The Lakeside Theatre management team reflect on a busy month of LGBTQ+ theatre, workshops and screenings which brought together and celebrated the LGBTQ+ community at Essex.

LGBTQ+ History Month events at the Lakeside Theatre

The curation

In Autumn 2023, PhD Theatre Studies candidate, Lakeside Theatre Front of House staffer and playwright, Noah Alfred Pantano, approached us about curating a programme of shows and events celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month. 

The Lakeside Theatre is an inclusive community hub on campus and a creative space for all, so we were impressed by Noah’s proposal. We worked with Noah and local creatives to plan a line-up that would not only engage the LGBTQ+ communities on campus but would celebrate the myriad of identities expressed from within the community and provide opportunities for learning and entertainment.

Through his curation, Noah aimed to give an insight into the struggles the community has faced throughout its history, and to this day, but also to celebrate its culture. You can read about Noah’s curation in this blog post he wrote ahead of LGBTQ+ History Month 2024.

Working with the LGBTQ+ community and offering a creative space

After a successful run of Standing on a Nail (Noah’s “Queer Horror Story” presented in the 2023 Homegrown season) and community workshops in LGBTQ+ History Month 2023, we were really keen to work with the LGBTQ+ community at Essex for 2024, and to offer a safe and supportive space where our staff, students, patrons and community members from the local area could develop and create.

We wanted to encourage queer perspectives from a variety of community members and so in addition to Noah’s curation, so we invited artist, performer, poet and writer Chloe Filani to deliver a writing workshop which focussed on the creative process and the importance of exploring self and identity from a Black and Queer perspective. As we understand the intersections that can exist within marginalised communities and the importance of providing a spotlight to those intersections in a way that is not always done. It's important for us as a theatre to pay homage to those groups through celebrating Black Queer writers.

We also invited queer applicants to our Homegrown Season to present their pieces as part of LGBTQ+ History Month.

We worked closely with the University’s LGBTQ+ History Month planning committee, with Hanna and Kanyinsola sitting on that group to help develop and enrich the University’s programme with cultural experiences and make sure that we worked closely with the LGBQ+ and Trans Officers, the LGBTQ+ Staff Forum, the Trans and Non-Binary Forum and representatives from across the University when developing our programme. 

Hanna and Kanyinsola also worked closely with the LGBTQ+ Society and the LGBQ+ and Trans Officers to ensure the student experience was reflected.

LGBTQ+ History Month is an opportunity for learning

LGBTQ+ History Month is an opportunity for those inside and allied to the community to reflect on its history, but also a time for those not connected to the community to educate themselves on the struggles faced by LGBTQ+ people throughout history and the experience of LGBTQ+ people today.

A vibrant and expansive programme from any community hub encourages both those within the LGBTQ+ community and outside of it to engage with LGBTQ+ culture. The Lakeside Theatre team has worked hard this year to celebrate LGBTQ+ pride, culture and history and have supported the queer performers, writers, facilitators, and creators who have worked with us in providing a platform in physical and online spaces for their work while enriching the academic curriculum at Essex. We have also reached out beyond the core LGBTQ+ community at Essex to encourage participation and self-guided education on LGBTQ+ culture through our outreach activities.

Unfortunately, a small number of comments made to Lakeside Theatre team members when promoting the events, show that negative attitudes are still present in society. The University is taking appropriate action on these incidents and to respond to other concerns raised by the community though Report and Support and with the USG inclusion champions.

What’s next?

The end of LGBTQ+ History Month 2024 does not mean the end of LGBTQ+ or community events at the Lakeside! We still encourage the submission of queer projects through our Homegrown Season and we are constantly looking for ways to reflect and engage the diverse student and staff experience here at Essex. 

Throughout March and looking ahead to the Summer Term at Essex, the Lakeside Theatre will be running a range of free workshops – and of course live theatre – which the student, staff, and local communities at and to Essex can participate in.

We have a number of student produced shows as part of our Homegrown Season which will premiere at the Lakeside, and we are supporting the Theatre Arts Society and new student theatre companies to produce their latest works.

We can’t wait to welcome you back to the Lakeside!