With its eye-popping celebration of gay culture, Homotopia has blazed a trail of hope, activism and acceptance. In doing so, it’s supported the LGBT community and its friends, and gifted the city a festival the like of which we’ve never seen before. We talk to founder, Gary Everett.
You should always follow your heart. Wherever it leads you.
My background is producing and for 12 years I was a professional actor working in theatre, film and radio. It was a wonderful time. But I knew I had the bug to do more, and desperately wanted to make theatre happen. So starting Homotopia was a natural progression.
But make sure your heart leads you to something new. Something exciting.
“Art and culture are at the epicentre of Liverpool’s renaissance…’
I was keen to do something that didn’t emulate other cities. I knew it was not going to be a Pride type of event. The project really had to be focused on culture and art. I guess my plans were also taking shape at the time the city was bidding to become European Capital of Culture 2008. The pilot festival opened in 2004 around the same time Liverpool had the extraordinary news it had won the bid.~
Getting people who get it on board makes all the difference.
In 2003, the cultural office in the City Council was very open to the idea. We are very much focused on making things happen in Liverpool, and my job is really a cultural producer. The city’s job - which it took to, instantly, with passion - was to support what we were trying to do. Which was, and remains, quite radical.
In all the excitement, it”s important not to lose sight of your core beliefs.
Homotopia has always believed, at its heart, in the power of campaigning. Many of our commissions and projects have had a strong element of social justice or human rights. The arts benefit from the richness and innovation diversity brings. I believe there is so much untapped talent, ideas and innovation within the gay community. There’s a cultural renaissance happening in queer art and performance. Perhaps the rise in global homophobia and transphobia is a contributory factor.
Be proud of who you are. But be proud of where you come from, too.
Liverpool has a rich queer cultural heritage. From Holly Johnson to April Ashley, Terence Davies to Paul O’Grady to name but a few. Liverpool’s edge is quite radical and unexpected. It has energy and verve. I think we tap into this. It’s a very diverse and proud city. The LGBTI scene reflects this. We’ve a small gay scene with a lot of character but stands out. It’s refreshingly different.
Celebrate queer culture - but invite everyone in.
It is key to our programming that we bring the city in its widest sense with us. Our landmark Tom of Finland 2008 retrospective had more straight women than anyone! Mainstreaming the programme actually pushes things in surprising and interesting ways.
Remember to keep your energy levels topped up. This is no 9 to 5 job.
I’m up very early in the mornings and always go for a swim. I have lots of energy. I’m inspired by creativity and by people. I never forget that I’m lucky to work in such a electric environment as the arts. I’m in development stages with three major exhibition projects, which will take place in 2017, and a new programme of work exploring art as activism and the current global situation around human rights for LGBTI communities. Yes, it’s a busy life, but it’s also very rewarding.
Art really can make a difference.
Art and culture are at the epicentre of Liverpool’s renaissance. It’s a vibrant place to live and work. Everyone around the country still talks in glowing terms about what Liverpool made happen in 2008. The artistic, economic, education and social success of the year’s activities still resonate across the UK. This year’s campaign is ‘ART = LIFE’ and was inspired by the iconic artist and activist Keith Haring. Art has a big part to play in inspiring people.
Queering galleries and art spaces can only bring positive cohesion.
For too long ‘diversity’ has been packaged and presented as a half empty glass leaving behind or excluding the true experiences of modern day gay life. It’s as important that a 17 year old coming to terms with their sexuality, is exposed to queer culture in all its forms. From Boy George to April Ashley. Our social justice programme has reached over 150,000 younger audiences and has picked up awards especially our anti-hate education initiatives. That makes me especially proud. The city and many audiences have really embraced the festival. This means a lot to the team at Homotopia.
Until 1 December
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