Bijou Stories has it roots in oral history, in the traditions of sharing stories and memories, of documenting people’s personal histories to elucidate our understanding of the past and the present and even help mark signposts to the future. Traditionally, marginalised voices have been excluded from the dominant narratives, queerwashed out of the mainstream and into the margins. As recently as the 80s there was a move to silence gay voices with the introduction of Section 28, a pernicious attempt to ‘other’ gay people. And, although there have been improvements in gay equality there is still
Using oral history, found footage and queer ephemera we aim to paint a new picture of the LGBTQ+ community based on their lived experiences, memories and histories. We will be capturing and documenting these stories and inviting participants to work with LGBTQ+ artists to re-imagine them and create new artworks for an exhibition and live events
The stories we collect do not need to follow a narrative arc; they can be random memories about a lost London gay pub, a song, a scene from a film that has personal resonance, a political demo, secrets of polari, a person, a cabaret performance etc. The production itself will not be a narrative but a ‘variety club’ style show that might features songs, spoken word, disco dances, quizzes, shadow puppetry, lip sync dramas, competitive challenges, desperate divas and video backdrops to amplify the stories. The show will bring together artists and participants to create a work that is both alternative archive and unique artwork. So, a story could become a comic strip, a short film (or “bona vignette”), it could be retold by a drag queen storyteller or be transformed into a spoken word piece by the participant themselves etc.
Along the way there will be workshops where LGBTQ+families and allies can work together to create props and scenery for the performances or help to make costumes. Alternatively, participants may want to work with one of the network of artists to refine their devise a performance or create AV materials for the show, or contribute to a fanzine that documents the project and the archives created. The production will be performed by a mix of artists, participants and their friends to create a uniquely co-created piece that gives a voice to the queer communities of London.
The development of the project and the stories we collect will also be the basis of an exhibition to accompany the performance. Again, the exhibition will be created through participatory workshops where artists and participants collaborate to create unique artworks that breathe new life into the stories we are sharing.
Project curator Paul has previously been involved in a number of LGBTQ+ focused projects including
The Walk of Shame at Tate Britain
The Shame Show at MK Gallery
Fritz Haeg’s Sundown Schoolhouse at Hayward Gallery
Because of the current situation we will run some of the project development online, inviting artists to link up with participants virtually to find ways to disseminate these stories and store them for a digital archive that can be used as the basis for the performance.
Funders and Supporters:
Without these supporters this project would not have been possible so we are hugely grateful to the following: