Leeds Queer Film Festival is a DIY festival run by and for the LGBTQ+ community in Leeds. It combines queer cinema with group discussions, workshops, and talks, raising awareness about current issues of relevance to the community, along with other activities, crafts, and vegan food.
The first festival took place in October 2005 and was put on by Queer Mutiny North, a D-I-Y collective that put on free queer events and gatherings in the Leeds area with the aim to “create an alternative to the manufactured, over-commodified gay scene; an alternative where all genders and sexualities are welcome.” This festival, along with the second festival in 2010, of which the location was only available by texting a mobile number, were squatted events.
The 2010 festival lengthened to 5 evenings of free “gender-bending cinema that makes you think, queer trash and horror in the campest of settings, features that take us beyond the queer ‘scene’, take in some history and current struggles in the queer world, documentaries and talking heads on gender identity, shorts and amateur queer cinema.” They donated all money raised to Bent Bars, a letter-writing project for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender variant, intersex, and queer prisoners in Britain.
By 2013, the festival had branched out to be run over 2 locations, Temple Works and Wharf Chambers. 32 films were shown to a larger audience than ever before and the organisers began to include content information in their programme, in order to alert audiences to any distressing scenes, language or discussion in the films.
The 2014 festival was based solely at Wharf Chambers. It included 4 days of film, food, a disco, workshops and a discussion about Leeds queer history from the 1960s through to the 1990s. Gill Crawshaw kindly lent the Leeds Act Up archive, which included posters, badges and information from the campaign. Also included were talks from Godwyns Onwuchekwa (founder of Justice for Gay Africans), Apata Ronnie (Lesbian asylum seeker campaigner, Shut Down Yarl’s Wood, Manchester Migrant Solidarity & African Rainbow family), Christina Fonthes (co-founder of Rainbow Noir) and Austen Miall from BHA Skyline. There were also zine and book libraries for those favouring quieter activities and a cartoon session on the Sunday morning for children.
The latest festival in July 2015 returned to Wharf Chambers and a new venue, MESMAC, an organisation that provides a vital sexual health service in Leeds City Centre. LQFF showed 44 films over 4 days and were privileged to host a Q&A with Mike Jackson from Lesbians and Gays Support The Miners, following a screening of the All Out! Dancing in Dulais documentary. Busier than ever, we hosted ‘Zine in a Day’ with Shape & Situate and Footprint Workers Co-op, where attendees could contribute a page to a zine about influential queer women around the world. There was also letter writing to people in prison and detention and banner making for an alternative queer bloc at Leeds Pride, while at MESMAC there was a queer feminist discussion on the limits of sex positivity. Profits were donated to 3 projects: Ark Communes, alQaws, and Lambdaistanbul.
Following the 2015 festival, there were one-off screening events of The Watermelon Woman and Set It Off. The team also organised a large event at Leeds City Museum for International Women’s Day 2016, followed by another event of films, stalls, talks, and workshops for LGBT History Month at the museum on February 18 2017.
The festival has run every year since 2017, and we're very excited to be returning in 2020!