A new artist residency project will shed light on LGBT people’s experiences of sheltered housing and independent living schemes, looking at how LGBT visibility can be improved in these settings.
The Back in the Closet project will see five artists paired with five older persons’ housing schemes across Greater Manchester to work with both staff and residents to open a discussion on LGBT identities and to find both small and significant changes to make these environments more inclusive.
Each artist will take up residence in a scheme for a minimum of 8 days, with work initially taking place remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic. They will work with staff and residents at each scheme, to co-create an artistic response to residents’ experiences using photography, creative writing, film, installation or performance.
The artists selected to take part in Back in the Closet are:
Jez Dolan – A Trafford based visual artist whose work explore queerness and identity
Idle Woman – An arts and social justice project that creates vibrant and adventurous spaces with women. Initiated as a new artistic collaboration between Rachel Anderson and Cis O’Boyle their collaborative work combines site-specificity, sculpture, performance, cross-sector partnership and research.
Lauren Sagar – a storyteller with an interest in personal history who plans to use the written word and performance to explore the idea of the chosen family
Anna Raczynski – an artist filmmaker, working primarily within the field of community-based, documentary art practice.
Tamzin Forster – a multi-disciplined visual artist and creative wellbeing specialist
The scheme is a partnership between Greater Manchester Combined Authority, House Proud NW and Pride in Ageing at LGBT Foundation.
Greater Manchester’s Lead for Age-Friendly and Equalities, Cllr Brenda Warrington said: “All older LGBT people have a right to dignified and inclusive housing and this project will allow us to look at how schemes can ensure they provide this for their residents.
“A survey in 2014 reported that two thirds of care home staff said there was not a single resident who was openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans where they worked.
“We know this cannot be true and points to the fact that many older LGBT people feel uncomfortable and unable to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We can learn a lot through this scheme and by using art, residents and staff will have the chance to be creative and I look forward to seeing the end results.”
Lawrie Roberts, Pride in Ageing Manager at LGBT Foundation, said: “Pride in Ageing aims to make Greater Manchester one of the best places to grow older as a LGBT person, and ensuring that people feel safe and comfortable to be open about their sexual orientation or trans status in the housing scheme in which they live is a huge part of achieving this.
“We are incredibly excited to be working with a group of hugely talented artists from across the North West and a network of housing providers across Greater Manchester on these residencies, which though creative practise will open up new conversations around LGBT visibility in retirement schemes.”
Nic Kershaw, Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Housing Partnership member One Manchester, said: “We’re extremely proud to be involved in this fantastic scheme, and to support our older residents in openly discussing their experience of living in an Independent Living Schemes as an LGBT person.
“Using art and culture to create an inclusive atmosphere is something we’ve done before at One Manchester, and working in partnership with other Greater Manchester housing providers, the LGBT Foundation, HouseProud and the GMCA means we can continue this great work and support many more residents in Greater Manchester.”
Chair of HouseProud NW Tara Kelly, said: “HouseProud is committed to improving the way we support and deliver services to LGBT customers and residents. The Back in the Closet Project presents an exciting and innovative opportunity to engage with our older residents and to raise awareness of issues faced by LGBT people living in our retirement housing schemes.
Jez Dolan, one of the artists taking part in the scheme, said: “My practice as an artist is focussed around queerness, identity and history, often through telling stories. The Back in the Closet project has a real resonance with my ongoing work, and I’m really excited about the opportunity of sharing my practice with older LGBTQIA+ people living in residential settings.
As an older artist I’m looking forward to collaborating with communities of people and sharing our stories and shared histories, and looking at how we can make often unheard voices heard and appreciated.”
The four housing associations taking part are Calico Homes, One Manchester, Trafford Housing Trust and Great Places Housing Group.