Talk4Peace project explores Transformative Mediation and Inclusive Peacebuilding

Talk4Peace is a new project funded by the North-South Research Programme, jointly led by Dr Maria-Adriana Deiana, from Queen’s University Belfast and co-director of the Centre for Gender in Politics, and Dr Heidi Riley, from the School of Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin.

This project seeks to further our understanding of transformative mediation as a mechanism for peacebuilding and inclusive dialogue in the island of Ireland, tackling a topic that has received insufficient attention in academic research and policy. 

It explores transformative mediation’s potential to open alternative practices of conflict mediation and peacebuilding that centre recognition, agency and knowledges of a wide range of communities in contexts shaped by armed conflict. 

To achieve these goals, the project explicitly examines how a gender and intersectional lens can be better incorporated into practices of peace mediation as a way to challenge the continuing lack of recognition of women and other minoritised groups as mediators. In committing to an inclusive research process, involving extensive cross-border dialogue across the island, the project also explores the role of innovative tools used to maximise inclusion and outreach in mediation practices, including arts and cultural practices.

The project builds on extensive engagement and collaboration with mediation practitioners and other relevant civil society organisations involved in peace mediation.  One of the project’s publications will be a toolkit for transformative mediation to be shared widely with practitioners and policymakers nationally and internationally.

The project launch in July brought together  practitioners, academics, artists, and policymakers to explore the transformative potential of alternative forms of conflict mediation centred around a commitment to inclusive and creative practices.  

Speakers included:

Ilaria Tucci -Researcher & Practitioner in Tampere University, expert in the use of community theatre methods as a way to encourage inclusive and participatory dialogue. 

Laura Davis -Mediation practitioner, Gender and peacebuilding expert EPLO Brussels.

Patty Abozaglo -Mediation practitioner and researcher based in Maynooth University, worked extensively in Colombia and other parts of South America

Yaser Alashqar -Mediation practitioner and trainer, based in TCD Dublin with extensive mediation experience and specialist in Israeli/Palestinian context.

Bebhinn McKinlay -Women Mediators Across the Commonwealth Network, Northern Ireland representative 

International Perspectives on Trans Rights and Policy in the context of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands

As part of 2022 Belfast Pride celebrations the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the UK, the Centre for Gender in Politics at Queen’s University Belfast and HERe NI hosted the event offering international perspectives on trans rights and policy. The event featured three speakers representing trans politics in unique contexts, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands.  The speakers for the event were (from left to right in lead photo):

  •   Max de Blank (they/them) , Policy Officer at the Directorate of Emancipation, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) of the Netherlands
  • Alexa Moore (she/her), Co-founder and former director of TransgenderNI, currently Research and policy at the Human Rights Consortium
  • Matt Kennedy (he/him) who is an Irish Research Council Scholar and doctoral candidate in the area of trans studies in the School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice a University College Dublin, a writer and a boxer. He is currently employed in Belong To Ireland’s National LGBTQ+ youth organisation as the policy and research officer as well as completing his PhD on transnormativity.

The panel focused on four themes: gender recognition, health care, connecting trans rights with other social justice issues and how allies can help support trans communities facing anti-trans backlash.

To begin, each of the panelists reflected on each of the different legal contexts for gender recognition policies and practices. Max began by detailing how in the Netherlands there has been significant progress over the past decade and the state has even publicly apologized for the suffering experienced by the transgender and intersex community as a consequence of the terms of the former Transgender Act, that up until 2014 required medical procedures including permanent sterilization before allowing a legal gender change to one of two binary gender options. In 2020 the Dutch government agreed to pay compensations to trans victims of sterilization. There is now momentum in the country from both the government and the medical field to improve the support for people transitioning, including a plan to introduce paid leave for trans people during their transition.

