Skip to main content

How did artist Liz Collins and the local LGBTQ+ community transform Touchstones’ gallery in Rochdale into a social haven? Want to know how this inclusive haven created a fun, artistic environment, free from all judgement and expectations? Ever heard of the co-collection policy that empowers residents to shape cultural heritage decisions?  And what do our three remarkable guests’ cherished objects reveal about their journeys in this extraordinary realm?

Join Helen, Riz and Chris as we delve into community, self-discovery and vibrant representation on our first episode of the Touchstones Tapes!

Hosted by Touchstones’ Bryan Beresford, Richard Philbin and Katie Roberts.

Joined by:

Helen Beckett – Touchstones’ Collections and Exhibitions Manager
Riz Ali – Touchstones’ Cultural Community Coordinator
Chris Hoyle – Theatre maker and actor

This podcast was produced by Carlie Foster for Audio Always, thanks to support from Audio Always’ Manchester Amplified programme.

The Touchstones Tapes: Sleeve Notes 1

To celebrate the new podcast series The Touchstones Tapes, Touchstones’ Zaynab Saleem presents the first in a series of accompanying blogs.

In the heart of Rochdale, remarkable journeys constantly unfold and flourish. They are journeys driven by the stories, aspirations and tireless efforts of local people – those unsung heroes who dedicate their lives to making our community a better place.

Welcome to our new blog that stands side by side with monthly episodes of our new podcast The Touchstones Tapes, providing an extended canvas to celebrate, explore and amplify the incredible work being carried out here in Rochdale. Through insightful interviews and deep dives in community projects, we aim to give the spotlight to extraordinary individuals and initiatives that shape our future.

On this week’s episode, Queer People, Places and Things, we discuss inclusion and representation of the LGBTQ+ community here in Rochdale. Through workshops, exhibitions and more, we uncovered the plethora of ways in which our creative local residents can get involved to create a positive place for everyone in the community.

For our first blog, I chat to Chase Waterman, a queer writer from Royton, as we talk about the Liz Collins exhibition Mischief, Pride in the Park and the incredible work that Chase does.

Zaynab: Hi Chase, tell me about yourself and what stemmed your passion for writing?

Chase: Hi, I am Chase and I am a freelance copywriter. I have always loved writing and have been obsessed with writing since I can remember. I studied English and Creative writing at university, but preferred the creative writing side. It is quite difficult to get into writing, as I am quite an anxious and shy person, which hinders me to put myself out there however, I am so lucky that I have been given opportunities at Touchstones. I have also done some writing for the Proud Trust charity which has also been so amazing.

Z: You were part of the Liz Collins exhibition Mischief, which took place at Touchstones in 2022. Tell me more about how you found that experience.

C: It was really cool and such a fun experience to be part of the exhibition. Being able to put feedback from the community into the exhibition, as we had a room where we could pick the art or bring in our own, which I did. I like when art becomes a collaborative project – all of Liz’s work was so cool but to have that community space where everyone had their own input was so nice to see, especially in Rochdale with it being so local.

Z: Definitely, and opportunities in the community are continuously growing, as seen with the recent Pride in the Park event in Rochdale. You wrote a piece on your visit there this July, what did you make of the event?

C: Lately, a lot of the smaller Prides tend to be more community driven and less about brands and money. Even though those things are important to Pride, Rochdale’s Pride in the Park is continuously figuring out what works and has only gotten better from the first amazing event last year. I love how it leans into ‘this is for everyone’ – it doesn’t feel like it’s purely for young people, or purely for adults, there is a pure sense of inclusivity.

I was part of a pride campaign for the company Schuh and there was a dinner to celebrate the campaign. We were talking about smaller pride events and I mentioned Rochdale is pretty good and they reacted in surprise and said ‘is it really?’ This just shows how people don’t expect Rochdale to hold an event like Pride, but we are and we are getting better at it as the years go on.

Z: I know you have such a passion for writing, but what made you want to write about topics involving the LGBTQ+ community?

C: It is very important to me as a queer person. As an extremely shy person, I didn’t really know any other gay, transgender or in fact any people in the community until I was 18. I just assumed there was no one in the town or surrounding towns as I didn’t really go out into any clubs or pubs. When I managed to find this community, it feels important to me to be able to write about it to show people that it does exist, it is here and it is so great!

Also the first Pride in the Park I went to last year happened a day after my aunt passed away, and she was one of the only gay family members that I had. This made me even more passionate to write about local pride events as it is so close to me, physically and emotionally.

Z: And thank you for sharing such a personal story, it was emotional but so empowering to hear. What are your hopes for representation and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community in Rochdale and neighbouring towns, and how can we continue this work?

C: I think just not stopping! A lot of people like to say how accepting they are, but when things start to change or something new and unfamiliar begins, people become freaked out by it. It is important to continue with the same level of community input. I know that I started to get involved in things related to Pride when I started going to the Proud Trust’s youth groups and have also done some writing for them. I think it is really cool to see younger people have that sort of space, confidence and the feeling of safety, where they can come to these spaces and people aren’t going to be weird or stop them. It is really nice to see.

Z: What advice would you give to other writers or anyone who aspires to create work that celebrates and uplifts the LGBTQ+ community, within their own communities?

C: When it comes to creating anything, it can be overwhelming to think that so many people will see this so what do I want them to take away from it? Do I want it to be about this specific thing? Do I want it to be more open? A lot of the time, when I am writing something I try to think as if I am writing it for myself when I was 13 or I am writing it for my family so they can think ‘that reminds me of this friend or that person’. I want to be able to make a difference. A lot of the artists I look up to would write for their past selves or for their family members. I see when people talk about writing something comedic they say it just has to make you laugh because if it makes you laugh it’ll make other people laugh. So if it makes a difference to you, or if you can imagine yourself ten years ago reading this and it opening your mind and inspiring you, then it will inspire other people. And I hope that that’s true!

Read Chase’s article on the latest Pride in the Park here: