Uncertain future for gay arts venue

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

One of the UK’s leading producers of lesbian and gay performance has launched a fundraising campaign after Arts Council England confirmed it is to stop all of its £250,000 funding from April.

The Drill Hall in central London, whose partons include choreographer Matthew Bourne, Harry Potter actress Miriam Margolyes and comic Julian Clary, has a established an international reputation for championing the work of new artists, performers and theatre practitioners.

Originally built in 1882 as a drill hall for the Bloomsbury Rifles, this year it has been celebrating its 30th anniversary as a leading producer and presenter of lesbian, gay and queer performance.

Julie Parker, artistic director and chief executive of the Drill Hall, said that the funding cut could mean there will be no new lesbian or gay work at the venue:

“The Drill Hall is a unique building: the staff are determined that our important work, especially our education programme tackling homophobic bullying in schools, will survive,” she said.

“In an age where homophobia continues to run rife, The Drill Hall is a beacon for social cohesion and artistic excellence, not such a frequent combination.

“This funding cut will have a devastating impact on LGBT writers and performers.”

Schools OUT will be celebrating the launch of LGBT History Month 2008 and holding their annual conference at the Drill Hall tomorrow.

Manchester’s queerupnorth arts festival, also threatened by cuts, has earned a reprieve.

queerupnorth was the first of its kind in the UK and Europe and describes itself as “the most adventurous and creative queer arts cultural producer in the UK.”

Arts Council England had announced plans to end £98,000 of funding of for the organisation in March 2008.

“This morning we learned that the Arts Council has decided to continue funding queerupnorth for the 2008/9 year,” a statement on their website reveals.

“Funding beyond this period will be decided by the Arts Council following a review of our work over the next few months, including the May 2008 festival.

“We welcome this decision, and look forward to working closely and constructively with the Arts Council over the next few months.

“However, we’re very disappointed that Arts Council England has decided not to continue funding the Drill Hall in London.

“Drill Hall is the only producing venue in the UK entirely dedicated to lesbian, gay, and queer work and is of huge importance to lesbian and gay arts in the UK.”