The Boy and The Bear — A Film by Rose Collis

Graham Robson February 14, 2021

As part of her ongoing Arts Council England-funded Forty Years Out (And Counting): Performing The Archive multi-media project, The Boy and The Bear was written, performed, recorded, edited, arranged and produced by Seaford-based performer and writer Rose Collis during the 2020-21 lockdown.

Rose Collis aged 19 in 1979

It was inspired by, and draws on, sections of the research and script development of her new solo stage show (now postponed until 2022) — a scripted and performed audio-visual account of the rich personal and political journey taken by Rose Collis and her then closest gay male friend, who both came out in 1978.

The personal stories unwind against a social and political backdrop and context of early Gay Pride marches; police harassment; anti-fascist/anti-racist activism; ‘agit-prop’ gay and feminist theatre; the London lesbian and gay scene and media of the late 1970s and early 1980s; and the first decade of the AIDS crisis — all viewed through the lens of a veteran lesbian writer, performer and activist who participated, witnessed and chronicled these events.

Rose’s still-intact souvenir bag from Gay Pride 1979

Funny, provocative and moving, the film includes personal testimony, letters, photographs, diaries, ephemera, news cuttings and others materials from the extensive archive of Rose Collis curated over five decades, plus some of her original music.

“It’s rather funny how this film came about”, Rose Collis wryly reflects. “Once lockdown came and I had to postpone the stage show, I had to think about delivering different project outcomes. Arts Council England was very flexible about re-purposing my Project Grant to buy relevant equipment.

“So — for less than £500 in total — I bought a complete podcast/audio recording equipment kit; a Canon professional quality digital video camera kit; a digital projector, stand and tripod project screen, and downloaded the free Windows Movie Maker video software and Audacity professional audio recording software.

Daily Mail headline

“I immediately saw the potential of simple audio-visual digital pieces and originally envisaged doing a series of five-minute, ‘straight-to-PC-camera’ vlogs. But then I realised just as quickly how boring that would be for audiences — and for me. I mean, that sort of piece is all well and good, but I think after several months of watching people do that, I figured that audiences might want something a little more interesting to watch or listen to, and I certainly wanted to work on something more challenging.

“After that, it took on a life of its own — and this film is the result. It’s been really exciting to teach myself how to use all this fabulous equipment and software, especially as it presents me with new opportunities to take work to global public audiences, now and in the future.

“And I did it all here from my desk at home in Seaford. What’s not to like?!

Sylvester’s panel on The AIDS Quilt (photographed by Rose when it came to London in the early 1990s)

“I hope what I’ve done inspires other, older women artists to be confident about embracing digital equipment and technology to create their work, and tell more women’s stories. We are 51.9% of the population — the majority, treated like a minority, and our histories are so often overlooked, hidden or forgotten.

“And I’m already planning my next film project — so watch this space!’

The Boy and The Bear  by Rose Collis will be available on YouTube from February 21. CLICK HERE to see it.

For more information about Rose Collis and her work, CLICK HERE 

‘Time Out’ issue for Gay Pride 1979