This year 96 Festival is launching with an informal conversation between artists, makers, creators, performers, activists and anyone interested in sharing their viewpoint on the changing landscape of art and LGBTQIA+ issues. How can art enact positive change in our communities?

For our first hangout of the festival, chaired by Omnibus Theatre’s Artistic Director Marie McCarthy, we’re thrilled to welcome founder of UK Black Pride, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah; Board Director of GLAAD and Diva Magazine publisher Linda Riley; actor in The Danish Girl and Colette, Rebecca Root; chair of Stonewall UK, Jan Gooding; Co-founder of Stonewall and former MEP, Lord Michael Cashman; producer of The Cocoa Butter Club – the queer collective celebrating Performers of Colour – Cassie Leon; and writer, producer, podcaster and theatre-maker Nemo Martin.

They’ll explore how queer communities experience divides around class, ability, race and gender and how art can bring us together in shared moments of connection. How can we reinvent queer activism?

The conversation will be facilitated but unscripted. Come to participate in the conversation or just listen and observe, we are open.

After the conversation, artists from 96 Festival’s glittering programme will take to the stage, sharing snippets of dance, theatre and cabaret as the debate ascends into a late night party where we encourage further conversation, merrymaking and coming together.

This is a free event, please RSVP below.

19 Feb



Unreserved seating

Marie McCarthy (Chair)
Training: MA in Theatre Directing (Birkbeck) Award: The Sir Peter Cheeseman award for achievement

2006 – 2013: Artistic Director of Lightning Ensemble
2013 – present: Artistic Director and Executive Director Omnibus Theatre

For Omnibus: Spring Offensive, Hangmen Rehanged, Dead Boy Café

Other directing credits include: When The Fallen Sang (St Giles in the Fields); The Crucible (Queens Theatre, Hornchurch); Macbeth (Kents Caverns, Torquay); What You Will (Associate Director Cultural Olympiad / Globe Theatre) 1908: Body and Soul (Cultural Olympiad, Henley Festival, Jacksons Lane); Pride and Prejudice (National Tour); Alice in the Walled Garden (Sixteen Feet Productions); The Secret Garden (National Tour); Not In My Name (Associate Director, Theatre Veritae); The Bonds (Oval House Theatre); Wind in the Willows (National Tour); Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Globe Theatre); Regarding X (Old Red Lion); SE1 (Lightning Ensemble); The Chess Players (Wandsworth Arts Festival); The Mayday (Lightning Ensemble); Dissonant World (Hampstead Town Hall); Like Love (European and American Tour); Love and Understanding (Library Theatre, Manchester); Losing It (Soho Theatre Studio)

Consultant for XR Circus, University of Brighton, UCL, research project into how immersive technologies can be used to augment and/or to capture live performances.

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah

Executive Director and Co-Founder of UK Black Pride

Phyll (she/her) is the nucleus of the award-winning celebration and protest that is UK Black Pride.

Widely known as Lady Phyll – partly due to her decision to reject an MBE in the New Year’s Honours’ list to protest Britain’s role in formulating anti-LGBT penal codes across its empire – she is a senior official at the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) trade union as the Head of Equality & Learning, as well as a community builder and organiser; a Stonewall Trustee; Diva Magazine columnist, and public speaker focusing on ‘race, gender sexuality and class’ intersectionality. Phyll has been nominated for and won numerous accolades including the European Diversity Awards Campaigner of the Year in 2017, she is also in the top 10 on World Pride Power list.
Phyll is also the co-editor and author of the ‘Sista’ Anthology, writing by and about same gender loving women of African Caribbean descent with a UK connection.

