Video Call Calamity

A pink poster with wonky purple borders has the logo of Andro and Eve with a turquoise triangle and white writing top and centre. The poster title is ‘Video Call Calamity’. Two ‘Video call’ style boxes form the main image. One with the name ‘Squinky’ has a digitally distorted black and white illustration of a person’s head and shoulders. They are looking upwards with a cheeky expression and have short dark hair. The other video box has the name ‘Caller Two’ and a blank face with a question mark in the middle. Additional question marks surround this face, and 8-bt style star graphics in lime green decorate the poster.

Today on the blog we hear from artist Zoyander Street, whose new online performance, Video Call Calamity, Andro and Eve is producing.

Read on to find out about their inspirations behind the work, and some honest discussion of their struggles as someone who identifies as neurodiverse.

During the various lockdowns and shift towards online events, I noticed more people becoming aware of social discomforts that they perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily notice in the lives they had become accustomed to. There were articles about how eye contact is actually quite draining for most people, or about the dysphoria of seeing yourself reflected back at you in a small window constantly, while you talk to others. I was also thinking about my own writing, and the discomfort I have inventing dialogue that sounds like real people, which matched up with the discomfort I feel performing normal personhood in day to day life.

A slim, white transmasculine person with short brown hair is seen from waist up standing three quarter view to camera. They are wearing a green long sleeved t shirt and have brown eyes. They are in a dimly lit workspace with three computer monitors behind them
Zoyander Street

I wanted to make a piece of work about that, and when I think about games and theatre that explore those feelings, Squinky’s* work is the first thing on my mind. So I wanted to collaborate with them and see what we could do together.

*Squinky is a queer new media artist and theatre practitioner based in Montreal, with a background in game development

I’ve made a lot of “games” that focus on interactive characters based on real people, so that you can just have a simulated conversation with them without trying to achieve anything

I’ve been working in indie games for just over a decade now, but until this project, almost everything I’ve made has been a single player experience, something that you interact with alone. I’m very interested in constructing a partner who you are interacting with, and I’ve made a lot of “games” that focus on interactive characters based on real people, so that you can just have a simulated conversation with them without trying to achieve anything.

I like the way that pacing and glitches affect the way you read that software partner, almost like the computer version of body language. I’m not often funny on purpose, and most of my work is kind of serious but chill – this piece is a big shift for me in that sense, as well as being the first theatre-adjacent thing that I’ve made!

I have wanted to get into theatre for a while, partly because I am fascinated by performance and the way that people can completely change the meaning of things just by altering their tone or posture. I’ve also had really moving experiences with improvised story games that are played in person, either around a table or in a theatre space. I want to be able to work with those dynamics that emerge between people and the narrative gaps that we all fill in when given a few very gestural directions. It’s been a real joy to get theatre residencies as part of the development of this project, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I get to explore next.

– Zoyander Street, September 2021.

Video Call Calamity has its very first performance on 6 October! Tickets are on sale now. Find out more and book here.

Video Call Calamity is part of New Conversations, a programme funded and delivered by the British Council, Canada Council for the Arts, Farnham Maltings, and the High Commission of Canada in the UK. It has also been supported in its initial stages by Sheffield Theatres.

Get to Know Seleena Laverne Daye

A Black woman with mid length hair stands in front a painted pink brick wall. She is wearing a turquoise tee with black dungarees and pink cardigan accessorised with bright yellow beaded necklace. She has on glasses and is smiling with an open smile at the camera

Our new zine, JOYFUL NOISE, is being designed and curated by experienced zine artist, Seleena Laverne Daye. This July some of you may have met her through our zine making workshops. But many of you won’t have. So we thought we’d do a proper introduction, so you can find out more about her practice and what brings her joy!

Seleena Laverne Daye is a self-taught textile artist, workshop facilitator, retail worker and zine maker who creates bright and playful works using traditional sewing techniques. Her work is centred around race, class, gender and sexuality.

