Ten years ago, the fledgling Outburst Queer Arts Festival hosted From Little Acorns, a small exhibition of paintings and photographs, mostly by local LGBTQ+ artists in Belfast.

A decade on, the event has grown into Northern Ireland’s primary festival of queer art and performance, and now features work from around the world.

The festival presents a programme of theatre, film, music, literature and debate and visual art over ten days. It has become a space for a multiplicity of creativity and freedom of expression, advancing the visibility of queer art and championing its practitioners.

Exploring ideas of home

For its tenth anniversary year, Outburst chose the theme of ‘home’ to underpin the festival. The word connotes different things to different people – security, family, acceptance, friendship – and for many ‘home’ is somewhere other than where they grew up. Some, including many LGBTQ+ people, have difficult or painful associations with the word, and often have left home to find somewhere they can be themselves and feel accepted.

Participating artists explored the particular resonances of ‘home’ for queer people from different backgrounds. In the video above, Outburst chairperson Cian Smyth discusses some of the ideas and experiences that the artists contributed.

A diversity of queer artists

Irish-born poet Cat Brogan’s work fuses intimate, emotional themes with broader political issues, often touching on her experiences of being a gay woman. In the video below, Brogan performs her poem Father’s Day at Outburst. The poem recounts a dream of her father dying, weaving together a relationship with a lover, her father’s political activism and a picture of home.

Another performer from last year’s festival is David Hoyle, a performance artist, actor, comedian and film director who typically performs in drag or in character, taking a sideways look at the world around him. Hoyle was invited to produce a short video work to accompany the piece; My Global Agenda is his witty, warm take on the theme of home, drawing on his thoughts on freedom, identity, gender equality, the international arms trade and education. You can watch his work below. 

Gerry Potter is a poet from Liverpool whose work flits from the polemical to the whimsical. One of his poems unleashes a withering critique of the government, while another imagines the kind of idle chit-chat you might hear if Satan were to visit a local café for a cup of tea. At last year’s festival he performed alongside Cat Brogan, and in the video above he performs his poem Family, Are We?.

Le Gateau Chocolat describes himself as ‘British-born Nigerian boy with a law degree, unsuspecting mother and a big heart, who against all odds discovered opera, lycra and drag’. The video above shows a glimpse of the lavish spectacle created for his performances; dressed in a sequined outfit and accompanied by a keyboard and a captivated young girl, he booms a theatrical number across a grand, stained-glass church.

In its first ten years, Outburst has grown to attract not only a huge range of performers and artists, but also a growing loyal audience, some of whom may not have encountered this work anywhere else. It provides a home for cultural diversity and excellence, while connecting with wider social and political issues beyond the walls of the festival. As the Outburst team puts it: ‘We are still fighting for queer Home.’

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