Q&A with Duckie’s Amy Lamé and Dicky Eton

This summer will see the streets of Hull bursting with pride to host LGBT50, a festival celebrating the 50th anniversary of sexual freedom in the UK with a jam-packed programme of music, dance, theatre, comedy, film and photography.

The week-long celebration (from Saturday 22 to Saturday 29 July) will kick off with Pride in Hull, hosting the first ever UK Pride and featuring a parade of 50 Queers for 50 Years by iconic queer performance collective, Duckie. The festival will close with A Duckie Summer Tea Party, followed by a concert broadcast live on BBC Radio 2.

We caught up with Duckie’s co-founder and hostess Amy Lamé and producer Dicky Eton to find out what homo-social stardust and sparkle they will be delighting us with in July…

Can you tell us about Duckie and what you do?

Dicky: We are a homo-social honky-tonk and we make performance clubs and spectacular shows.  It’s my job as producer to make sure that what we deliver lives up to this promise. I work with artists, venues, commissioning partners and volunteers to deliver a top-notch event each time we open the doors – and we have been opening the doors on our work for over 21 years now.

We wanted to see crazy arty shows, dance to The Smiths and swill beer. It turned out there were a lot of other queer people who felt the same way.

– Amy Lam

How did Duckie first come to fruition?

Amy: We were fed up with the homo-monoculture on offer on the gay scene in the mid-1990s.  We wanted to see crazy arty shows, dance to The Smiths and swill beer. It turned out there were a lot of other queer people who felt the same way.

Dicky: I wasn’t there at the birth of Duckie in 1995, but history tells me that Duckie was a big hit at the time, with queues around the block from the outset. Our work over the past few years has developed and expanded into several strands and now includes a lot of LGBTQ heritage and social history mixing with our quirky performance art shows, plus a gaggle of what we call ‘socially engaged clubs’ – all our clubs try to bring about a bit of community solidarity – something London’s not that famous for.

Duckie turned 21 last year, and this year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the start of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK. What changes have you seen since Duckie was born, and what changes do you hope we’ll see soon?

Amy: Well, when we started Duckie, Section 28 was still in existence, the age of consent for gay men was 21. The idea of civil partnerships, let alone marrying, was just a pipe dream.  It wasn’t until the Labour Party put LGBT equality into their election manifesto and came into power in 1997 that many homophobic laws were repealed and pro-equality laws came into being.

Dicky:  I hope that as a queer nation over the next 50 years, the mixing together of communities will be the norm – including the mixing of all genders, all ethnicities and all ages.

We’re looking forward to Hull Pride and 50 Queers for 50 Yearsfeaturing 50 handmade and oversized LGBT icons. Can you tell us more about these? 

Dicky: Design-meister Robin Whitmore has been engaging with the local community to create 50 LGBT icons. Expect a succession of stately homos from England – Dusty Springfield to Freddie Mercury and Clare Balding to Quentin Crisp – taking over the streets of Hull like a Spanish religious festival displaying fantastical outsized creations, with a few Hull icons thrown in for good measure.

We’ve created a new queer family, and that is incredibly powerful.

Amy Lam

Who are your top LGBT icons and why?

Amy: There are so many to choose from, it’s difficult! But I particularly admire Dusty Springfield, Divine and Kate Bornstein.  For me, they are the queer Holy Trinity.

Dicky: I hail from Rochdale and so my favourite icon is Bet Lynch from Coronation Street.  I don’t think she is queer, but she’s definitely a queer icon.

Rounding off our week of LGBT 50 celebrations, you’ll be bringing A Duckie Summer Tea Party to Queen Victoria Square with a new work by Gary Clarke and Yorkshire Dance. Tell us more!

Dicky:  At Duckie we are always looking at ways to subvert and change what people expect of our community, and so we have looked at an alternate vision for celebrating LGBT50 in Hull. What better way than inviting Hull to Duckie’s Summer Tea Party, where you can sip tea and nibble on a French fancy served up by fancy waiters in black tie?

You can gossip with your friends and take in a stage performance, dance to the live band or gaze at some of the 50 icons from the previous week’s parade. Be enthralled by the new work from Gary Clark and Yorkshire Dance and participate in the mass dance, or just people-watch. It’s family friendly and full of fun… because fun is what we are all about, baby!

Pop in to one of Duckie’s 50 Queers for 50 Years workshops at 95 Jameson Street on Thursdays and Fridays from 4pm to 7pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 2pm to 5pm, and join us, Duckie and the 50 queer icons for the Pride In Hull parade on Saturday 22 July.