If someone says ‘archive’, what’s the first thing that pops to mind? Museums? Dusty old books? Cassette tapes in boxes (showing my age there)?
Banish those things from your memory, and get ready to open your eyes to new, exciting history-in-the-making: Somewhere to Belong, the Bi+ Archive. Founded by producer Laura Furner and ‘performy writery’ puppeteer Kim Scopes (her own words), the archive features the lives and stories of bi, pan and queer folks across the globe, and has even ballooned into its own hit show (also called Somewhere To Belong).
We sat down with Kim and Laura to chat about the interviews, the archives, and how Kim rocks a unicorn suit with fierce abandon in the show.
Image by Jack Parker
NB: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity
U: Welcome to Unicorn to you both! First off, talk me through the process – how did Something To Belong first begin?
Laura: Well, as usually happens with ideas between me and Kim, we were in the pub…! We were talking about making a show about bisexuality, and about how to feel ‘bisexual enough’ or ‘queer enough’ to make that sort of show: ‘because we both identify as bisexual, does it allow us to make this sort of show?’ We chatted about it and thought ‘yes, definitely, but we’d like to talk to some other people too.’
Kim: We were very keen on making a show that wasn’t just about one person or two people’s particular experience. It was important that the show was about more than us.
U: When was that moment when it shifted and you went from collecting different views to ‘OK, we’re going to build an archive’?
Laura: We developed this idea of talking to people who are attracted to more than one gender, saying ‘can I talk to you about what that’s like?’ with a series of questions. We thought that it was just gonna be our mates and people that we knew, but we did a call-out on Twitter and Instagram, and it kind of exploded. It ended up becoming this global community of people who were all really interested in sharing their story with us.
Kim: We started talking to so many people, then realising ‘what are we gonna do with all this stuff?’ We came up with the idea of an archive to make sure that for everyone who wanted it, their story was heard. In the beginning when we first started it, I think I thought of that as being the smaller part of the project in my brain. Now, it’s just as big if not bigger than the show, which is amazing. People seem to have got so much out of it and I’m so glad that we have done it.
Laura: Kim did the vast majority of the interviews with people…
Kim: …and Laura put so much work into the consent form and the legality and the ethics and the question forming.
Laura: All really cool stuff! (does a ‘rock on’ sign)
Screenshot from Somewhere To Belong – A Bi+ Archive
U: (Laughing) And how about the results? How has it felt seeing the finished interviews?
Laura: They’re amazing, and each became these little nuggets of joy where you got to speak to someone.
Kim: Every interview that we’ve done has been so different, but there are so many similarities as well. We both have felt in the past that we don’t really ‘qualify’ as bi or queer in terms of ‘are we valid in the community’, and a lot of that kind of imposter syndrome I think a lot of queer people get.
U: So have they given you any food for thought as a result, then? What did you take away from the interviews?
Laura: I think for me, I had never fully understood why someone might prefer to refer themselves as pansexual rather than bisexual, because I think I come from a slightly different generation where ‘pansexual’ wasn’t something I was aware of or knew about. The more I spoke to people about labels and categories, the more it made me realise that, for me personally, any of them kind of work. There’s something about the way we choose to label multi-gender attraction that’s really interesting that I haven’t quite worked out for myself yet.
One of the first things we ask people is, ‘how do you identify? Tell us about your sexuality.’ And you naturally just go ‘I’m biromantic asexual’ or whatever. And it’s really interesting unpicking why do I align with, for example, bisexuality above and beyond those other labels when they work just as well?
There’s one person that we spoke to who was fantastic, and they said ‘I’m just… I’m in love with people. I’m peoplesexual: I am attracted to people because I find them visually attractive and I think that they’re great people.’ That was really interesting to me, so I think that has helped me unpack a little bit about how I think of the different labels for multi-gender attraction.
Kim: To be honest, I was just thinking that I completely agree with everything you said, Laura, and I couldn’t think of anything to add to it. So I’m going to have to be the annoying person and go ‘ditto’! (everyone laughs)
It’s been really interesting talking to people and having this sensation, going ‘I know you’re over here and you’re over here’ so you kind of find where you put your pin in your map a bit more from talking to other people. It’s all relative, right?
Filmed and edited by Jack Parker
U: Absolutely. So that’s the archive… but from it came the show! Before we get stuck in, I have to ask something about the trailer, just because we’re of course Unicorns ourselves: did you already own that onesie, or was it bought specifically?
