In 2013, when I was invited to create new work for Queer in Brighton by Photoworks, Pink Fringe (now Marlborough Productions), and New Writing South I had no idea what this work would eventually look like, with whom it would be made, or how it would be created. What I did know was the intention of Queer in Brighton, to celebrate the cultural heritage of LGBTQ+ people in Brighton and Hove, resonated with my firmly held belief that all individuals and groups of people have a right to have a say in how they are represented and by whom. It seemed to me, as a gay man, it was the perfect moment to channel my interests in collaboration, community, and socially engaged practice towards my own experience of being queer and the lived experiences of others with whom I feel allied to.
The process of creating Not Going Shopping could not be replicated in the exact same ways today. Not only have the social, cultural, and political contexts for queer people in the United Kingdom shifted over the past eight years, the contributions of the participants with whom I created this work – Charlie, Edward, Fox, Harry, JB, Kate, Kelly, Luc, Matt, Sarah, and Ten – are specific to the moment in time and the particular way in which we came together. The discussions that drove our research, experimentation, and co-creation over a period of nine months or so, were fuelled by openness, play, and a conviction to challenge our own presumptions and the preconceptions of other people of what it is to be queer. The commitment with which each participant invested in the creation of the photographs, texts, and the Collaborative Portraits which culminated in the Not Going Shopping exhibition, community newspaper, and blog – notgoingshopping.blogspot.com – enabled the collective endeavour of this project to be realised in ways that surpassed my expectations. That Not Going Shopping continues to be seen in exhibitions and publications in the UK and internationally is testament to the intentions we all brought to the making of the work. That is, for Not Going Shopping to celebrate the unique cultural heritage queer people in Brighton and Hove are part of, and, by doing so, for the ways in which the work speaks out about the politics of the representation of queerness to be relevant everywhere.
The human rights of queer people across the spectrum of the LGBTQ+ acronym have been hard fought for in the UK. In many ways, aspects of these rights are still not fully achieved or acknowledged for everyone, socially, culturally, or politically. While the UK may be a far safer place for queer people to live, work, and love in, than many other countries around the world, and Brighton may be seen as a ‘gay capital’, we have a long way to go. For trans and nongender individuals, especially, many of the rights the majority of the UK population take for granted in their daily lives are a way off from being fully realised. Queer people everywhere need to remain vigilant and vocal about our right to be here. To remind ourselves and to remind other people that queer people have always been here. To let it be known that queer people will not be silenced and we do not have to apologise for speaking out about being who we are. For we are still, and will always be, Not Going Shopping.