A diagram of how to make a mini zine is drawn in a cartoon style. It shows the 8 steps to make this from one piece of A4 paper.
How to make a 1 page zine – Seleena Laverne Daye

She makes zines about the things she loves and her identity, such as Without You I’m Nothing, Happy Alone and the Brown Girl zine series. She also co-hosts Poor Lass, a podcast sharing working class stories and aims to make art, crafts and creativity as accessible as possible.

How long have you been making zines? What is it that you like about them?
I’ve been making zines around 21 years now.  I really love the DIY aspect of them and they’re fun to make. There’s something about cutting things out and sticking them down that sparks joy! also really like that a zine can be about anything and everything, and each one is completely different. And that you get to hear from marginalised groups in zines, sharing their story in their own words.

A white cover of an A5 zine. Printed in black ink are two fists that have the words 'Brown Girls' written across each finger. The title Brown girls is is bold lettering above and below the fist illustration in slanted typeface.

Can you tell us about previous zines you’ve worked on or created? 
Most of my zines are about race, class and identity, oh and fandom; I love making zines about the things I love. I’ve made a couple of long running zines with friends, One was called Sugar Paper which was a crafty how to zine and another called Poor Lass which was all about working class stories. I’ve also made zines for and with organisations and groups with subject matters ranging from safety for sex workers to community activists.  

A felt portrait of Angela Davis. She is wearing a red polo neck and has a net afro hairstyle.

You make things with felt too, how did you get into craft?
I’ve been crafting since I was very small. Part of it is growing up with not much money, so having a DIY approach to most things in life has been passed on from my mum, and I just really enjoying making things. My mum taught me to sew when I was little and her dad, my grandad also made a lot of things. I did GCSE textiles at school but beyond that have had no formal training, more just a hobby that developed over time.

What’s it like being based in Manchester? Do you feel connected to other artists or creatives? 

I really love living in a city, I think it’s influenced me a lot in what I make. My mum grew up in a village in South Yorkshire, so a lot of my family visits were there, but I think I was made for city life. I realise how lucky I am to have access to free art spaces and meet other creatives, which happens everywhere, but more so in a big city. And I’ve met a few artists in Manchester whose work inspires me and who I’ve collaborated with.

What other zines do you love?
One of my all time favourite zines is Shotgun Seamstress by Osa Atoe, which is a zine about Black Punks, with reviews, interviews and more. I also love zines by Holly Casio. I am biased as she is one of my best friends and the person who was instrumental in me getting into zines as much as I did, She makes zines and comics about fandom and sexuality and life.

What do you hope to achieve with Joyful Noise?
To spread some Joy!!! The past 18 months have not exactly been filled with joy and I think we all need to allow ourselves space and time to experience joy. And as with most things I create, I hope to encourage people who aren’t always able to take up space, to TAKE UP SPACE!

A cover from a zine by Seleena Laverne Daye. It is yellow and has the words 'Happy Alone' painted in blue writing with a heart and two 'x' in the middle

What do you do to cultivate joy?
Dance! I love dancing, it always makes me feel good. Create something, chat rubbish with friends and eat crisps. They’re the main ways I cultivate joy.

Finally, have you got any advice for someone wanting to make a zine?
Just do it! I know that’s easy to say, but don’t overthink it. Don’t feel like you aren’t ‘artistic’ enough or whatever. If you have something to say or share just note it down, put it in a zine. You don’t have to show anyone when it’s done. There’s no right or wrong way to make a zine.

Thanks to Seleena for being interviewed. We hope you feel inspired to have a go, either to make your own zine, or submit something for JOYFUL NOISE.

Find out more about submitting creative work on the theme to our new zine by clicking here. Deadline for submissions is 24 September!

Meet the Judges

A slim, white transmasculine person with short brown hair is seen from waist up standing three quarter view to camera. They are wearing a green long sleeved t shirt and have brown eyes. They are in a dimly lit workspace with three computer monitors behind them

For our Reclaiming the Rainbow Photo Challenge we have assembled a brilliant bunch of South Yorkshire Creatives to judge entries. Read on to find out more about them and how they feel about the rainbow flag!

Reclaiming the Rainbow Photo Challenge is a way to raise awareness of the Pride flag as a symbol of safety, build connections, and celebrate the strength of the South Yorkshire LGBTQ+ community through this difficult time. You can find out more about it and on how to enter here.

A 6 stripe rainbow arch curves from bottom left to top right. A pink camera graphic sits on top with the words reclaiming the rainbow beneath. The Andro and Eve logo is shown in pink and white on the top right hand corner on a lavender background.

First up is Zoyander Street (Pictured above). “I am a neurodivergent, genderqueer trans man living in Rotherham, and an artist-researcher and critic working at the fringes of indie videogames for over a decade. After becoming increasingly sensitive to the limitations of linear text, I began exploring interactive and tactile mediums of communication, because I want to surface ambiguity and allow mess to stay messy. Led by ethnographic and historical research, I create lo-fi glitchy games and custom hardware for festivals, galleries, and museums”.

Gilbert Baker said that he chose the rainbow for the flag because it is a “natural flag” that “comes from the sky” – it comes from the same place as the light that shines equally on everyone and sustains the myriad forms of life on earth. Just as you can never find the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, you can never perfectly locate queerness or pin down the boundaries of our community; we exist as an expression of the beautiful variety of forms that exist in this world.

Zoyander Street
A white woman with short briwn hair and blue eyes is smiling at the camera with just her face and shoulders showing. She stands against a shutter painted yellow and grey

Next up is Nelly Naylor. “My names Nelly, I’m a proper Yorkshire lass, I live in Sheffield with my girlfriend and our cats Slim and Shady! I studied photography at Sheffield Hallam and in my final year I launched my business. I noticed that couples in the LGBT+ community were not represented at all! I knew I was the girl to fly the flag for our community so I become a LGBT+ specialist wedding photographer.  5 years on, a few awards in the bag and 150 5-star reviews online, I’m still championing equal marriage and documenting it in my unique colourful fun style!” 

The rainbow flag to me was something I could identify with- for me the symbol if I saw it in a cafe, bar, or on someone’s website, I knew it was a safe space for me to be myself. I know it sounds cliche but I do wear the flag with pride, on clothing, shoes, umbrellas whatever it may be the symbol says to people this is me, I’m comfortable with who I am and this is my journey. I’m also really glad we now have a progress flag now, I feel every year we do progress in everyway. 

Nelly Naylor

And finally, our third judge is Yuen Fong Ling. Yuen Fong LING is an artist and curator based at Bloc Studio, Sheffield, and Senior Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University. Ling has a socially-engaged and performance-based art practice that explores his biographical connections with omitted histories, people, places and objects.

A Chinese man with shoulder length hair stands looking to the left. He has a moustache and goatee and dark rimmed glasses and is wearing a white shirt with patterns of faces on.

Recent projects include: “Towards Memorial” (2019-ongoing) explores the remaking, gifting and wearing of sandals once designed and handmade by gay socialist activist Edward Carpenter (1844-1929), and “The Human Memorial” (2020-ongoing) explores the empty plinth to consider what monuments and statues we want in public space? What we stand for, and importantly when and where?  

My relationship with the rainbow flag has been different throughout my life. There were times when I shied away from it, embraced it, was protected by it, exposed, made vulnerable by it, and even rejected it. What this has meant, is that it’s constantly evolving and changing symbol for me. Now, more than ever, do we need to reclaim, rework, make our own, these colours for our community

Yuen Fong Ling

We hope our judges words inspire you to think about your relationship with the rainbow flag and take your own photo for Reclaiming the Rainbow.

Up for grabs is a fabulous selection of prizes from local traders including Birdhouse Tea, Showroom Cinema, Elly Joy, Truffle Pig Vegan, Beer Central, Moss and Clover, Vulgar Vintage, Artisan and Eco and Louche Mag.

If you’re LGBTQ+in based in South Yorkshire, send us a photo now!

The photo should be

– Inspired by the phrase ‘Reclaiming the Rainbow’ and

– Show either yourself or another LGBTQ+ community member in a location in South Yorkshire.

Deadline for entries is midnight 1 Aug. Full details on entering, can be found here. Good luck!

Introducing Mama Ghetto and DJ Xzan

Next month we launch our new zine CENTRE, with a special online event, REYT QUEER NIGHT IN, to bring our community together. And of course queer culture will be served up front and centre!

