Ruth McCarthy, Director of Outburst Queer Arts Festival, has been awarded the hugely prestigious Paul Hamlyn Foundation Breakthrough Award 2018. Ruth’s Breakthrough grant will support her vision to realise Outburst’s potential as a leader in queer arts development, both in Northern Ireland and offering international leadership too. It will offer financial support for her full time work as Director of the Festival, allow her to build a small team, and enable Outburst to activate as a commissioner and producer of ambitious new queer work.
Ruth McCarthy is the driving force behind Outburst, a pioneering LGBTQ+ arts festival in Belfast. First developed as a collective-run community festival in 2007, it has evolved into one of the leading international festivals in Northern Ireland. Instrumental in the development of alternative LGBTQ+ culture and arts in the North over the past twenty years, Ruth has developed a strong grassroots dynamic as fundamental to Outburst’s programme. She is also establishing the festival as a platform for artistic exchange and international discourse with LGBTQ+ artists and activists in countries such as Brazil, Venezuela and Jamaica that she has facilitated in recent years.
Under Ruth’s leadership, Outburst advocates for both social and legislative change, Northern Ireland being unique to the UK and Ireland in that marriage equality has not yet been achieved there and health inequalities for LGBTQ+ people are higher than in other regions. Outburst is a strong voice in the face of the homophobia and intolerance experienced there, through supporting the development of queer arts and showcasing ambitious queer work.