Rose Collis began her activism in the late 1970s and this has often been linked strongly to her work as a performer and writer (also see the sections Stage – Past and Page – Journalism)
It included serving as a member of the GLC Women’s Committee, and participation of events by campaign groups Women in Entertainment, Wimbledon Women for Peace and Rock Against Racism.
Her performance activism has included many benefits, such as Outrage! magazine, Lesbians and Gays Support The Miners and the Greenham Common women.
This section features more recent community and political activities.
ROSE COLLIS FEATURED IN ISLINGTON PRIDE’S HERITAGE MAP
The project has created a Digital Landscape around the borough that highlights important locations in LGBTQ+ heritage. This trail will allow residents and visitors of Islington to gain a greater insight into LGBTQ+ history and to highlight the importance of the subject in the borough’s heritage landscape.
Rose Collis has contributed an extensive oral history to the Islington’s Pride project, which can be found at the Islington Local History Centre at 245 St. John Street.
An extract can be heard here: https://youtu.be/Il8e5MoTyjc
This Q&A session was part of the OUTing the Past Festival programme at the Higgins Bedford Museum during LGBTQ+ History Month 2021:
On February 21, 2021, Rose Collis delivered a bespoke 30-minute live, illustrated presentation via Facebook Live, on a specific subject pertaining to the themes/subjects of Forty Years Out (And Counting): Performing The Archive. This was the Maupin Marathon reading to support Gay’s the Word bookshop in its battle with Customs & Excise.
In April 1984, Customs and Excise raided Gay’s the Word and the homes of three of its directors, including the two managers, Paud Hegarty and Amanda Russell. The operation codename was Operation Tiger. Almost every title that the shop had imported from the US was seized, comprising 142 titles, and 2,265 separate items. The books included: Feminism in the 80s, The Rose Exterminator, The Joy of Gay Sex, The Joy of Lesbian Sex, plus works by Robin Maugham, Gore Vidal, Lilian Faderman, Jean Genet, — and Armistead Maupin. The shop’s directors and managers faced 100 criminal charges relating to the importing of ‘indecent or obscene material’. To fight the charges, it was going to cost approximately £50,000 in legal costs — equivalent to over £160,000 today.
Numerous benefit events were held, but one of the most successful fundraising events was the Maupin Marathon, a 36-hour non-stop reading of the first four of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books on the weekend of 27/28 April 1985 at the Fallen Angel, starting at noon on the Saturday. This comprised 945 pages, 379 chapters, with a cast of thirteen reading over 200 parts.
The readings took 28 hours, 33 minutes and 48 seconds. This single event raised more than £2,800 for the GTW Defence Word. That brought the defence fund to £27,000 — more than half of its target. After a legal battle lasting nearly two years, all charges were dropped
Participants from around the world attended this Facebook event, including Armistead Maupin himself.
An edited version of this is now available on Rose Collis’s YouTube channel, and she will soon be creating a documentary film based on this:
The Boy and The Bear was chosen to be part of the digital programmes for the international Outing The Past Festival 2021 at Higgins Bedford Museum, with a live Zoom Q&A held on February 20, and as part of the Shropshire LGBT History Month Festival.
From 2019-2021, Rose Collis served as an elected member of the Equity Women’s Committee.
During this time, her contributions included:
Being a delegate at the TUC Women’s Conference 2020 (above), and speaking to the Equity motion on body image, based on Making An Appearance data was collated from responses by nearly 400 professional UK performers and was a joint collaboration between the Equity Women’s Committee and the Centre for Contemporary British Theatre at Royal Holloway University. It examined the emotional, mental and financial cost of ‘aesthetic labour’ in the entertainment industry.
Attending the Women Centre Stage Forum: What Share Of The Cake?, February 25 2020, Trafalgar Studio 2, London, organised by Sphinx Theatre. Rose wrote an extensive report on the event which was circulated to Equity staff and branches. All the published Sphinx reports and research can be viewed here: https://sphinxtheatre.co.uk/the-research-reports/
On November 24 2020, Rose Collis delivered an informative and entertaining Zoom session, sharing her expertise and experience of Arts Council England funding processes and strategies. Since March 2020, changes had been made to Arts Council England’s funding procedures which some Equity women members may not be aware of and Rose offered a free summary of the changes to ACE Project Funding and Developing Your Creative Practice (DYCP), followed by a Q&A. This event was described by veteran director and producer Faynia Williams as ‘the most helpful meeting I’ve ever been to’.
In February 2020, Rose Collis was one of five writers featured in the photographic exhibition The Exponent of Breath, displayed in the Main Windows Jubilee Library, Brighton:
The continued imbalance of gender representation within the arts is an issue all too often ignored. For LGBTQ History Month 2020 we present portraits of LGBTQ+ people who are conserving, creating and making histories today, and herstories are our focus. We remind ourselves that without our own writers writing our own stories, we get written out of history completely.
We choose five voices who write themselves back in. All women – all local. They are playwright, writer, biographer, author, performer and theatre-maker, educator, archivist.
Portraits of five living LGBTQ creatives from Sussex who look back at us, asking ‘what you looking at?’ Displayed alongside examples of their writing, poetry and plays, giving us opportunity to see the people behind the craft and get scrutinized by the unblinking people who we normally watch.
On December 22 2020, Rose Collis performed a bespoke set about famed pantomime dame Douglas Byng as part of the Legends and Legacies Ball at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.
Legends and Legacies is an initiative kick-started by Xnthony with Opening Doors London. A celebration of older LGBT people: the initiative offers to support and develop the stage craft of its participants, showcasing these legendary queer performers on big stages.
In 2019 The Legends and Legacies initiative was commissioned by Lewisham Borough and the Albany Theatre as part of the ‘Age Against The Machine’ Festival.
The Southbank Centre went on to commission a Christmas special in December 2019.
On October 12 2019, Rose Collis hosted a popular and lively workshop, Forty Years Out (And Counting): Exploring The Archive, at the London Metropolitan Archives.
Participant feedback included:
Kelly Burke, Chair, Equity Women’s Committee: This is a comprehensive and extraordinary archive which should be shared as widely as possible. A show based on this material would give people straightforward, engaging, essential access to an invaluable piece of LGBT+ — and British — history. We can’t wait to see it.
Abiola Ogunbiyi, Vice-Chair, Equity Women’s Committee: Rose’s workshop at the London Metropolitan Archives was an incredibly engaging, enlightening, and entertaining morning. In this digital age, it was remarkable to see (and touch very delicately) such extensive archived material, which only goes to show Rose’s commitment and dedication to the issues she has experienced both personally, and in her professional career in journalism. This archive shows the importance in recognising the activism undertaken across a wide range of cities and, more urgently so, reminds us that these are not new fights, and that people who have been on the frontlines for years have more to teach us than we are taught to recognise. This workshop and its material are marvellously put together, and our cultural landscape would be all the richer with a performance based on this collection and its stories. Thank you Rose for such an insightful and passionately delivered workshop.
Ralph Day, PhD candidate, Birkbeck, University of London: I just wanted to say how great your presentation was at the London Metropolitan Archives on Saturday. I think audience members across the spectrum of ages, backgrounds, identities and out-ness will be really encouraged and energised by your confidence and enthusiasm. I think this kind of encounter can have a special kind of liberationary value. Bravo!