatic daytime takeover of the building, and DJ’d to celebrate the successful occupation. For the evening event I curated the DJs and many of the performers, including commissioning original work from dancer Joshua Hubbard, film artist Chris Paul Daniels, DJ collective Wasp Nest, typewriter artist Elizabeth Willow, visual artist Mark Barton and drag performers, Cheddar Gorgeous and Anna Phylactic. I also screened a showreel of short films related to the themes of the event, many of them by Manchester filmmakers.
The line-up was devised to both celebrate the history of Cornerhouse and its unique place in the cultural life of the city, and to look to the future by bringing new creatives to a new audience. Audience participation was crucial so I installed a Northern Soul dance class in one of the galleries and Chris Paul Daniels’ film installation The World Spins was audience interactive.
Line up: DJs: Graham Massey of 808 State, Mike Joyce of The Smiths, Violent Femmes, Claud Cunningham of Black Angel, Philippa Jarman, Kath McDermott, Ian Jones and Damien Johnstone of Clique, Will Tramp, Wasp Nest, Chew Disco, The Whim Wham Club, Pumping Iron. Art and performances: Northern Soul Dance School with Tobin Lochrie, B-Twist Dance Crew, Joshua Hubbard, Cheddar Gorgeous, Anna Phylactic, Mark Barton, Elizabeth Willow, Chris Paul Daniels, The Hooping Harlots. Films: 1985 Manchester Breakdance Championships (2:47), TV news item, 1985 VSE IDET PO PLANU (3:10) Florelle Michel, Damien Charamel, 2013 Northern Soul film trailer (1:54), Elaine Constantine, 2014 Bang Street Party (1:51), Sarah Jenny Johnson, 2014 PlayTime official reissue film trailer (2:55), Jacques Tati, 1967/2014 Drunk At Vogue: The Glitter Ball (3:42), Gary James Williams, 2014 The City (7:22), Thomas Beswick, 2014 Clique (1:31), Paul Ambler and Clique, 2009 AKSE P19: MADIBA, Northern Quarter, Manchester (2:11), Duncan Lees, 2014 Storming the Winter Palace (2:17), Soviet footage, 1920 Press: Guardian, Manchester Evening News, Corridor 8 Images: Flickr
The Storming, video snapshot.
Courtesy of Queer Media UK.
A Queer Revue!
Portico Library, Manchester, May 2016, three performances.
I curated and produced this exciting dance/poetry collaboration, inviting dancer/choreographer Joshua Hubbard to interpret selections from Andrew McMillan’s debut poetry collection, Physical (winner of the Guardian First Book Award) as part of the annual Manchester After Hours late-night arts programme.
Joshua and Andrew performed together in a combination of live reading and dance with Joshua’s movements inhabiting bodily memories of Andrew’s intimate and sensual words. In Joshua’s vision, poet and dancer merge and switch places as sex, longing and satisfaction are expressed in verse. We were excited to be bring this collaboration between three working-class gay men to the beautiful environs of the Portico Library.
Song lyrics are the poetry that most of us encounter daily. This poetry night, which I co-curate with the delightful writer and organiser Helen Darby, aims to break down the divide between poetry and song. Guest readers are invited to read a selection of their own poetry, plus a poem by another writer whom they admire, plus the lyrics to a song.
The choices and contrasts have been disarming, funny, startling. Our first event took place in November 2018 and our next will be 24 January 2019, featuring Andrew McMillan, Emily Oldfield, Jaye Lythgoe and others to be announced. Stay tuned to this page for updates!