Photo: Rosie Powell

Tarik Elmoutawakil & David Sheppeard. Photo: Rosie Powell

Marlborough Productions, the company behind the Marlborough Pub & Theatre’s renowned cultural programme have ceased management of the historic LGBTQ+ Brighton venue. The company will instead, present their internationally recognised performances, parties and community gatherings at venues and spaces in Brighton & Hove. Many events are to be held within the atmospheric surroundings of The Spire, Kemptown’s Grade II listed, deconsecrated church venue whilst Marlborough Productions continues to develop both local and touring projects.

Bold, new LGBTQ+ work will be produced in the months ahead with details to be announced. Whilst Marlborough Productions’ 2020 live programme is on hold as the world struggles with the Covid-19 crisis, the company is delivering cultural and community projects online including Radical Rhizomes: Brighton & Hove’s social network for queer trans & intersex people of colour; Brighton LGBTQ+ History Club: monthly talks exploring the city’s hidden queer heritage; a new digital commission from award-winning performance artist Harry Clayton-Wright; plus a series of internationally focused, digital events exploring queer creativity and resilience through the pandemic. Seed commissioning opportunities for LGBTQ+ artists plus a digital version of Brownton Abbey are also to be announced soon.

Tarik Elmoutawakil and David Sheppeard became co-artistic directors of Marlborough Productions in 2008. Their creative vision and inclusive, nurturing approach has enhanced the careers of hundreds of LGBTQ+ artists. Many, such as Travis Alabanza, Emma Frankland, Lucy McCormick, Harry Clayton-Wright and Rachael Young have become high profile within UK queer culture.

Marlborough Productions has also hosted international and established performers including Justin Vivian Bond, Big Freedia, Mykki Blanco, Bette Bourne, David Hoyle, Le Gateau Chocolat, Scottee, KUCHENGA, Lorraine Bowen and Kate Bornstein amongst others, working with key local partners including Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts and Brighton Dome & Festival.

Significantly, the organisation also expanded their Trans Pride and Brighton Pride events into radical celebrations in recent years, particularly at a time when the trans community began to feel less welcome in standard LGBT+ spaces. Trans Pride in the UK was initiated in Brighton and The Marlborough has to date, been the march’s initial meeting point.

Providing a welcoming, safe environment and taking a specific interest in the intersection between LGBTQ+ and BAME identities, Marlborough Productions have historically recognised these communities as pivotal in the organisation’s evolving programme, as well as at the Trans Pride and Brighton Pride parties.

“After ten years and hundreds of performances we made the difficult decision to leave the Marlborough Pub & Theatre. We are so proud of the artists who contributed to the creative life of the building, the cultural life of the city and the community that has made it their queer home. We want to thank our team members past and present for all they have done in supporting The Marlborough and making it one of the most radical and joyful venues in the UK. We recognise the achievements of The Marlborough would not have been possible without the bravery and unending creativity of the Black and brown, queer, trans and non-binary artists and communities. We compel all arts organisations to do the vital and necessary work to dismantle structurally racist hierarchies within our sector and across society.

As a small, LGBTQ+ led organisation with a commitment to inclusive and accessible programming we have done all we can to influence The Marlborough’s leaseholders, Laine Pub Co, to improve access and look after this historic building which dates back to 1784. We have come to the difficult conclusion that the building is no longer fit for purpose for the communities we serve. In spite of current circumstances with the Covid crisis, we are actively pursuing opportunities to develop an accessible LGBTQ+ community space that is so needed in the city. If you or anyone you know can help us achieve this aim, we’d love to hear from you.”

Tarik Elmoutawakil & David Sheppeard, co-artistic directors

“An artist needs many homes, and the Marlborough is definitely one of mine. What makes something a home to me is that it’s a place that I can make mistakes, see friends, grow, try out new things, experience other people’s lives, and rest. Marlborough has done ALL of that for me. I could not imagine my growth as an artist without a few key buildings and places in my life, and the Marlborough is one. From hosting me in my cabaret nights, to iterations of Burgerz before it knew it was Burgerz, to even just giving me a place to stay and make friends. I really do love that place.”

Travis Alabanza

“David and Tarik work tirelessly to showcase diverse, up-and-coming talent from all around the globe. The works are groundbreaking, thought-provoking and challenging; everything art should be. They’ll continue to put Brighton on the cultural map in this new phase.”

Juno Dawson

“I have loved visiting the Marlborough over the last few years and I recognise the vital importance of safer queer spaces for marginalised people. Tarik, David and their team made The Marlborough a really special place for diverse queer artists and communities to grow and develop and I know they will take their strong values, creativity and enthusiasm into whatever they do next.”

Kate Tempest

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