Since lockdown began, the Manchester Pride team have been having these Community Conversations with local organisations to find out how they have continued their work and reached their audiences during the unprecedented pandemic. One such organisation that has rallied through the storm is Trans Creative, who pulled together a three day trans arts and culture festival - Trans Vegas 2020 - during lockdown.
The festival, which takes place from Friday 19th of June till Sunday June 21st, features 50 trans artists across art, dance, podcast, film screenings, conversation, a digital rally and more.
We spoke to founder Kate O'Donnell about how her team managed to pull together a three-day arts and culture festival during such an uncertain time:
Kate: Formed in 2016, Trans Creative is the leading trans-led arts organisation in the UK. We we produce the annual Trans Vegas Arts Festival, commission new and rare work by trans artists, produce and tour theatre and are the largest employer of trans artists and arts professionals in the country. We are based in Manchester and we deliver high quality diverse multi-disciplinary arts in a sector where trans art and artists are notoriously underfunded and absent.
We are a live arts organisation and our work is about being visible and celebrating trans stories in our annual arts festival Trans Vegas, and with our trans socials. When lockdown happened we had to decide what to do about the festival. We saw going digital as a chance to expand our trans audience and create work which reflects the lockdown experience for our community. During lockdown we also experienced the impact of #blacklivesmatter and the Government's response to the GRA consultation.
We recruited a new trans digital team to support the work the website and our social media which became a vital life line to our community as people were at home and operating digitally. Having a trans team has meant we don't have to explain - we can get each other and support each other.
Our trans socials, which were normally live events, grew in numbers on line. We held weekly trans film sharings and the community turned up and asked for more. To come together and relax and discuss films felt like a nice simple offer to our community you didn’t have to chat if you didn’t want to. We also developed an on line rally which changed its focus due to #blacklivesmatter and created a way for people to donate to more Black trans artists.
Manchester Pride have been a partner and champion of Trans Creative for years. They have supported our festival, offering practical help with events and marketing. We have worked on projects such as Manchester Lesbians #StandByYourTrans, leading the Pride Parade and curating the Trans Pride stage last year.
Our trans social club has reached 100 members since we went digital during lockdown, some of whom have become volunteers for the organisation, performers and project leads. Our mailing list has seen the biggest rise in subscribers ever, which has almost doubled. Our social media pages are gaining much more traction with more people engaging. T-shirt sales of our Stand By Your Trans
t-shirts, the profit of which goes to help make trans work, have risen sharply as the community reacts the draconian UK and US governments attack on our basic human rights, especially black trans rights. This all indicates how important Trans Creative has become to our community and how vital it is for us to have a presence now more than ever before. We plan to continue to tackle the current pandemic creatively and with resilience, keeping our eye on the fight and providing a space to trans art to grow.
My tips for ay organisation trying to to get through the current situation is to reach out to your community, engage with them on many channels, nurture them and rally them. We have been very badly hit over lockdown and we are a vulnerable group to start and with. Black trans people are being killed during this time and with people of such huge influence being transphobic and having the Gender Recognition Act consultation ignored by the Government.
Trans Creative feel that as well as fighting for our rights and countering the negativity that surrounds trans people we also need to laugh and experience joy. We need to relax with our community and heal. Both Trans Vegas festival and the trans social media offer a vital place to do this. We are proud to have kept going and provided a platform for over 50 trans artists to share their work with 100s of trans people during this lockdown.
Trans Vegas takes place online
from June 19th - 21st.
Donate to its Black Trans Artists Fund here.
Follow TransCreative on Facebook