A Black dancer strikes a classic old school Vogue pose on a runway. His hands are around his face and he wears a light suit jacket, jeans and T Shirt. He is lit dramatically by pink and purple lighting.
Darren Pritchard

Part of our offer is a Vogue dance workshop with Mama Ghetto aka Darren Pritchard. Darren is a performer, choreographer, producer and director. He is also a celebrated Vogue performer and Mother of the House of Ghetto Manchester. We’re thrilled he can join us to teach some Vogue moves and flair via Zoom!

Darren says ‘Vogue is important to me, because it embraces my love of dance, my love of QTIPOC culture and allows me to be me and who ever else I want to be. Through the ballroom culture as a Mother I have seen people grow and develop and do things they thought they could never do’.

Manchester’s House of Ghetto have made their name in the Manchester Vogue ball scene with tight choreography performed solely by Black female dancers. House of Ghetto also feature in documentary ‘Deep in Vogue‘, which examines the North West’s Vogue ball scene, and which premiered at BFI Flare in 2019. Darren has produced Vogue Balls throughout the UK including Manchester’s first Black Pride Vogue Ball as part of 2019’s Manchester Pride. Read more about the House of Ghetto and Darren here.

Christian Adore looks sultry, directly at the camera. Christian is 5”5’, dashing young man with a glint in his eye stands before you - Imagine, if you will, that Johnny Depp and Oscar Wilde had a glittery love child, and raised him in the wings of London’s West End. That’s this guy. Thick eyebrows, olive skin, and a finely groomed pencil moustache, with a dark stubbly beard along a sharp jawline. Oh, and a thick mane of wavy black hair which reaches his buttocks
Christian Adore will be leading a PARTY EYES makeup workshop! Photo. Ndrika Anyika.

Our REYT QUEER NIGHT IN is about having fun with your community, so before getting your vogue on with Mama Ghetto, we’re encouraging you to join drag star Christian Adore with his ‘Party Eye’s’ makeup workshop, for all genders. Because remember, makeup has *no* gender! Its bound to be an irreverent and joyful way to get ready for your queer party at home!

A Black non binary person DJ's on some decks. They are lit by purplelighting and wearing a green, geometric patterned shirt and glasses.
DJ Xzan will be performing a live DJ set!

Finally, we’re super excited that DJ Xzan, will be performing a live DJ set 9 – 11pm bringing the party direct to your front room. They’ll be playing a high energy set with plenty queer pop party anthems to help you share in the queer joy. DJ Xzan aka Xandice Armah is an open format DJ from London  and co founder of Gal Pals, the LGBTQ+ dance party centring womxn and excellent pop music. Xzan has supported the likes of Big Freedia, JD Samson, Anna Clavi, MNEK and Mabel, as well as playing at Glastonbury on the Sisterhood Stage.

All those who pre order a copy of CENTRE will get sent a link to the DJ set for free, but if you want to join us from 7pm, you’ll need to get your ticket via Tickets For Good. Sliding scale prices to suit all budgets are available! We hope you can join us on the 10th October, serving your best party looks, and bask in the queer joy!

CENTRE will be available on our online shop for pre sale on the 1st October and posted out around REYT QUEER NIGHT IN on 10th October. The zine is a collaboration with artist Okocha Obasi and created using Arts Council England’s COVID-19 Emergency Funding.

Lets meet LoUis CYfer!

With just over a month until our our Cabaret College, we caught up with award winning drag king and actor Lucy Jane Parkinson, aka LoUis CYfer who we’re collaborating with for this set of online workshops..

LoUis CYfer was the first Drag King to win the crown at Drag Idol UK and has gone on to become a well known performer in the UK cabaret scene. A regular collaborator with theatre company Milk Presents, they have performed in theatre shows across the UK, balancing their acting and writing alongside appearances as LoUis CYfer. Having led some drag king workshops for us back in November 2019 we’re thrilled they are back to work with us on the Cabaret College. 

An androgynous person dressed in plastic gold armour poses with a hobby horse while a glitter canon goes off behind them
Lucy Jane Parkinson in JOAN. Milk Presents.

