GFEST Gaywise Festival: 9-21 Nov Preview

Monday 9 November – Saturday 21 November 2015

An annual platform for LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex) artists and organisations, the 8th GFEST – Gaywise FESTival ® runs Monday 9 – Saturday 21 November 2015 at venues across London. At a time when the LGBT community enjoys more tolerance and equality than at any other moment in history, when gay men and lesbians in more and more countries including the UK can marry their chosen partner, feel secure at work and home thanks to anti-discrimination laws, and benefit from increased visibility, one could say that now is a time for celebration. Yet many LGBTQI people still face unimaginable horrors in countries as diverse as Russian, Syria and Uganda. GFEST contemplates this polarised situation with this year’s theme: (Complacent Present)… Fragile Future?

The theme is equally pertinent to festivals like GFEST. “As a small LGBT arts charity we face enormous fundraising challenges,” says GFEST artistic director Niranjan Kamatkar. “Despite all those challenges we are still carrying on, putting forward a singular message that GFEST is there for the celebration of all LGBT artists and practitioners, promoting artistic excellence being at the heart of LGBTQI future.”


Challenging perceptions of Asian LGBTQI identities, an exhibition at London’s Menier Gallery (9 – 14 November, free) offers a rare glimpse into a world where gender, sexuality and religion are defiant bedfellows. ASIAN FUTURE will feature new work by legendary artist, writer and activist Sunil Gupta, renowned for his honest portrayal of gay life around the world, including his native India where practicing homosexuality is essentially illegal. Currently based in Brixton, south London, his work often causes controversy – until a few years ago, it was impossible for him to showcase some of his works in India, and as recently as 2012 a series of his photographs, Sun City and Other Stories, was removed from a gallery in Delhi without notice. The exhibition will present a series of his photographs that explore moments from South Asian Queer life sketches. Also on display are photographs by Charan Singh, a visual artist informed by years of community activism and HIV/AIDS work in India. A Delhi native, he’s currently taking a PhD in photography at London’s Royal College of Art. Manchester-based interactive artist Maya Chowdhry, in collaboration with poet Sarah Hymas, presents poetic sculptures that explore the fragility of life and anthropogenic climate change. These works are guest curated by Michael Petry.

Another guest curator Simon Tarrant presents work by two relatively younger London-based artists whose work contemplates gendered South Asian queer identity. Raju Rage combines film installation with image collage to question gender, sexuality and religion. Trained as a weaver, Raisa Kabir questions the politics of dress in connection to space, gender, race and sexuality.

Art critic Anna McNay will head up a debate on SEXUALITY AND SOUTH ASIAN IDENTITIES at Menier Gallery on 14 November. There’ll be an LGBT tour of Tate Modern’s Level 4 Galleries with artist Michael Petry looking at QUEER ART AT TATE MODERN (16 November) hosted by Tate curator Marcus Dickey Horley.


GFEST imagines the future of cinema, how it represents contemporary LGBTQI culture and how this has entered the mainstream, with two days of queer films at ArtHouse Crouch End (17 – 18 November, £10 / £7 concessions). The programme opens with the UK Premiere of THE SURFACE (dir: Michael J Saul, USA). From the director of True Love, his new ‘coming of age’ feature follows a young gay man on an emotional rollercoaster of finding his true identity in the modern gay world. Followed by a director Q&A. Also screening is the short film TOMORROW (dir: Leandro Tadashi, USA). Fresh from BFI Future Film, it follows two young men worrying about their future on New Year’s Eve in 1999.

The shorts programme is a cornucopia of sexual diversity representing this era of ‘acceptance’. In extraordinary festival favourite ELECTRIC INDIGO (dir: Jean-Julien Collette, Belgium/France) two heterosexual men unite in a non-carnal marriage and raise a daughter together. NERDESIN ASKIM? / WHERE ARE YOU MY LOVE? (dir: Defne Gezen, Turkey) is a story of transsexual sex workers in Istanbul, Turkey, where there is very little protection and no ‘hate crime’ laws. Challenging gender and identity, PINK PILGRIMS: FIN and TRANNYSFORMATION: JONO (dir: Craig Heathcote, UK) are two vignettes that peek behind the glittered curtains of Sink The Pink, east London’s most outrageous queer club. Set on a park bench in the 1960s, PUTTING ON THE DISH (dir: Brian Fairbairn & Karl Eccleston, UK) observes two strangers conversing in Polari, a form of slang spoken by some gay men in Britain before the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967. PEPPER (dir: Patrick Aubert, Canada) presents the painful awakening of a couple after an evening of fantasies, when dreams evaporate and reality appears. Based on a true story, RULE OF THUMB (dir: Almog Gurevich, Israel) sees a young man navigating sexual freedom on Tel Aviv’s gay scene, while being enslaved by his struggle with bulimia. The single largest group of homeless kids in the USA are LGBT. UNCONDITIONAL (dir: Kent Igleheart, USA) tells the story of a black teen kicked out for being gay, featuring music from Grammy-nominee Hozier. A filmmakers Q&A will follow.


This year’s GFEST concludes with an evening of classical music in the hollowed environs of St Pancras Parish Church, with its wonderful natural acoustics (20 November, £7 / £5 concessions). Entitled TONAL FUTURE, the evening aims to raise funds for, and awareness of, the ‘relatively silent’ world of gay composers and gay music. Having worked with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, the National Orchestras of Lebanon and Malta, and having directed Oxford’s University Church mixed-voice choir for 10 years, Gulliver Ralston will present a solo piano recital featuring works of Francis Poulenc. Liam Byrne plays the viola da gamba, a historical hybrid of guitar and cello. He will play forgotten gems of baroque music by Marin Marais and Sainte Colombe alongside newly commissioned works by living composers including Nico Muhly. The Korros Ensemble is a dynamic trio with an international reputation for their unique and distinguished performances. Comprising flute, clarinet and harp, they create a rarely heard soundworld of unusual and beautiful textures. They’ll present compositions of Benjamin Britten and Manuel de Falla. Having worked as an accompanist with Opera Ireland, NI Opera and Ulster Orchestra, counter tenor Miles Lallemant will present a short recital accompanied by Duncan Day on piano.

Chaired by Gulliver Ralston, Director of Music at the University of Roehampton and at Oxford’s University Church, the panel discussion FRAGILE FUTURE? will debate the impact of LGBT composers and musicians on classical music, and explore the influences of sexuality on creation of music (University of Roehampton, 21 November, free)

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