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In association with Citroën

The Big Issue Changemakers of 2023: Culture

In tough times we turn to culture to plot new and unthought essential routes. In 2023, our cultural landscape is in good hands, and these are the Changemakers who make it happen

In association with Citroën

These are The Big Issue’s Changemakers who in 2023 will be using art to bring people together and improve lives, as well as make the world of culture more accessible.

Find the rest of the series on the links below and pick up the magazine from your local Big Issue vendor.

Joseph Galliano and Ian Mehrtens, Queer Britain

Last year saw the opening of the UK’s first dedicated LGBT+ museum: Queer Britain. Co-founded by Galliano and Mehrtens, the space commemorates and celebrates LGBT+ culture past and present, with their inaugural exhibition, We Are Queer Britain, marking the 50th anniversary of the UK’s first Pride march. “I want queer people to feel celebrated, and belonging, and lifted up,” Galliano said. “And all their friends and families to recognise [where] their stories start and the importance of those.” 

Museums director Joseph Galliano

Joseph Galliano
Joseph Galliano, Queer Britain. Photo: Robert Taylor

What was 2022 like
for you? 

After four years of building a strong, credible organisation from a standing still position, 2022 started with us getting our own physical home. In January, we signed the lease on our beautiful gallery space in King’s Cross and then the real work began! We opened in May and since then have welcomed around 40,000 visitors to our exhibition, We Are Queer Britain! 

Why is your work needed? 

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For too long, LGBT+ people’s narratives have been told by those other than the communities, causing people to struggle to see themselves represented honestly and authentically in the mainstream. We are here so that they – we – may be seen by all. We see evidence of the need because every day we have someone moved to tears from seeing themselves reflected on walls that have been specifically given to that very purpose. A too-rare thing. 

What are your plans for 2023? 

If last year was about getting open, this year is about content. We are working on our programming and events and have employed some brilliant curators to lead on collections and displays. We are focused on growing and protecting the achievements of last year, while learning how to run a museum and deliver meaningful content. We are also working to secure a ‘forever home’ so that the UK truly gets the LGBT+ museum it deserves.

Theatre Troupe

Since 2015, Theatre Troupe have been transforming the lives of young people experiencing mental health difficulties through theatre. Many have histories of trauma, and around half have been excluded from school or haven’t been able to leave their homes for months on end, isolated from friends and community. Theatre Troupe offers a space to meet others and build confidence through theatrical arts, from drama and dance to scriptwriting and music making. They also provide wrap-around care, including food and transport, to make services as accessible as possible.  

Theatre Troupe artistic director Emily Hunka

Emily Hunka
Theatre Troupe artistic director Emily Hunka

What was 2022 like
for you? 

It was tough, as we struggled with reduced funding and resources against a rising tide of distressed children. But it was brilliant too, because these same children, given the chance to shine, were bright, resilient and funny. In Southwark Youth Troupe, we made shows about pirates, family rows, and how you beat a worry monster! We used art, cooking and film to build self-worth.  

Why is your work needed? 

Mental health problems have sky-rocketed, with less access to NHS services and long waiting lists. We provide transport, home-made food, and one-to-one mentoring, meaning those lost in the shadows are able to experience joy and heal from distress.   

What are your plans for 2023? 

In 2022, a participant’s mum said, “Thanks to Theatre Troupe he smiles more”. The participant moved from self-harming, barely speaking, to rejoin­ing school, making friends and planning a career as a theatre technician. We want similar smiles and life changes for new participants in 2023. We’ll also be making theatre answering the question: “What do young people really want from the people that provide them care?”  

Greater Govanhill and The Ferret

Scotland’s first independent community newsroom opened in Govanhill in Glasgow’s South Side (pictured above), the product of a collaboration between hyperlocal magazine Greater Govanhill and Scottish investigative journalism outlet The Ferret. The two platforms envision the space as a community-building hub, where stories, ideas and perspectives can be shared. Their first collaborative project on health inequalities is under way, with more to come. This year, members of both The Ferret and Greater Govanhill sat on a Scottish government working group to consider the long-term sustainability of public interest journalism in Scotland and recommend ways to ensure its ongoing resilience and relevance.

Get it Loud in Libraries

Get it Loud in Libraries
Kae Tempest got it loud in a library in 2019

Bringing communities together through music, Get it Loud in Libraries focuses on new and emerging musicians – counting little-known artists Adele and Florence + the Machine among those who played a library gig and later went on to some success. The project aims to deliver shows in places where live music events are rare. Affirming the role of libraries as essential community hubs, plus engaging young people in the arts are big goals for the project. They expand on this through their academy programme, which offers training and work experience for young people interested in the creative industries.   