Q. Can you tell us about your past work?

As well some stints working in a Chinese takeaway and Morrisons, I have worked in in some of the best cabaret bars in the UK. I’ve travelled all over the world from Texas to Australia, performing both cabaret and theatre. I’ve run workshops which raise awareness around gender, masculinity and drag, alongside some of my favourite people in the whole world (Milk Presents). Together we cleaned up at the Edinburgh fringe a few years ago winning a Fringe First, a Stage Award and Spirit of the Fringe for our hit cabaret theatre show: JOAN. I’ve done lots of work with Milk Presents with shows such as BULLISH and video poetry projects like MY ENGLAND. Before lockdown I had just finished a restoration comedy at the Young Vic Theatre and a drama for the BBC.

Q. What is the character of LoUis CYfer like?

LoUis is like nobody I’ve ever met, he’s charming yet cheeky, he’s strong and masculine but delicate like a soggy dandelion. He’s a dickhead that you can’t help but have fun with.

Q. What got you into drag / cabaret and what do you like best about it?

I was an artist studying my masters and at the same time was having a complete identity crisis; LoUis was my way of processing my confusion. The best thing about cabaret is that the show isn’t someone else’s script, it’s all your own, and having a stage for your voice, (albeit to pissheads), feels like a great opportunity to create discourse in an entertaining manner.

Q. Is there anything about drag and cabaret you’d like to see change? 

Drag and cabaret is always changing and is constantly in flux, if you want me to say I’d like to see more kings I’m not going to do that … What I would like is to be able to see more arts funding for this genre as lots of cabaret artists are living hand to mouth. It would be good if we could apply for funds to make our travelling performances more like conventional touring theatre in terms of having a team and budgets for lighting and sound. Being on your own and doing everything can be a real stress and sometimes you forget to enjoy it.

Q. What do you hope to achieve through the Cabaret College? 

I want to improve the quality of the work on the scene. I’m sick of seeing people have to enter all these competitions to get recognition. It’s not a good start and doesn’t facilitate self – sufficiency and critical reflection for the artist. It is crucial to equip creative people with the tools to make good quality work.

Q. As someone working in the performing arts how have you adapted under COVID? What are you excited about working on in future? 

I’ve gone digital baby!!! This includes working with my own avatar as a way to explore character and technology. I’ve started my own podcast called FANNY KLUB and have been working with my partner in crime Rebecca Banatvala on our queer theatre company Korupt Kabuki. We have been writing monologues for actors to perform to camera, writing our own comedy show BOXTICKERS and thanks to Daisy May Cooper we have been writing our first treatment for a TV show about how we met. It’s been all go here at HQ.. Before lockdown I was due to start 6 months at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in Twelfth Night so once things open up again I’m hopeful they will begin rehearsals and I’ll get my big break back!

Lucy leans over a table to help share drag king makeup skills to two participants who have painted on some thick eyebrows
LoUis facilitating a drag king workshop for Andro and Eve. Nov 2019

Can you tell us about someone that inspires you? 

Without trying to sound like a dickhead, no particular person inspires me. I find moments and memories inspiring but to be inspired I feel like you have to see something in someone else that you aspire to be or have.. I don’t feel like I’ve had the opportunity to see myself in anyone yet. Having said that I wouldn’t mind waking up one morning to find I am Jodie Comer, Victoria Wood, Robin Williams, Cathy Burke or Daisy May Cooper.

To find out more and apply for a place on the Cabaret College course head here and complete the short application form. Deadline 30 July. You can find out more about LoUis CYfer by following him on Instagram. 

Who is Okocha Obasi?

Head & shoulders portrait of Okocha Obasi. He is stood against a white wall in bright sunlight, wearing some oversized and chunky orange sunglasses.

Ahead of the launch of our new zine, Centre, we caught up with RACEZINE founder, recent graduate and our latest collaborator, Okocha Obasi (he/him).

