by LAUREN CODLING
A CRITICALLY acclaimed author spoke of “challenging times” relating to the visibility of the arts industry, as he is due to appear in an LGBTQ+ literary festival next month.
Niven Govinden will take part at the inaugural The Coast is Queer festival next month, the first of its kind in Brighton.
Appearing in a Q&A alongside fellow writer Dean Atta, Govinden will discuss his latest release, This Brutal House. Programmed by New Writing South and The Marlborough, the festival will bring together an array of LGBTQ+ voices to celebrate queer lives and writing.
“It is a challenging time in terms of visibility for the arts around the country,” Govinden told Eastern Eye. “So, it is great to see a brand-new festival springing up outside of London and I hope that it will run for years to come.”
He believes that festivals such as this are not just vital for the LGBTQ+ community, but
all avid literary fans. Reading is a very solitary act, so being able to go to a space where
there are other people with similar interests is a very positive thing, he said.
“I think (these festivals) exist as a beacon to attract like minded people to come together”, he added.
Govinden’s latest work, This Brutal House, his fifth novel, takes place in New York City. The narrative of the novel opens on a group of ‘Mothers’ — known as the guardians of the queer vogue ball community — who are sitting in silent protest. Their ‘children’ have gone missing and the authorities have made no moves to find them.
It took Govinden five years to write the book. He read an array of protest and queer literature to prepare for his own writing process. Govinden said he aimed to portray New
York as “a character in the book”. While conducting research, he read books by American journalist Robert Caro who wrote a biography on the urban planner “master builder” Robert Moses.
On his typical writing style, Surrey-based Govinden said he was more “concerned with how people think, rather than what they do.”
“I’m very much interested in how people live now, how people make sense of their surroundings and the world around them,” the novelist explained, citing writers James
Baldwin and Hubert Selby Jr. as early inspirations.
Since his first book, We Are The New Romantics, was published in 2004, Govinden has seen the literary world change. Although he has never personally felt he ever hit a glass ceiling due to his sexuality or race, he does believe that the LGBTQ+ community has progressively become more visible in the publishing trade.
“The way you (have a voice) is by creating work and putting it out there, but this is very much supported by major publishers now,” he said. “This is a strong year in terms of queer writing being published.”
The Coast is Queer is set in Brighton, a town which is unofficially known as the LGBTQ+ capital of the UK. The community is thought to be one of the largest in the country and Brighton Pride is one of the largest events of its kind in Britain.
Born in East Sussex, Govinden always felt a strong connection to the seaside resort. When he was in his teens, he spent a lot of time in Brighton. Later, as a young adult, he realised what the town offered as a “queer space”.
“I always remember thinking how welcoming it was,” Govinden said. “It has always felt like such an accessible and open place.”
See more: http://coastisqueer.com/