Bijou Stories will focus on the experiences, memories and histories of the LGBTQ+ communities in London. We will be capturing and documenting these stories through a variety of media and inviting participants to re-imagine them to create a living archive, exhibition and celebratory performance that will bring the stories to life in 2021.
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, 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 participatory performances that will bring an immediacy and freshness to this living archive of stories.
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. Let your imagination explore the creative possibilities!
Along the way there will be workshops where LGBTQI 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 be the basis of an exhibition to accompany the performance. Again, the exhibition will be created through participatory workshops showcasing work by the artists as well as the participants.
The project has been gestating for a while and is based on the concept of the Mobile Variety Club which was developed by Avant-Gardener Polly Brannan (formerly of Liverpool Biennial) and has been trialled by Avant-Gardening during 2019.
Project curator Paul has previously been involved in a number of LGBTQI 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. Participants can share their stories with the artists who will collaborate to find ways to disseminate these stories and store them for a digital archive that can be used as the basis for the performance.