2020. Wow. We did not see that coming. The start of the year seems like a hazy fog, where the idea of putting on a huge drag king cabaret for 350+ people is like some mad dream. But that’s what we were preparing for back then.
Despite all the nonsense, heartache and grieving this year has brought, here at Andro and Eve we have things to celebrate. And as relentless purveyors of queer joy, (because joy is resistance, to so many communities), we’re here to review the highs, and some challenges that 2020 has brought.
We started the year with a screening of music documentary, Silvana, at legendary music venue, Yellow Arch Studios in Sheffield. Collaborating with Sheffield Doc/Fest, was a first for us, with Melanie Ireldale the deputy director, introducing this celebration of the story of Swedish rapper Silvana Imam, her rise to fame and blossoming romance with Swedish pop star Beatrice Eli. Many in the audience fell hard for this lesbian power couple that evening.
In March, we had the 6th edition of The Kingdom Come planned at Abbeydale Picture House with a stellar line up of talent. Just a few days after we trained our amazing team of volunteers at the venue, the board of Andro and Eve discussed the situation, and made the unanimous decision to cancel our drag king cabaret, scheduled for the 21st.
Facing a significant financial loss, the next week was a blur, but our community came through, with 85% of those who had already booked tickets, donating their ticket, which bought us valuable time to plan for a very different year and apply for funding. Thank you to you if you were one of those kind people.
In May we found out we had been successful in securing Arts Council England Emergency Funding. And with that a bit of breathing space. Launching our drag king workshop course in June, we were bowled over for demand for places on the course, with 50+ people taking part in 3 sessions led by drag king Christian Adore in July. Have a peep at what that involved, and what our participants thought in the video below.
Developing talent is key to our work. Our 2020 programme included an online Cabaret College, which we produced in collaboration with LoUis CYfer. Over 8 weeks, 13 emerging drag and cabaret acts were given the opportunity to develop their own material with regular mentoring from LoUis, and 4 creative sessions. As one of the participants said
The whole experience was so safe and welcoming. I was VERY nervous and always felt supported and like I could ask for help
As well as developing talent we were also aware that digital delivery would limit the audience for our work, and wanted to use print to connect. So we commissioned graduate artist, and founder of Racezine Collective, Okocha Obasi to produce a brand new zine. Okocha was mentored by artist Seleena Laverne Daye, and worked closely with Assistant Producer, Emma Bentley – Fox.
The resulting zine, Centre, featured the voices of a whole range of Northern LGBTQ+ people, specially commissioned pieces by director and writer Rikki Beadle – Blair, activist and founder of the Black Trans Foundation, Azekel, as well as an interview with one of our friends from Lesbian Asylum Support Sheffield. The zine sold 50+ copies in its first month on sale, raising £105 for Yorkshire’s Racial Justice Network. 50% of all sales go towards RJN, and we still have copies on sale, so grab one before they’re all gone.
We launched Centre zine with a special online party, A Reyt Queer Night In. With a vogue workshop by Mother of House of Ghetto, Darren Pritchard, and a party makeup workshop by Christian Adore, the night was topped off with a brilliant set from Gal Pal’s DJ Xzan. The night certainly went down well with attendees..
The music was amazing, really good range covered. I liked being greeted on arrival, the friendly, multigenerational space and chance to put in requests
It sure beat our first attempt at an online party – a Netflix screening party of Clueless on March 28th! It was cute, but, not quite up to our usual standard..!
In November we launched a new range of merchandise including postcard sets, badges and tote bags in the Trans Pride Flag colours. Because trans rights matter and we’re here to celebrate trans lives. They look lovely on our newly redeveloped website.
Behind the scenes, we filed our first year accounts to Companies House (what a highlight!), and Artistic Director, Katherine developed a Gender Awareness Training session, aimed at staff in organisations and businesses of all sizes. Both Assistant Producer Emma, and Katherine, undertook anti racism training through Racial Justice Network, with Emma also taking part in Access and Audio Description training with Quiplash. This will inform the way we work in the months to come and is an important part of our mission to make our work accessible and inclusive to all.
On that note, we’ve just launched a new Community Survey. We don‘t know what the future holds, but we want to make plans with our community as the focus. If you’ve been to one of our events or workshops before, or follow us online and have 5 -10 minutes to spare, please complete the survey here. You can win a bundle of Andro and Eve goodies too!
Another highlight for Andro and Eve in 2020 was being invited to join Queer Arts North – a network of queer arts and Northern performance venues, platforming and providing talent development opportunities for LGBTQ+ artists in the North of England. It was great to be part of an artist networking event as part of Homotopia Festival in November.
The events of 2020 made us even more determined to work towards equality for all, and support the Black lives matter movement. The fight for racial equality would be nowhere without Black feminists like Audre Lorde, Angela Davis and Olive Morris, and Black LGBT+ community pioneers including Marsha P Johnson, Storme DeLarverie and Miss Major. We continue to familiarise ourselves with our history, and participate in anti racism work. On that note, this year, we’ve platformed Stop the Scandal, a campaign to prevent the use of mobile fingerprint scanners, linked to the Home Office database, by the police. If you haven’t read it yet, check out the piece by the Stop the Scandal campaign here.
At this point, please excuse some soppiness in expressing a wholehearted thanks to the two new members of the Andro and Eve board, Lola White and Ellie Wyer. Having only joined the board in February, they came through hard for Andro and Eve, and have supported the development of the organisation in this most difficult of years. A special mention must also go to Assistant Producer, Emma, who has gone the extra mile to help us produce and market all our creative projects and events in the last year.
We want to say a massive thank you to all the artists we worked with in 2020, for your dedication, creativity and hard work. Thank you also to the team of freelancers who help make our work look so bold and beautiful. And thanks so much to the volunteers who’ve helped out this year too.
In a year filled with challenges, and so much division sowed between communities, COVID has shown how unequal UK society is. We know in a way, that Andro and Eve and our tiny team are some of the lucky ones, we’ve carried on, while other enterprises have simply not been given the same support, or opportunity. We believe everyone should have the opportunity to make art, and access to culture. So we’ve dug in and got through 2020, and in many ways grown. But we know there is so much work to be done, and it is only in collective effort that we stand to make an impact.
Thank you to everyone who has told a friend about us, bought a ticket, donated, shopped or shared what we do. Your support is the reason we’re still here.
With love and solidarity