Cardiff’s first PROUD exhibition is captivating the city this Pride Month, showcasing the vibrant and diverse lives of the Welsh LGBTQIA+ community. Presented by FOR Cardiff, the exhibition features eight living portraits, each accompanied by an audio-visual trail that offers an intimate glimpse into the personal stories of individuals from various walks of life. The exhibition, a collaboration between FOR Cardiff and Heard Storytelling, aims to highlight the importance of representation and celebrate the rich tapestry of LGBTQIA+ experiences in Wales. From the bustling streets of Pakistan to the vibrant clubs of Cardiff, from hospital waiting rooms to funfairs on Barry Island, these heartfelt stories will take listeners on a journey of self-discovery, resilience, and empowerment.
As part of Visit Wales' Year of Trails theme, the audio-visual trail invites visitors and residents alike to explore Cardiff's city centre and immerse themselves in these genuine and authentic stories. The living portraits serve as captivating focal points, drawing people in and encouraging them to engage with the narratives presented. By scanning the QR code displayed next to each portrait, viewers can access the corresponding individual's true story, further enhancing their understanding and connection with the LGBTQIA+ community. The PROUD exhibition originated in Manchester, courtesy of Heard Storytelling, and has now found its way to Cardiff.
Involved within the diverse range of personal narratives, the exhibition features award-winning author and founder of Drag Queen Story Hour UK, Aida H Dee, also known as Sab Samuels; local artist Nathan Wyburn; and assistant centre director of St David’s Richard Stephens-Knott, with whom we sat down with. He said:
“I am delighted that I’ve been asked to be a part of this exhibition. The main message is that everyone has a story to tell and it’s really important to share.”
Richard's presence in the exhibition is further enriched by the inclusion of his brother, providing a remarkable opportunity to delve into his deeply personal and interconnected coming-out story. As you immerse yourself in Richard's narrative, you'll be privileged to witness the unique perspectives of both brothers, offering a profound and multifaceted exploration of their journey towards self-acceptance and authenticity.
Richard reveals what it was like to see his face on display in the middle of the shopping centre: “It was quite eye-opening! But I stood back after the initial shock and thought wow what an amazing thing this is to be a part of.”
On the reaction and support of sharing his story, Richard shares:
“People have written to me and said they love the connection between me and my brother. The outpouring of support has been amazing and means the world. I am delighted that Heard Storytelling gave me the opportunity to do this. If it resonates with any individual, just one person, and charges their mindset or it starts a conversation then it’s definitely a project worth doing.”
Other prominent shop windows throughout Cardiff city centre, including Lush Spa, St David’s Dewi Sant, and Monmouthshire Building Society, will serve as the exhibition's backdrop. This strategic placement ensures that the living portraits and their accompanying stories are accessible to a wide audience, fostering a sense of inclusivity and understanding within the local community. By bringing the PROUD exhibition to Cardiff, FOR Cardiff and Heard Storytelling aim to create a space where the LGBTQIA+ community can share their experiences openly and authentically. The exhibition serves as a celebration of diversity, resilience, and the power of personal storytelling.
Caroline Dyer and Colette Burroughs-Rose who are the co-directors of Heard Storytelling said: “It was a real privilege and pleasure to curate this exhibition and gather these stories from the LGBTQ+ people of Cardiff. They’re trusting us with something very vulnerable and for people to share their own lived experiences has been an honour.”
The PROUD exhibition in Cardiff represents the first exhibition that Heard Storytelling has established in Wales and Caroline and Colette are very excited about it.
“Other installations and exhibitions have been one person’s story but the twist on this one is that it is a double take on the same story. Being able to hear two people’s perspectives on one moment is something you get to be really creative with.”
The exhibition organisers are driven by a powerful mission to challenge societal perceptions and amplify the voices of marginalised communities. As they passionately state:
"We really want to challenge people's perceptions and platform minority voices. The aim of the exhibition is to strip away what the media is saying and just show that these are people's lived experiences."
With this resolute dedication, the exhibition seeks to create a space where genuine human stories take centre stage, transcending the often distorted narratives perpetuated by the media.
As Cardiff celebrates Pride Month, the PROUD exhibition provides an opportunity for residents and visitors alike to engage with the stories and experiences of the Welsh LGBTQIA+ community. Through this immersive audio-visual trail, the exhibition encourages empathy, understanding, and appreciation of the human experiences that make up our society. It is a reminder that true progress is achieved when every individual's voice is heard and valued. So, take a stroll through Cardiff's city centre, scan the QR codes, and embark on a journey of discovery. Experience the power of storytelling and witness firsthand the beauty and strength of the Welsh LGBTQIA+ community.