‘If you don’t play the game, don’t make the rules’ is a symposium presented by Belfast-based artist collective Array as part of their commission for the exhibition Jerwood Collaborate! at Jerwood Arts in 2019. This symposium expands on their collective research into current activism in Northern Ireland around LGBTQ+ rights, feminism and anticolonialism.
Array invited artists and activists from different generations to directly address current and future issues within Northern Ireland, platforming voices that fall outside current sectarian narratives. Speakers include Northern Irish curator, activist and community organiser Jane Wells (Chair) with feminist activist and writer Ann Rossitor, queer drag artist Electra La C*nt, Deputy Leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland Malachi O’Hara, and journalist, broadcaster and author Una Mullally.
Speaker – Chair
Jane is a Northern Irish curator, activist and community organiser currently living in London. Her curatorial practice troubles the conventional value of product over process; particularly in the context of war, radical politics and political protest. Driven by a belief in the power of museums to act as agents for social change, she is Programme Manager at Tate Exchange – a space at Tate Modern centered on audience participation and dedicated to exploring the role of art in society. Most recently her role involved working with artist Tania Bruguera and 21 local people to think together about how an international institution like Tate Modern can learn from and adapt to its neighbours. Jane has been a co-convener for London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign since 2016 where her organising work has focused on direct action and creative resistance against institutions in both Irish states and Britain. tate.org.uk/tate-exchange londonirisharc.com
Ann Rossiter is a long-standing Irish feminist activist and writer who has lived in London since 1961. Since the early 1970s she’s been involved in Irish feminist organisations concerned with women and the Irish National Question, such as Women and Ireland and the London Armagh Group. She was a member of the Irish Women’s Abortion Support Group (IWASG) 1980-2000, set up to help abortion seekers from Ireland, north and south, and has written Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora, a history of the group. She has written and performed a one-woman show, Making A Holy Show of Myself, has been a member of Speaking of IMELDA (Ireland Making England the Legal Destination for Abortion), the feminist performance art group, and has been involved with Sister Supporter in the struggle to introduce ‘buffer’ zones outside abortion clinics to protect women from anti-abortion harassment.
Electra La C*nt
As controversial as her name, Electra La C*nt is a queer drag artist who made her mark on the Belfast night life through her mesmerising and thought-provoking performances. An activist as well as an entertainer, she rose to international fame by calling out the stigma surrounding HIV at Belfast Pride 2016 by wearing a tiara infused with HIV+ blood to eradicate years of hateful propaganda and educate the community on its transmission. Not shy from speaking her mind, she has faced public backlash from members of the DUP for fighting for queer liberation on the steps of Stormont at Alternative Queer Ulster in 2018, calling out the bigotry that runs deep within Northern Ireland. She is a prominent star of Drag Story Time, bringing together families to offer children a colourful and vibrant alternative to reading across Northern Ireland. She is the co-producer of the phenomenal Queertopia: a safe space beyond bars and nightclubs for queer performers to be free to express who they are without judgement. Formed in 2017, this group of fearless queerlings has grown beyond expectations to the roaring cries of UPPA QUEERS! @electralacnt
Malachai O’Hara is the Deputy Leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland. He was elected to Belfast City Council as a councillor for Castle District Electoral Area breaking through with the party’s first elected representative in North Belfast, one of the constituencies most affected by the troubles. Malachai studied politics in Birmingham England and has worked in community development since his return to Northern Ireland in 2004. An activist and campaigner for almost 20 years, Mal has been deeply involved in queer activism and supported other equality and social justice campaigns. Mal managed health services at Ireland’s largest LGBTQ charity for a number of years and has worked extensively in health inequalities in some of the most deprived areas in Northern Ireland. He is the former Vice-Chair of the Equal Marriage Campaign. He is a board member of a local suicide prevention charity in North Belfast since 2012 and last year joined the board of a regional charity working on depression and mental health. Mal has published work on health inequalities amongst LGBTQ people. He is a member of the North Belfast Policing and Community Safety Partnership. @oharamal
Una Mullally is a journalist, podcaster, broadcaster, screenwriter and author from Dublin, Ireland. She is a columnist and feature writer for The Irish Times, contributes columns to The Guardian, and her writing has also appeared in The New York Times, Granta and elsewhere. She was selected by the Online News Association as one of 25 journalists globally for the Women’s Leadership Accelerator 2019, and was selected for the European Young Leaders 2019 cohort by Friends of Europe. In 2019, La Repubblica named her one of 100 women changing the world. She cohosts the United Ireland podcast with Andrea Horan. She co-founded and co-presented the number one Irish podcast Don’t Stop Repealin’ for the duration of the Irish abortion referendum campaign in 2018, and co-founded the Irish Times Women’s Podcast. She is the author of In The Name Of Love (2014), an oral history of the marriage equality movement in Ireland, and the editor of the anthology Repeal the 8th (2018). As a screenwriter, she collaborates with Sarah Francis as Lucid Lucid, and as a poet has performed her work at numerous Irish festivals. She was the Independent Chair of Ireland’s National LGBTI+ Youth Strategy (2018). She lives in Dublin, where she is from.
Array is a collective of artists rooted in Belfast who together create collaborative actions in response to the socio-political issues affecting Northern Ireland. Array’s studios and project space act as a base for the collective, however participating artists are not limited to studio holders. Embracing humour and a DIY sensibility, Array’s art/activism focuses on projects that involve and benefit the wider community. Partnering with a range of creative individuals and organisations they merge artistic expression, participate in direct action and instigate public interventions across urban environments. Individual members work in performance, photography, print, installation and video and have exhibited and collaborated throughout the UK, Ireland and internationally, giving global focus to marginalised communities in Northern Ireland. arraystudiosbelfast.com