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Queering the Town Hall

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A group of exciting young artists are adding a dash of ‘queer' creativity to one of Middlesbrough's cultural icons.

The quartet are Queering the Town Hall as part of the historic venue's two year partnership with Curious Arts, showcasing and championing  LGBTQIA+ arts in the Tees Valley and wider region. 

Working with The Auxiliary Project Space, chosen artists Keavey Gamwell, Melody Sproates, John James Perangie and Russell Atkinson saw their work go on display on the exterior of the building to mark IDAHOBIT 2021 - International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. 

Middlesbrough-based artist Keavey Gamwell said: "It's been an amazing opportunity to bring LGBT+ inclusivity to Middlesbrough at a building so iconic and central.

"I am really thankful Middlesbrough Town Hall, Curious Arts and the Auxiliary gave us a chance to create something so ‘out of the ordinary' for this area."

Russell Atkinson, from South Shields, added: "Being a part of queer exhibitions in the North East of England means a lot to me.

"I was born here, lived most of my life feeling like there wasn't a place for me amidst the generations of men in my family working as miners, and went into the animation industry dominated by cisgender, heterosexual men.

"To be a part of this exhibition means being visible, showcasing my story and representing our LGBTQIA+ community up here. 

"We are here, and any young person out there who sees our work that feels different or too weird to fit in, needs to know that."

Curious Arts Executive Producer Phil Douglas said: "The idea for the exhibition came about as part of our partnership with Middlesbrough Town Hall.

"Whilst in lockdown, without events to promote on the building and limited access to indoor spaces, it presented the perfect opportunity to showcase work by LGBTQIA+ artists from across the North East.

"We were thrilled to be able to work with The Auxiliary to curate the exhibition and launch with the artists on May 17.

"The work created is unapologetically queer, bold and brought some much needed colour to a rainy Monday!

"Launching the exhibition on IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia), we must acknowledge that it's not safe for many in our communities to be visible in this way.

"Visibility as an LGBTQIA+ person doesn't come without consideration and we thank Keavey, Melody, John James and Russell for openly sharing their work and queering this iconic heritage building."

Councillor Mieka Smiles, Middlesbrough Deputy Mayor and Executive member for Culture & Communities, said: "The pandemic has hit the Town Hall hard, with lockdowns derailing the programme and putting performances on hold.

"But you can't keep a good venue down, and as ever it's making the best creative use of spaces that are seen by thousands of people every week.

"These amazing artists have brought something genuinely new and thought-provoking to their exhibition, and that message of diversity and inclusivity is one we're proud to support."

Queering the Town Hall runs throughout Pride Month until the end of June.

A photo of artists Keavey Gamwell, John James Perangie, Russell Atkinson, and Melody Sproates

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