TURN ON FEST: Development Grants Spotlight

23rd March 2021

The Development Grant Programme

The Development Grant programme has, for the past two consecutive years, been the beating heart of TURN ON FEST’s mission to celebrate emerging and established LGBTQIA artists from across our vibrant city.

In the debut TURN ON FEST, an array of local artists took to the mill to showcase their new work, including: Mandla Rae’s premiere of ‘as british as a watermelon’, dynamic collaborative dance piece ‘Nobody’s Watching’, Jason Andrew Guest’s breath-taking ‘MindGames’ and Jaheda Choudhury-Potter’s exploration of the intersection between arranged marriage and LGBTQIA equality.

This year, our four artists – Suriya Aisha, Finley Letchford-Dobbs, Emma Hinds and Maz Hedgehog – will present their work digitally, sharing drama, dance and poetry streamed directly into audience’s homes.


The Process

At TURN ON FEST, we welcome applications for our Development Grant opportunity from artists at all stages of maturity from all corners of Greater Manchester.

In the spirit of openness, our application and selection processes are simple; an outline of your proposed project and an initial meeting to delve deeper into the themes and passions that drive the piece.


Who We’re Looking For

To us, the who is much less important than the what. And, as a team, our eyes are peeled for fresh stories, unique perspectives and the desire to simultaneously challenge and unite audiences.

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, we have been inspired by the tenacity, flexibility and boldness of our Development Grant artists to create and share their work in the face of the pandemic.

Fostering creativity and navigating the logistics of pursuing art throughout COVID has been no mean feat, and we applaud each and every person involved in TURN ON FEST’s Development Grant programme this year.


What to Expect from This Year’s Artists

Finley Letchford-Dobbs

Finley Letchford-Dobbs is an independent artist using dance and photography as his mediums. Often of an intimatenature, his personal work stems from his own lived experiences, which he describes as a form of therapy for himself, while also being tools to influence change through the educating narratives of his work.

In Voyage, Finley regains control of his narrative as a trans person through dramatized contemporary dance, music and video, a bold reclamation of power in a world that desperately tries to silence him.

Keep your eyes peeled for a live Q&A with Finley, with access granted to ticket holders immediately after the digital sharing.

Tickets available via Stream Theatre.


Suriya Aisha

Suriya Aisha’s work originates in poetry, but she has worked across wider disciplines including theatre, live art and spoken word. Suriya has worked as a creative producer and workshop facilitator primarily with young people in a wide range of context and she is passionate about equal opportunities and representation, having launched a peer and social support network – UNMUTED for young people of colour who identify as LGBTQIA. She is also Co-Director of Colours Youth Network UK, Co-Director of House of Noir and Chair of Don’t Settle Consortium’s Board,

Dead Certain, a new short play by Suriya, explores what’s behind the scenes of a dream relationship, and the consequences of putting the perfect planned life to the test.

Make sure to tune in for this early stage sharing of Suriya’s new writing, starring Brianna Douglas and Yandass Ndlovu.

Tickets available via Stream Theatre.


Maz Hedgehog

Maz is a writer, spoken word poet and educator based in Manchester. Maz has been performing for several years in places like the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and The Manchester International Festival, as well as theatres, open mic nights and events all over England. Maz’s recent work has appeared in magazines like the Saboteur Award Shortlisted Riggwelter Press and Hugo Finalist FIYAH Lit Mag and her debut chapbook, Vivat Regina, was published by Superbia Books.

In Let Me Count the Ways, Maz uses poetry and monologue to examine intimacy, boundaries, the ways we love and the ways we can heal.

Let Me Count the Ways will be followed by a post-show Q&A, with access granted to ticket holders immediately after the digital sharing.

Tickets available via Stream Theatre.


Emma Hinds

Emma is a fiction writer and playwright living and working in the North of England. She graduated from St. AndrewsUniversity with an MLitt. in Creative Writing in 2014. She focuses on historical narratives, female voices, and queer stories. She was longlisted for BBC Writersroom and has been part of the Write Now Penguin and Random House project. In 2020, she was longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition.

Written by Emma, PURE is an exploration of sexuality and gender in the Christian church, amplifying the true stories of real women from inside these communities.

Joining Emma for a post-show panel will be Dramaturg Sam Redway and spiritual mentor Rachel Mann, with access granted to ticket holders immediately after the digital sharing.

Tickets available via Stream Theatre.


Carving out space for artists to get under the skin of challenging themes is the sole aim of the Development Grant programme, and we can’t wait to nurture more talent as the festival grows, matures and becomes a well-anchored fixture in Manchester’s LGBTQIA arts and culture calendar.

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