Okocha is a graphic designer and recent graduate from Leeds Arts University. In the past three years, he has created an array of projects, characterised by bold designs and themes that are socially engaged and conscious. Obasi is the creator of the RACEZINE whose aim is to platform creatives of colour, and Okocha has produced many projects including a non-profit zine, performance events and colourful and infamous club night TONGUE N TEETH. (All whilst completing his Bachelors degree – crazy right!?)

Q: So, Kocha, what can you tell us about your previous projects?

A photograph of a RACEZINE clubnight.
A party-goer at TONGUE N TEETH, image courtesy of the artist, Okocha Obasi.

Okocha: I do a range of different projects ranging from styling, art direction to speculative focused critical design. I use whatever medium is needed to prove or communicate an idea. I like to blur the lines between different practices in order to create visually cathartic pieces of work, hence why I see myself more as artist, than ‘graphic designer’. Whether it’s a poster, club night, event, motion graphic or textile design, all my projects have purpose and direction for impact. For example, my brand RACEZINE COLLECTIVE was made out of the pain of being the Othered my entire life. I created a zine publication known as RACEZINE to share the voices of creatives of colours who tend to go unnoticed in the white dominated Northern art-spaces. Other projects include TONGUE N TEETH, a club night which welcomes those othered, in a temporary carnival-like space, offering moments of escape.

Q: When did you get into zines, and what is it you like about them?

Okocha: I have always been into zines, and since I was young have enjoyed looking through independent bookstores or zine libraries up and down the country. I like how they can take any form, style and narrative, allowing less-heard voices to become physically achieved and known. There’s something very timeless about how zines represent certain eras, highlighting different the social issues of different periods, provide commentary and can be a form of liberation or rebellion. I like the power of self-publishing things, which bigger establishments might view as too
‘risky’. Zines themselves are forms of protest against what is allowed or expected, which naturally makes them an expression of punk. And punk, has always been political and pushing the boat where’s it’s never been and that’s very exciting.

Q: What do you like about living in West Yorkshire/Leeds?

Okocha: What I love about Leeds is the definitely the club nights, as I have had many good (and messy) nights out!  I also love that many people are very down to earth and genuine, it feels like you can breathe more so than London at times. There’s definitely been a surge in creative collectives which is always inspiring. I love the D.I.Y attitude that comes with these collectives, that often comes with being thoughtful about who and why they are creating spaces. On a personal level, I grew a lot in Leeds as well for a range of different reasons, which I will always thanks the city for. Overall as a creative it’s a good place to fail, learn and succeed, as it cheap and accessible for many different things. 

Q: What do you find challenging about living in Leeds?

Okocha: I think there are a lot of white dominated spaces, which can feel very suffocating as PoC. I think also the mass amount of students made me very anxious as some people views definitely did not align with my own. I wish there were more regular art shows which are not inherently fine art and white. I think it’s great a lot of different art spaces are created by DIY collectives, but I wish there were more radical exhibitions and shows, led by established art organisations & spaces.

Q: What do you hope to achieve with Centre? 

Okocha: I hope to represent all the voices meaningfully and create a loud, bold and visually cathartic zine publication. One which will be cherished by all those who get a copy. I definitely want it to be completely different to all my past work in regards to style….just expect every page to be visual ecstasy….that’s all I’m going to give away for now 😉 

Q: Can you share with us someone that inspires you?

Okocha: My mother’s strength runs through my blood. Being completely resilient to any downfall what comes her way has always made me realise even in the darkest times we can rise. My mum taught me how to survive independently and warned me about every bad wolf in the world from a young age. I think that’s why I see the world the way it is and with that, find strength in using light to reveal the dark.

Q: I think it’s only fair to finish by asking you the same question we’re asking of all the artists who submit a response to Centre. Can you tell us, in 50 words or less, what matters most to you? 

Okocha: Being unapologetic. I am young but feel like I’ve lived a long life due to a range of experiences, good and bad that have shaped who I am today. I have grown, broken myself and grown again, which has taught me now, more than ever, to be completely unapologetic in everything I do.

a hand holding a printed copy of RACEZINE
RACEZINE, 2019, image courtesy of the artist, Okocha Obasi

You can see more examples of Okocha’s work, and follow him on Instagram, here.

Title image credit: Okocha Obasi, photographed by @undinemarkus.

 

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