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Creating Space

Combine to Create Collective member Rachael Macintyre reflects on working with LGBTQ+ young people through her residency.

Since September 2021 I’ve been one of the Culture Collective artists working as part of the Combine to Create residency programme.

The project has involved considering how I would like to work as an artist in a participatory process, engaging with a community in Moray. I have been encouraged to work in ways I’m not accustomed to. Being paid to nourish and develop my creative practice, to spend time researching and thinking on ideas and theories and ways of engaging with communities. Considering the definition of communities and what is participatory art? I have been told it’s ok not to know what the end product is going to be and every detail of how to get there. Even my admin time has been paid!! It’s been a blessing to be given the time and financial support to consider my practice and what it is in this community based context. 

For almost a year I have considered what I’m drawn to and what I want to be exploring further. One is taking inspiration from the elements, landscape, place and folklore surrounding these things and how we can take traditions into a contemporary context and create new rituals. And this is where I thought my residency was going to go.

The other was my more recent acceptance that I feel I can comfortably say I am part of the LGBTQ colours and consider myself queer. Paralleling circus as a way of creating family for those who feel they are outsiders, different, and how circus can often be a safe space for those who are queer, especially in my experience of giving aerial classes. And how do we create communities of interest / commonalities in rural areas? 

Since April I have been working with LGBTQ+ youth groups at Forres Academy, and have met with other teenagers in Lossiemouth, Speyside, and Keith. I was incredibly grateful for the fact there was nothing I had to “achieve”, because the most beautiful thing was just being part of a safe space for these young folk to just be themselves with their friends, making tea and chatting, and facilitate creative activities as part of the process. 

Photography: Rachael Macintyre

On the 24th September I’m organising a queer cabaret – The Cabaret of Misfits – as part of the Findhorn Bay Festival at Universal Hall and I wanted the young people I’ve been working with to be able to take part. Whether this is performative, behind the scenes, or as audience. And I’m reminded how important it is to be fluid in how I engage with them (for example not advertising it as queer in case they’ve not yet come out to their parents/carers), so hopefully they have many ways to be involved or not! 

Over the summer some of us got together to create walkabout characters, to design and paint set pieces to decorate the cabaret, we made animations, wrote poems and stories, all inspired by folk in circus history who we researched and talked about from a queer perspective. 

There are still more things to be done for the cabaret as we run up to the last few weeks of preparations, but my mind has already started to think of what next? How will things develop over the last few months of this residency, and what is beyond it? The legacy. This project has been truly inspiring and I look forward to see how it evolves, but however it does I want to keep connecting, keep creating, and keep holding space for these young people to chat, to make tea, and to just be.

Rachael Macintyre is a theatre maker based in Forres, Moray. Rachael directs, produces and performs for Jabuti Theatre, creating visual work for children and young people that combines puppetry, aerial-dance, and music. Rachael also co-runs Moray Flying Circus, an aerial and circus school run from Dyke & District Village Hall.

Find out more about Combine to Create on our project page.

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