QUEER NARRATIVES: LIVED EXPERIENCE, ACTIVISM & CHANGE IN NORTHERN IRELAND – To mark Belfast Pride, we have invited artists and activists from the LGBTQ+ community to explore The Linen Hall’s LGBTQ+ archives. Hilary McCollum, Amanda Verlaque, Heather Fleming, and Mícheál McCann will choose an item from the archive – an artefact, a newspaper article, or a letter – to talk about their own lived experience and the history of gay rights in Northern Ireland.
Hilary McCollum is an Irish writer and feminist activist with a long-standing interest in creative responses to trauma. She has explored issues related to violence against women and girls through narrative non-fiction, fiction, and drama. Her writing often focuses on women’s resistance to abuse and oppression. Her first novel, Golddigger, won the Golden Crown Literary Society prize for historical fiction in 2016. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from QUB and is a Senior Policy and Liaison Officer for Northern Ireland with the Society of Authors.
Amanda Verlaque writes for stage, screen, and VR. The Lyric produced This Sh*t Happens All the Time, her critically acclaimed play about homophobia, misogyny and coercive control. The MAC produced her critically acclaimed debut play Distortion, a satire about political hypocrisy, homophobia and PR spin. Amanda adapted and wrote the pilot for An Irish Country Doctor based on Patrick Taylor’s award-winning novel and she made her directorial debut with Egg, her VR short film in collaboration with RETìníZE. One of the Irish Theatre Institute’s Six in The Attic artists for 2022/23, she is also under commission to the National Theatre (GB) and the Abbey. Amanda worked in TV drama for 25 years as a script editor, storyliner, producer and executive producer before starting her writing career.
Heather Fleming came out, when she was seventeen, in rural Co Down in 1977. She moved to Belfast, became involved in LGBTQ+ activism; joining NIGRA, volunteering for CaraFriend /Lesbian Line and founding Lavender Lynx (a safe space for lesbians, especially those just coming out). Heather is a visual artist and has exhibited widely throughout Ireland and internationally. Creative writing was confined to her sketchbooks but in the last few years, it has become more public. A number of her “Ten X 9” stories were broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster’s Tall Tales. A recording of one of her stories about being lesbian in NI is now part of the Irish Studies curriculum at the prestigious Swarthmore University in Philadelphia. In 2023, two of her poems were ‘Highly Commended’ for the CAP/Executive Office Good Relations Award and she had a poem printed in the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing Anthology.
Mícheál McCann is a poet from Derry. His poems have appeared in The Poetry Review, The Stinging Fly and Poetry Ireland Review, and anthologised in Queering the Green and Romance Options: Love Poems for Today. He has published pamphlets of poems, most recently Waking Light (Skein Press) and Keeper (14publishing). He was a co-editor of Hold Open the Door (UCD Press), Trumpet (Poetry Ireland) and is a founder and editor of Outburst Arts’ catflap magazine. He lives in Belfast where he is completing a PhD in the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry.