SevenStreets spoke to the producers of Tranny Hotel – performance artist and all-round Mersey Renaissance man Roger Hill and producer Adrian Turrell-Watts, the artistic director of Liverpool’s Spike Theatre – to find out more about what makes a “tranny”, and how the festival is doing its bit to keep Liverpool arts on the European stage.

Tranny Hotel is one of eleven events taking place across Europe on November 11 – 11.11.11 – as part of the live art festival Exchange Radical Moments. Each will be streamed over the internet to an international audience.

In Liverpool, the scene will be the notorious Adelphi hotel, a place of faded glory and glamour, a building where public and private spaces merge – theoretically, ideal for a community that can be as in-your-face as it can be painfully isolated.

Transgender artists will be performing around the hotel, everywhere from its conference spaces and corridors to guest rooms where one-on-one performances can be stumbled upon, from the most flamboyant of drag queens to folk singers and playwrights.

Hill, a gender artist also known as Mandy Romero, had worked with Linz-based Die Fabrikanten, the collective behind Exchange Radical Moments before. Turrell-Watts, who performs in drag under his real (male) name, thought the opportunity to celebrate the transgender community too good to ignore.

The remit of Exchange Radical Moments, also taking place in Belgium, Austria, Germany, Sweden and Moldova among other countries, is to stage events to “interrupt our usual routines and thinking patterns, leading us to pause and ask new questions of ourselves”.

“I’d had this idea for a long time that people didn’t celebrate trans artists as a whole. Nobody ever put them in one place,” said Hill. For those outside the trans community, one question would surely be what connects the wide variety of people who fall under this very broad spectrum.

“We don’t all come under the same umbrella very easily,” he admits. “The common cause is what I’d call the transition, or crossing. Some people want to do it once in their life, some people it’s every night, or on special occasions… the thing is, the gender and the person don’t always fit, and at one point you have to make an adjustment.”

Over the last five or ten years, Hill says, the transgender community has become much more visible – “not just RuPaul on TV… It has become more connected to the cultural language of the world.”

Inside Tranny Hotel, audiences will find Scottish transsexual playwright Jo Clifford and a performance of her work The Gospel According to Jesus Queen of Heaven, that will see small audiences meeting and interacting with Queen Jesus in a hotel room throughout the weekend.

Norwegian performer Ane Lan brings Irma’s Room, a work inspired by Sigmund Freud. Just one or two people will experience the piece at a time, making it completely unique each time it is performed. Other artists include Canadian folk performer Rae Spoon, and drag, cabaret and performance artist Jonny Woo.

Hill says: “Each of the hotel rooms will become a small theatre or world. Close the door and suddenly no rules apply. It’s stepping out of one world into another. It’s an invitation to step into the transgender world for a while, and see what that does to your world.”

Central to the concept of the festival is the idea of opening up discourse, not just among the transgender community, or non-LGBTs whose curiosity may take them through the doors of Tranny Hotel, but with the artists as well. There is no sense that the event will just be plonked into its environment gratuitously or to shock – but rather that there is a modesty and keen intelligence behind the bold exterior.

Both Hill and Turrell-Watts, who will each be performing, say an important part of their work will be talking with the audience, discussing why they do what they do, and exploring issues of gender. The festival has secured Arts Council funding to hold a number or workshops examining gender, identity and self.

“It’s about not putting labels on people. A lot of it is about exploring gender and gender roles, it’s not just about transvestism or drag queens or transexuals,” Turrell-Watts says. “The whole festival is just for people who identify with transgender on any level. We want to include everybody.”

Then there is issue of the ‘T’ word, and the whole debate about its power to offend. After some deliberation, the producers decided to go with their gut feelings about the name Tranny Hotel.

“Tranny is a pejorative word, and everyone will have a different life experience of it,” Turrell-Watts says. “When I started doing drag, yes, I was offended by it. Now you’ve got the Tranny Shack club and the International Tranny Guide, Facebook groups. It has been reclaimed, but I don’t think it’s been done consciously.”

Hill adds: “I cheerfully and proudly call myself a tranny.

“People shouldn’t let the name put them off. If people can see beyond the use of the word, they’ll see what the event is trying to do is to get a moment to reclaim it and bring positive vibes. The word is ours to claim and make positive – not somebody else’s to make negative.

“Some people who feel strongly about it may have been verbally abused by that word. It’s not an easy one, but we haven’t had a huge amount of complaints.”

Tranny Hotel
Britannia Adelphi, Liverpool
November 11 – 13

Part of Exchange Radical Moments and Homotopia. For tickets and more information, visit www.tranny-hotel.com.

  • Maureen Delve

    Coincidence or what as my surname is Delve.xx

  • Maureen Delve

    Coincidence as Delve is my surname, it’s old english.xx