About A Walk in the Park
Taking place as part of our On Queer Ground exhibition which is part of our Summer of Love programme, book a walk with the people listed below to spend time with them and learn more about their story and experiences of being a member or ally of the LGBTQIA+ community.
We will ensure that this is a safe and respectful environment for all who take part. We ask that all participants respect the boundaries established in the descriptions below, and if they wish to ask questions beyond what is described it will be up to each person leading the conversation to decide. The YSP team and people listed below have the right to end the walks early if they feel necessary.
All bookings will require a phone conversation prior to confirmation. To book your place, please email email@example.com with the following information:
Your contact phone number
The person you would like to book time with
Your preferred time slot
Any accessibility requirements that you have so we can support you
We will review your request and call you to talk through details related to your booking before confirming. We can provide you with more information if you have any questions at this point. We will then confirm your booking via email and send you information.
Our library of people who you can book a walk with are listed below. Our library includes 8 people who are members of and allies for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Book 1 - Joe
Joe is a 27-year-old queer man living in Leeds. He has lived in Copenhagen and Munich, before settling in Leeds and finding community through the word ‘queer’. He was a volunteer for the West Yorkshire Queer Stories project, an oral history project that archived a broad range of queer history and experiences in and across West Yorkshire. He currently works as an HIV prevention and support worker for BHA Wakefield, and is part of The Bookish Type’s team, an independent queer bookshop in the Merrion Centre in Leeds.
Joe is happy to talk about his experience of growing up within domestic violence and how this has impacted him. He can also talk with you about his experience of coming out, and how this was only one beginning in an ongoing journey of self-understanding and expression. He can also talk about his reasons for preferring the term ‘queer’ to the term ‘gay’.
Joe loves meeting new people and hearing about their lives, so please don’t be shy, and know that every part of you is welcome.
Book 2 - Emma
Hello, I’m Emma. I am 49 years old and a parent of a gender non-conforming young person. From a young age, they explored different identities from superheroes to dressing as a ballerina monkey. As they got older, naturally they became more comfortable and confident when wearing clothes associated with girls and I was happy to support them in their expression of identity. We worked with their school to make sure that they were supported to express their identity. I tried hard with all my children to be as inclusive and as open as possible, such as ensuring the language I used wasn’t gendered. As they got older, I have reached out for support for me as well. Allowing me to be a positive advocate to support them to be comfortable in who they are and support their siblings and provide a safe place for them to grow up in. Reaching out for support also gave me a place to ask questions and be supported by other parents and carers in a similar situation. My child attends youth groups that look at identity and I often find that I have to speak up for them and other young people in schools and other social settings.
On this walk I am happy to share with you some of my experiences, what I’ve learnt and the joys of supporting a young person find their true self.
Book 3 – Lasha
Lasha, age 34, grew up in post-soviet republic of Georgia in the 90s.
Despite extremely turbulent times, my parents and grandparents managed to provide secure and 'normal life.'
Living with very controlling family and going to very strict school, made me know very little about myself, until I’ve been sent to London in age of 18, where I quickly started exploring and spent the best 3 years of my life. Returning home was very traumatic, going to university to study law made it even worse. It didn’t take too long for my parents to notice how I’ve changed in past 3 years, that’s when real problems started, constant conflicts and arguments with them turned my life into a nightmare.
As soon as I graduated from university, I applied for European Union social and cultural program and went to Estonia for a year. After Estonia I started participating in short term Erasmus programs in Turkey, Sweden and France. It helped to stay away from my family.
Booming homophobia ignited by the Orthodox Church was becoming more and more dangerous, LGBTQ+ people’s lives didn’t matter. From 2015 I actively got involved in LGBTQ+ activism and also appeared in singing competition TV show. In August 2017, I’ve managed to escape from violent homophobia and 7 years later I came back to the UK to find freedom again.
Book 4 – Nicky
Nicky grew up in the French part of Switzerland and has been living in Leeds since 2016.
They are 38 years old and identify as a non-binary, queer, and disabled artist. They are working as a support worker.
