By Annabel Clarke

This weekend you’ll find live music, performance, discussion and dance a plenty at FLUID Festival. We’re also delighted to welcome three writers, two with new publications hot off the presses.

First up, Darryl W Bullock will be talking about his new book ‘David Bowie Made Me Gay’ as part of Saturday’s afternoon’s Fluid Conversation, discussing what it means to be Queer and composing music today.

David Bowie Made Me Gay

Arguably the most comprehensive history of LGBT music ever compiled, ‘David Bowie Made Me Gay’ encompasses a century of music by and for the LGBT community. The book charts the influence of gay, lesbian and bisexual performers on Jazz and Blues; the interwar ‘Pansy Craze’, the dark years when gay life was driven underground, to the re-emergence of LGBT performers post-Stonewall and today’s most celebrated out-gay pop stars. It is a nostalgic and powerful reminder of how far the fight for equality has come, and of the battles still to be fought.

After being part of the discussion at Birmingham Town Hall, Darryl will be making his way down to FLUID Exchange/Stryx to sign copies of the book.

Mr Universe

Rich Goodson will be at the festival reading extracts from his debut pamphlet of poems ‘Mr Universe’ on Saturday afternoon at FLUID Exchange/Stryx. Wryly interrogating the male body, he asks what – if anything – a male body means. ‘Mr Universe’ is being hailed a 'new LGBT classic' and is also currently the Poetry Book Society's 'Autumn Choice'.

A passionate advocate of poetry, Goodson founded Nottingham Stanza, the longest-running contemporary poetry-reading group in the UK in 2008. He also founded Word Jam, a Nottingham-based collective of poets and musicians whose first language is not English. He is currently one of the Writers-In-Residence for Writing East Midlands' 'Write Here: Sanctuary' project for which he's been leading writing workshops for refugee women in Nottingham. He is also eager to explore how he can collaborate with Queer sound artists. He’s in the right place!

CN Lester, singer-songwriter, writer, classical musician, activist and author of the acclaimed ‘Trans Like Me: A Journey for All of Us’ will also be at the festival. From pronouns to Caitlyn Jenner, from feminist and LGBTQ activists, to the rise in referrals for gender variant children, the book takes us on a journey through some of the most pressing issues concerning the trans debate. – all through insightful and moving passages about the author’s own experiences.

CN Lester will be on the panel of Fluid Conversation at Town Hall and will be performing at FLUID Brunch, a chilled Sunday brunch at Eden Bar. The relaxed Sunday event will also feature a host of new talent including Daniel vs The World, Tsinder Ash, fukc_boi and taste-bud tingling treats from Camo.

By Rico Johnson-Sinclair

Queer, for as long as we can remember, has been a dirty word. Birthed from intolerance, the word ‘queer’ has been a quiet whisper of hate, and a loud bellow of disgust. This is no longer the case.

Our community has both reclaimed the word and built something significant in its stead, stretching its contemporary arm into every facet of the creative industries, especially music.

So, let’s talk about Fluid Festival’s Fluid Exchange.

Extracting a concentrated and well curated taste of what Queer artforms have to offer, we have a rich mix happening at Stryx gallery on 23 September from 3pm until 6pm. Opening the festival at Minerva Works it offers spontaneity synonymous with Queer art with plenty to get stuck into.

James Lawrence Slattery is fast becoming one of the must-know names in film criticism and curation. With reviews that delve into the deep complexities of modern filmmaking their ability to link sometimes unseeming, but truly legitimate connections to Queer theory is magnificent. Their own work transcends that purely of film, working with all forms of visual arts including collage, performance and installation.

During the Fluid Exchange James’ specially curated programme will link audio to visual in a selection of works by Emily Pope and Ruth Angel Edwards, Ivan Robirosa, James Lawrence Slattery, Jim Warrier (aka Minuek) and Tom Doherty, all well-known artists within the Queer art hive.

Boy with Wings are a band everyone and anyone who’s dipped their toes into Queer music has heard. Their shows are legendary, and their music with invade your memory, providing the soundtrack to those moments you feel particularly awesome. Leo Fransico from the band ‘Boys with Wings’ and ‘Queerzone 3000’ collective, who Brummies may remember from SHOUT Festival 2016 at Grand Union Gallery, will be on hand to give you a crash course into music production. Queer music doesn’t play by linear rules but holds its own, in its own right, so be prepared to have your mind blown and your horizons widened. Queerzone 3000 are currently working on a collaboration with David Hoyle in the 9th of a series of podcasts available from their website. Give it a listen here:

So by now you are probably thinking, ‘this all sounds great but what is Queer music? What does it sound like?’

For those of you new to the vast world of Queer sounds, we’re joined by China Dethcrash, Birmingham’s drag queen on the come-up, hoping to revive a failing gay scene with an artistic flair. You may have seen her at Club Fierce’s Artist Behind Bars last Christmas serving us the witchiest of realness. In this collaboration with Olivia Sparrow who has been a staple at many group exhibitions and curatorial projects, these two goddesses talk to us about what queer sounds like.

For those of you who like your Queer sounds deliciously dark and kinda kinky, look no further than FUKC_BOI, who will be performing his brand of incredible sounds pieced together from degraded pornography and nearly uniform pop samples. We herald ‘the body is a window, full of mistakes’ as one of the queer EP’s of the year, reminiscent of a sample SOPHIE (see here). This artist bridges the gap between fetish art and music, providing a relentlessly intense soundtrack to our unfulfilled bliss.

