FATT PROJECTS: PALAVER

 

What is PALAVER?
PALAVER is a series of public performance events taking place at Cambridge Junction throughout September and October 2021, aimed at children (aged 3-8) and families.

The performances and events have been specifically designed for children and family audiences by a team of LGBTQ+* artists. The events will create a fun, celebratory, and inclusive atmosphere which aims to provide high-quality and engaging entertainment which also allows young people to learn about different kinds of families (where some people have two mums or two dads) that it’s OK to love whoever you want (sometimes princesses marry princesses and sometimes princes marry princes).

*(lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer)

What will it look like?
Audiences will be able to attend one (or more) of our PALAVER parties. These are fun, interactive, glittery events which will include disco-style music and dancing, interactive crafting activities (to create individual fancy dress items eg. crowns and hats), get some glitter face paint, and watch performances (including songs, storytelling, and dance) from a diverse line-up of professional artists all dressed in fabulous and fantastical outfits. All of the events will be interpreted into British Sign Language.

Audiences have the option to participate as little or as much as they want. Through gentle encouragement and participating in a range of activities over the course of the party or event children will be able to feel more confident, and feel empowered to express themselves.

Audiences will also be able to attend our PALAVER FAMILY FESTIVAL taking place on Thursday 28th October. During this day, there will be interactive creative workshops to create your own dress-up items, story-telling sessions, live music, and 2 theatre performances where 5 artists will showcase 10 minute extracts of brand new shows they have created over the project, specifically designed for children and families. There will also be a final PALAVER party to finish the day.

All the artists involved in the project have been asked ‘what did you need to see when you were younger?’ and have used this as a way to create shows which speak to their experiences of growing up as an LGBTQ+ person. Our overall aim is to spread a message of love and acceptance - that all people are equal, and that the things that make us different are the things we should celebrate about ourselves (rather than feeling embarrassed or sad about them). We want young people attending these events to understand that they can be whatever they want to be, and to feel like they have the power within them to create the things they want. Most importantly, we want everyone to attend to have fun, enjoy themselves, and feel joyful.

Why are we doing it?
We know that whilst many things have changed for LGBTQ+ people over the last decades there is still a long way to go for LGBTQ+ people to be safe, respected, and to achieve equality. Our understanding of what constitutes a family has changed from the idea of exclusively being a mother, father, and children. In today’s society we know that families come in all shapes and sizes including single-parents,same sex parents, adoptive parents, foster families, multiple family homes etc. We want to ensure that the stories we tell to children actually reflect the world they live in, and celebrate the different kinds of families and people there are in the world - so that young people who do belong to families outside of the traditional ‘nuclear’ model do not feel different and are not treated differently by others.

PALAVER is just one strategy towards doing this - we believe that in creating space for all children and families to learn about different kinds of people, relationships, and families we can create new levels of respect, care, and understanding for each other.

Whilst there have been many legal advances for LGBTQ+ people in recent history, we recognise that the world we live in is often unwelcoming and dangerous for LGBTQ+ people. In 2019 incidents of homophobic and transphobic hate crime doubled in the UK. A YouGov survey in 2012* found that two thirds of LGBTQ+ people were afraid to hold hands in public. Data collected by stonewall discovered than almost half (48%) of transgender people in the UK have attempted suicide, and their 2017 Schools Report indicated that 45% of young LGBTQ+ people experience bullying in schools. We want to be a part of changing these shocking statistics, we want to help create a world where LGBTQ+ are safe, celebrated, and supported. PALAVER is a first step towards this.

Our aims are:

  • To create inclusive family programming which will provide representation for all types of families, including those with same-sex parents.
  • To give all young people the opportunity to see themselves and their families reflected in the stories we put on stage.
  • To provide age-appropriate positive representation and visibility of LGBTQ+ people for all young audiences, so they can learn it is OK to be different, to be themselves, and to have a family that might look different to other families.
  • To build bridges between communities, raising awareness and increasing understanding leading to stronger communities, mutual respect, and celebration of different lives and identities.
  • To ensure that all young people engaging with performance (regardless of their gender, identity, family make-up etc.) feel valued and validated.
  • To provide safe space for families and children to encounter LGBTQ+ communities, have conversations, ask questions, learn and grow.
  • To provide positive LGBTQ+ role models for children and their families.
  • To let young people who may (or may not) be LGBTQ+ that they are loved, they are valid, and they are worthy.
  • To remind children that everybody feels ‘different’ at some point in their lives, and to teach them that the things that make them different are often the things that make them special.

 

Is drag appropriate content for children, given its roots in adult entertainment?

Drag has its origins in many art forms, beyond those specifically created for adults, including the rich traditions of British pantomime.

PALAVER is working with a range of performers from different artforms including some drag artists. Like all art-forms, drag performance covers a wide spectrum of content, styles, and form - some of this, we agree, is only suitable for 18+ audiences. However, there is a much broader wealth of drag styles that exists beyond the archetypal ‘man dressed as woman’ drag that we tend to see on television or in nightclub contexts - this includes drag kings, female drag queens, and fantastical drag creations that look more like animals, aliens, fairies, and magical creatures.

There is of course a common understanding that drag performance is often connected to sex and/or sexuality (as this is often how it is represented on TV) - whilst there are inevitably a number of performers for whom this is true, it is not the case for all drag performance  - we fully agree that this would be wholly inappropriate to present to children. Drag is as broad a genre of performance as music, stand-up comedy, and dance, different styles in each are appropriate for different audiences.  

We are working exclusively with drag as an art form where the individual performer creates a character who allows them to express themselves fully and authentically (much like children do when playing dress-up) and to challenge ideas and expectations of how the world tells us we have to look, dress, and behave (eg. girls can be ‘masculine’, boys can be ‘feminine’, girls can be strong, boys can wear dresses etc.).  

This is the kind of drag we are bringing to children and families - a form of playful self-expression, imaginative, glittery, and colourful performances (that draw on clowning, and comedy, as the traditions of theatre and pantomime). All the artists performing in the project have been carefully selected and are working with professional directors, theatre-makers, and educators with a wealth of experience making performance for children and families to ensure that all content and visual presentation are suitable for the target age-groups (eg. some of the work created has been inspired by existing children’s books). We want to encourage children to feel that they can express themselves, and to do the things that make them happy which we feel is embodied in the work PALAVER is presenting.