Since late childhood and early adolescence, the feeling of being stuck or not 'fitting’ in their sex assigned at birth was present. The sense of gender fluidity gradually became more explicit, until they found the words non-binary and queer.
Disability and a tricky mental health was constantly in their life, and then epilepsy came along. All these layers of their identity are powerful in the sense of fighting against expectations of social western norms.
Their art practice combines a variety of media including text, sound, visual material to produce performances, sound pieces, videos, and sculptures. Nicky is interested in storytelling, dialogue, the language of the body and vulnerability in subjects such as queerness, addiction, childhood, or disability.
They would like to talk about their journey, in particular, how being non-binary affects different parts of their life. Nicky is also happy to talk about the intersection of their disability/long term illness and their queerness. And how as a queer person they are constantly rewriting their own narrative.
Book 5 – Aro (they/ them)
Originally from the northwest (Carlisle, Cumbria), Aro is a queer non-binary person currently living and working in Leeds city centre. Raised in a small rural village, with little to no queer representation, they left their birth home at the first chance when offered a place at art school. Knowing they were different from a young age, never being 'one of the boys’, they knew very early they were queer but with very little positive representation and attending a country school they never had the chance to feel happy about their queer identity, never mind label or understand it. Just starting school in 2003 when Section 28 was lifted, they didn't receive any positive dialogue surrounding LGBT+ into their teen years. For many outsides of rural areas, this may have meant more open conversation on LGBT+ people, though for many of the children outside major cities this had a lasting effect well after 2003. Years of bottled-up feelings of otherness have led to many years of dealing with heavy depression, anxiety, and panic disorders. They moved to Leeds in 2018 to study for an MA and continue their career goals of working in museums and galleries. Since moving they have found a true home and community in Leeds after years of searching - meeting a diverse crowd of people who have offered so many stories and perspectives of queer life and queer joy.
Aro is happy to talk about their journey of accepting their sexuality and gender as well as the many obstacles faced when coming to terms with being queer. They are also happy to talk about their experience of growing up queer in a small town and the mental health issues they have faced.
Book 6 – Andrew (available for sessions 1 & 2 only)
Andrew is a 54-year-old gay man living in Leeds. He is profoundly Deaf and used British Sign Language as his first language to communicate. This alone has caused many challenged for him with discrimination but also being involved in the LQBTQA+ community since the age of 16 which has also made him feel discrimination. Throughout his young adult life, he was told to keep being gay private from others which made him feel uncomfortable and not feel like he is being himself. Andrew is happy to talk about his experiences coming out and the discrimination he has faced.
A British sign language (BSL) interpreter will accompany Andrew to provide interpretation. For this reason this will be a seated conversation rather than a walk.
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Roger Hiorns: A Retrospective View of the Pathway–Roger Hiorns temporarily transforms the familiar YSP landscape with clouds of foam in this interactive artwork as part of the Summer of Love.
On Queer Ground–Rural environments are frequently seen as existing in opposition to queerness, with urban spaces typically being more accepting places for LGBTQIA+ people. This exhibition looks at ways in which queer artists are re-connecting with the landscapes around them by mapping and navigating their queer identity within these places, and disrupting traditional or prescribed ways of looking and understanding.
Jordan McKenzie: Shame Chorus–The feelings that arise from being forced to conceal your sexuality are a theme of McKenzie’s audio work Shame Chorus (2017). The artist refers to American writer Brene´ Brown who says that shame: “needs three things to grow... secrecy, silence and judgment”. These ideas of shame and secrecy resonate with issues that affected Robert Indiana’s own life.
Jason Wilsher-Mills: Jason and his Argonauts in Love–Jason Wilsher-Mills uses iPads and Wacom tablets to create bright, celebratory and poignant works exploring themes of disability. His digital drawings are then translated into huge inflatable works or human-sized fibreglass sculptures. Colourful and bold, his works are acts of activism that are visually captivating and use their joyfulness to begin serious conversations.