Way back in 2003 Gary Everett had a different pride in mind. A festival of queer culture for a heteronormative world. One that would nurture and support the LGBT community, and its friends, and present to the city a festival the like of which it had never seen before.

“In 2004 we launched a pilot programme. Liverpool had just won its Capital of Culture bid, and you could sense that the city was at a big turning point in its history,” Everett recalls. “It’s fair to say that Capital of Culture was the catalyst for us to try something new. A sense of true renaissance was in the air, and there had been no real focus for the LGBT community for a significant number of years. This was the time to do it.”

It’s also fair to say the response took everyone by surprise. Liverpool got it. We would, wouldn’t we?

“We knew we had something special,” he says, of the event that has since become not only a cornerstone of the city’s buoyant cultural calendar, but a hugely important statement of intent for the LGBT community, here and beyond.

“When you look at our partners, from Open Eye to the Unity, Walker Art Gallery to the Biennial, you can see just how successfully our festival has crossed over,” Everett says of the event which has remained true to its community promises, while reaching out to engage the wider world.

“Queering galleries and art spaces can only bring positive cohesion and perhaps social change,” he says. “For too long ‘diversity’ has been packaged and presented as a half empty glass leaving behind or excluding the true experiences of modern day gay life.

It’s as important, Homotopia believes, that a 17 year old coming to terms with their sexuality, is exposed to queer culture in all its forms. From Kylie to Gary Clarke.

“Our social justice programme has reached over 150,000 younger and inter-generational audiences and has picked up awards especially our anti-hate education initiatives.

“Our international programme has seen major projects in Sweden, Finland, Poland and Turkey. Homotopia, and Liverpool benefits hugely from this exposure, as does our positioning as a culturally diverse destination.”

Sadly, not all cities are so welcoming: Everett reluctantly cancelled a two-year international arts project in Russia due to fears of homophobic retaliation from St Petersburg’s new neo-Conservative authorities, and their recent statute changes which make Clause 28 seem like a Peter Tatchell wish list.

Funding was provided by Finland’s Turku Foundation, where the Homotopia-curated exhibition attracted 31,000 visitors over 12 weeks.

“It was particularly special to make the connection with Turku not only with it being a European Capital of Culture but as the birthplace of Touko Laaksonen (Tom of Finland – the man who gave us those frisky cowboys and bulging bobbies on the, ahem, beat).

“The bridges between Liverpool and Turku have been made, and Liverpool’s cultural offer has been incredibly well received. ‘Tom of Finland’ was one of the most important elements to the official Turku Capital of Culture programme.”

Now, as the TradeMark-drawn posters (he’s a New Brighton boy, you know) brighten the city, it’s time to take Homotopia to our hearts again. This year’s programme looks especially meaty, with world premieres, installations, powerful exhibitions and performances scattered across the month.

We’re especially excited about Council House Superstar (pic above): an installation that places an entire 70s council house within Camp and Furnace, replete with drag queens and scallies, and a mysterious shower screen whose damp curtains you have to part before enlightenment.

No really, after you…

Aging WAG/HAG queens, social workers and a cast of characters from Donna Reah to Dawn Patrol will be going about their everyday lives as you, the unexpected guest, wander through their intimate spaces.

Internationally acclaimed artists Al & Al present The Creator at Fact: exploring the life and myths of visionary mathematician Alan Turing – with a Q and A following the film.

Drag fabulist Dickie Beau shapeshifts, mimes, and recreates the lives of Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe through a soundscape of harrowing audio artefacts and razor-sharp ventriloquism. He calls it ‘where drag meets clowning’ – we call it mesmerizing, take a look:

At the Epstein is, well, Epstein – the hotly anticipated debut of Jen Heyes’ new work exploring the life and times of one of our most misunderstood sons, music manager Brian Epstein, who died of an overdose at just 32.

Glo-fi popster Patrick Wolf comes over all acoustic at the Gallery, in the Baltic, an exhibition space where Andrew Logan’s ‘Welcome to My World’ retrospective of glittery and gorgeous things is showing.

David Hoyle’s ‘Archetype’ takes an afternoon romp in the Walker Art Gallery’s sculpture room, and Gary Clarke’s Horsemeat and other thrilling dance pieces fling themselves into Hope University. Full brochure of events here

And, honestly, this is just scratching the surface. This year’s Homotopia has something for that mysterious everyone we hear so much about, but rarely meet.

“Last year we were awarded regular funding as part of Arts Council England’s new national portfolio 2012-2015. That gave us an element of security and has helped us to truly realise our ambition.

“We’ve experienced moments in the past when it’s been difficult to keep the quality high, but we’ve somehow never compromised. This is important to our vision,” Everett says.

“We’re fast approaching our 10th birthday,” he adds. “The organisation will be presenting a year long exhibition of Liverpool born trans-pioneer April Ashley (at Museum of Liverpool) along with some big projects in celebration of 10 extraordinary years…”

That’s something we, as a city, and Homotopia as a catalyst for change, should be very proud about.

“Politicians and religious leaders continue to attack gay and trans peoples’ human rights at home and abroad making festivals like Homotopia ever more pertinent,” Everett says.

Show you care, go forth and be amazed.

October 30 – November 25
Various venues

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