For the July edition of queeringborders, I sit with Tarik Elmoutawakil. A curator, producer, artistic director, artist. A visionary. A futuristic alien draped in neon.
Tarik is a rare gem.
A second generation migrant living in Brighton, he has been a Director at the Marlborough Theatre for the past 7 years and was instrumental in establishing that venue as the only QTPoC-focused programming theatre in the UK. Over the years, it has grown its reach and has become a safe haven for the local LGBTQ+ community, where intersections of various different communities and cultures merge.
Even for a perceivably-progressive town as Brighton, it is quite a unique space. Queer-identifying artists from across the UK (and many from various parts of the world) travel to the Marlborough in order to find a space in which they can explore their queer artistic practices in a way that is safe and full of care. It is a beacon of hope for queer artists everywhere and directly responsible for kickstarting various political activism movements in town over the past few years. No other space in Brighton caters directly and prominently to queers, trans people and people of colour, and you only need to walk in the door to find a deep sense of community and friendship with the locals.
Beyond the Marlborough Theatre, Tarik has also recently started to explore his own artistic and curatorial practice, predominantly explored in the huge success that was Brownton Abbey – one of the main events of this year’s Brighton Festival, and one which focused primarily on the celebration of people of colour. The event saw hundreds of people gathering in the main space of the iconic Brighton Dome to experience something never seen in town: a mid-scale event led by artists of colour for artists of colour. International superstar Big Freedia (of ‘I came to slay bitch’ fame in Beyonce’s iconic Formation) lead a bill filled with some of the best artists of colour making performance art, such as Ria Hartley, Rachael Young and Marikiscrycrycry.
A dear friend of mine, Tarik is equally adorable, a good person at heart and a futuristic alien. He resists definition, moving through different spaces with always a smile on his face and a creative mind ready to make everyone at ease and welcome. And he is at the forefront of the current wave of discourse on how venues and events can be diversified across the UK. This is what we focus on in our chat.
We meet at his house, shying away from the incredible heat that is outside, and chat through his experiences of being a person of colour in a predominantly white country (Britain is 87% white) and industry.
Tarik (he/him) is a producer and events manager. He’s become synonymous with The Marlborough having worked there since 2001. Starting out as casual bar staff, by 2008 he took an ambitious leap of faith to hold the reigns of running The Marlborough Theatre, and has never looked back.
In 2014, he returned to work on the bar, only this time taking the role as manager of the Marlborough Pub with David. He loves The Marlborough, and all the people that go there. Sometimes he talks to the bricks and mortar.