Catalogue description queerupnorth

This record is held by Manchester Archives and Local Studies

Details of M800
Reference: M800
Title: queerupnorth

Records of queerupnorth, Manchester's international festival of lesbian, gay and queer arts

Date: 1992-2006
Related material:

The archive of the Gay Sweatshop Theatre Company, which features also in the queerupnorth archive (see M800/3/1/1/3; M800/3/1/3/1; M800/3/2/1/10; M800/3/2/1/13-14; M800/3/2/1/19; M800/3/2/3/3; M800/3/2/3/31; M800/3/2/5/1; M800/3/3/3/19; M800/3/4/1/10; M800/3/4/3/1-2; M800/8/25; M800/8/44-45; M800/8/52) is held at Royal Holloway College Archives (document reference GB 0505 GS). Please email or call 01784 443814. There are many related articles in the Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive (LAGNA) held at Middlesex University (document reference GB 2925 LAGNA). Please email or call 020 8411 4933. There is also some related materials in the Hall Carpenter Archives held at the London School of Economics (document reference HCA) which includes records and publications of gay organisations and individuals in the UK and worldwide, as well as gay, lesbian and bisexual newspapers, magazines and ephemera. Please email or call 020 7955 7223. The Live Art Development Agency, Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, London E2 7ES holds substantial resources for the study of live art, including moving image (telephone 020 7033 0275/email The National Review of Live Art Archive contains a great deal of moving image material and is part of the University of Bristol Theatre Collection, Department of Drama, Cantocks Close, Bristol BS8 1UP (telephone 0117 331 5086/email Manchester Archives and Local Studies hold some other materials relevant to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies. Details of these can be obtained from or by calling 0161 234 1980.

Held by: Manchester Archives and Local Studies, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Administrative / biographical background:

queerupnorth began life as 'It's Queer Up North' in 1992, when it was founded by two members of staff at Manchester's radical performance space, 'The Green Room', Tanja Farman and Gavin Barlow. The name, a play on the well known phrase 'it's grim up north', was an idea borrowed from 'Flesh', a gay club night held at Manchester's famous Hacienda club. In 1998 the first word was dropped from the organisation's title making it simply 'queerupnorth'. For the sake of simplicity the organisation is simply described throughout majority of the catalogue as 'queerupnorth'. The idea was to provide a platform for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender art, including drama, cabaret, club nights, comedy, film, fine art and performance art. In 1992 it was not conceived of either as a festival or a sustainable event, but was rather one small element of that year's Manchester Festival. When it did prove possible to have another season in 1993, it was branded as 'The National Festival of Lesbian and Gay Arts 1993'. Then in 1994 the festival described itself as an 'International Festival of Lesbian and Gay Arts'. The format of queerupnorth's programming has changed from year to year. From 1992-1994 there was a concentrated season, or festival, of work but between 1995-2000 there were festivals presented only in 1996, 1998 and 2000. There were, however, a handful of queerupnorth events presented in 1995 and 1997. There were little or no events explicitly connected with queerupnorth either in 1999 or 2001. In 2002 however, the format of queerupnorth's programming changed again and between 2002-2004 individual events and small seasons of work were presented throughout the year. In 2005 queerupnorth returned to an annual festival format where it remained in 2006 and 2007. By 2005 queerupnorth had become Europe's biggest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender arts festival.


A huge variety of work has been presented, with some artists establishing a long standing relationship with the festival. In the festival's early days Gay Sweatshop Theatre Company featured prominently until its collapse in 1997, although individuals associated with it, such as Lois Weaver, continued their relationship with queerupnorth. Artists such as Canadian puppeteer Ronnie Burkett and Californian based Starving Artists Theatre Company first appeared in 1998 and 1996 respectively and have repeatedly returned. Legendary performance artists such as Karen Finlay, Julie Tolentino and the late Leigh Bowery have also featured, as have well known musical performers such as Diamanda Galas and David McAlmont. This eclectic mix of work presented is reflected in the archive, particularly in the artists' files which may be the most comprehensive accumulation of material on queer artists in the world. The variety of work is also well illustrated in the promotional materials, which are attractive examples of good design. queerupnorth also has a debating and academic element to its work, ranging from 1994's conference 'Queering the Pitch' to 2007's 'Queer Question Time'. The festival has often been a focus for debate about gender identity and queer theory. Film presentations, in partnership with organisations such as the London Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, have been a part of the festival's work from the early days, as have art exhibitions, someof them large scale and presented in unusual settings, such as the banks of the Rochdale Canal. The archive includes a substantial quantity of film material and photographic material, including slides. The archive also includes some oral history materials, collected as part of the archive project, supported by the National Lottery's Heritage Lottery Fund.


The variety of work presented is perhaps partly responsible for the variety of queerupnorth's audience, which in 2007 included people identifying as 'straight' just as much as it did those identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. This may be a consequence of the festival's adoption of the word 'queer' which, in potentially relating to anyone who doesn't identify as what might be described as 'normal', is a more inclusive word than, for example, 'gay'. By 2006 queerupnorth was '...a festival where people come together to explore and experience what it means to be queer - and a festival which affirms and celebrates our diversity'.


Venues hosting queerupnorth's events have varied from the relatively conventional, such as the Green Room, the Dancehouse Theatre, Library Theatre, Contact Theatre, the Royal Exchange Theatre Studio and various libraries, to the more radical, such as Sackville Gardens, Harvey Nichols' department store, a Malmaison Hotel room and, on one occasion, a pump house in Platt Fields. As the years have progressed the festival has spread geographically, with queerupnorth now keen to present events in Manchester's hinterland. In 2007 Rochdale, Stockport and Bolton all hosted events and, in 2000, queerupnorth experimented with a satellite event in Leeds.


Inevitably queerupnorth has established relationships with similar festivals in the UK that stated subsequently, such as 'Homotopia' in Liverpool and 'Glasgay' in Glasgow. That the festival very quickly became established as international also meant that relationships began with worldwide events such as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. That queerupnorth also has a campaigning focus means that it has also established relationships with local, national and international organisations such as the Albert Kennedy Trust, Stonewall, the Lesbian and Gay Foundation and the George House Trust.


Between 1992 and 1995 queerupnorth operated as a partnership involving Tanja Farman and Gavin Barlow and in 1995 became a limited company. queerupnorth became a registered charity in 2005.

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