Scottee: 'We might have the same rights on paper but not in action'

PUBLISHED: 08:00 03 November 2016

Scottee. Picture: Christa Holka

Scottee. Picture: Christa Holka

Christa Holka, 2016

Artists Scottee and Lasana Shabazz talk to Zoe Paskett about what it means to be LGBT in 2016

Lasana Shabazz stars in Putting Words in Your Mouth. Picture: Christa HolkaLasana Shabazz stars in Putting Words in Your Mouth. Picture: Christa Holka

‘It’s not safe for us to be who we actually are’

He might be famous for throwing cake at Rihanna, but Queen’s Crescent born artist Scottee has more on his mind.

“Since Brexit, there has been an increase of 147 per cent in reported homophobic hate crimes,” he says.

Last week, David Cameron was given the honour of Ally of the Year at the Pink News awards, a decision that was lauded by many politicians including Jeremy Corbyn, but sparked outrage in the LGBT community.

Scottee describes him as a “poster boy” for an initiative he didn’t start.

“I think the great untold story here,” says Scottee, “is that people are forgetting that the Conservatives were responsible for putting forward Section 28, which stopped the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality by anyone who worked for the government, including teachers.

“It meant throughout my schooling I had nowhere to look for LGBT history or advice because people who worked in public funded positions could lose their jobs and livelihood if they promoted homosexuality. And this wasn’t that long ago.”

Scottee acknowledges that progress has been made but questions whether or not this progress can actually be seen in practice.

“We can have a husband, we can have a wife, we can have a legal partner, but can we hold their hand? Yes, we do have legislation on our side but do we have the country on our side? Can I hold my partner’s hand and that not be a massive statement. No, I can’t. We don’t live the same lives.

“We might have the same rights on paper but we don’t have them in action.”

Scottee’s directorial debut for the Roundhouse is an exploration of what it means to be queer in 2016. Having travelled the country interviewing members of the LGBT community about their opinions on mainstream politics, the associate artist has compressed it into a performance by artists channelling the voices of these people.

Putting Words in Your Mouth, which is lip-synched by cast members including Lasana Shabazz and Travis Alabanza, opens on November 22.

“They’re not employed as actors, they’re hired as artists, so their thoughts are in this as well,” says Scottee. “I’ve spoken about myself for two and a half years; now let’s let other people talk. I think bringing people in who haven’t performed at the Roundhouse before is a good thing to do.”

“I’ve always known about the Roundhouse being from the area,” says Shabazz. “I went to Hampstead School, so this is my home!”

Shabazz knew he was gay from a very early age, and bore the brunt of the prejudice that accompanied it throughout his school years.

“My parents always taught me: be yourself and be what you want to be, which is what I did until I realised that being the way I was in school wasn’t accepted.

“I remember one of my teachers was gay and how the kids treated him and I thought ‘I can’t be myself’. I

became very introverted and it wasn’t until sixth form that I thought ‘f**k it’ and became the person that I am now!”

He recalls the damaging effect that the words of his peers had on him as he was growing up, saying that one person’s joke can stay with you for years.

“When I would hear the word ‘f*ggot’, even if it wasn’t aimed at me, it felt like a dagger. I thought: are they coming for me?”

“I and so many of the cast members have had to police our lives and gender and identities because it’s not safe for us to be the people we actually are,” says Scottee. “Queer people are more than twice as likely to commit suicide or self harm, so that is why we’ve got to have these conversations.”

Putting Words in Your Mouth runs at the Roundhouse from November 22 to December 3. Tickets are £15 pounds from roundhouse.org.uk

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