MArly 1

For the past ten years, the Marlborough Pub & Theatre in Brighton has put on “work which is at the forefront of LGBTQ+ culture”, says Ema Boswood, programme coordinator. “We’re really fortunate to operate in Brighton where there’s such a vibrant queer community and so many people excited by the work we’re programming.” The sort of gigs that take place under the Marly umbrella used to be called ‘Weekenders’, “but we realised that name didn’t really work because often they’re not on the weekend. They’re kind of clusters of performance, or micro-pieces – we never got the right word for them.” Whatever they are, they’re all representatives of whichever particular theme the Marlborough is championing. This year their What’s On has included ‘Trans Pride’, and we speak to Ema as ‘Queer Heroes’ is in full swing, involving Rachael Young, Audre Lorde and Lucy McCormick. Then there’s the Hester Chillingworth-penned trans-positive pantomime this Christmas, “and next year we’ve got ‘Fat Pride’, which is going to comprise of performance but also some workshops and panel discussions. After that we’ve got ‘Radical Softness’, looking at self-care and mental health; again that’s going to be performance, workshops, and different wraparound activities. We do try and make it so it’s not just shows, even though that’s what we’re good at and what we love. We try and do other things that people can interact with.”

MArly 2

The Marlborough also have a touring initiative called ‘New Queers on the Block’. “We’re going around the UK to different locations where there isn’t as much LGBTQ+-led performance or access to LGBTQ+ performance.” Places on the scheme include Bradford, Blackpool, Folkstone and Hastings. “It’s interesting,” says Ema, “going to different locations where the word queer does have different meanings to different people. Some people aren’t as comfortable with the term, and I can understand that because maybe it’s been used as a slur when they were growing up. Obviously it’s been reclaimed by a lot of people, but also you don’t want to be dismissive of other people’s experiences.”

MArly 3Our main reason for talking to her is that the Marlborough is trying to raise £10,000 via Crowdfunder for seating, lights and air-con as well as other improvements. “The theatre is very old,” Ema laughs. “The chairs we’ve got are not the most comfortable; we want to get some nice, new easy-to-pull-out chairs to make the audience experience better. The lights in the theatre are actually from the 1970s, donated from the Nightingale Theatre when that shut down; they are falling to bits, they’re not going to fall on anyone’s head during a show, but we often find they are not working. We have so many good connections, we work with amazing artists, and we want them to come into the theatre and be confident that their show is going to be tech’d properly, and that they’re not going to have to scale down to adhere to what we have.” Further, the air-con in the theatre is broken, making for a space that “was so sweaty” over summer and is rather cold now we’re in winter.

Those who donate will be rewarded depending on how much they’ve pledged; for example, £25 will get you “a limited edition tea towel featuring self-portraits of 100 artists that we’ve worked with – like the school tea towels where everyone in your class draws a little drawing of themselves”. The reward for pledging £300 or more is a sleepover with performance artist Harry Clayton Wright – three out of the four of these sleepovers on offer have already gone.

At the time of talking they’ve reached £8,100. “We’re in a good position.” If they don’t make the £10,000, they don’t get any of the money pledged. “The money goes back to everyone who’s donated, and we have a very sad drink in the pub downstairs.” She’s sure they’ll hit the target. “We’ve got so many people who love the Marlborough – we made £3,000 in the first two days. Everyone who loves us has already given,” she resumes, hoping now for those who have told themselves they’ll donate, to do so by 10:49am on 19 November when time to raise the funds is up. Donating a fiver or a tenner makes a real difference, she points out. “It can just get us over the next 50- or 100-mark”, that bit closer to the improvements which “are going to make it a really nice experience to come and see a performance at the Marlborough, which is what everyone wants”.

crowdfunder.co.uk/10-years-of-queer

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