Meet Arcola: catching up with the Queer Collective

Arcola’s Queer Collective is an east London performance collective for LGBTQI* people, exploring queer identity and how to present it theatrically. To celebrate LGBT+ History Month, we wanted to introduce you to a couple of its members. We caught up with Arden Fitzroy and Dan de la Motte about being part of the collective and what inspires them.

Arden Fitzroy

What do you enjoy most about being part of the Queer Collective?

What I enjoy most is making work that is relevant to the group and our interests, with talented people who understand, in a space where these friendships can be formed and nurtured. I’ve made some amazing friends through the collective.

Who inspires you?

The people in arts organisations fighting for ways to keep platforming fringe creatives, and funding these spaces. These people, and spaces, are essential to the industry and our wider economy. Moreover, freelancers make up the majority of the industry, yet most have been overlooked. The lack of acknowledgment from our policy makers towards these hard facts is frustrating, but seeing all the groups and individuals that are fighting for awareness and change is inspiring. If anything, now is the ideal time to rebuild the sector in a way that is more inclusive and accessible to all.

If you had access to any space or stage right now, what would you do with it?

I would get some people together and see what would happen, make something that is fully collaborative and devised, from the ground up. Thinking bigger, I’d want to bring together a whole festival, dedicated to giving space for people to create such projects and show them to each other, in an open process. I think it would be immensely interesting to open up the creative process—which can sometimes be isolating for the individual creative at certain stages—after the year we’ve all just had.

Are there any LGBT+ organisations you think more people should know about?

We Exist, @weexistlondon on Instagram. It’s an organisation that creates pop-up community spaces and events, as well as some great merch, with proceeds going towards a trans healthcare mutual aid fund. Get involved!

What recent personal project are you particularly excited about?

I’ve been working on the next series of the AMPLIFY Podcast as Lead Producer, with the RISE Collective. This has included giving space for a cohort of creatives to develop themselves through a mentoring process, as they shape and build their own podcast episodes. Through happy accident, a common theme emerged: each episode is a celebration of queer identity and experience, a space for our own stories, in our own voices, on our own terms. There could only be one series title: Queer Joy. Something that isn’t given as much time on-air as it should.

AMPLIFY: Queer Joy will be released in May. Look out for us wherever you get your podcasts. In the meantime, you can listen to the first series, The Lockdown Sessions, on Spotify.

Anything else you’ve been keeping up with at this time?

I’ve been keeping busy with online theatre in this time of Covid, most recently with a video-game take on Romeo&Juliet. If you die in the game, you die in real life…

Multi-roling Mercutio and the Prince meant the world’s quickest dying-and-coming-back-to-life total costume change in III.i, when it’s Zoom and you can’t buy time with elaborate duels! Oh, and Mercutio/Benvolio truthers—you’re welcome.

Dan de la Motte

How long have you been part of the Queer Collective?

I’ve been in the Queer Collective for three years, last year I was co-director on Qtopia, and I was in shows for two years before that, including Fine & Dandy which then transferred to the King’s Head.

Who inspires you?

My inspiration is David Hoyle, who is defiant in keeping Queer performance art both anarchic and cathartic. I can’t wait to catch one of his shows at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club asap. 

If you had access to any space or stage right now, what would you do with it?

As it happens I am lucky enough to actually have access to a space right now – in May I am curating an exhibition called Friendship Circles, which will be on at Platform Southwark, the space where I curated GLF AT 50; THE ART OF PROTEST in August 2020. I am bringing that exhibition back in September 2021 at Newington Green Meeting House. A book on the exhibition is being published by Camp Books at the end of the month and will be available at Gays The Word. 

This week for LGBTHM I am leading a free talk on Molly Houses for Newington Green Meeting House.

This year’s LGBT+ History Month’s theme is ‘Body, Mind Spirit’. What does this mean to you?

I think it’s interesting that the theme of this year’s LGBTHM is Body, Mind, Spirit because to me ‘Spirit’ is all about survival and resilience. We have all experienced that this Lockdown(s), but also survival and resilience is a thread that exists throughout all Queer heritage, survival and resilience in the face of oppression and all the shit society and individuals have thrown our way. 

Are there any LGBT+ individuals you think more people should know about?

24 March 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the murder of Bob Mellors. Bob was a student at LSE and a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, and a pioneer of non-binary identity. In New York Bob witnessed the Stonewall uprising of 1969 and was an ally of the Black Panthers. His murder has never been solved and his friends miss him very much. 

This Saturday 27 February, we invite you to join Arcola Conversations: LGBT+ Activism Then and Now, a conversation with performer, activist and researcher, Dan de la Motte.