Interview: Theresa Heath

This weekend Wotever DIY Film Festival comes to The Cinema Museum in London.  They have a brilliantly diverse film schedule and loads of great events.  This week I caught up with the founder of the festival Theresa Heath to find out more.

(Interview ©Amie Taylor 2016)

AT: Theresa, could you start by telling us a little bit about the film festival and how it came about in the first place?

TH: Initially we started it as a fun, one-evening event to screen films at Bar Wotever, and it became clear from that how many brilliant, queer, amateur and DIY works were out there, and that they really needed to be shown. There aren’t that many outlets for it, yet it is really brilliant, important work, that tells a lot of stories that otherwise wouldn’t get to be told. Also the event was really popular, and we thought that there’s BFI Flare, and the fringe in the East End, we decided there was more than enough room for another Film Festival, and I think what we’re doing is a little different because we’re prioritising shorts and DIY work.

AT: How many years have you been running it now?

TH: We started in 2012, but this will actually be the 6th festival, as we had a crazy year where we did two in one year.

AT: I’ve been wondering, because looking across your programme it is really diverse and you’ve got loads on offer, especially films about queer women, and as a queer woman myself, I know there tends to usually be more on offer for a gay male audience – who do you find is your main audience for the festival?

TH: We say our audience really reflects to make up of people at Bar Wotever, and it’s really important to mention that we are part of Wotever World, the arts and performance collective which was founded by Ingo and has been running for over 10 years. We have a lot of trans, gender queer and non-binary people in our audience, some gay men but it’s mostly women and trans people that come.

AT: It’s a jam packed weekend, there’s loads on – films, networking events, afternoon tea and porn, loads. What are you most looking forward to?

TH: The porn is something we do every year and it’s become one of our things, it’s queer friendly porn and apart being a lovely, fun and sexy programme, it’s also really important, because over the last few years a lot of new porn laws and regulations have come in that seem to restrict female sexuality even further, so I’m really proud that we do that as a political thing and it’s enjoyable too.  The programme closest to my heart is our closing night programme, which is focussed around disability and queer politics, because a lot of people, myself included, live with chronic illness or disability and there’s a lot of disability within the queer community, including mental health issues and physical disabilities. I think that this community’s not being represented as well as it should. Its also important to mention that this year we did get funding and have spent the bulk of it on access, the space is fully wheelchair accessible and we have gender-neutral toilets. And the films are fantastic; ‘Yes We Fuck’ is one of the most beautiful films, and the director’s coming from Spain, so we’re really excited about that.

AT: And it’s totally free this year as well, isn’t it?  Which makes it even more accessible, as ticket prices can act as a barrier to many.  Is that because you got sponsorship?

TH:  Yes, we had a lot of sponsorship this year, which means we’ve been able to make it all free.

AT: Who were your sponsors?

TH: Film London, Big Lottery, Looking at You Productions, Gendered Intelligence have sponsored us in-kind.  Gallop, Soho Equipment and She Won the World.

AT: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about the festival?

TH: Yes, one final thing is the fact that it’s so important now to create queer community space, as you’re probably aware, over the last ten years we’ve lost so many queer spaces. So spaces like this are so important for that, and allow us to learn our queer history, because it’s very difficult for us to do that and to interact with other people.

AT: And what do you think are the reasons behind the dramatic decline in queer spaces?

TH: I’m actually writing my PhD more or less on this at the moment, I think that in London and a lot of urban spaces turbo gentrification across city centres has caused it.  I think a lot of venues have closed down because of massive rent hikes, I think that, especially in Westminster where we have a Tory-led council that are intent on ‘cleaning up’ Soho.  I think the property market in London is massively out of control and I think the queer community, particularly queer women and the trans community are less economically advantaged, especially in comparison to gay men. I think these are the primary reasons, which seem to come up time and time again.

AT: It’s so true, I missed out on experiencing queer spaces as they used to exist –

TH: Yes, there are lots of people doing things on this.  Cuntinuum ran an event on Dyke Spaces last week, obviously Fringe! are doing things, so people are aware of it and trying to do stuff.  Sisters Uncut as well.  Lots of people.

AT: Thank you so much for speaking with us at LGBTQ Arts today, Theresa.

You can book for all films and events here. Everything’s free, but booking is advised. WOTLOGOxl

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