The panelists spoke of the harm caused by pathologizing legislation that requires trans patients to undergo lengthy medical approval prior to having access to legal gender recognition. Alexa explained that instead of the current highly medicalized procedure in NI, the trans community are advocating for a process of self-identification. She continued, ‘It’s not up to some cisgender doctor, some panel of gender experts, to adjudicate your gender, it should be up to the trans people. It should be up to the individuals who know themselves people than anyone else.‘

The Republic of Ireland does currently allow this process of self-declaration, however there are still serious shortcomings.  For example, there is still a lack of acknowledgement for intersex and nonbinary folks within current policy, and those who are aged 16 and 17 need parental consent from both parents along with two psychiatric assessments. Young people under 16s do not have access to any form of legal gender recongition under the current legislation in the republic of Ireland. Acknowledging the damaging impact of this legislation Matt asks, ‘Why have we made stipulations around which trans people are allowed to effectively become citizens? Who is left out of this legislation?’  Concluding his reflections on the topic, he argued that although previous equality measures were put to a referendum in the Republic (e.g. repealing the 8th, marriage equality) the same should not be true for policies like gender recognition. ‘It’s not at all appropriate for trans people to grovel for their participation in social, political and economic life.’

Trans healthcare is in a dismal state across the contexts addressed by the panelists. Alexa and Matt shared their own personal experiences in trying to access basic trans health care and remaining on waiting lists for years. The wait list for access to medical support for trans people is currently estimated to be 1-3 years in the Netherlands, at last report, the waiting list was around 4 years in Northern Ireland and up to 10 years in the Republic.

When trans people can afford to, many turn to private care, while others have turned to community care. ‘Now all of my care is from the UK. I travelled abroad for surgery, and all of my hormones are through what’s called Shared Care. I have a GP in Dublin who prescribes my hormones’, Matt explained.  He points to this model as the model those committed to improving trans-affirming care should be supporting, outlining that often transition related healthcare is contained within underresourced gender clinics which are ‘Not a helpful model at all. They serve only to further pathologize trans people and to remove them from all of the other spaces where they access general care.’ Community based models of care better serve trans people as they are localised and more appropriately placed to meet the wraparound health and wellbeing needs of an individual including their transition related needs. 

All the speakers made connections between trans policy and other socio-economic issues. Homelessness is an example of socio-economic issue that research in the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands has already shown disproportionately negatively impacts trans youth who may be kicked out of their homes after coming out to their family as trans.  In the context of NI Alexa points to the real need for a Bill of Rights to help support multiple human rights concerns together. She argues, ‘So many of the rights we’re talking about today healthcare, legal recognition and the right to private family life, right to a home, all of these issues could be covered and we could start to build this rights based society and unique policies within a human rights framework if we had a bill of rights for NI.’  A Bill of Rights for NI was promised as part of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Though there was much emphasis on the need to improve legal protections and policies for trans equality, Max cautioned that focusing on rights alone is not enough: ‘Rights are very important, but having rights does not mean that all discrimination is being solved. That is why the Dutch government also invests in education, for example by supporting Gender & Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) in schools’, they said.

Alongside reflecting on the current policy landscape for trans rights, participants shared their thoughts on how cis people can be allies to the trans community. This was on the mind of many participating in pride events this year. Danielle Roberts who is the Senior Policy and Development officer for  HEReNI, and moderator for the panel, invited those planning to march in the Belfast Pride parade to join the trans inclusionary feminist block.

Matt’s concluding thoughts resonated with the whole room when he pointed to the need for coalitional organizing to achieve the transformation necessary to achieve gender justice for trans communities. ‘I can’t do that myself. I can’t do that just as a trans person. I can’t do it just in trans community. I need everyone along with me.’ Together the panelists made it clear that improving rights and policies for trans people ultimately  benefits trans and cis people alike.

This event was part of the Just Talk(s) event series organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the UK.

Queering Women, Peace and Security project focuses on Improving Engagement with queer women in peacebuilding

The Queering Women, Peace and Security (WPS) project is a British Academy funded Innovation Fellowship led by Dr. Jamie Hagen from Queen’s University Belfast and co-director of the Centre for Gender in Politics, and Anupama Ranawana from Christian Aid UK, which focuses on improving engagement with lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LBTQ) women in WPS Programming.

 The full research team also includes María Susana Peralta Ramón of Colombia Diversa who will serve as research coordinator on the project, and Nathalie Mercier of Christian Aid Colombia who will serve as research assistant.

