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Celebrating our queer history

Peter Darney, our cabaret producer and programmer, marks LGBT+ History Month by exploring how queer culture has inspired our work as Wales’s national arts centre.

I joined Wales Millennium Centre with a brief to both continue and grow our Cabaret offering. Having worked as both a producer and a queer artist, the inclusion of LGBTQI+ culture is something that has been at my core of most of my working life.

Some people ask why it’s important to keep marking and remembering where we’ve come from. Yes, it’s true that the law is now more equal, but for many of us the fight for equality in everyday life is far from over.

Dolly Trolley dressed in a green leopard print leotard with pink stockings

It’s a sad fact that hate crime against our community has risen massively in the last few years. Mental health issues also disproportionally affect LGBTQI+ young people. So now is the time to support our community, platform our artists, and offer positive representation.

I see my role as making Wales Millennium Centre somewhere where LGBTQI+ people can come together with our allies to share our stories, and celebrate our similarities and uniqueness in a safe, magical and thrilling place.

Wales has a thriving and diverse arts scene, and it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with and platform so many artists during my time here.

While the Donald Gordon Theatre was dark last summer, our Weston Studio was bright – and very camp.

Foo Foo Labelle

We had the privilege to work with the powerhouses of drag that are Dolly Trolley, Venetia Blind, Len Blanco, Wilma Ballsdrop, and Britain’s first out Muslim drag queen Asifa Lahore.

From one man shows to drag bingo and drag aerobics every night, there were enough rhinestones dropped to cover Joe Black’s dress!

And at the front of our building, there was vital queer representation in our work for families and young people, from Connie Orff’s drag queen story time for kids to the mind-blowingly cool Welsh Ballroom Community’s vogueing classes.

Kiki ballroom artwork

We were also able to give space on the Donald Gordon stage for the Welsh Ballroom Community to hold the first ever Welsh Kiki Ball.

It was an awesome night, and it felt powerful to have so many diverse queer artists from Wales and across the UK take over a space where we have been massively underrepresented – as we have been historically in all theatres.

Last Christmas, we had the honour of working with Big Loop to make the wildest queer-friendly Christmas show Cardiff has ever seen with Polly Amorous, Rahim Al Habachi and a host of friends.

With songs, belly dancing, burlesque, boylesque and an outrageous rendition of Twelve Days of Christmas, our theatre became a melting pot for people to be safe and authentic, and share in the joy of raising each other up in a world that too often wants to bring people down.

Artwork for Grandmother's Closet

And it doesn’t stop there. We’re thrilled to be currently working with Luke Hereford to bring Grandmother’s Closet (and What I Found There...) to the stage. It promises to be a camp, joyous celebration of finding your authentic self and the power of allyship. Will I see you there?

I’m proud that our work brings much-needed representation and an understanding of queer culture to a whole new audience. In the words of Dame Shirley Bassey, we're not getting old – we're getting better!

Peter Darney, Cabaret Producer and Programmer