When Siobhan Fahay started work on a five minute performance lecture as part of an LGBT History month event, I suspect that she never imagined it would rapidly turn in to a full length feature film; a project that would span for a couple of years and attract some 200+ women to support the film, now known as ‘Rebel Dykes’. Siobhan (alongside co-directors Sian Williams and Harri Shanghai, sound-recorders Whitney and Hannah and Ellyot – a composer) has set upon remembering, collecting and recording an almost (but thankfully not yet) forgotten history. I was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the work in progress at BFI Flare this March, and the full feature is set for completion towards the end of this year. I caught up with Siobhan to find out a little about how it’s all been going.
Interview © Amie Taylor 2016
AT: It would be good to start by asking you a little about your creative career and how you came to produce Rebel Dykes…
SF: Well, I wish I was a creative, but I’m the person that has always put things on and helped other people create. In Manchester I’ve done Ladyfest a few times, also set up QueerResistance North West and lots of club nights. At the moment I run the Queer Forum, which is a bit like TEDs, where queer people come and talk for 15 minutes about things they’re passionate about and we film it. Another project is Queerchester Films North West, where we show local films, but also come together and do 48 hours of filmmaking and show back the films at the end. I’ve always ran things, so it’s been very exciting being closer to the creative side, but the creative bits that’s the others.
AT: But you’re the glue! Which is very much needed in any creative process. I saw you talk at BFI Flare, and I was really inspired because I could clearly see your passion behind Rebel Dykes the film and your reasons behind wanting to start it, it would be great if you could talk about where the seed of the idea came from and how it began to grow…
SF: Thank you. Way back in the 80s when I was in my early 20s, I travelled a lot. But when I was in London I was part of an active, political, creative, very self organised, very confident community of young women, who had a lot of fun, but at the same time we took ourselves quite seriously and thought a lot. Life moved on from there, then a couple of years ago during Lesbian and Gay history month, there was a festival in Manchester and a friend of mine was involved in organising it, they put an open call out for people, and I thought ‘I must do something’, because I’ve always loved doing creative presentations. So I decided, in the pub with my friend, that I’d go back to London, interview all of the people I knew back then and I’ll call it ‘Rebel Dykes’. And that was that.
AT: How did you go about it?
SF: I put a call out on Facebook, and the Facebook group grew very quickly, we soon had over 200 women, who have been very supportive and given me lots of stories and photographs. I went to London to interview people – collected an oral history, then I turned it in to a crazy presentation with music, images and interviews. It went down really well, and I ended up showing it in a few places including the Lesbian Lives festival, in Brighton, and at the Marlborough, where it sold out. When I did it in Manchester a friend suggested I invited along Sian, and they came along, and were jumping up and down with excitement, which is how they came to be involved. I didn’t know at the time, but Sian had studied photography and worked in film, they had been pursuing the 1980s queer activist history, but in America. All of the young queer people I’ve spoken to have talked quite scathingly about the 80s – the 2nd wave feminist and how uptight they were, and I keep saying ‘but we were there, and we were fighting them then and were fighting them now.’ In that day we were the young punks creating our own sexuality, taking direct action, and the straight laced feminists, that everyone associates with the 80s, well – we were their enemy.
AT: One of my friends sent me the trailer towards the end of last year, and I loved it, but felt a loss as I don’t think there’s much of that community left now at all, certainly not in my generation – do you feel that? Have you noticed the shift?
SF: It’s funny, every single person I’ve spoken to has asked me that question, and I don’t know what you’re talking about, because it hasn’t stopped in Manchester – this is just what we do. I feel that we help each other out, it’s the same life style. Which is why I wanted to make the film, because it feels like it never stopped. I mean – you make your magazine [LGBTQ Arts] – it’s the same attitude, it’s still there.
AT: Yes, I think the attitude’s still very much there, but the community feels far more dispersed and harder to grasp. Maybe that’s a London thing?
SF: I think it is, you know. One of the things we’re going to talk about at a crew meeting on Sunday is this – we might even put London as a character in to the film, as it’s so sad, and isn’t true of other places.
AT: Actually, having spend just a few days at Queer Contact in Manchester, I felt a stronger sense of the community there, than I’ve experienced in London. In terms of the film now, what’s your timeline for completion?
SF: I’ve spent the last couple of days writing my first film business plan, I’ve set up a film production company. Within the next few months we need to start a big crowd funder and start looking for private investors, as well as apply for a grant-aided fund. I guess we need another 10k to get it finished, to bring it up to the level of quality needed to screen in cinemas and enter film festivals. People are saying we should enter it in to things, and why not? We’re ambitious. We’ll enter it in to international festivals, we may not get it, but we’ll try.
AT: And the energy behind it, from the people driving it is amazing, I think that was what really inspired me –
SF: And it does – there were 200 active people involved in making, remembering stories, coming together.
AT: And presumably you got to catch up with some people you hadn’t seen for years?
SF: Oh god yes! And put some ghosts to rest. There’s been tonnes of fights and love and sex and breaking up and never speaking again, but 30 or 40 years on it all seems a bit silly. So a lot of healing too.
If you want to know more about the film Rebel Dykes or offer support, visit their website here.
They are also on social media:
Image: Siobhan and the Rebel Dykes Team on Set