Image by James Unsworth
It’s now a ritual of mine that every December I sit down amidst the end of year rush to write the end of year round up whilst we all gear up to eating a tub of Quality Street.
This year some amazing things have happened, some proper life changing stuff - I've met brilliant people who've pushed me in different directions, I've been given major opportunities too. As a result, me and my gang have made some of our best work yet ...if I say so myself.
In 2018 we created 13 large projects and 15 small responses, interventions and public debates. 15,336 people showed up and with 750,000+ estimated folk watched, downloaded, streamed and interacted with projects online. We made work in boxing clubs, working mens clubs, a palace, shed, community centres, theatre-in-a-shopping-centre-underneath-Burger-King, a dance hall, strip club, dressing rooms, theatres, parks, festivals, museums, back gardens and a residential street in Yorkshire!
We worked with 209 participants over 12 months! Through our working class artists mentoring scheme supported 14 working class artists making theatre and performance across the UK, living and working in Liverpool, Bristol, Barking and beyond - they were given time, support, cash and cups of tea - three of them this year have gone on to make their first solo productions. We held the first ever Queer Summit that saw 23 queer and trans* artists and activists meet, collaborate and invent ways of supporting each other. In addition we established the Working Class Artists Group - a support network of 33 artists.
We did all this stuff with the support of our friends at Arts Council England, Metal Peterborough, Compass Festival, Wilderness, Historic Royal Palaces, Dublin Fringe Festival, HOME, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Roundhouse and V&A to name a few! In places like Dublin, Peterborough, Leeds, St. Helens, Brighton, Southend, Manchester and Liverpool.
This year marked my 10th anniversary of making work! Now for any other university educated, middle class, I-know-why-I’m-here sort of artist a decade of making work isn’t something to be celebrated. However, I kicked the back door of the arts in, I fought my way through via clubland, gay dives and boozers - I’m self taught, leading on gut instinct. I cut my teeth on £50 handouts from promoters, grants from the public purse and doing cabaret turns to pay the bills. I survived and so I think 10 years is really fucking worth talking about.
#Scottee10 saw our first major collaboration with Live Art Development Agency on three projects marking my art-birthday! From Your Retrospective at Roundhouse which saw fan and punters recreated pieces of work from my archive ...from memory.
Images by Holly Revell
The Outsiders Handbook [free download here] a zine for queer and trans* teenagers that offers advice on music, how to make friends and continued survival! 5,000 of these we made and distributed as far as San Francisco and Sydney, made possible with support from Home, Metal Peterborough, Camden Peoples Theatre, Colchester Arts Centre and Slung Low. In 2019 we plan to do another run of 5,000 - if you’ve got a spare £2k you’d like to donate then drop us a line.
Image by Holly Revell and Alexander Innes
The biggest part of the retrospective projects was Scottee: I Made It - an archive book of conversations, whatsapp chats and phone calls with imagery, ideas and scrap paper notes from people who’ve been in my work, those who’ve commissioned it, critiqued and watched it. The result is this very snazzy book chaptered into the key themes of the work I make - queerness, class, fatness, activism and survival. I was incredibly lucky to have over 50 really brilliant contributors throw their ideas into it, held together by the brilliant Professor Jen Harvie who edited it into one of the things I’m most proud we did this year. As ever, we worked with Alexander Innes on the design - he knows the work we make inside out and made it a thing of beauty...
Image by Alexander Innes
All of these projects were made possible by LADA supported by the Collaborative Arts Partnership Programme (CAPP), an innovative four-year collaborative arts programme co-funded by the European Union.
We also brought back Hamburger Queen for one night only - this is a project that wherever I go in the world people always reference - if we were going to bring one project back it would be this one!
Our biggest news this year was the investment of over £300,000 from Paul Hamlyn Foundation! Scream! After a year of interviews, phone calls, meetings and proposals we managed to become one of five companies to receive funding from them under their Breakthrough grants.
This of course is life changing shit for me / us - it means we have some security for next three years, we’re able to expand the reach of the work we make, set up shop in a more legit way - playing the big boys at their own game whilst reinventing it. It also means we’re able to expand the team so the work can get bigger, better, louder and reach more of the sort of folk we're interested in reaching.
I’m so greatful Paul Hamlyn Foundation run this funding bid - not only because it offers survival to those in the sector who are constantly firefighting under the conditions institutions put upon us but the work they’ve funded in this round (and I don’t include myself in this) is genuinely radical, loud and useful - without Breakthrough I wonder how many of the five of us who were chosen would be still be prolifically making in three years....
Our largest project this year was Fat Blokes - a sort of dance show about fatness, being the funny one and calling audiences out on laughing at us. This is the first dance piece we’ve made and I hope it won’t be our last. Collaborating with Lea Anderson was a dream come true - an utter weirdo. This show took five years to make with the support of Southbank Centre and HOME.
Image by Rosie Powell
We’ve done two rounds of touring across England with an extended run at Southbank Centre and HOME Manchester. The response from audiences has been really beautiful - lots of cheering, crying and post show hugs - we struck a chord with this one. The critics also enjoyed themselves draping us 4 and 5 star reviews across the board. I believe the children say yass queen etc.
In 2019 Fat Blokes is back for a 17 date tour that will reach Ireland, England and Scotland! The tour announced on Wednesday 12th at 9.30am - keep your eyes peeled!
Image by Holly Revell
Each year we try to create at least one or two large scale responses. These often happen outside of traditional theatre spaces and try to direct conversation with communities on social issues. This year we partnered with Compass Festival to create the first outing of Would Like to Meet (WLTM).
The idea is simple - get a street to nominate itself as a place where neighbours don’t really know each other. Work with the residents to find out who they’d like to meet, make some snazzy estate agent style signs that will sit out their house and encourage the street to start talking.
The project was really well received and started conversations on the street, across Leeds and further afield, with coverage in Huffington Post, Aesthetica, BBC Leeds, Yorkshire Post and then some thanks to the ever brilliant Anna at Abstrakt PR.
This year also saw the second stage of our work in Peterborough! We’ve been working with Metal in Peterborough over the past 18 months to understand why the city has one of the highest rate of online homophobia in the UK. Many of the participants we have been working with kept asking us to set up a Pride march / event. We helped established a community board to run it and this year over 30 events across 1 week saw 1000+ LGBTQIA* folk get involved in the cities first Pride arts programme.
In 2018 I also became the new Associate Artist at HOME in Manchester. We’ve been making work with them for almost 3 years now and I’m really pleased that they are partnering on my next three projects. They are also investing a lot of energy and encouragement into our work - 2019 will see us make the transition from the studio space into the main house! No pressure, guys.
Now a lot of people think I’m a bit pretentious when I refer to the work by Scottee as we or our work because they think I’m referring to me, myself and I but none of these ideas would be made at all possible without the support of Scottee & Friends Ltd. core team - at the forefront or some might say front line is Executive Producer Molly Nicholson and Assistant Producer Roxanne Carney. Both of whom are worth their weight in Yorkshire tea and gluten free biscuits. Here they are putting some lights up (that we took down straight after).
A couple of things worth shouting about from this year was my editorial debut (fancy) curating The Oberon Book of Queer Monologues! The first collection of its kind - with work spanning over 100 years! After a massively successful launch in London and New York the book had to be reprinted before it hit the shelves!
I also managed to squeeze in a short film for BBC Three about public harassment and how the world navigates fat bodies - it includes a lovely clip of a Southend police officer calling me a plonker because of the way I’m dressed! I also got to make a few documentaries for Tate - a portrait of Francis Bacon and his life and a few others about failure, protest and the body - link.
Some lovely people have written some really lovely reports, essays and blogs about our work this year - a couple of standouts for me are from Maddy Costa who here focuses on my cunt! Theres also a less swear-y one from 64 millions artists and Arts Council England about the democracy in which we make here!
Next year we will be taking on a bunch of new team members including an Associate Director!
Our work in St. Helens kicks off again with a 4 year project in Parr looking at how art and culture might create social change. A 10 year collaboration with Selina Thompson enters its second year with a residency in Hanover looking at adoption and social care systems.
We will be hosting the second Queer Summit with artists from across Northern Ireland, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England invited to think about our post-Brexit queer identity, politic and agenda. Whilst Working Class Artists Group will be having their first AGM plotting interventions under the guidance of producer Katie Cooper. We’ll also be making a very special thing in Ireland that is completely embargoed! Soz.
Big scary news is that Fat Blokes will continue to throw itself around the place until I unveil my first solo show in over 5 years at Edinburgh Fringe Festival!
Image by Brian Teeling
This Christmas and New Year I'm not slowing down - I’m spending 13 days travelling across central Europe by train saying goodbye to queers in places like Paris, Venice, Salzburg, Vienna, Berlin, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Malaga and Brussels as the UK plans to leave the European Union. If you live in any of those places do slide into my DM’s.
Image by Holly Revell
Our final foray of the year - our traditional NYE knees up will be happening in our neighbourhood - Southend! We’re putting on a weekend of events for locals that might lure out of towners down too!
See you on the other side.
Stay weird. x