"The history of lesbian and gay activism in Halifax has been, to an extraordinary degree, a history of creating and contesting spaces." Robin Metcalfe wrote this in 1997 in his essay on the exhibition Queer Looking, Queer Acting: Lesbian and Gay Vernacular, which was held at the Mount Saint Vincent University Gallery. That show chronicled the visual culture of Halifax's queer community. It displayed the ephemera that Metcalfe and others had saved over years of activism---the buttons, posters, placards and props that told the story of their community.
Almost 20 years later, the exhibition and its catalogue are being revived and the younger generation of queer activists in Halifax are connecting with their history. "The publication which we're republishing has been important as the main social historical text of the queer community movement in Halifax," says Metcalfe. It tells the story of the Turret.
In the 1970s, the Gay Alliance for Equality (GAE) owned and operated the Turret Room of the Khyber (then known as the Church of England Institute). This space was the centre for queer organizing at that time.
"It is sort of mythic in the imagination of queer Halifax," says Metcalfe. "It was a beautiful space, it was a space that we owned and controlled---and it was unusual at the time, the queer community in Halifax was unusual in that we had one large central organization which was the activist organization and also the organization that controlled the main queer social space in the city, which meant that the city also had significant resources because we had a fair amount of income coming in from that social space."
The history of the Turret is now inspiring a new generation of young queer activists in Halifax. The NSCAD Queer Collective has been reaching out to Metcalfe and other older members of the community to connect with this history. Last year, in collaboration with artist Emily Davidson, they hosted a Turret Resurrection as part of the Khyber's Member Show. They decorated the space based off of archival photos, held a disco, a cabaret and a community discussion with older activists.
"It's been amazing to discover this really cool history of activism in Halifax," says Genevieve Flavelle of the Queer Collective. "To hear about the Turret and how they ran that bar and produced profits that they could use for activism is really inspiring to me as a younger activist."
Flavelle connects strongly with Metcalfe's statement about the importance of space. "The queer community is the kind of community that really needs physical space to gather," Flavelle says. "It's not like other political communities where it can exist more online. We need gay bars and we need community spaces and what was amazing about the Turret was that it was all of those things it was a social space, it was an organizing space where they had meetings they had all of this different social and political programming. We really don't have that in the queer community at present so we end up organizing in very temporary spaces."
The reissue of the catalogue will also include work from the younger generation--- Flavelle and Beck Gilmer-Osborne have written an essay about the Queer Collective and their resurrection of The Turret and Rebecca Rose has written a piece about more recent activism in Halifax. It will be launched on February 14 as part of Pink Triangle Day.
The remounting of OUT: Queer Looking, Queer Acting Revisited will include ephemera from the new generation as well. That show has been postponed due to the temporary relocation of the Khyber Arts Society.
OUT: Queer Looking, Queer Acting Revisited catalogue is seeking donations to fund publication at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/out-queer-looking-queer-acting-revisited-catalogue