Phyll is a working class, family-orientated Ghanaian woman who understands the Twi and Fanti languages which connect her to a rich African cultural heritage that advocates for unity and equality. She also prides herself on being a passionate activist who commits to working diligently to make people aware of on-going inequalities and injustices facing the Black LGBT+ community. She has worked tirelessly to build up UK Black Pride by bringing together artists, activists, volunteers and supporters from across the LGBT+ community. Phyll supports Paris Black Pride and ensures UK Black Pride is part of the International Federation of Black Prides around the world.
Phyll cites her maxim as a quotation from Maya Angelou: ‘prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible’

Jan Gooding
Jan Gooding is known to be one of the UK’s most outspoken marketing leaders on subjects ranging from building global brands to inclusive leadership.
She has enjoyed a successful marketing career during which time she has worked with ‘blue chip’ companies such as BT, British Gas, Diageo and Unilever and, most latterly, as the Group Brand director at Aviva.
She is currently the Chair of LGBT equality charity Stonewall which reaches and supports LGBT activists in over 70 countries worldwide. When she took over the helm Stonewall was focussed on equality based on people’s sexual orientation and did not actively campaign on gender identity issues. Under her leadership Stonewall extended it remit to campaign for trans equality in 2015.

Lord Michael Cashman
British Labour politician and former actor. He served as a Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands constituency from 1999 until he stood down in 2014.
In the 2013 Queen’s New Year honours list Michael was made a Commander of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for political services and equalities.
On 23 of September 2014 Michael was elevated to the House of Lords (Labour) and took the title of Baron Cashman of Limehouse.

Rebecca Root
Rebecca is best known for playing Judy in BBC Two’s ground-breaking comedy series Boy Meets Girl. Other screen credits include the upcoming Last Christmas, The Sisters Brothers, Colette, The Danish Girl, Flack, The Romanoffs, Moominvalley, Hank Zipzer, Doctors, Celebrity Mastermind, Casualty, The Detectives, and Keeping Up Appearances. Theatre credits include the world premiere of Rathmines Road at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin for Fishamble; the award-winning Trans Scripts at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2015, revived in 2017 at American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts; The Bear / The Proposal at the Young Vic; and Hamlet at the Gielgud Theatre, London. Radio credits include the drama 1977 for BBC Radio 4, and guest appearances on programmes as varied as Woman’s Hour, Front Row, Loose Ends, Saturday Live, and A Good Read.

Cassie Leon
Cassie graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2010 and founded the theatre company Cape Theatre., devising self produced contemporary performances for a range of spaces; theatres, festivals, warehouses and occasionally bathrooms. They wrote and devised original performance that celebrate shared experiences amongst diverse audiences. Cape Theatre produced mini performance festivals, Escape with Cape, showcasing short performances that were experienced in unusual spaces. In 2017, Cassie joined The Cocoa Butter Club as producer. The Cocoa Butter Club are a cabaret collective centred on queer performers of colour. Her mission is to normalise bodies of colour within performance.

Nemo Martin
Nemo Martin is a non-binary writer, director and podcaster. In their many lives, they write niche viral online games (This Strange Binary World), uplifitng queer theatre (Pitch & Cologne) and edu-comedy Podcasts (Bread & Barricades: A Les Mis Podcast), all with a focus on empowering intersectional narratives in as accessible fashion as possible. They also, for some reason, photograph snails for the Natural History Museum.

Linda Riley
One of only two British directors of US based LGBT campaign group GLAAD, Linda is a patron of Action Breaks Silence,which empowers women in the developing world to protect themselves against physical and sexual assault and Diversity Role Models a LGBT anti-bullying charity.

In November 2017, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Dawn Butler MP, appointed Linda as the Opposition Labour Party’s LGBT Diversity Lead.

A former Stonewall award winner, Linda founded the Alternative Parenting Show, the British LGBT Awards, the Diversity Careers Show and Opportunities for Women. She is also the founder of the Diversity in Media Awards, which launched in June 2017.

A former publisher of g3 magazine, Out in the City and First Time Buyer, Linda collaborates with the UK’s Daily Telegraph, the Guardian (with whom she co-founded the Diversity Hub) and The Economist on various diversity initiatives.

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