A young people’s manifesto for tackling LGBTQIA+ loneliness in the South West

It might not immediately be apparent how loneliness can be a political experience, but for the young people who participated in our workshops in July, LGBTQIA+ loneliness was thoroughly political. Experiences of marginalization, isolation, and stigma which contributed to loneliness among our young people were often derived from factors relating to policy.

So in our final workshop, we asked our young people to put on their political hats and co-create a manifesto for tackling loneliness among LGBTQIA+ young people in the South West. What would they ask for? What would they change?

The manifesto that follows is a work in progress as much as we hope to synthesise and build on our young people’s work with thoughts from our 26+ participants in October. But for now, this offers a special window onto young people’s thinking about LGBTQIA+ loneliness and belonging.

Picture of the manifesto, with a peach background and block colour flowers down the left-hand side. The Beat of Our Hearts logo is in the top left-hand corner. The manifesto is in two pages. The first page deals with healthcare and education.


Picture of the manifesto, with a peach background and block colour flowers down the left-hand side. The Beat of Our Hearts logo is in the top left-hand corner. The manifesto is in two pages. The second page continues education but also has a theme of community. Information about the authors of the manifesto is also on this page.For screen readers, please see the PDF version here of our 16-25 LGBTQIA+ Loneliness Manifesto.

 

Frank Duffy

‘Finding community probably saved my life’: An interview with graphic designer and illustrator Frank Duffy

Creativity and the arts are at the heart of our project on LGBTQIA+ loneliness and belonging. In the past as well as today, those who felt like they dwelt on the margins of societal norms regarding gender and sexuality have turned to creativity to express their feelings and experiences.

And creativity has often been a way for us to find and build community with others. Sometimes it’s as if we feel we’re reaching through an artwork to the personality that created it and sensing that ‘you are not alone’.

It was really important, therefore, that the artist who would create the logo for our project was sympathetic to these values and the way the project is framing the importance of the arts for dramatizing LGBTQIA+ loneliness and belonging.

I spoke to graphic designer and illustrator, Frank Duffy, to find out more about what The Beat of Our Hearts means to them, and why they wanted to design our logo.

Frank Duffy
Frank Duffy

When I asked Frank about why they wanted to get involved, they said:

I was delighted to be asked to work on this project. As a bisexual non-binary trans person I know first-hand the importance of queer community, of finding people who can relate to you and your life.
Frank speaks explicitly about the importance of community in their life:
There’s an easy sort of short-hand being around queers – there’s an acceptance and ease we can struggle to access in a cishet world. Finding community probably saved my life. So this play about LGBTQIAA+ loneliness, especially during the pandemic, couldn’t be more important to me.
And what about their design choices? Our logo has a very distinctive style which instantly grabbed us:
Our fab logo

Frank explains how

In about 2008 I met a group of queers all house-sharing together – there I met my first other trans person, learnt about the possibility of being non-binary, and generally came to understand myself a lot better. There were lots of zines floating about and they were generally photocopied from typewriter-typed text cut and pasted alongside drawings and photographs. There were also old copies of Spare Rib and other feminist publications, as well as art from the Guerrilla Girls. The half-tone dots of the photocopier as well as the typewriter font came from these memories, and the colours feel vivid, uncompromising and related to non-hierarchical community organising and radical politics.

For Frank, the design of our logo is connected to a history of dissident politics and attempts to challenge existing ways of seeing things. For me, this link to the past enriches the artwork and illustrates the project’s focus on histories of LGBTQIA+ belonging and loneliness as much as present experiences.

We can’t wait to explore the ways in which our project will elicit new histories of LGBTQIA+ community, isolation, and intimacy.

 

I come from

I come from: Young people’s poetry of LGBTQIA+ belonging

As an experience, loneliness can be frightening to think about. For LGBTQIA+ people especially, speaking about loneliness has the potential to trigger unhappy memories and emotions that strike deep chords within.

Which is why for our first workshop with young LGBTQIA+ people (16-25), based in Cornwall, we began by thinking about the experience of belonging.

Where do I feel like I belong?

Where do I come from?

To whom do I belong?

So together we watched Dean Atta’s performance of the poem ‘I Come From’. This is a remarkably simple yet complex poem. Essentially you write it yourself, using only ‘I come from’ as the start of a line. Usually you’d join together two quite unlikely sources of belonging, such as

I come from fish and chips and Chemistry homework.

But over time, you end up with a really intimate and personal glimpse into what makes you you.

The young people in our workshops each provided a line or so using the ‘I come from’ format. And the results were deeply moving. We’ll leave them to speak for themselves.

I come from punk and the heart of the forest 

I come from a feral family and well spoken words

I come from rainbow and black and white 

I come from total freedom and a medically controlled mind 

I come from soft piano compositions and loud guitar screeches 

I come from boy’s shirts and pretty skirts

I come from neglect and care 

I come from Instagram captions and polaroids being fashionable

I come from boredom and an anxiously racing mind 

I come from an empty bedroom and big crowds. 

 

— Richard Vytniorgu

 

Welcome to The Beat of Our Hearts!

Hello and welcome,

We’re delighted to announce the launch of our blog showcasing our AHRC-funded EDI engagement project, The Beat of Our Hearts: Staging New Histories of LGBTQIA+ Loneliness. The project, based at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health at the University of Exeter and led by researchers Dr Charlotte Jones (PI) and Dr Richard Vytniorgu (PDRA), is intended to foreground and reflect on histories and experiences of LGBTQIA+ loneliness in the south west of England.

The project situates lived experiences of loneliness and belonging at its heart, and uses creativity – especially theatre – to amplify the complexities and challenges that LGBTQIA+ people in the South West have faced and continue to face as they seek ways to confront experiences of marginalisation and foster community. Starting with a series of creative workshops, the project will culminate in the development of an original performance, written by Natalie McGrath, and staged at Exeter’s Northcott Theatre as part of LGBT+ history month in February 2022 (more information here).

Project leader, Dr Charlotte Jones, notes:

Through this project, we will explore what we’ve found out about histories as well as current experiences of LGBTQIA+ loneliness and marginalisation, and provide collective spaces for reflection, creativity, and sharing.

After working directly with LGBTQIA+ people aged 16 and above, Writer Natalie McGrath will create a new play that explores stories which are often hidden or marginalised:

 I was inspired to explore this from the outset after researching loneliness and isolation amongst young LGBTQIA+ people. I was really upset by stories of isolation and discrimination that young people are facing everyday, and so this motivated me to do something to navigate this as a writer and socially engaged artist. To see what could be done as a positive force for good for LGBTQIA+ people in the South West by tackling this issue creatively, and of course what I could learn in the process.

Over the summer and autumn of 2021, we will provide updates about the series of creative writing workshops we are holding in collaboration with the Intercom Trust, to elicit and explore histories and experiences of loneliness and belonging among a range of LGBTQIA+ people.

CEO of Intercom, Andy Hunt, explains that

I feel that this work will reach some of our more marginalised service users and supporters, giving them a voice for maybe the first time. This will in turn help with self-esteem, and confidence, as many of our clients have issues around internalised shame.

We are really excited about the coming months, so please keep tabs with what’s going on by following or bookmarking our blog.

For now, we are also delighted to draw your attention to our logo, designed by graphic designer and illustrator, Frank Duffy.

A pink heart overlaid with orange dots. In the centre, typewriter text reads 'the beat of our hearts'.

We love its 80s vibe and its vibrant pink, and we can’t wait to hear what others think of it too.

If you want to get in touch, then please click on the contact tab in the menu.

 

— Richard Vytniorgu