The year-long fellowship focuses on the role of including LBTQ women in the development and implementation of Women, Peace and Security National Action Plans and contributes to a larger effort of taking a critical security studies approach to understanding peacebuilding.

 The project comes at an important time with the ongoing development of the UK’s third National Action Plan for implementing Women, Peace and Security and plans for the first Women, Peace and Security National Action Plan in Colombia.

One of the key publications from the project will be a toolkit which will provide training opportunities for Women, Peace and Security practitioners and enable knowledge exchange from LGBTQ organizations in the future to be published in Spring 2023. Workshops in Bogotá with key stakeholders from the LGBTQ community are central to the research project.

The Queering Women, Peace and Security project engages with and supports ongoing work to queer gender, peace and security efforts through collaboration with the leading Colombian LGBTIQ+ organization Colombia Diversa.   The research team will also explore what queer theory and LGBTQ advocacy might offer for improving Women, Peace and Security implementation practices internationally when ensuring a gender perspective in all peace and security efforts.

Upcoming events for Queer@Queens

Queer@Queen’s 2021

This year Queer@Queen’s has organized two events to coincide with the Outburts Queer Arts festival, a New Scholarship in Queer & Gender Studies panel on 17 November and a film screening of United in Anger: A History of Act Up followed by a discussion with Professor Sarah Schulman on 19 November. Find more details about both events below.


New Scholarship in Queer & Gender Studies
17th November 2021
20 University Square/0G/009

A showcase of new and emergent postgraduate research in queer, gender, and feminist studies at QUB, in connection with Outburst Queer Arts Festival (https://outburstarts.com/festival/).

Please note that this is an in-person event that will be held simultaneously on Teams.

To attend this event please book here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/199788902987

For a link to the online Teams meeting, please contact Trish McTighe, t.mctighe@qub.ac.uk.

Please ensure that you wear a mask and observe social distancing when attending. More information on QUB Covid safety measures can be found here: https://www.qub.ac.uk/home/coronavirus-faqs/information-for-students/


Christopher Cavanagh, ‘LGBT In Antiquity: The Galli of the Great Mother’

This talk will discuss the emergence of the cult of Cybele in antiquity and her priests who were infamous at the time for being considered effeminate; they would reportedly self-castrate and wear women’s clothing and makeup. In introducing the cult and priesthood (as well as some literary attestations) I will talk about my research thus far, and how the literary sources shame them continuously, yet oddly, archaeologically speaking we can see some tell-tale signs indicating that they “wore it proudly”, openly displaying their deviance from Greco-Roman sexual norms on their tombstones. Some may even have engaged in domestic partnerships with other men (as indicated by a tombstone of a Gallus named Soterides in Turkey, and another of a Chief Gallus in Rome called Bassus), contrary to laws at the time.

Chris Cavanagh is a third year PhD student at Queens and who works as a teaching assistant and an archaeologist.

Sharon Dempsey, ‘The Body as Text: The Female Outsider in a Crime Fiction Narrative’ 

This talk will be drawn from my PhD research about crime fiction, gender, and class. I will give an overview of female representation and the body in crime fiction and then move on to discuss the creative aspects of my work.

Sharon Dempsey is a Belfast based crime writer. The first in her new crime series, Who Took Eden Mulligan? was published in 2021 by Avon Harper Collins. Her PhD research combines creative writing practice and critical analysis to examine how Northern Irish crime fiction can be used to understand the intersection between gender and class. Her creative work, a crime fiction novel in the domestic noir genre, will provide an exploration of class, privilege and toxic masculinity while also addressing the role of social media in rape cases, and how the victim can be demonized and blamed, forced into the public arena with profound repercussions.  

Elspeth Vischer, ‘Let Us Be Seen: Documenting Grassroots Feminism and Queer Identity in Belfast Today’

How do feminist and queer identities operate in contemporary Belfast? Let Us Be Seen is a documentary film that presents the work and ideas of individuals on the ground in Belfast, who have campaigned tirelessly for change and continue to do so. On 21st October 2019, abortion was decriminalised and same-sex marriage legalised in Northern Ireland. This important law change however has shed light on more nuanced barriers facing people locally. As many collaborators on this project have asserted ‘the fight is far from over’. This paper presents findings, in the form of film clips and discussion, from a creative-practice PhD project that aims to document and analyse grassroots feminism in Belfast through showcasing those working as activists, educators and artists on screen. 

Elspeth Vischer is a filmmaker from Belfast and director of Vish Films Ltd. Elspeth has been working over the past few years directing short films, music videos and writing. Elspeth has volunteered as a member of the LGBT History NI group for 18 months, where she has undertaken research into Women’s News publications and has helped archive and create video content. Elspeth is currently making a feature-length documentary about grassroots feminism as part of a Creative-Practice PhD at Queen’s University, where she also works as a teaching assistant.

Thomas Ward, ‘Queen’s in Love’

In 1990 Queen’s university student union held its first benefit for the Belfast AIDS Helpline. The event was a roaring success, but was a long-time coming. Less than ten years earlier the Lesbian and Gay conference of the National Union of Students in Ireland and the UK, to be held at Queen’s, was called off after a backlash from the Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign and political pressure from the NUS national executive. With this backdrop, this talk explores Queen’s in Love, what happened on the night, the motivations of those who organised it, and the reaction to the event. Its aim is to add to the growing body of work seeking to counter long-held narratives that AIDS ‘didn’t happen’ in Belfast or to people from, or who had moved to, the city

Thomas Ward is a PhD student in history at Queen’s; his work focuses on the state and the counterhegemonic queer forms of co-optation and resistance to the heteronormative, nuclear-familial politics of the state in housing and healthcare provision in the late twentieth-century. He is also an activist in the tenant union CATU.

Mohaddeseh Ziyachi, ‘Motherhood in Iran’

This talk, drawn from my thesis, will examine the conception of motherhood in Iran. Its primary purpose is to show the problematic status of motherhood in current Iranian society—in particular, among middle-class Iranian women. My research demonstrates that middle-class Iranian women find childbearing and childrearing a controversial subject for thought, which is also reflected in academic studies, public discourses, and individual conversations about motherhood. Mohaddeseh Ziyachi is a PhD student in Cognition and Culture at the school of HAPP. In their PhD thesis, they study motherhood with a focus on Iranian society (their home country). Their research also includes cross-cultural comparison


November 19th, 2021

Prof Sarah Schulman in conversation with Dr Jamie Hagen (QUB)

& a screening of United in Anger: A History of ACT UP

Screening of United in Anger: 11am (venue TBC)

In-conversation: 1pm, McMordie Room, Music Building

Q@Q in association with Outburst Queer Arts and AEL Athena-SWAN is delighted to welcome one of the most influential queer writers, thinkers, and activists of her generation back to Belfast.

Sarah Schulman is Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the College of Staten Island and a Fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities. She is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, nonfiction writer and AIDS historian. From cult classic 1980’s novels Girls, Visions and Everything and After Delores to hugely impactful recent non-fiction titles such as The Gentrification of The Mind and Conflict is Not Abuse, her writing has been synonymous with speaking truth to power and giving voice to queer experience for four decades. A co-founder of Lesbian Avengers and MIX Film Festival, she has been prolific not only in her writing but also in wider LGBT activism and culture. Her 20th book, Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP, New York 1987-1993 was published by FSG in Spring 2021. It has been described as “a tactician’s bible” and the ultimate activist handbook for making change happen together.

The session will be preceded by a screening of the 2012 documentary United in Anger directed by Jim Hubbard and produced by Sarah Schulman.

Book for the screening: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/199964929487

Book for the lecture: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/queerqueens-lecture-sarah-schulman-tickets-199975671617

Please ensure that you wear a mask and observe social distancing when attending. More information on QUB Covid safety measures can be found here: https://www.qub.ac.uk/home/coronavirus-faqs/information-for-students/

New CGP policy brief highlights how and when to research LGBTQ people in conflict

In June of this year Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, developed a report on the Gender Theory. The UN Gender Theory report was delivered to the Human Rights Council at its 47th session.

Included in the report is input offered from over 500 individuals and groups including a letter from the Centre for Gender in Politics. The central recommendations offered to inform this Gender Theory report are now available to read as a Centre for Gender in Politics policy brief including key recommendations.

The recommendations draw on Jamie J. Hagen’s research on Queering the Women, Peace and Security agenda focusing on LGBTQ organizing and responding to queer experiences in conflict-related environments. The key themes addressed in the policy brief including the challenges for confronting the patriarchal, homo-,lesbo and transphobic violence of ‘gender ideology’. A central component of the recommendations including the need to learn with and from LTGBT people living in conflict-related environments.

As more researchers recognize the need to include attention to sexual orientation and gender identity in research in conflict-related environments, the following recommendations can do so in a way that centers LGBTQ people in the process. Read the recommendations as an excerpt below and the full ‘Minimizing protection gaps for LGBTQ people living in conflict’ policy brief here.

Where and how to collect data on SOGI in conflict-related environments

Some ways researchers, policy makers and actors can address the lack of data about SOGI when doing gender work in conflict-related environments include:

Photo by Mohammad Danish on Pexels.com
  1. Work with local LGBTQ organizations and actors in developing and implementing gender research while doing ethical research in fragile and violent conflicts. This will require being creative and responsive to the needs of the communities you are working with about funding, research methodology, timelines and publication. Challenges may include finding responsive ways to include people who may not be able to physically attend interviews or workshops as well finding ways to work with those who are doing this work without the official label of ‘LGBTQ organization’ given political, social and funding constraints.
  2. Ask questions to participants/survivors/organizers about sexual orientation and gender identity in data collection. A 2020 report from the Williams Institute offers best-practices advice.
  3. Be intentional and inclusive of LGBTQ individuals so these communities are more comfortable raising sexuality as an important dimension of research about gender in conflict-related environments.
  4. Be explicit about defining gender in a way that also includes attention to sexual orientation and gender identity. Alongside this, be intentional (in writing, in reporting data, in media about the research, in speaking with participants) about being inclusive of those who do not fit into LGBT categories including non-binary and genderqueer individuals.
  5. Translate and support in-country research related to sexual orientation and gender identity led by local civil-society organizations. Even though much of this research is still excluded from many academic and policy spaces, there is extensive in-country and transnational feminist research to consider gender and sexuality in an intersection way beyond limited binary approaches to research.

Feminist Activism and the Politics of Crisis: Why gender sensitive analysis and policymaking must be a priority

Read findings emerging from the latest research conducted by the Centre’s co-directors, Dr Maria-Adriana Deiana and Dr Jamie Hagen, with Danielle Roberts, doctoral candidate at Ulster University and policy officer at Here NI.

Our research project sought to investigate the impact of the crisis engendered by the Covid-19 pandemic on feminist activism and gender equality more broadly. 

Drawing on the experiences and knowledge of feminist and LGBTQ+ activists in Northern Ireland through focus groups, we detail the exacerbation of inequalities and ongoing challenges to the realisation of meaningful rights, inclusion and gender justice. 

We also trace the strategies developed by organisers to sustain collective activism in the complex political and economic environment in Northern Ireland. 

We join feminist and LGBTQ+ activists in Northern Ireland and globally in demanding that gender-sensitive analysis and policymaking must be a priority as we plan for recovery, rebuilding, and transformation post-Covid and beyond.

Read our policy brief below:

Are you interested in getting involved in feminist activism in Northern Ireland?

Earlier this year, we partnered with Reclaim the Agenda for a workshop on how to make feminist activism part of our everyday. 

Watch below the recording of our conversation with some phenomenal women organising on various issues in Northern Ireland and beyond. Hear more about how to get involved – even if that’s from your sofa for the time being! 

Reach out to the following organisations and individuals  to be part of some phenomenal feminist activism!

Alliance for Choice 
Reclaim the Night
End Deportations Belfast 
The Homeless Period Belfast

If you want to keep up to date with feminist news, policy consultations and events:

Sign up to NIWEP mailing list here

Sign up for Women’s Link – mailing list open to all here

Follow the Women’s Sector Lobbyist on Twitter

Conversation with Gemma Bird launches new CGP theme ‘Feminist Dialogues on the Politics of Borders’

This year our research theme is ‘Feminist Dialogues on the Politics of Borders’. With this theme we will explore the following key areas:

  • Border politics in the everyday: race, gender, sexuality
  • How can feminist and queer theory resist and move beyond borders of the nation-state?
  • What work are activists doing to confront the violence of the UK border regime, the hostile environment, to protect migrants?

