Review: The ‘Shout Out’ of SHOUT Festival.

By November 22, 2015


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Amidst the usual bustle of families at Cannon Hill Park on the 14th of November, a whole selection of local performers watch each other and excitedly await their turn. This is Shout Out–one day of an almost-two week-long event, the Birmingham LGBT art and culture festival SHOUT.

The entire festival so far has been an amazing mix of talent, and it’s not quite over yet. But what captured me was this small gathering I had the privilege to be among–showing passers by what they could do with nothing but themselves, maybe some instruments, and a patch of floor next to a café. It may not have been a huge display, but it was impressive–taking over the mac with song, music and dance, allowing a simple but effective setting to network and demonstrate Birmingham’s talent.

Walking in, you were greeted by familiar sounds from the BGSO – Birmingham Gay Symphony Orchestra skilfully playing songs from famous blockbusters like Star Wars and James Bond. Their rendition of ‘Nobody Does It Better’ from The Spy Who Loved Me was particularly outstanding, and overall they played beautifully. This was only a taste of their show At the Movies, coming up on the 29th of November, which I would wholly recommend.

The Rutherford Dance Company presented two striking routines of power and sharp grace that captivated all those around. This is part of their wonderful project ‘What Sexuality Is Love?’ which allows dancers to research and create pieces around many social and political issues faced by the LGBT community. Similarly, the choir Rainbow Voices perfectly captured what the event was all about: singing of equality and diversity, people being able to walk free, in some catchy, though touching songs.

Singer/ rapper Zara Sykes performed powerfully, and was certainly one of my highlights of the day. Sykes’s pieces were stunning–a mixture of styles that were just as emotive and poetic as they could be lively. There was such a presence to her, such a magnetic atmosphere within the space, that people gravitated towards her and joined in when she asked them to. Faye Bagley, too, is a singer and songwriter who had amazing charisma and heaps of talent. Equally just as catchy, her work was flawless. My favourite was ‘Army’, a beautiful song about people sticking together through all the bad things in the world. It really resonated deeply, as well as getting stuck in my head. Not that I’m complaining! I’d seriously give that one a look if I were you.

I will only briefly mention Final Thought, a production from theatre group Acting Out, a mere taste of our show for next year, War Stories, that I am so lucky to be a part of. But, on a personal note, what I will say is this: being included in Shout Out was such an honour.

Yes, the background noise made it tricky to ensure projection, and you were sometimes awkwardly aware of people trying to get around you with trays of food, but it didn’t take too much away from the buzz, it didn’t diminish the satisfaction. From a performer’s point of view, despite the minor difficulties of the setting, this was still a chance to display your talent with pride and earn public interest, perhaps in a more significant way than usual.

This was SHOUT. For several years now the festival has been a place to “celebrate diversity” and “push boundaries”, as the programme states, and it is growing in popularity.

Yet, I’m beginning to wonder how many citizens of Birmingham are losing out. Shout Out has introduced me to so many talented individuals that I will gladly and hopefully watch again in the near future. Yes, the day has been and gone this year, but you can find all of these performers independently on many platforms like Twitter or Facebook, or even their own websites, and some are certainly worth hunting down. Besides, if you missed it this time there is always (fingers crossed!) next year. There are so many gifted artists among us in Birmingham. Do yourself a favour and check them out.

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