After pondering the soundscape, we delve into the spoken word with Rich Goodson. An artist eager to explore how poetry can sit alongside queer music to create a holistic listening experience. Rich’s Poetry book ‘Mr Universe’ has been likened to a future classic, and his unapologetic confrontation with the male body is in pursuit of an answer to the all-consuming question ‘what - if anything- does a male body mean.’ Rich will be reading excerpts from his book, and looking for opportunities to integrate into the sounds created by guests and potentially attendees. More

From poetry to prose, we’ll also be joined by Darryl W Bullock, the author of ‘David Bowie Made Me Gay’ and one of the most comprehensive writers in regards to Queer music history. Darryl discusses a range of subjects including but not bound by; the history of queer music in the mainstream, how queer music has historically been driven underground, the introduction of technology in regards to the stories of queer musicians, and the influences the LGBTQ community have had on music for generations. Signed copies of his book will be available to purchase.

It’s all too easy to overlook marginalized groups within the LGBTQ community, particularly QPOC (queer people of colour) in this current socio-political climate. UNMUTED, Birmingham’s very own safe space for QPOC, will be with us to hold discussions and offer a different perspective to a community that has been driven by the people that society deems the most visible. UNMUTED will give Birmingham’s QPOC population the insight to navigate dicey waters, to find support and places of visibility for those in the LGBTQ community that are still vulnerable.

Whichever way you slice it, there’s a plethora of things to get stuck into, and the perfect way to kick start the festival. Whether you seek knowledge about an unfamiliar subject, the practical skills for self-expression, or you just want to marvel at the accomplishments of an empire we have built for ourselves, Fluid Exchange truly has something for us all.

By Annabel Clarke

Workshoping Savage Parade

Specially commissioned for FLUID Festival, 'Savage Parade' is an ongoing performance project devised by pianist Henry McPherson, and joined by Finnish mezzo-soprano Inkeri Kallio and American cellist Adam Hall. Based in Glasgow, they are all currently studying at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Workshoping Savage Parade

An examination of queerness in musical traditions, 'Savage Parade' explores the blurring of the boundaries of gender within the tradition of musical performance; the perceived sacredness of concert spaces and the purported associations of "profanity" that an introduction of queerness into these spaces might give rise to; the relationship between musical performance and the space which it inhabits, as well as the erasure of queer identities in the Western Art Music tradition.

Henry McPherson tweet

On Friday, they will bring the final workshoping session of their current iteration of 'Savage Parade' to mac birmingham, sharing the piece with invited artists from local live art initiative Home for Waifs and Strays. McPherson has found discussion and feedback of the piece of equal importance to the performance itself. It will also provide a valuable opportunity to make connections between the cities of Glasgow and Birmingham.

'Savage Parade' will be performed on Saturday 23 September as part of FLUID Festival at Nicholson School of Dance from 5-11pm. Tickets for FLUID can be bought here or on the door at Minerva Works.

By Annabel Clarke

Julius Eastman (1940-1990) was a gay African-American experimental composer who often gave his minimalist, engaging works provocative titles such as 'Crazy Nigger'; 'If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?' and 'Gay Guerilla'. Through his music and performances he pushed the boundaries of both sexual and civil rights.

Dying homeless and alone at such a young age, it seemed that his work might have been lost. Luckily, fans have not let that happen.

On Saturday evening, the rarely performed 'Gay Guerilla' will be presented as part of FLUID Festival with two grand pianos and eight hands.

Led by international pianist and composer Rolf Hind, he will be accompanied by Siwan Rhys (both teaching at the Guildhall School of Music) as well as Birmingham Conservatoire’s Yfat Soul Zisso and Steven Giles. A minimal, yet expressive piece with overlapping, sweeping sounds, it reminds us that pianos can also be a percussive instrument. Listen very carefully and you may even notice a Bach Chorale and a riff from Donna Summer’s 'Hot Stuff'.

Due to Eastman’s pieces being so controversial in title and performance at the time, it prompted him to make pre-concert statements on the works. Eastman said of 'Gay Guerilla':

‘These names, either I glorify them or they glorify me. And in the case of guerrilla, that glorifies gay… A guerrilla is someone who in any case is sacrificing his life for a point of view. And you know if there is a cause, and if it is a great cause, those who belong to that cause, will sacrifice their blood because without blood there is no cause.’

'Gay Guerilla' will be performed on Saturday 23 September as part of FLUID Festival at Nicholson School of Dance from 5-11pm.
Tickets for FLUID can be bought here or on the door at Minerva Works.

Rolf Hind will also be talking at FLUID Conversation from 2pm at Birmingham Town Hall on Saturday 23 September. This open conversation will discuss what it means to be Queer and composing music today. Rob will be joined by Rebekah Ubuntu, Michael Wolters, Henry McPherson, C N Lester, as well as Darryl W Bullock author of ‘David Bowie Made Me Gay’ to discuss how the sexuality and gender identity of composers influences their music. What does Queer sound like?

FLUID Conversation is free. Tickets can be booked here.

Julius Eastman

Introducing London-based experimental multi-instrumentalist and singer Fluid Festival Brunch at Birmingham's Eden Bar on Sunday 24 September.

The free event, which runs from 1200 to 1500 on the day, will feature performances from a strong line-up of artists - each exploring Queer sound.

Vegan brunch will be available at the Birmingham Gay Village venue from £5 on the day too.

With vocals that range from a deep blues to whimsical folk and a style that derives influences from a range of musical genres, Tsinder Ash live shows extend beyond the bounds of traditional songwriting performance...and we're super excited to share it with you here in Birmingham.

Get a feel for Tsinder's work with the video + track for 'Oscillate' below (contains strobing) and back catalogue of releases over on Bandcamp.


This project is supported by the Composer-Curator programme by Sound and Music