Kim: 50-50. I wanted it anyway, and I justified it with the show. I have two onesies: one’s a tiger onesie, and I really wanted a tiger or a unicorn. And then we had this idea for playing around with this ‘unicorn’ metaphor in the show, and I thought ‘I know exactly what I’m gonna buy…’. It’s a very warm onesie, very warm. I do love it.
We filmed the trailer in Brighton, and it was the hottest day of the year and also the day of the Euros. So there were quite a few drunk men around, and we ended up kind of running away from a lot of people occasionally going ‘ooh, I’m just gonna go down this street’ because I was dressed as a unicorn, and you know, football fans and unicorns mix really well…
M: I’m not gonna lie, it does feel somewhat metaphorical that filming the trailer, you were a bi unicorn sprinting away from hordes of drunk men…
Kim: Mostly to people going ‘where have you been all my life!’ I was like, ‘fuck off!’ (laughs)
U: So unicorns aside, the show has been a great hit so far. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Laura: Kim, I wanna hear your elevator pitch!
Kim: Ah, mate… OK, ah, right, thank you.
U: Should I put 30 seconds on the clock?
Kim: No, don’t! (Laughs) So Somewhere To Belong is a show based on the responses of our participants, so it’s a very abstract, silly, fun show. We wanted it to be more about the celebration of being what we are, rather than the struggles and the stigma. Not that we’re ignoring those struggles, but we didn’t want it to be another show where ‘oh, a queer person dies at the end’. We wanted it to be the queer person wins at the end.
We were talking a lot about what metaphors work for the ridiculous situations we find ourselves in as bi people, when people find out that we’re bi and you’re asked on the spot ‘what does that mean? Does that mean this?’, and how it felt: like you’re being put on the spot very quickly in abstract situations. So the show takes the form of a game-show, that the character CK is forced to partake in whether they want to or not.
If you like Taskmaster, you’ll love the show, because it just makes no sense in the best possible way. It’s very heavy on interaction with the audience about being the butt of the joke and why are we the butt of the joke, and challenging these stupid stereotypes that we have. That is my elevator pitch.
U: Epic. Anything to add, Laura?
Laura: As Kim says, we saw such consistent themes come up in these conversations with people about bi erasure, feeling invisible, there were so many things that happened over and over again, being put in the same situation despite being from completely different walks of life. When you hear them, they are so ridiculous, the sort of anti-bi stuff that people come up with is so absurd.
What we wanted to do was really ham up that absurdity as part of the show, and really show up bi erasure for what it really is – which is just so stupid and ridiculous. Because that’s what it feels like sometimes when you’re a bisexual person and you’re in a space. So it’s fun, and it’s stupid (which is great), and it’s really very heartwarming. You leave with a really warm fuzzy feeling at the end, which is great.
U: And how does the unicorn come into it?
Kim: The unicorn! So… obviously there is this ridiculous idea that bisexual women are ‘unicorns’ just for having sex with couples, as a sex toy almost, or a tick-box exercise. And we really wanted to play around with that stupid metaphor and poke fun at it, and also provoke a little bit with it. Obviously people see it in the publicity and are like ‘why are you a unicorn?’ Well, come and find out!
I think especially when I come out to people, they’ll instantly assume I’m a unicorn and that is all they will see me as. So I really like the idea of that being ridiculous because I’m in a £20 onesie that’s made of polyester, covered in scuff marks, and I’m sweating in it.
U: The ultimate seduction.
Kim: Yeah, I’m sexy, and it stinks so bad. Febreeze was very much necessary during the July shows when it was so hot… (laughs) But yeah, it was a really interesting visual provocation. If you know about the unicorn thing and you see it, you’ll get what we’re trying to do.
U: Now finally, your performance at the VAULT Festival wasn’t able to happen this year due to the cancellation (mega sad face – fingers crossed for next year!). So before we wrap up, when is your next performance that our readers can catch?
Laura: Well, we are delighted to be taking part in Brighton Fringe Festival on 26th and 27th May 2022 at the Rotunda Theatre, which is a fantastic and really exciting venue. We’re really looking forward to doing that in the summer. We’re excited to be in Brighton, which is where we filmed the trailer, so it feels very full-circle for us!
Kim: We’ve never done Brighton Fringe before, I’ve heard so many good things about it. It seems like the place for the show, so I can’t wait for May.
Laura: And we are looking to take the show elsewhere this 2022. Look out for us and some more news on where we might be going!
Somewhere To Belong will be at the Brighton Fringe Festival from 26th – 27th May 2022. For tickets, please check the Brighton Fringe website.
If you would like to volunteer to be included in Somewhere To Belong, the Bi+ Archive, find out more details here about how to request an interview.