Meet the dancers leading Birmingham Pride Parade with RuPaul’s drag race stars, Mama Mamba & more

It’s the first time ever that the Birmingham Pride Parade will be led by a dance performance when it takes to the streets on Saturday (September 24)
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This year’s Birmingham Pride Parade, for the first time ever, will be led by a dance performance of more than 80 LGBTQ+ people of diverse shapes, sizes, abilities and backgrounds.

The performance, which aims to reclaim the streets for trans, disabled, overweight and other marginalised LGBTQ+ people, is part of MOBILISE, a project produced by Birmingham arts company Fatt Projects.

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It also features a host of local artists including Ginny Lemon of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame, Mama Mamba and Yshee Black

Part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival, MOBILISE is a monthly accessible dance party providing a safe, inclusive and sober place for LGBTQ+ people to meet, dance and enjoy themselves.

Fatt ButcherFatt Butcher
Fatt Butcher

What has Fatt Projects said about setting up MOBILISE?

Director of Fatt Projects Adam Carver, aka Fatt Butcher, explains the idea came out of lockdown when the LGBTQ+ community were experiencing higher levels of social isolation as so much of their social scene involves city centre nightclubs.

“Because of that we weren’t able to connect with our communities physically for quite a long time,” they recall. “It has often been dance spaces which have been the places where our community has been able to meet and for them to feel free and find each other. I was surprised by how much I missed dancing.”

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Coming out of lockdown, Adam undertook research across the community and discovered there were barriers preventing many people returning to dance venues. These included fears of homophobic attacks, a lack of accessible spaces and a concern that people whose bodies weren’t judged to be ‘normal’ were uncomfortable in nightclubs.

“So the idea to create this space came out of this research,” says Adam. “We knew that people wanted a space to dance, that dance was important but that there are barriers stopping them. So that led me to think about what nightlife culture or clubbing culture could look like coming out of the pandemic.

“It was an opportunity for us to sit down and go - if we could build a nightclub environment from scratch that met our needs in the way we wanted it to do, what would it look like?”

MOBILISE was born with a silent, accessible disco taking place each month.

Ginny Lemon from RuPaul’s Drag Race & MOBILISEGinny Lemon from RuPaul’s Drag Race & MOBILISE
Ginny Lemon from RuPaul’s Drag Race & MOBILISE

How has MOBILISE grown?

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“They’ve been really incredible, they’ve been a lot more emotional than I thought they were going to be. It’s giving people a space they can just turn up to and express themselves however they want,” says Adam. “There’s no judgement and it’s a lovely opportunity for people to discover themselves a bit more. Each event has grown and we’ve gone from having maybe 50-60 people to having around 150.

“A lot of people have said the space has allowed them to think about their needs in ways they hadn’t done before. It’s a very joyful space and a lot of the work we’ve done is about confidence issues. We have moments in the party where we facilitate dancing, a kind of disco line dancing to get people to speak to each other.

“It’s the most mixed crowd that I’ve ever seen at an event. People from all walks of life. I’ve worked in the gay scene for a number of years and what is really joyful to me is that I’ve seen many people who I’ve never seen before. They’ve come to a space which meets their needs so they can have a really great time.”

Now MOBILISE takes to the streets in a choreographed performance which leads the Pride Parade.

MOBILISE to lead Birmingham Pride Parade 2022MOBILISE to lead Birmingham Pride Parade 2022
MOBILISE to lead Birmingham Pride Parade 2022

What can we expect from MOBILISE at the Birmingham Pride Parade?

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“We always knew that we wanted to do some sort of large performance piece at Pride and get those people who feel almost marginalised in the community at the centre or the front of that community with national and local focus. In order to do that we needed to build a culture where people felt empowered to be able to dance before they could do it in public.

“We have created that space and now we’re going to take that from a more protected and internal space. We’re going out into the streets and into daylight so we have to literally and metaphorically dial up the volume on that.

“This is about showcasing as full a spectrum of what our community can be. It’s an opportunity to say we are here, we are visible, we are beautiful, we are fabulous, and that all of these people deserve to be celebrated in exactly the same way as other parts of the community who are marching behind us.”

Mama Mamba joins MOBILISE to lead Birmingham Pride Parade 2022Mama Mamba joins MOBILISE to lead Birmingham Pride Parade 2022
Mama Mamba joins MOBILISE to lead Birmingham Pride Parade 2022

With Birmingham Pride celebrating a landmark 25th year is there anything else we can expect from the parade?

And with Birmingham Pride this year marking a quarter of a century, Adam says it is the right time for all sectors of the LGBTQ+ community to be proud of who they are.

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“I know how excited that cast is to get out there and be seen, to celebrate and to say that our joy is political, and to put that at the front and centre of Pride, which is celebrating 25 years this year.

“That feels like a really important time to be saying that everyone can feel safe, happy and experience joy and to be able to live freely and that is a political thing. I hope we are taking Pride back to its origins as a protest while also looking forward to saying this is the kind of world we want to live in and we can create together.

“We want people to come and watch the Parade and to show their pride and to come to party with us because there are going to be some interactive parts of that performance.”

Adam is determined to continue to build on the success of MOBILISE and hold more events in the future. “Our intention is to keep the party going beyond the length of this project. What is really clear from lots of people who’ve come is they want this to continue into the future and we’ll do what we can to do that.”

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*See MOBILISE at the Birmingham Pride Parade on Saturday 24 September and look out for future dates for MOBILISE events and Fatt Projects social media channels @FattProjects

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