Trans Creative – Breaking Ground for Transgender Artists: An Interview with Kate O’Donnell

The inaugural Pride in Trafford festival kicks off this week, offering a host of events at Sale Waterside Arts. The event will celebrate and explore LGBTQ+ life in Trafford. There is a scratch night on Thursday 16th May. Trans Creative: Breaking Ground encourages transgender artists to break ground by providing them a platform to perform their latest projects. The evening will be curated by Kate O’Donnell, the artistic director of Trans Creative.

I spoke with Kate about how Trans Creative helps support transgender artists.

Kate O'Donnell Trans Creative Pride in Trafford Sale Waterside Arts
Kate O’Donnell’s Trans Creative: Breaking Ground.

Trans Creative’s mission is ‘Telling Our Own Stories’. What is your own story?

I have so many stories. I think that’s why I love performing and writing. I literally have to get them out of me! I transitioned 16 years ago and nobody was shouting about being trans then. 5 years ago, I decided that it was time to start telling my stories on stage, as I didn’t see or hear many trans stories.

What led you to become involved in the creative arts?

I think I have always used theatre as a way to express myself and my gender. I went to an all-boys junior school and I played all the girls’ parts in the school plays. I was playing my gender. I love the fact that nowadays young people don’t have to play at it. They can be their gender. I was also a big show-off. As a queer kid, you needed somewhere to take that. I took it to the stage, and I still do.

What influenced you to establish Trans Creative?

I believe that art can create social change. I had the opportunity to build something in the north of England for trans people, for trans arts, and for Manchester.

Trans Creative has become more of a social justice organisation that uses art to change the world. We make fabulous trans art because there isn’t enough of it out there.

What challenges did you face as a transgender artist?

I was initially worried that nobody would be interested enough to come and see my work. I was wrong. If you make good work, people will come.

Trans-phobia is alive outside and within the arts. We are always challenging that by making more space for trans people to tell their own stories. Nobody knocked on my door and told me to set up a trans artist organisation in the north of England, but I did. It keeps growing, and we now have the support of Manchester, its buildings, and its people.

Kate O Donnell Trans Creative Breaking Boundaries Pride in Trafford Sale Waterside
Artistic Director, Kate O’Donnell.

There has been a drive towards diversity across the arts. Is the industry becoming more inclusive for LGBTQ+ artists?

Yes and no. Trans performers are more visible. Well, the young, white, able bodied ones are. But intersectionality is lost in most mediums, especially within TV and film. I recently heard someone say “You can be trans on TV, but you can’t be black and trans“. We get cast in things, but the parts can often fall into the same troupes and roles. It never ends well for us trans people. We often end up dead. I never get excited about the trans parts that come up, so I write my own.

I think independent film and theatre work is much more interesting. I love working with artists like Travis Alabanza, Krishna Istha, Jamie Hale, C.N Lester, and Rebekah Ubuntu. I would encourage people to check them out. Along with companies like MILK Presents, they are light-years ahead of what most people get to see.

Can the industry do more to support LGBTQ+ artists?

I would like to see us writing and producing more work. That’s when it would get more interesting. But we need the industry to help us make that change.

I am holding an event at the Pilot Light TV Festival on the 16th May called The Trans Glass Ceiling, where we will try to find some answers. We want to create a manifesto that will presented to the world of television.

What can audiences expect from the Trans Creative: Breaking Ground scratch night at Sale Waterside Arts?

Some fabulous trans art. We have performance, music, and comedy. We have disabled trans artists and non-binary artists too. It’s all new work from a range of artists who are developing their shows. We put a call out, and the response was amazing! I will be helping to mentor them and shape their work, but it’s very much a chance for them to experiment and grow as artists.

What future projects do you have planned?

The big news is our arts festival in Manchester, Trans Vegas, in July. We are hoping to have over 100 trans voices being heard at this festival. Telling Our Own Stories has never looked so good!

The opening event will celebrate black trans activist Martha P. Johnson on the anniversary weekend of the Stonewall Riots, which she started. We also have performances in the main stage of the Royal Exchange Theatre, and a trans-masculine couture fashion event in Manchester Art Gallery. Special Trans Spirit events will also take place to nurture and support our well-being.

Times are changing and our voices are getting stronger. Come and hear us roar!

Trans Creative: Breaking Ground will be at Sale Waterside Arts on Thursday 16th May. Tickets can be purchased through the Pride in Trafford website.

For more information about Trans Vegas, please visit Trans Creative’s website.

Trans Creative Telling Our Own Stories

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