To kick off our conversations on this theme, we had a conversation with Dr. Gemma Bird during the Political Studies Association 2021 which was hosted at Queen’s University Belfast in March. CGP’s co-director Dr. Maria-Adriana Deiana served as discussant for the event with Bird.

Dr Gemma Bird is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics at University of Liverpool. Her research sits at the intersection between political theory and International Relations. Since 2017 Dr Bird has been working on a collaborative research project IR Aesthetics with colleagues from Aston University. As a part of this project, she has looked at questions of border governance, citizenship, visual politics and provisions for refugees on the Balkan Route(s). Besides her book ‘Foundations of Just Cross-Cultural Dialogue in Kant and African Political Thought’, she has published in leading journals in the field including Cooperation and Conflict and Citizenship Studies.

You can watch the full conversation here:

Please watch the blog and CGP social media to be informed of future events and emerging research from our 2021 theme.

Feminist activism and the politics of crisis in Northern Ireland

How is the current crisis impacting on feminist activism and gender politics more broadly? How can feminist and LGBTQ+ activists sustain collective organizing in moments of crisis? 

These are questions at the core of a new research project led by co-directors Dr Maria-Adriana Deiana and Dr Jamie Hagen, and Danielle Roberts from Ulster University.

Evidence suggests that during political, economic and health crises gender equality concerns and the experiences of women and LGBT+ folks tend to be marginalized in favour of other political issues deemed of more urgency. At the same time, the logic of crisis works to obscure or accelerate ongoing processes that undermine the social, sexual, cultural and economic situations of diversely positioned women and LGBT+ individuals.

This research project investigates the challenges for gender equality, social justice and inclusion engendered by the politics of crisis with a focus on the experiences and knowledge of feminist and LGBTQ+ activists in Northern Ireland.

You can watch a presentation of the project below:

 The research teams has organised a series of focus groups with activists to reflect on what challenges for the realization of feminist demands for social transformation remain in place, emerged anew or have been exacerbated by the current health crisis.

Research findings will be published in an article for the upcoming special issue on Gender politics in the Island of Ireland for Irish political studies (co-edited by Maria-Adriana Deiana, QUB, Lisa Keenan, Trinity and Claire McGinn , IADT, chairs of the Gender and Politics standing group of PSAI). a report collated by the Centre for Gender in Politics will be shared with participants and their networks to facilitate communication  and review of findings.

Queer@Queen’s: Queen’s, Outburst and Queer Arts in Belfast

Belfast was a somewhat different place in 2008 when the first Queer at Queen’s took place. The region’s LGBTQI+ community had been dealt a blow by, firstly, a number of serious homophobic attacks that had occurred in the preceding years and, secondly, by the public and political response to those attacks, including the now infamous Iris Robinson comments made that year. That NI was hostile place for queers was not in doubt; that it could be better was an idea that spurred on the actions of a number of dedicated artists, activists and scholars. Ruth McCarthy set up Outburst Queer Arts Festival in 2007. Dr Alyson Campbell, then a lecturer in Drama at QUB, created Queer at Queen’s as an academic space for the festival, and a queer space within the university. From its creation, Q@Q has been responsive to the needs of a festival operating on a shoestring budget and those of a community whose political leaders’ tolerance for, if not public expressions of, homophobia forms a continued violent backdrop to their lives. It was one of the first conferences on the island dedicated to queer performance and these events were, as Campbell remarks, catalytic for the creation of both Outburst itself and Queer at Queen’s.

