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INSIDE OUT

I grew up in north London. My family came over from Ireland and we were put into social housing. I was kicked out of school when I was 13 years-old and I never went back into education. My mother put me forward for drama classes because I was quite shy and she wanted me to grow in confidence. So being an artist all happened by accident. I had no qualifications, no training, I didn’t go to art school. The work that I make is often from that perspective of what happened to me as a 13 year-old. It’s very political, community based, engaged with non-artists.

I was aware growing up that I was different and I was aware that this difference was something not to be spoken about. I remember vividly the girls saying I couldn’t play with them because I was a boy and the boys saying I couldn’t play with them because I sounded like a girl. So that was when alienation and the start of queer trauma happened.

It wasn’t until I was 21 on the gay scene and I was subject to a lot of femme phobia, fat phobia and working class shame that I realised - hang on, I’m queer, I’m not part of this normative gay world. From that moment on, I’ve tried to reclaim those things that were used to try and shame me.

I come from a family of Donegal storytellers. In my family there’s a lot of empathy so I care in turn. Because I’ve experienced what it is to be a marginalised person, all the work that I do is about the injustices I see in the world. My work is always trying to get us to have complex conversations around identity and intersectionality.

I work across a lot of different communities in a lot of different countries. Specifically when I’m working in poorer communities in England, because I am white there are conversations that some white folk will have amongst each other that they wouldn’t have with people of colour. So with my show Putting Words In Your Mouth I wanted to explore homonationalism, because there was this idea around at that time that if you were gay, of course you couldn’t be racist or of course you couldn’t be neo-nationalist, and I wanted to expel that myth.

I interviewed over 400 people pre-Brexit and then the show took place post-Brexit, so it became quite a haunting show. That’s usually the way I work - I’ll come into a community and have contentious conversations, often about stuff we are sort of talking about but we don’t want to talk about explicitly, and from that I’ll make a piece of work.

My new show Fat Blokes is a reaction to the fact that being fat in the gay community has meant that there’s been a lot of violence towards me. I’ve been at Prides where I’ve had glass bottles thrown at me. I’ve been in queer nightclubs where people have tried to set fire to me. So I wanted to explore why being fat in the community means you are considered to be such a fucking enemy.

The show is also about sexualising fat people. I am always desexualised because of my fatness. People will see me as funny or broken, but never as sexy. Or if they do see me as sexy, often it’s about fetishising me or they want me to play the role of bear or cub. With this show we want to show fat people can be sexual queer human beings.

Every night we make a decision over whether or not we’re going to take our clothes of in front of the audience. When we do it feels brilliant, because there’s a lot of fat rage in the room, there’s a lot of queer rage in the room.

For the last four years I’ve been really focusing on critiquing and looking at the futures of masculinity. As part of that I’m working on the For Play workshop in Dublin’s Science Gallery in December.

It’s part of Masculinities Anonymous - a roving meeting that I do in various locations around the world. It started off at the Victoria And Albert Museum as a space for people to come together to see what it is we are looking for from masculinity - how do want it to look in the future, how can we shape it - but also a space for people to share their traumas around it. It’s a public meeting where people are able to offload their shit.

For more information on Masculinities Anonymous, check out Dublin.sciencegallery.com

This article appears in the 348 Issue of GCN

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This article appears in the 348 Issue of GCN