JUNE 22-27, 2009

This latest addition to the annual Dublin LGBTQ Pride Festival is a dynamic celebration of queer ideas and performance from Ireland and beyond.

“Screamingly funny and deeply disturbing”
– The Irish Times
“…so directly and genuinely moving that it felt positively perverse.”
– The Irish Times

Presented by THISISPOPBABY and Calipo Theatre Company, the week-long Queer Notions featured visual art, music, lecture, drag, film, performance and politics from some of Ireland and UK’s most exciting artists. The  programme included: Acclaimed playwright Phillip McMahon’s exhilarating All Over Town, a backpacker’s adventures in the dark underbelly of Sydney’s seedy gay scene; Graphic Artist Niall Sweeney’s poignant and funny performance lecture charting the history of the Alternative Miss Ireland pageant; and Victor and Gord, a compelling and moving show from rising Irish director Una McKevitt about the complexities of family and friendship.

Alongside hotly anticipated shows from UK artists David Hoyle and Bourgeois & Maurice, Panti took part in some late night debauchery, while writer and activist Tonie Walsh curated an evocative exhibition from the Irish Queer Archive.

And on the eve of the 40thanniversary of Stonewall, an event that many agree kick-started the modern gay rights movement, Queer Notions  held a special post-Pride march screening of Before Stonewall, a landmark in Queer history on film.

Festival Directors: Jennifer Jennings & Phillip McMahon
Graphic Design: Niall Sweeney at Ponybox LTD
Press & Publicity: Nik Quaife
Production Manager: Marie Tierney
Advertising and distribution: Ciara Ryan
Viral marketing & Filming: Adam Matthews
Chief LX: David Tiernan
Stage Manager: Helen Collins
Assistant Stage Manager: Chris Nugent
For Calipo Theatre: Darren Thornton & Collette Farrell




Performance: The Queerest Idea
Dr Fintan Walsh

Notions are the queerest of ideas, barely thought and rarely spoken. They flit, spryly, between the real and the fantastic, the whimsical and the serious, the possible and the outlandish. Notions are never fixed or finite, but live infinitely mobile, versatile and polycurious lives. They resist consolidating themselves as fully formed thoughts, for to do so would foreclose other possibilities in meaning and becoming.

When a notion is expressed – or suddenly, as if from nowhere, expresses itself – it meanders in a spirit of openness and generosity towards other ideas, sparking new alliances and chains of understanding. Unlike established knowledge, notions have no stakes in definition or authority, or in being right or wrong. These are the anxious terms that shape the past and present, and it is the job of notions to excite the future.

THISISPOPBABY and Calipo Theatre Company seize upon the allure of the provisional idea to programme a range of queer performance events to accompany Dublin Pride 2009. New writing, experimental theatre, film, exhibition, lecture, music and visual art from local and international artists make up the bill, to pleasure and provoke, while raising pertinent issues about identity, relationality, rights and responsibilities.

Queer Notions is an important addition to the Pride schedule, in so far as it reinforces the centrality of expressive culture to the negotiation, interrogation and sustenance of LGBTQ lives. While in recent years Pride has struggled to juggle activism, celebration and corporate promotion, Queer Notions capitalizes on the festival’s performative spirit to bridge the distance between the event’s political roots and its changing cultural significance. In particular, the programme harnesses and modulates the parade’s carnivalesque tone by offering more nuanced perspectives on queer life and culture, in a manner and mode that enriches and extends the possibilities promised by such an encounter.

One of the most attractive dimensions to the programming is that it centralizes the best of local talent, elevating and nourishing the work of Irish writers, directors, performers and visual artists. The international contingent is illuminative rather than tokenistic, facilitating the sharing of new expressive idioms with more familiar languages. There is no realism here, for realism corroborates with the status quo, and in this the programme implies the importance of rethinking artistic form not only to accommodate new ideas, but to create the conditions that enable new ways of perceiving and being in the world to emerge.

Given its breadth, Queer Notions is suggestive and evocative, rather than instructive and exhaustive. Within the context of Irish theatre and queer culture, this is central to its appeal and originality. For instead of giving us anything definite in thought, form or aesthetic, Queer Notions offers itself as a site of energized potentiality where difference might be effectively and affectively played out, and ways of being and doing queer imaginatively rehearsed. In this, the programme suggests that the queerest notion of all might be to do something about it: to embody the idea, to run with it, to act up and act out; in short, to perform.

Dr. Fintan Walsh is a theatre critic and researcher at Trinity College Dublin. This essay appeared in the Queer Notions programme.