The demand for a different Northern Ireland that these events represent was revisited last year with Conor Mitchell’s Abomination (reviewed in The Guardian here). This opera, which premiered in Belfast in late 2019 as part of the Festival, takes the homophobic utterances of NI politicians and weaves them into a thing of angry beauty; the piece was a reminder of those years of homophobic violence of word and deed, litanies of ignorant and cruel statements – to repeat here would only replicate that violence – and it was a reminder of that time period when to say such things was publicly tolerated. It perhaps still is, times and attitudes do not change so quickly, but such a groundswell of collective rage and relief underpinned the 2019 production of Abomination that inklings of a different Northern Ireland might be glimpsed. That is a Northern Ireland that Outburst attempts to fashion and envision ever year and for that reason remains a bright queer jewel in the murk of November here, even in the midst of the pandemic as well. Alongside the festival therefore, Q@Q has operated to create a space within the university for queer ideas to be expressed, for modes of resistant performances and pedagogies to be practiced, and for queer and atypical lives to be welcomed.

Holly Hughes

Myself and Kurt Taroff took over the running of Q@Q in 2015 and have usually partnered with an individual or organisation to create a tailored event in response to a particular need or question. For instance, we partnered with UCD lecturer Cormac O’Brien in 2015-6 to run events, workshops and talks on HIV-AIDS. That year we, along with Outburst were lucky enough to welcome Sarah Schulman to speak on the legacy of the AIDS crisis and her ongoing activism. Subsequent years have given us a chance to bring in people who amount to lesbian theatre royalty: in 2017, performance artist Holly Hughes joined us and performed her recent work, Dog and Pony Show; in 2018, we welcomed Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw of Split Britches fame with their performance-conversation Situation Room.

Although not exclusively, Q@Q events have tended toward the theatrical or performance-focused. It was founded by and continues to be run by theatre people so the connection is an obvious one. But there is also the fact that we see queer culture (and theory) as being fundamentally related to performance, to performative acts and to live events. The liveness and presencing of non-normative bodies and identities in a place like Belfast is all the more urgent for us, given the context outlined above. In the main, we took over this event as a practice of allyship, as people well-placed within the institution to facilitate meeting, networks, and safe spaces for conversation. Last year we established a steering (& queering!) committee to help build and maintain connections across geographic and academic lines. The committee includes founder Alyson Campbell, now at Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Steve Farrier (Central School of Speech and Drama), Sarah Mullan (University of Northampton), Jamie J. Hagen (QUB Centre for Gender in Politics, Prism network), Hilary McCollum (QUB Postgraduate) and Sara Greavu (Outburst Arts).   

Q@Q is not research-led and the lack of academic agenda on our part means that this is not a queer studies conference but rather, as Steve Farrier has suggested, the generation of civic spaces within a university. This year presented unique challenges for live events, yet we were able to welcome artists virtually to discuss their work and showcase some of the new gender research being done in NI. Our new research panel included QUB doctoral candidates Ciara McAllister and Hilary McCollum and Belfast-based doctoral researcher Sophie Anders (University of Salford). We also facilitated a conversation and show of work with playwright Mojisola Adebayo, artistic researcher Manola Gayatri and practice-research scholar Nando Messias, along with writer and PhD candidate at QUB, Hilary McCollum.

Part of the work of running this event, as we see it, is to maintain openness and responsiveness to pressures, tensions, dialogues and events happening around us, to the ways in which the university might be instrumentalised to serve communities and include the voices of those who have been historically marginalised from or by our various cultural institutions.

If you would like to get involved or to propose work for Q@Q, please email Trish McTighe, t.mctighe@qub.ac.uk. We welcome proposals for events to be held in November during Outburst, or at any time of the year.

Q@Q is grateful for the support of the Athena / Swan initiative at the School of Arts, English and Languages.

Trish McTighe is Lecturer in Drama at Queen’s University Belfast. Previously, she lectured at the University of Birmingham and was an AHRC post-doctoral researcher on the Staging Beckett Project at the University of Reading (2012-2015). Her book, The Haptic Aesthetic in Samuel Beckett’s Drama, was published with Palgrave in 2013, and she co-edited (with David Tucker) the double volume Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland and Staging Beckett in Great Britain (Bloomsbury-Methuen, 2016). She has published in the journals Modern Drama, Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui, and the Irish University Review. She is theatre reviews editor for the Journal of Beckett Studies.