Why London’s gay art fest ‘GFEST’ is still relevant today

At GFEST – Gaywise FESTival, we always look at the numerous terms that define particular genres of arts: ‘gay arts’ or ‘queer art’ and ‘lgbt / glbt arts’. They can be the art that is inspired by, affected by, or influenced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender (LGBT) and queer artist’s or practitioner’s sexuality and broader identities.

We are often asked what is the relevance of GFEST in contemporary times.

First & foremost, it’s a celebration of the arts and the artistic creativity.

Several artists, straight or gay, have been exploring themes around their sexuality for a long time. GFEST is more relevant today because LGBT artists exploring their sexuality related issues, artistic sensibilities and gender issues have been offered an added boost due to the relatively recent developments.  e.g. post civil partnerships, goods and services act and the Equality Bill combined with some experiences of gay adoption, gay parenting, confident young queer sexuality in schools (or in playgrounds) and in workplaces have a greater relevance today through their artistic, cultural & social expressions. ‘LGBT arts for All’ is still an ongoing development that’s moving swiftly as social adjustments or assimilation process continues by the mainstream.

Some artists are particularly looking at a newfound, confident voice for young people’s LGBT identity. Some others are dealing with multiple identities (such as black, gay and disable performer or, a non-Muslim, British Asian Gay Artist based in a Muslim country, etc.,) and any marginalisation faced due to that. From ground-breaking visual arts to thought provoking short films and fabulous Performances, I believe each LGBT artist has a unique story to communicate and some elements of their narratives and experience base are still challenging to mainstream ideas and pre-conceived notions.

GFEST in London is defined as an ‘LGBT arts Festival for All’.  It means sharing of these artworks is much more relevant in contemporary times when we seem to have accepted the equality for LGBT people in all walks of life. A greater understanding of LGBT arts, cultures and issues can only create a more diverse and inclusive society.

From last year’s GFEST audience figures (based on feedback sample of over 1000 people) show over 30 % audiences identified themselves as straight. Over 95% said they enjoyed what GFEST presented. I hope the figures can speak for themselves. GFEST performances and visual art can offer a broader enjoyable variety night experiences to people, irrespective of their gay or straight sexuality.

Some GFEST programme elements may be challenging for a few audiences, however the choice remains with them as to how they access, approach or enjoy a work of art. All art is open to subjective interpretations and as organisers, I think we are offering a great and diverse variety to the audiences / art lovers who can take what they see as best. We need to offer a broader range for different audiences say, from cutting-edged performance arts to refreshing political voices in the short films.

I think gay, LGBT, glbt and queer artists can be very good role models – ‘responsible & responsive artists’ who feel free to express themselves or their sexuality or sexual identity through their chosen medium – also open for the larger public enjoyment. And artists who can make living out of their art if they need to.

I hope that careers of all LGBT artists goes from strength to strength and achieves the highest artistic success.

Niranjan Kamatkar – Artistic Director

WISE THOUGHTS / GFEST – Gaywise FESTival – London’s LGBT cross art festival for all

GFEST – Gaywise FESTival takes place annually in London in November.

GFEST Call for submissions is announced and artists / filmmakers are requested to submit the entries online: http://www.gaywisefestival.org.uk Submission deadline: 2 July 2010.

GFEST web networks: