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Pride Matters: LGBTQ+ In The Arts

The Pride Festival, which runs from June into July, has already played host to more than 100 LGBT+ events across London this year. In the weeks leading up to Pride you’ll find everything from cabaret to sports to family picnics, and the celebrations culminate this weekend with London’s iconic Pride Parade. With the entertainment sector having been so pioneering around issues of equality for many years now, Winterson’s here takes a look at the importance of Pride in breaking down cultural stereotypes within the industry and beyond.

According to prideinlondon.org, the Pride Parade “provides a platform for every part of London’s LGBT+ community to raise awareness of LGBT+ issues and campaign for the freedoms that will allow us to live our lives on a genuinely equal footing. It gives us a chance to be visible and speak loudly to the rest of the world about what we have achieved, how far we have come and what is still needed.”

Part of the weekend’s festivities will include a free event in Trafalgar Square. It’s a fitting venue, as the wider West End and the industry that runs throughout it has itself become a vocal champion of LGBTQ+ rights over the years. Niki Winterson and the rest of the team have been staunch supporters of the Equal Representation for Actressescampaign (ERA), and certainly fairness and respect does not end at gender equality, although this is an important component. As Time Out magazine currently reports: There are a variety of LGBTQ+ theatre shows in the West End, “everything from genre-smashing queer cabaret to lesbian romance to gay theatre classics to explorations of trans experience”

There have been significant advances in the portrayal of diversity in film, television, and theatre in recent years, and Winterson’s clients continue to be part of this with their actors being cast in shows including Kinky Boots, Book of Mormon, and Angels In America, to name just a few – all explorative of LGBTQ+ themes.

A spokesperson at Winterson’s said: “Many political fights have been won and Pride is now a celebration of human variation. However, there are many countries in the world where identifying as LGBTQ+ is illegal and still punishable by the death penalty. Therefore visibility is as vital now as it was 47 years ago when the first Pride march took place.”

Just as is the case with gender, modern equality goes far beyond issues of sexuality. Just this week, new play Jellyfish featuring our own Nicky Priest received rave reviews, for its portrayal of a love story between a woman with Down’s syndrome and a non-disabled man, offering a careful examination of modern day attitudes. Nick himself has Asperger syndrome, and the freshness of a show containing performances between a range of different actors who all bring unique qualities to the stage has clearly captured the public imagination.

Winterson’s actress, Melissa Johns, has herself become a vocal champion of industry diversity,
with the Coronation Street actress bringing using her platform to bring conversation around disability into the mainstream.

Through pioneers like this, we are seeing fewer stereotyped characters in storylines and diversity is now being recognised and celebrated as a facet of mainstream life, not something that runs in opposition to it. Accurate portrayal of human variation is imperative as we are responsible for telling the narratives of society.

Yet there is still much more to be done. prideinlondon.orggoes into add that: “Equal rights do not equal equality – this is what we found from our 2018 Pride Matters report. The report is one of the most comprehensive comparisons between experiences of straight people and LGBT+ people in the UK. It shows that over 1 in 3 LGBT+ people have been verbally abused because of their identity, sexuality or gender, and over three quarters of LGBT+ people don’t feel comfortable showing affection to a partner in public.”

LGBT people are at significantly greater risk of mental health problems than heterosexual people, and this can be attributed to a range of factors such as discrimination, minority stress and shame.

“There is still vital work that needs to be achieved,” continued our spokesperson for Winterson’s. “The Equity Actors Union is working on a set of best practice guidelines working with LGBT+ performers to tackle discrimination and misleading stereotyping and we at Winterson’s continue to support such initiatives. Pride really does matter when it comes to advancing the conversation even further now, from ‘equal rights’ to genuine equality. I’m sure we all look forward to the day when our true identities are revered and we are celebrated without judgement or persecution.”

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