Supporting and uplifting local queer art: Gary Hartley

The ongoing pandemic has been the life-changing and stressful global event of 2020. Many of us have lost jobs, loved ones and felt the impact of this in our day-to-day stability. However, turbulence often provides clarity around what you need to do and can create new opportunities for growth. This month, I’m chatting to friends who have taken the leap to start new projects during the COVID-19 crisis.

For the second installment of this series, I spoke to Gary Hartley, my former colleague (twice over) and founder of SCAFFOLD – a site for queer creators and culture. I wanted to know more about the concept behind the name, the future of queer archiving and why he started this in the midst of our first COVID wave.

You started SCAFFOLD in mid-2020, during the height of the pandemic here in SA. What’s the story behind the name?

From the get-go, I knew I wanted to launch a site that supported, promoted and uplifted queer creators and culture, and so from there I landed on the concept of creating the website around the idea of it being some kind of construction site. Scaffolding is obviously used for support throughout the actual construction process, so this is just my way of supporting and uplifting the queer community.

There is also a “Storage” section, which is dedicated to in-depth interviews with local queer creators (the goal is to build up an archive); and “Developments”,  a curated section that is reserved for any news or updates on local and international queer creators, artists, musicians etc.

You have a background in theatre making, TV production and content creation – what prompted the shift to creating SCAFFOLD? 

The idea had been brewing for quite some time, but being in lockdown and having a reduced workload (I am absolutely aware of the privilege of having an income and the time to pursue personal projects) certainly played a big part in creating and launching SCAFFOLD.

There is definitely a through line of storytelling in everything I’ve done before, but that was me creating work for other people and not always about topics that interested me (not the theatre work, obviously). That said, I absolutely would not have been able to create SCAFFOLD without all that experience, so I am very grateful for everything I learned. 

South Africa is notoriously bad at archiving our history and this also impacts queer history. We have so many creatives who are not getting their moment and who have incredible work on offer. What have been some of the memorable moments you’ve had since you launched the site?

You are absolutely right about the archiving of queer history, but thank goodness for GALA’s existence! I truly hope that in some way the interviews I do for SCAFFOLD can add to the archive and become a resource for anyone who wants to know more about South Africa’s incredibly talented queer creators.

In terms of memorable moments, I can honestly say that just launching the site was a milestone for me. It’s weird, sometimes I can’t believe it exists and other times it feels like it has been there for years. Also, I don’t think I will ever not be shocked or surprised when someone I reach out to agrees to be interviewed. So, I do my best to do a lot of research on their life and work.

If you want interesting answers, you have to ask interesting questions.

Gary Hartley

What are some of your plans for the site in the coming months?

I am not going to deviate too much from what I am doing now. I think the site is in a good place, so I just want to create more awareness for it. I will definitely reach out and try and secure funding, which will hopefully allow me to spend more time creating content for the site and commission queer writers to contribute to the site. That is also a long-term goal- to hire up-and-coming queer writers/ content creators and give them the opportunity to have their worked published and build up their portfolios. 

How can people contact you or send information your way? 

All mails can be sent to info@scaffold-culture.com and the IG (@scaffold_culture) DMs are open!

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