Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, speaking at the launch of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival Programme
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Good evening ladies and gentlemen,
Is mór an onóir dom a bheith anseo libh tráthnóna sna seomraí álainn galánta seo atá ath-chóirithe le gairid.
We are here to launch the 2019 programme of the 16th International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival.
Art in all its forms and expressions from architecture to decoration, to theatre, lean in upon each other. Theatre is unimaginable without the changing space that is constantly reimagined as the stage. Here on this stage, in this beautiful room, where so much of importance for the civic and cultural life of Dublin has happened, we should reflect on the fact that what we are here to launch tonight, if only recently, is now the new normal. For too long it was simply unthinkable that expressly gay themes should be staged anywhere at all. Theatre, a world of make believe, a place of disguise and historically an environment beyond the Pale for supposedly respectable society was partially a pocket of air in an otherwise suffocating society.
We can celebrate today, that here in Ireland, all that has changed. But I am conscious that while laws have changed and norms have been transformed, homophobia has not entirely disappeared. In celebrating that so many have moved on, we should remember that some LGBT people are teenagers for whom life seems very challenging and difficult. There are much older women and men, who carry forward a sadness about what might have been, but wasn’t. And, there are countries around the world where this event and the conversation we are having, is unthinkable and would be dangerous. Progress and what it means are neither settled themes nor certain things. Change has come, because brave women and men, in the theatre, and in all walks of life made spaces where if at times only momentarily, it was possible to be different.
This year, I am delighted to learn that Arts Council funding for the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival has been increased. I want to affirm, the view, that while times have changed, largely for the better, it is absolutely important that the full texture and colour of who we are, how we live and what we are is reflected from artistic platforms, like this wonderful festival. Difference is not old hat. Homophobia is not over. It is vitally important that our more diverse society sees itself on the public stage and hears itself in the public conversation. That is what the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival does, and it is what it is going to do again, wonderfully well, in 2019.
Plays are coming to Dublin from the United Kingdom, from the United States of America, from Canada, from South Africa and Australia and of course from Ireland. The Festival encourages new writers. One performer is from Ecuador. This Dublin LGBT theatre festival is the biggest of its kind worldwide, and that is something to celebrate and to be proud of.
As with all festivals, a significant amount of work takes places behind the scenes. It is hidden from public view. The Festival, through the hard work and dedication of its founder Brian Merriman offers support and mentoring to international artists and companies that visit each year through a script library service. The result is a rich and engaging series of stories that provide a contemporary canon of new work. It is an impressive, unique facility with the festival ensuring that it is at the heart of developing new gay writing for the stage, and a new cohort of ever more relevant artists and voices.
The Festival is also leading the way in showcasing the rich diversity of LGBT voices in Dublin. It is creating a safe space for those voices to be heard. Artists such as Philip McMahon, for example, was incubated and supported by the Festival. His company ‘This is Pop Baby’ is now an international award winning producer of theatre. The Dublin Gay Theatre Festival successfully ensures that the space for LGBTQ+ artists and performers is provided for. It continues to develop this platform through innovative partnerships and programmes across the city.
Over two weeks in May from the 6th – 19th, the Festival will present 18 works of thought provoking and engaging new LGBTQ+ writing, performance and events. It will be an artistic focus, and a civic focus. It will be testimony to the diversity of who we are and what we aspire to become.
To quote famous San Francisco gay rights activist Harvey Milk
“It takes no compromise to give people their rights…it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression”
I want to congratulate you on a diverse, and artistically arresting programme. I want to wish you well and to say congratulations. And as Minister, I am delighted that in changed times, we continue to ensure that art is platformed and represented in ways that reflects the full diversity of who we are now.