Happy Christmas … Queer Britain Awards … J J Belanger

Happy Christmas to all

Queer Britain Awards

Queer Britain is a charity working to establish the UK’s first national LGBTQ+ museum, a place as exciting as the people, stories and ideas it explores and celebrates. It will be an essential place for all regardless of sexuality or gender identity, to find out about the culture they have been born into, have chosen or seek to understand. It will help complete the Nation’s family tree.

It is important because queer people have impacted every part of culture, yet all too often their lives have been written in the margins of history books. Valuable stories and artefacts are being lost. Once gone, they may never be recovered. These deserve a dedicated space to be preserved, explored and celebrated. Queer Britain will put this centre stage.

Queer Britain has teamed up with wine brand Madame F to launch The Queer Britain Madame F Award. This year’s theme is Queer Creativity.

Entrants sent in illustrations, paintings, drawings and photographs that celebrate the theme of Queer Creativity, along with a statement explaining what that means to them. There are three cash prizes:

First Prize £1500 Awarded to Sadie Lee

“My paintings are realistic renderings of real people who sit for me. Frequently drawn from Queer communities, they depict and celebrate queer otherness and focus on the fabulous, the invisible, the marginalised and those who wear their identity on their sleeve. My submission is a painting of the artist David Hoyle. Regarded by many as Queer Royalty, David’s work often highlights inequalities and can be at once uplifting, challenging, euphoric and uncomfortable. As in all my work, the painting centres the subject from their perspective and the concept was developed through discussion and mutual input. In that sense I see my paintings as collaborations with my sitters.”

Second prize £1000 awarded to Paul Harfleet

This piece is a component of Birds Can Fly, a body of work by Paul Harfleet. He studies the birds he draws and then using his own wardrobe, styling and make-up skills, ‘gently references’ the birds he studies. This body of work celebrates a life-long love of ornithology and is a queer exploration that delves into the politics of ornithology. Birds have been largely categorised by straight white European zoologists, indigenous names and knowledge lost and side-lined. Paul playfully and subtly echoes the plumage and demeanour of the birds, and celebrates the connection between the frequent flamboyance of male birds and the connection to drag.

Third prize £500 awarded to Nathan Johnson

“I have been fascinated by incorporating LGBT politics and historical archives together to create fictional narratives that influence our perception of queer identity within the public sphere. I decided to shift my attention to more personal forms of archives such as family photo albums. This resonated with me as a member of the gay community who envisioned how my families social and political views would have evolved if they had LGBT influences in their formative years. I also speculated over the influence family photo albums have on the idealisation of heteronormativity and the nuclear family. This image taken from my most current project, “Our Kodak Moment” delves into the heteronormative environment of family photography and the influence photo albums can have on our perceptions of the nuclear family through the rose-tinted lens of the past. With the incorporation of both modern queer icons and vintage photographs, LGBT representation is brought to the forefront in this reimagining of the idyllic family utopia.”

1950s gay couple

These days, most people wouldn’t think twice if they saw a gay couple showing affection for one another in public (well at least in certain areas). But that wasn’t always the case.

These pictures were taken inside a photo booth in 1953, during a time when police used to target gays and lesbians for being “sexual deviants.” Had these two young men been caught, they likely would have been arrested and thrown in jail.

The photo was once owned by J J Belanger, who is featured on the right-hand side of the picture. Belanger was born in Edmonton, Canada in 1925, and served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1942 to 1944.

When he was in his 20s, Belanger moved to California. In the early 1950s, he was one of the original members of the Mattachine Society, one of the first LGBT organisations in the United States.

In addition to that, Belanger was the Los Angeles coordinator of the Eulenspiegel Society, oldest and largest BDSM education and support group in the United States, in the 1970s. In the 1980s, he was involved with the San Francisco chapter of the Stonewall Gay Democratic Club, as well as Project Inform and the Quarantine Fighter’s Group.

Throughout his lifetime, Belanger was a devoted collector of historical LGBT artefacts and materials. The two photographs of him are now part of the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California Libraries, the largest repository of LGBT materials in the world, along with several of Belanger’s letters, notebooks, and audio recordings.

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