In the second of our Pride Month Spotlights, we catch up with Paul Fitzpatrick, Director of Creative Engagement at National Theatre Scotland. We find out how the company will be celebrating Pride this year, coinciding with a pretty special personal anniversary for Paul and his husband. We delve into what ‘Pride’ means to National Theatre Scotland, and why it’s so important for platforms like theirs to exist for LGBTQI+ voices, from one generation to the next.
Fed: How are you celebrating Pride this year?
Paul: We’ve just launched Jordy Deelight’s short digital artwork, Dear Delight online. Jordy is a young drag artist and I’m consistently bowled over by their confidence and audacity. I wish I had had a fraction their confidence when I was younger! I’m proud of how some of the younger LGBTQI+ community use their voice to speak out about their experience and I learn so much from them.
Adam, the National Theatre of Scotland and Hopscotch Film’s screen adaption of Adam Kashmiry’s story, about his lived experience as a trans asylum seeker in Scotland was launched on BBC iPlayer earlier in the year and we’re really excited that it has been selected for screening at PrideFLIX Virtual LGBTQI+ Pride Film Festival.
We are also bringing our two-year long project for LGBTI+ elders to a spectacular close with the Coming Back Out Ball which promises to be a highlight of Pride month for me. I feel I owe so much to their generation; they paved the way for the next generation. To think that consensual gay sex was still illegal in 1981 in Scotland, we have come a long way in 40 years.
When I was growing up, getting married didn’t seem to be something that would happen in my lifetime, and I’m really proud to say I’ll be celebrating 7 years married to my husband on June 28th, so that will be another celebration for Pride this month.
Fed: What does ‘Pride’ mean to National Theatre Scotland?
Paul: I think Pride month is a moment for us to celebrate the progress we’ve made and reflect on the work we still have to do. Pride was born out of a moment of conflict and protest. So, I think Pride means standing together in celebration and also solidarity.
Fed: Tell us more about the National Theatre Scotland’s ongoing commitment to equality and diversity…
Paul: Access, inclusion, equality, and diversity is built into the model of the National Theatre of Scotland. We do practical things, for example earning our LGBTQI+ Charter Mark, which enables us to send out a positive message, that the National Theatre of Scotland is a champion of LGBTQI+ inclusion where LGBTQI+ employees, freelancers, audiences and participants are safe, supported, respected and included.
We are committed to trying to ensure inclusion goes to the heart of what we do. We’re a “theatre without walls” i.e we don’t have a venue and as such – we make theatre for everyone, everywhere. To me, that means everyone is welcome and theatre is and should be for everyone.
I was bullied quite badly as a child and for me, theatre and the arts were an escape from that. It was somewhere that I felt I belonged and was at home – whether sitting watching in the auditorium or taking part on the stage. I’m so proud to be doing work as Director of Creative Engagement, that might bring that sense of belonging to someone else.
I think this last year has highlighted so much inequality, from systemic racism to how disproportionately people living in poverty have been affected by Covid-19. It has really focussed us on how much more we need to do be an anti-racist and truly inclusive organisation.
Fed: Why do you think it’s so important for companies like yours to give LGBTQI+ voices a platform?
Paul: The LGBTQI+ community continue to experience prejudice and violence against them, and I believe that telling our stories on a national platform can help towards developing true equality in society. We are protected in law, and we have equal marriage, but it has to be more than rights and laws, it has to be an attitudinal change and a change in behaviours, and until we’re there, it’s going to be important for companies like the National Theatre of Scotland to give a platform to LGBTQI+ voices.
Fed: What changes do you hope to see for the LGBTQI+ arts community over the next 12 months?
Paul: It’s been a really tough year for the whole community, so I hope the return to live theatre takes good care of all elements of the community, and we really do come back as a sector that is working even harder for equality and inclusion in everything we do.
Fed: What do you believe needs to be done to achieve these changes?
Paul: For us, working in partnership with other organisations has really helped bring about change. Working with LGBTQI+ Youth and LGBTQI+ Health and Wellbeing in Scotland has brought a deeper level of understanding and ability to navigate the complexities facing the LGBTQI+ communities. I think working in partnership brings about such rewards and I think that is one thing we can all do to bring about change, work in partnership and really learn about the communities we want to engage with, and then that’s when change can happen.
To stay up to date with ‘the theatre without walls’, through Pride Month and beyond, head to www.nationaltheatrescotland.com.