Hen Hoose

An all-female and non-binary songwriting collective and production house based in Glasgow, Hen Hoose was founded by MALKA – aka singer/songwriter Tamara Schlesinger – during 2020’s lockdown. “To my knowledge there is no other all-female production house in Britain,” Schlesinger told The Big Issue. “This project has been so empowering for everyone involved.” Bringing together artists, writers and producers across Scotland, Hen Hoose released an album, Equaliser, in 2022, and their work also featured in the Scottish government’s vaccine campaign.

Elaha Soroor

Elaha Soroor
Elaha Soroor runs music workshops for women, children and refugees

“The Taliban scare me, but not as much as I scare them,” London-based Soroor , a singer and composer from Afghanistan, told The Big Issue. Soroor entered the public eye when she won Afghan Star in 2009 – a reality TV singing competition now axed by the Taliban. Soroor is an outspoken advocate for justice, and this carries through to her music – in 2010 she released the song Sangsar, which spoke out against stoning laws in Afghanistan. She faced threats to her safety, and was forced to leave. However, she refuses to be silent, continuing to create art and speak out on the Afghan humanitarian crisis.

Alice Rawsthorn and Paola Antonelli

Design critic Alice Rawsthorn and MoMA curator Paola Antonelli last year published Design Emergency: Building a Better Future. “I see [design] as an agent of change,” Rawsthorn told The Big Issue. “If it’s applied intelligently, it can help to ensure that we respond to changes by interpreting them in ways that make our lives better, rather than worse.” It is this sentiment that formed the basis of the book. Spanning four themes: technology, ecology, communication and society, it’s a must-read for anyone interested in the power of creativity to reshape our world for the better.  

Channel 4 campaigners

Near the start of 2022 plans were announced by the government to look into the privatisation of Channel 4. As a public service broadcaster, Channel 4’s remit is to reflect the UK’s cultural diversity, nurture new talent and champion alternative views, with profits reinvested. Privatisation threatened this and campaigners stepped up. Entertainment union Equity, along with anti-privatisation organisation We Own It, were among the most prominent protesters to rally public support. And their efforts appear to have paid off – the government has now backed down. 

World Media Initiatives

Rewriting the script when it comes to young people’s potential, World Media Initiatives (WMI), works with young people in danger of going into custody to teach them the skills of filmmaking. The organisation creates opportunities for young people aged nine to 19 years old, teaching them to write film scripts, prepare storyboards and produce their films which are premiered to family, friends and the community. Investment from Big Issue Invest will help with the creation of the Milton Keynes Film Academy (MKFA), which will offer hands-on experience for those interested in a filmmaking career. 

Tom Gray

Tom Gray
Gray: “Simply because an industry has always been inequitable it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be better, does it?”. Photo: Wikipedia

Gomez bandmember Gray stepped up as chair of the Ivors Academy  in 2021. Since then, he has campaigned for equity in the music industry, and was given the Unsung Hero award by the Music Producers Guild last year. In 2020, he founded #BrokenRecord, which lobbies for music streaming to be regulated. And it has secured big wins: from debt cancellations for artists on major labels (which had prevented them earning royalties from streams); to prompting a parliamentary inquiry. “We can do better for music makers,” Gray said. “The tired cynicism of ‘that’s just how it is’ has had its day.” Remember those words next time you load up Spotify. 

Curating Discomfort, Hunterian Museum

The Hunterian Museum
The Hunterian Museum has some “discomforting provocations” for us

“Museums are political places,” says Curating Discomfort, an initiative at Glasgow’s Hunterian museum. Most people agree racism is unacceptable, but our cultural heritage sites are only now recognising they’re not neutral. Curating Discomfort’s aim is to rewrite the narrative to show how museums act as “monuments to a system that privileges some people over others”, and to take them out of their institutional comfort zone.

Matchbox Cinesub

Film and cinema should be for everyone, and Matchbox Cinesub, a group based in Bristol, is working to make that a reality. The team work with festivals, low-budget filmmakers, venues and distributors to produce subtitling. They’ve worked with names from MUBI to Take One Action Film Festival, and offer workshops for access materials so that subtitling is available to everyone. 

Big House Theatre

Care leavers make up one in four of the homeless population in England. The Big House Theatre work with care leavers at high risk of social exclusion, providing a platform for them to participate in theatre making. “The Big House is a place for people who feel they don’t belong,” one participant said. “It’s like a family. It allows us to show the world we’re not just kids from care, we have feelings and dreams like everyone else.”

Daytimers

Daytimers puts on events, streams, radio and festivals to champion the sounds and stories of the UK’s South Asian diaspora. Fed up with being overlooked by traditional gatekeepers of underground music, the young outfit takes its name from the secret South Asian day raves of the ’80s and ’90s. They raise money for charities and important causes, inclu­ding the floods in Bangladesh in 2022. 

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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