New Chapter for Brighton’s Queer Cultural Innovators

June 11, 2020

Marlborough Productions, the company behind the Marlborough Pub & Theatre’s renowned cultural programme, has announced it has ceased management of the historic LGBTQ+ Brighton venue.

The company will instead present its internationally recognised performances, parties and community gatherings at venues and spaces in Brighton & Hove. Many events are to be held within the atmospheric surroundings of The Spire, Kemptown’s Grade II listed, deconsecrated church venue, while Marlborough Productions continues to develop both local and touring projects.

Details are to be announced of “bold, new LGBTQ+ work” that will be produced in the months ahead . While Marlborough Productions’ 2020 live programme is on hold as the world struggles with the Covid-19 crisis, the company is delivering cultural and community projects online including Radical Rhizomes: Brighton & Hove’s social network for queer trans & intersex people of colour; monthly talks exploring the city’s hidden queer heritage; a new digital commission from award-winning performance artist Harry Clayton-Wright, plus a series of internationally focused, digital events exploring queer creativity and resilience through the pandemic. Seed commissioning opportunities for LGBTQ+ artists plus a digital version of Brownton Abbey are also to be announced soon.

This film was made to promote Radical Rhizomes for Brighton Pride last year:

Tarik Elmoutawakil & David Sheppeard became co-artistic directors of Marlborough Productions in 2008. Their creative vision and inclusive, nurturing approach has enhanced the careers of hundreds of LGBTQ+ artists. Many, such as Travis Alabanza, Emma Frankland, Lucy McCormick, Harry Clayton-Wright and Rachael Young have become high profile within UK queer culture.

Marlborough Productions has also hosted international and established performers including Justin Vivian Bond, Big Freedia, Mykki Blanco, Bette Bourne, David Hoyle, Le Gateau Chocolat, Scottee, KUCHENGA, Lorraine Bowen and Kate Bornstein among others, working with key local partners including Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts and Brighton Dome & Festival.

Significantly, the organisation also expanded its Trans Pride and Brighton Pride events into radical celebrations in recent years, particularly at a time when the trans community began to feel less welcome in standard LGBT+ spaces. Trans Pride in the UK was initiated in Brighton and The Marlborough has, to date, been the march’s initial meeting point.

Providing a welcoming, safe environment and taking a specific interest in the intersection between LGBTQ+ and BAME identities, Marlborough Productions has historically recognised these communities as pivotal in the organisation’s evolving programme, as well as at the Trans Pride and Brighton Pride parties.

Tarik Elmoutawakil and David Sheppeard, co-artistic directors, say: “After ten years and hundreds of performances we made the difficult decision to leave the Marlborough Pub & Theatre. We are so proud of the artists who contributed to the creative life of the building, the cultural life of the city and the community that has made it their queer home. We want to thank our team members past and present for all they have done in supporting The Marlborough and making it one of the most radical and joyful venues in the UK. We recognise the achievements of The Marlborough would not have been possible without the bravery and unending creativity of the Black and brown, queer, trans and non-binary artists and communities. We compel all arts organisations to do the vital and necessary work to dismantle structurally racist hierarchies within our sector and across society.

“As a small, LGBTQ+ led organisation with a commitment to inclusive and accessible programming we have done all we can to influence The Marlborough’s leaseholder, Laine Pub Co, to improve access and look after this historic building, which dates back to 1784. We have come to the difficult conclusion that the building is no longer fit for purpose for the communities we serve. In spite of current circumstances with the Covid crisis, we are actively pursuing opportunities to develop an accessible LGBTQ+ community space that is so needed in the city. If you or anyone you know can help us achieve this aim, we’d love to hear from you.

“We hope that Laine will look after The Marlborough Pub and Theatre, treasured by many, and that the new management will uphold our values. Covid-19 has put pubs, bars and the entire hospitality sector under enormous strain, it has also had a particular impact on the most marginalised members of the LGBTQ+ communities. When it is safe to do so we encourage that the community come together to support the LGBTQ+ spaces that matter to us and that make Brighton & Hove so unique.”

Marlborough Productions is thrilled by the support received so far for this new chapter from partners across Brighton & Hove and more widely across the UK. The company looks forward to continuing its trailblazing work in the future.

All information about upcoming Marlborough Productions work can be found on their new website

Social media channels:

To get in touch with Marlborough Productions


David Hoyle: “Under the management of David Sheppeard and Tarik Elmoutawakil the Marlborough has been a crucible of magic and equality. I owe it a huge, personal debt of gratitude for the creative opportunities it has afforded me. David and Tarik are also wonderful facilitators, producers and supportive to marginalised communities, they give me hope for the future”

Juno Dawson: “David and Tarik work tirelessly to showcase diverse, up-and-coming talent from all around the globe. The works are groundbreaking, thought-provoking and challenging; everything art should be. They’ll continue to put Brighton on the cultural map in this new phase.”

Le Gateau Chocolat: “The Marlborough, under David Sheppeard and Tarik Elmoutawakil, has been essential in scaffolding and platforming the works and practices of the LGBTQ+ community. Not just of artists in Brighton but from all over the country and international imports as well. Personally, as an arts institution, they supported my development by offering in kind help whenever I needed it; the valuable resource of space for rehearsal, research and development and tech support. This assistance provided much needed security as I navigated the evolution of my work and practice from small to mid-scale. A beacon, and haven, of queer arts, diversity inclusivity and identity.”

Boogaloo Stu: “Over the past decade David and Tarik have revived the very soul of this battered old beauty, bringing it back to life as a unique glittering polestar for queer life in Brighton and beyond. I am thrilled and honoured to have been a part of their journey.”