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Carson McColl Gareth Pugh LGBTQ Soul of a Movement
Courtesy of Gareth Pugh and Carson McColl

New film Soul of a Movement spotlights the fight for queer liberation

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, Gareth Pugh and Carson McColl present a radical, poignant short highlighting the LGBTQ+ community’s ongoing battle for acceptance

The memorial fountain dedicated to trailblazing trans activist and Stonewall Riot veteran Marsha P Johnson – dubbed the Rosa Parks of the LGBTQ+ movement – lays at the end of Christopher Street in New York, overlooking the Hudson River where she was found dead in 1992, and marks the point at which the inspiration for Gareth Pugh and Carson McColl’s latest project struck. 

“We were in New York doing some research and trying to figure out how to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, and as part of that we decided to visit the memorial,” explains McColl. “In reality, it was just a poorly maintained blue tiled fountain which isn’t even marked with a sign. It just didn’t feel fitting for one of the major heroes of the movement to be celebrated this way, so we started thinking about how we could create something that might honour her legacy, and all of those who have fought tooth and nail for our rights over the past fifty years.” 

The result of that is a short film, Soul of a Movement, which was shot in partnership with MAC Viva Glam in just four days in various locations around the UK. Though the idea was born in America, both Pugh and McColl felt it was important to highlight the fact this is a global issue, and the queer community’s fight for tolerance and acceptance is ongoing both in Britain and around the world.

They were also intent on opening up their own platform to those without their own. “Soul of a Movement is about examining what it is that’s at the heart of the queer liberation movement – it’s essentially a non-profit, multi-disciplinary art project, made up of a community of voices, including artists, activists, and allies.  

Stopping in Belfast, Glasgow, Sunderland, and eventually London – with each destination imbued with personal poignancy – Pugh and McColl staged a series of events, activations, and discussions with those trying to push things forward. “The locations we chose were significant to us: Glasgow and Sunderland are our hometowns and where we grew up, and London is where we live today. We also chose Belfast because we know that Northern Ireland is a particularly hostile environment to be queer. That said, we had no idea just how much pressure the community in Northern Ireland is under, which just highlights how much work is still to be done.” 

With the Soul of a Movement trailer making its debut on Dazed today, the short film is due to premiere at the end of July – though McColl describes this as ‘just the beginning’. “We’re already working with Prettybird (production company) on the next phase of the project, and developing the concept for a full-length feature.” As he succinctly puts it, “This fight is our fight and it’s far from over.”

Watch the trailer below.