Blog: Reflecting on LGBTQ+ performance for young audiences

19 June 2023

A rainbow drawn in chalk on pavement. Photo credit: Alex Jackman via unsplash
A rainbow drawn in chalk on pavement. Photo credit: Alex Jackman via unsplash

Happy Pride Month! 

I’m Anna Broomfield, the Schools & Communities Project Coordinator at Imaginate, and I’m leading on our Silver Charter with LGBT Youth Scotland. To mark Pride Month, I wanted to reflect on our recent panel “Queer Work for Young Audiences” at the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival, and why this work is so important to us. 

During a time when LGBTQ+ rights are under threat around the world, it felt like an important moment to gather local and international programmers, producers, artists, teachers and others attending the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival to celebrate queer work for young audiences. 

In the discussion, which was chaired by Luke Pell for an audience of 130 delegates, we heard about lots of amazing performances that the panellists are working on: Sadiq Ali and Vee Smith presented The Chosen at Family Encounters and are developing a new piece called The Kelpie and the Phoenix through our Accelerator project; and Greg Sinclair’s piece Seashells was also included at Family Encounters; and Drew Taylor-Wilson and Afton Moran have been developing a piece called Sam the Sword which was presented at an Imaginate Scratch Night last year.  

The panellists talked about the power of queer representation: it can be lonely, scary and isolating growing up as an LGBTQ+ person, but seeing ourselves represented in performance can help us feel less alone, less weird, and more hopeful for the future. I felt genuinely emotional listening to these brilliant artists and their passion for making the world a little bit kinder for LGBTQ+ children.  

LGBT Youth Scotland’s report Life in Scotland for LGBT Young People 2022 highlights why this is needed: 

  • There has been a reduction overall in the percentage of participants rating Scotland a good place to be LGBTI over the last five years. This was 81% in 2017 and has fallen to 65% in 2022  
  • Just 28% of rural-based participants rated their local area as a good place to be LGBTI as compared to 62% of urban-based participants 
  • Only 10% of participants rated the experience of school for LGBT people as 'good'.  
  • Just 17% of young people surveyed reported that they would feel confident reporting a hate crime to the police if they experienced one 
  • 70% of gay/lesbian participants report experiencing bullying due to their sexual orientation at school 
  • 81% of participants felt that the way LGBTI people are portrayed in the media is not accurate 

This panel got me thinking more deeply about how LGBTQ+ rights link to the United National Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The UNCRC is a core component of our Creative Encounters project, and Imaginate’s larger strategic goal of embedding children’s rights at the heart of our policy and practice. There are so many articles in the UNCRC that apply to LGBTQ+ young people: 

  • Article 2: children have the right to protection against discrimination.  
  • Article 6: children have the right to life, to survive and develop in conditions that don’t impact negatively on their physical and mental wellbeing.  
  • Article 8: children have a right to their own identity, including their appearance, abilities, gender identity and sexual orientation. 
  • Article 12: children have the right to their own opinions, to be heard and taken seriously. Children should be considered when people make decisions about things that involve them. 
  • Article 13: children have the right to express themselves and access information 
  • Article 29: children have the right to an education which helps to develop their minds and abilities, and encourages respect for everyone’s rights and values. 

If our LGBTQ+ children do not believe Scotland is a good place to be themselves, if they are facing discrimination for their identity, and if they don’t feel supported to tackle that, then they are being denied their human rights as defined by the UNCRC. 

Children deserve to see their stories told, and that includes LGBTQ+ children and families. Imaginate has a privileged position to raise the voice of the LGBTQ+ community and support LGBTQ+ children. The stats from the LGBT Youth Scotland report makes it clear how needed that is, and I am so happy (and proud!) that we got to celebrate the work by Drew, Afton, Vee, Sadiq and Greg at the Children’s Festival.

I can’t wait to see what’s next when it comes to queer work for young audiences, because I know it will have such a positive impact on young people.  We'll be hosting another event which will platform some LGBTQ+ work in October - watch this space!