Watch a queer version of the Queen’s speech with Britain’s LGBTQ+ icons

Rina Sawayama, Gareth Pugh, Munroe Bergdorf, and more broadcast an important message about queer resistance in the Qweens’ Speech

Who should speak on the future of the UK? It’s certainly not the Queen, whose primetime Christmas slot is filled with milquetoast promises and hopes for a ‘better Britain’ and ‘peace and prosperity’ – in a country run by the Tories and decimated by austerity, words from a reptilian relic feel pretty hollow. 

Qweens’ Speech, a film by filmmakers Zhang & Knight, creative agency ACNE, and Dazed, seeks to highlight the more urgent and alternative message that the UK needs to hear – that of queer liberation, the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, and solidarity with people of all sexualities and identities. “Let 2020 be the year of the United Queendom,” says Munroe Bergdorf, an activist, model, and LGBTQ+ advocate, swathed in royal garb in the film. “Long live our Qweens.”

Using royal photographer Cecil Beaton’s portrait of Princess Margaret as a visual reference point, a series of majestic tableaux with figures – our Qweens – from across contemporary queer culture play out, a cast in royal costume: illustrator Kate Moross addresses us; performer and author Crystal Rasmussen and musician Sam Smith champion queer bodies, the gender revolution, and the moves to redefine identities – ‘they’ as a pronoun becoming 2019’s word of the year is a cornerstone. Designer Gareth Pugh highlights the move towards marriage equality for the first time this year. Pop star Rina Sawayama warns us of ongoing fights surrounding LGBTQ+ education in Birmingham schools. Poet Kai-Isaiah Jamal states with conviction: “Truth is, I haven’t the energy for another panel to tell me I am not man enough for this world.”

“In really difficult times, culture thrives” – Munroe Bergdorf

“We came together to develop the concept of deconstruction,” ACNE executive producer Jack Howard explains, “deconstructing traditions, deconstructing the patriarchy, deconstructing queendom”. The film was shot in a disused warehouse, lent to the team by Fabrix. As the speech unravels, scene by scene, the Qweens come together in a final shot to look forward into the next decade of queer representation, resistance, and rebellion.

“Going forward, we must stand together, strong. The future is ours for the taking,” says Lady Phyll, so-called because as the founder of UK Black Pride, she turned down an MBE on the Queen’s 2016 New Year’s Honours list. 

The last ten years has been a long time for those trapped in the throws of history. Ten years for queer people can be a whole lifetime, or several: new identities, new bodies, new families. It’s also been a fraught decade – fighting for trans rights, for marriage equality, against waves of hate crimes. Queer culture has also infiltrated the mainstream – we have Drag Queens on the BBC and queer singers winning Grammys and Oscars, a lot of things seem impossible from the perspective of 2010. The end of a decade might be arbitrary in real terms, but it begs for reflection as we move to the next.

“In really difficult times, culture thrives,” reflects Bergdorf, who has taken more than her fair share of the struggle over the last few years. “It’s our community that makes us strong.” 

Among the Qweens delivering their captivating oratory, we have trans, gay, lesbian, pan, drag, non-binary, butch, and femme figures. For all the words we’ve come to learn over the last decade, one proliferates over them all: ‘queer’ was still a slur in the most recent times, that many still baulk at its sound. But to those who own it, ‘queer’ means power, it means unity, resistance in the face of division. On the set of the Qweens’ Speech, queerness is what – in 2019 – brings our cast into the same frame.

Watch the film above.