'Bricks and Glitter' -- radical queer music, arts and politics

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Image: Michelle Grewe/Flickr

Max ZB is a musician and photographer, and a member of the core organizing team for the Toronto-based queer and trans community arts festival Bricks and Glitter.

Bricks and Glitter is a collective response to a lack in the present, and an insurgent act towards what the world could be. Its mission statement begins, "We are a trouble of queers who believe in creativity and collectivity, in imagining together a world worth living in. Intersectional by default and critical by necessity, we are trying to create a space for all of us, to world build together, and to practice the future in the now. Bricks and Glitter is a community arts festival, celebrating Two-Spirit, trans and queer talent, ingenuity, caring, anger, and abundance."

Max ZB says that at least in part, "Bricks and Glitter was a direct response to just what wasn't happening." Even more so a few years ago than today, Pride and mainstream LGBT contexts more generally in Toronto were not giving enough space to folks who were pushed in various ways to the margins. Queer people who were disabled, who were Black, who were intersex, who were Asian, who fell at so many other intersections of queerness had too little space, too few resources, and too little support for their ongoing efforts to thrive, to celebrate, to rage and to just be.

The first year of Bricks and Glitter was 2018. The organizing emerged from a network of queer musicians and artists in Toronto, notably Rosina Kazi of longtime electronic music duo LAL (who participated in a Talking Radical Radio interview about a different project back in 2013.) Bricks and Glitter brought together artists and grassroots community organizations for a festival spanning multiple events, venues, and genres of music and performance, and it found an enthusiastic and supportive audience.

Since then, the festival has grown and sunk deeper roots into the community. Max ZB's role has focused on design, promotion and social media, but the collective places a strong emphasis on non-hierarchical ways of work and the labour of making the fesitval happen is broadly shared. As the event has evolved, the organizers have guided it by using a range of processes to bring larger communities of people together to discuss, to brainstorm, to vision and to dream.

This year, as with everything else, COVID has transformed how Bricks and Glitter will be happening. Details have not yet been announced, but it is scheduled to happen between August 21-30. It will include online performances and events, as well as a range of offline interventions that can happen safely in the context of the pandemic.

Bricks and Glitter has always been radically political -- demanding a future where the police have been abolished, for instance, and the social world radically transformed is nothing new to the organizers or to the event. And as Max ZB says, "It's a very radical thing to even get a group of bodies together in a room that the system doesn't want to be there."

But given the uprising against anti-Black racism and police brutality at the heart of the current political moment, they have included as central in this year's festival a broad and multifaceted call to more overt forms of political action. It is meant to be both festival and rally. As their (now closed) call for proposals for this year's festival put it, "From Marsha's brick to the glitter kissing our cheeks, to be queer is to rebel against colonialism and patriarchy." Not only did they ask for participants in this year's festival to dream up exciting possibilities for music, performance, and public art interventions, but they also asked people to come forward with online skill-shares and workshops as well as direct actions.

To return to their fiery and lyrical mission statement, it says, "We are not just a festival but a home for many itinerant communities who struggle to find safety in an increasingly hostile world." And it concludes, "We want to learn from each other and hold each other up, allowing our unique voices to populate a sphere of discourse, play, exploration and possibility. We pose and we posture and we fake it til we make it because practice, practice, practice gets the goods. Let us try and see what the world could become."

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

Image: Michelle Grewe/Flickr

Theme music: "It Is the Hour (Get Up)" by Snowflake, via CCMixter

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