Explore the power of community, with events online and live in Belfast on 14–21 November
Jamaican fashion activist Emani Edwards presents an exhibition in Belfast's historic Smithfield Market as part of Outburst 2020. Photo: Sasheina
From a celebration of Jamaican activists to a musical ritual for change, Outburst Festival’s 2020 programme explores the power of community, asking how art can make a difference in times of adversity.
From 14–21 November, audiences can experience Outburst’s events online, for free. If you’re in Belfast, you can catch live events too. See below for some highlights.
The festival explores and celebrates LGBTQI+ experiences through the arts. This year includes discussions, cutting-edge theatre and dance commissions, film, art and music collaborations. The programme promises to be inspiring, challenging and entertaining.
A new website, OUTAme, launches as part of the festival. Made in partnership with the British Council, it showcases Outburst’s work with artists from the Americas. In the future, it will support LGBTQI+ artists around the world with artist profiles, toolkits and resources.
The website launch on 18 November includes a free online talk that asks a critical question: what can we do through queer arts right now, across the world, to address the issues facing our communities?
‘Our collaboration with Outburst has created the first network of queer/ cuir artists and activists across the Americas'
A local and global festival
Outburst Queer Arts Festival has grown from a small community event established in 2006 in Belfast, Northern Ireland to a celebrated festival of local and international queer arts, culture and ideas.
The British Council has worked alongside the festival over the past five years in a creative partnership exploring what ‘LGBTQI+’, ‘queer’ and 'cuir' mean to artists and audiences around the world. It’s involved residencies, tours, artist exchanges, collaborations, programmer networking and strategic support for LGBTQI+ structures. There’s been activity across the continents of the Americas – and, more recently, the Middle East and North Africa.
‘Outburst is a very special festival that celebrates the diversity of queer art, culture and ideas,’ says Neil Webb, Director Theatre and Dance at the British Council. ‘The festival nurtures artists, supports communities and listens to new voices. I’m overjoyed that we’ll get to experience so many of these voices in Outburst 2020, with artists from the UK and around the world.’
‘Our collaboration with Outburst has created the first network of queer/ cuir artists and activists across the Americas,’ adds Pablo Rossello, Director Arts, Americas at the British Council. ‘It’s allowed us to support dozens of emerging artists, giving them access to an international platform and a safe space to network and exchange. We’re delighted to launch the OUTAme website with Outburst and in the future we hope it develops many more collaborations.’
Adapting to Covid-19
This year, like many other festivals, Outburst has adapted to Covid-19 restrictions on travel and mass gatherings. To form the programme, Artistic Director Ruth McCarthy asked artists how they wanted to take part.
McCarthy understood that some practitioners wouldn’t want, or weren’t able to, find a meaningful alternative to live work at that time. In the Outburst programme, she writes a caring message of support to artists and audiences, recognising that many are facing hardship.
Following these conversations, Outburst 2020 includes bespoke intimate events, such as a ‘queer poetry walk’ featuring contemporary poets from Northern Ireland to Trinidad, and including Hashem Hashem (Middle East).
The programme lists a ‘Plan B’ for some of its live events, in case restrictions change. As well as art on the street, there’s a rich series of online experiences, some of which will have a future life offline.
McCarthy explains why this is important: ‘Festivals are not just fun times and wild entertainment; they’re also a chance to connect, to tell stories, to offer a held space for contemplating and sharing what’s going on in our lives and the world around us.’
‘As queer people, we have always found ways to connect when something conspires to stop us,’ continues McCarthy. ‘So, here we are.’
‘As queer people, we have always found ways to connect when something conspires to stop us’
The festival’s events in partnership with the British Council include:
Online: OUTAme website launch showcasing Outburst's collaborations with queer/cuir artists from across the Americas. With a special video from rap artist Dani Nega whose work speaks of life as a Black lesbian artist in urban Brazil. Plus a talk with artists exploring what queer arts can do to help communities now. Limited free tickets available from Outburst’s website. 18 November, 20:00 (GMT).
Online: MASS. An online taster of a future performance with Belfast Ensemble and Ulster Orchestra, with visuals by six international artists including Madonna Adlib and Mohammad Shawky Hassan (North Africa). Artistic Director and composer Conor Mitchell invites us to a queer ritual for change. The work will evolve through the pandemic, culminating with an immersive live performance in Easter 2021. Streaming for free on 21 November, 18:00 (GMT).
Online: Beyond the Enduring Psychosexual Power of Jeff Goldblum. Work in progress reading of a solo show exploring the relationship between trans people, plagues, plants, the Anthropocene, Dionysys, Artaud, Queen Elizabeth I and Jeff Goldblum. Streaming for free from 14 November.
Online: Norms as food for the machine. Talk with North African musicians and thinkers on creative expression. Free but booking required on Outburst’s website. 19 November, 18:30 (GMT).
Live: What al-Nadeem Knew. Multimedia storytelling installation exploring collective memory in Egypt. Ticketed admission via Outburst’s website. At Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast on 13–26 November.
Live: Our Presence is our Resilience, a newly commissioned exhibition by fashion activist Emani Edwards from Jamaica. An exhibition of Jamaican LGBTQI+ creatives and activists in Smithfield Market, a historic part of Belfast. From 14 November.
See Outburst’s website for the full programme and booking information: outburstarts.com
Find out more:
> Read El Alto, a British Council publication exploring queer/cuir arts in the Americas