The Superbia Weekend 2018

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Superbia Project manager Greg Thorpe looks back over our biggest Superbia Weekend ever…

The 2018 Superbia Weekend was bigger and bolder than ever before. Opening with a sell-out film premiere and finishing with the first ever ‘Superbia Presents’ line-up on the Sackville Park Boutique Stage, we brought a diverse range of LGBT+ culture to the Manchester Pride celebrations – with a special focus on new work, premieres and firsts.

The world premiere of documentary ‘Invisible Women’ launched our Weekend – a truly exciting piece of film charting the extraordinary lives of two Manchester lesbians, Angela Cooper and Luchia Fitzgerald. The film was part-funded with a Superbia Grant, and our screening at HOME sold out in one day.

We were proud to welcome Angela and Luchia to join us in conversation with the filmmakers, and our host Abigail Ward. Angela and Luchia’s story is set to inspire new generations of activists. They were early members of Manchester Gay Liberation Front, founded the first ever Manchester women’s refuge, and were instrumental in organising the life-changing Section 28 demonstrations.

The spirit of those demonstrations ran throughout The Superbia Weekend. A new audio commission from Abigail Ward, ‘Not Going Shopping’, was centrepiece of The Superbia Gallery: New Queer Art. Audio recorded on the day of the Section 28 demonstrations has been artfully interspersed with evocative music and interviews. The piece was accompanied by ‘Temporary Monument, Permanent Protest’, a photographic recreation of the march by artist Manuel Vason and Re:Con, the young programming team from Contact.

Many people in the photograph visited our Gallery over the weekend, including Angela and Luchia themselves, and stayed for a fascinating guided tour and artist’s talk, where we also heard from young artists Ruby Ramelize and Lauren Eastwood-Roberts. Conor Collins‘Diana’, painted using HIV+ blood and diamond dust, was a brilliant conversation starter, as was ‘Crashing Waves’, the multi-award-nominated short film by Emma Gilbertson, choregraphed by and starring Manchester’s Joshua Hubbard – another Manchester premiere. Work by young artists Anthony Spiteri and Abbie Shoreman completed our exhibition, which well over 200 people visited during the Weekend.

After the Manchester Pride Parade we welcomed dozens of people into our friendly creative café space, where artist Seleena Laverne-Day ran a Polaroid and craft workshop. Everything from decorative selfies to home-made greetings cards and Cher-inspired headwear was produced! Into The Gathering Dusk kept our lovely sober space refreshed with delicious home-made mixes and cordials.

 
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Keeping the atmosphere of the Parade going, I was proud to have a full room for my talk ‘The History of Pride: From Stonewall to the Present Day’, where I shared some of the many fascinating myths, legends and facts about the Stonewall Rebellion, leading on to the story of the first Pride events, including right here in Manchester, and the legacy and ongoing battle for LGBT+ equality around the world. Special guest Monica Pearl generously shared memories of seeing some of the Stonewall originals during her years in New York, including Storme DeLarverie, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.

Saturday closed with a bang at The Superbia Cabaret. Drag king dandy Dorian Wilde presided over an array of brilliant queer artists. All the way from the US, Immani Love brought erotic verse and storytelling, while Kenya Sterling, one of our young Superbia Chapbook authors (more news on this soon!) gave a powerful poetic performance. Lydia Bernsmeier-Rullow brought the house down with her stand-up, and local drag icon Violet Blonde graced us as herself with a potent reading about trans identity. Another new-to-Manchester performer Tommy Poppers sang two soaring live songs from new album Bathhouse Blues, with a truly awesome voice and ukulele for accompaniment.

On Sunday, ‘Visible’ was our next Manchester film premiere, another brilliant documentary, this one by award-winning director Campbell X, produced by Kayza Rose of the Family Project. The film interviews QTIPOC about their queer black heritage and influences and how those histories are often obscured. Rainbow Noir and friends met with the filmmakers and artist Ruby Ramelize after the screening for a workshop to look at the themes of the film with a creative twist.

This year, we had not one but two cabarets to offer. ‘We Can Make You Look Beautiful’ was something truly unique, produced in partnership with LGBT Foundation, Macmillan Cancer Support and RAH! at Manchester Met. Taking as its starting point the experiences of butch lesbians during complimentary cancer care, an artistic provocation was given to 5 artists to reflect on the world of high femme post-treatment pampering. The artists brought their own experiences of cancer, diverse medical treatment, head-shaving, humour and recovery, all from the point of view of non-femme presenting people. Through music, live art, poetry and anecdotes, the packed-out room went on an emotional rollercoaster! Artists were Helen Darby, Helen Mort, Claire Mooney, Eileen Edmondson and Debbie Sharp. Lawrie Roberts of Macmillan Cancer Care then presided over an interesting and informed post show Q&A.

Another Superbia-funded documentary, ‘My Recoverist Family’ follows a group of LGBT+ artists led by David Hoyle as they discuss substance misuse, sobriety and recovery via a series of creative workshops, culminating in an eye-opening performance in the HOME gallery. The cast were joined by a busy room of listeners for a post-film discussion.

The Section 28 demonstrations made on final appearance as an inspiration point in the Boiler Room documentary ‘Fleshback’ by Stephen Isaac-Wilson, exploring Manchester’s queer club scene past and present. Soon everyone was in the mood for a dance and luckily Manchester’s vogue supremo, Darren Pritchard, Mother of the House of Ghetto, was ready and waiting to deliver a vogue dance session, introducing twenty enthusiastic and soon-to-be sweaty students to a lesson in femme-way vogueing.

 
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On Monday, Superbia curated the final hours of the party in the park with four talented Manchester queer musical acts closing the Sackville Park Boutique Stage. Beau & Violet, Husk, Monopoly Phonic and Ajah UK brought raw Manchester vibes to the stage, proving there’s nothing like a bit of home-grown talent. Electronica, rap, rock and romance were all represented in our mini-festival line-up to a still up-for it crowd!

The Superbia Weekend 2018 was our best attended weekend so far and we want to thank each and every person who gave of their talent and time, and who came to one of our events. Our audiences are always engaged and supportive – and they have excellent taste! Soon we will share a survey to see what you’ve enjoyed from Superbia in the past few years, and what you’d like to see more of in future, so we can build an even better Weekend for 2019! In the meantime check out the bustling calendar of events that we are promoting right now – and get involved!

Phoebe Woodall