Gay Sweatshop Times Ten

In 1985, Gay Sweatshop celebrated its tenth Anniversary with a new season of plays, under the banner title Gay Sweatshop Times Ten, organised by Noel Greig and Kate Owen. Leaflets were distributed asking people to submit plays and those chosen were given a staged reading at the Drill Hall. A committee was set up to organise the festival and supporting events which included disability workshops, poetry readings and a black, lesbian writing evening. 96 plays were submitted, 17 were chosen to be staged and the writers were paired with directors. The plays covered a range of issues from AIDS to gay teachers and problems facing gay adolescents. There were also performances from other companies from the UK and the US. Several of the festival’s plays were later produced and toured. Specifically produced by Gay Sweatshop were: JulieSkin Deep,  More, and Compromised Immunity.

The festival permitted the company to collaborate with a broader range of people than the Art’s Council funding had previously stipulated and encouraged a new generation of gay and lesbian writers. Most of the plays staged in the festival went on to be fully produced.

In the festival programme Gay Sweatshop deliberately employed the homophobic, morally panicked headlines their previous shows had prompted over its decade-long history.

The company had found a new motivation by forging links between different minority groups and responding to the grief caused by AIDS. This period marked the company’s significance as part of a multifaceted political struggle, which considered the representation of class, race, and sexual orientation within the arts.

‘What we did was, offer the first two plays of Gay Sweatshop, which were Mister X which the men’s company did and Jill Posener’s play Any Woman Can, we offered those to new writers and asked them to respond to those plays, to read the plays and then to go, ‘what ideas does that spark off in me, ten years later?’ So we had this festival at the Drill Hall with a lot of new plays by people who had not written before and not written for Gay Sweatshop before, because we felt that it was important to support and generate another generation of lesbian and gay writers.’ Noel Greig, 2008

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