Queer Screen Cultures in the 21st Century: Embedding Diversity, Inclusivity and Representation in Audio-Visual Media

By Dr Miguel García López, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, School of Modern Languages

Dr Miguel García López tells us about a collaborative project which seeks to increase the visibility of LGBTQIA+ people in audio-visual media. With LGBTQIA+ characters in film and television productions consistently underrepresented, Miguel’s research is a timely intervention. The project recently received an AHRC Impact Acceleration Account Award and underlines the positive effect arts and humanities research can achieve. 

Existing research on the social impact of audio-visual work underscores the stagnant and low levels of diversity in audio-visual media and focuses on the representation of diversity as a driving factor of structural change. Through my work on queer film and television in the Hispanic world, I’m interested in exploring how the 21st century has brought about important changes in terms of LGBTQIA+ visibility and discourses around diversity and inclusivity in Spanish-speaking contexts. This is how I came in contact with ODA (Observatory for Diversity in Audiovisual Media), which is the primary organisation monitoring, analysing, and providing public data on diversity levels in audio-visual representation in Spain. The organisation produces an annual report on the representation of LGBTQIA+ and minoritized communities in film and television and provides training and consultation services to filmmakers, filmmaking companies (Netflix, Prime Video), policy makers in governmental institutions (the Spanish Institute of Cinematography and Audio-visual Arts, the Ministry of Culture) and individuals on how to produce inclusive audio-visual works and embed inclusivity and diversity into events, communications, and activities.

Alba Flores, Spanish actor and LGBTQIA+ activist, at the ODA 2023 Awards ceremony.

Our project ‘Queer Screen Cultures in the 21st Century’ seeks to increase the visibility, inclusion, and agency of LGBTQIA+ people and minoritized communities in audio-visual media. Funded by the AHRC Impact Accelerator Account Knowledge Exchange Placement scheme, the project involves a six-month collaboration between Dr Miguel García López and ODA, which will help the partner organisation reach wider audiences through training and knowledge exchange activities, bringing together academics working in the fields of queer and film studies and non-academic members from the audio-visual industry. These will involve training and consultation events in Spain and the UK, the translation of ODA’s annual report into English and the creation of a transnational network through an online newsletter, enabling both the partner and the researcher to engage with key stakeholders, establish transnational links between Spain and the UK and develop a sustainable long-term collaboration. Dr Simon Brownhill, Senior Lecturer in Education, has also recently joined the project as Research Ethics lead and will support with data collection, analysis and dissemination.

Asaari Bibang, Frank T and Lamine Thior at the ODA 2023 Awards ceremony. Their podcast, No hay negros en el Tíbet (There are no blacks in Tibet), seeks to increase Black representation in Spanish audio-visual media.

I will work closely with the partner organisation, collaborating in the creation of the organisation’s annual report, providing academic research expertise in training and consultation activities, and helping ODA to establish a transnational network for the promotion of diversity in audio-visual media. We will combine our research on queer audio-visual culture, consultation and advising services and activities monitoring the representation of diversity in film and television to attain structural social change in the audio-visual industry in Spain and the UK. Our collaboration will provide a bi-directional space of learning and knowledge exchange for subjects with lived experience of discrimination and inequality and for stakeholders in the audio-visual industry seeking further diversity and inclusion. This placement will help us build and maintain an environment and culture that enables effective and ambitious knowledge exchange and impact, including development of skills, capacity and capability within the University and address cultural barriers for arts/cultural sector collaborations with Higher Education Institutions.

Dr Miguel García López is Senior Lecturer in Hispanic Studies and researches on queer representation in Hispanic film and television. He collaborates with UK filmmakers and organisations like the British Film Institute. To find out more about Miguel’s research and the ODA partnership, please contact miguel.garcialopez@bristol.ac.uk.

*Images taken from ODA’s official website (oda.org.es): ODA’s logo and images from this year’s ODA Awards ceremony, celebrating diversity and inclusion in Spanish audio-visual media.

Women, Walking and Performance

By Dr Eleanor Rycroft, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theatre, School of Arts

Dr Eleanor Rycroft tells us about her project which explored attitudes to women walking, from the Renaissance period to the present day. The workshops piloted during the project aimed to collect women’s contemporary experiences of walking, especially by night. The project recently received an AHRC Impact Acceleration Account award and is yet another example of how arts and humanities research can address societal challenges.  

‘Women, Walking and Performance’ was an Impact Acceleration project which explores gender and pedestrianism using theatre methodologies. The project was based on my historical research into walking and performance, particularly my insight that a fundamental shift occurs during the early modern period (c.1500-1700), at which point discourses of walking begin to exclude certain groups and individuals from the activity. The importance of this argument concerns the ongoing reverberation of these exclusions, especially how inequalities of class, race and gender of walking in the past continue to inform the unequal distribution of the health and social benefits of walking today. Given that walking is a free and effective form of both transport and exercise – theoretically accessible to all able-bodied individuals – it is important to discover the historical roots of attitudes which mean that not all individuals feel free to walk.


This seems most particularly to be the case with women: the growing social and sexual control of women during the Renaissance continues to impact women walkers today. The tragic deaths of Sarah Everard, Zara Aleena, Sabina Nessa and Ashling Murphy are just the most recent in a long line of women who have been murdered whilst going onfoot. 

Alongside Co-Investigator, Dr. Jess McCormack, we hope to explore these gender inequalities through a verbatim play as an element of a larger research bid. This play will tell the walking stories of women, to be staged or read in educational settings and beyond. The IAA funding enabled us to pilot a workshop format for collecting these stories. Facilitated by Breathing Fire theatre company, we used playback theatre techniques to test the practical and ethical scope for collating the experiences of walking women. Playback theatre encourages people to share their life stories which are then ‘played back’ to them via theatrical means. These workshops provided a safe space for the women to speak back against the prohibitions placed upon their movement through the world. By using playback theatre we honoured and affirmed women’s experiences of walking, as well as identified and investigated the barriers which preclude women from walking feely today. 

“The IAA funding has provided an invaluable means to collect women’s stories together, with the aim of helping to spread this message”

The first workshop was produced as part of International Women’s Day in March 2023. Many of the stories which emerged concerned walking at night, and what was most telling from the IWD workshop was the common set of experiences that solo women walkers shared. Women spoke of insisting their daughters get taxis, forking out for taxis themselves, walking with keys between their fingers, adjusting their routes around men on the street, re-tracing known journeys, searching for exits and escape routes, as well as a number of other modifications they made to their behaviour simply to get from A to B.  

Women spoke of feeling ‘on edge’ when walking at night, and spoke of feeling angry about the sexual attacks that women (primarily) suffer. They spoke of changing their gait: “I have a night walk” said one. Many women do, and given that victims have been shown to be selected on the basis of how they walk, this is not a frivolous idea (Book et al 2013, Gunns et al 2002). The reality of (primarily) mens’ attacks on women excludes half the population from a whole realm of sensory and physical experience. As one participant lyrically put it, “As a girl on a moonlit night with fireflies, I loved walking with my mother and sister and seeing Jupiter.” As a woman she felt unable to enjoy such freedom. Another said, “I like the idea of walking in the dark in theory. If there were no men on the planet.” Another added, I feel that we are owed much more safety at night.” 

Our research suggests that one way to tackle this societal issue is through education. One participant spoke about how angry she got with men walking behind her at night, saying that they “should KNOW not to do that.” But do boys and men know not to do that? And how can that message and knowledge be effectively communicated if not? The IAA funding has provided an invaluable means to collect women’s stories together, with the aim of helping to spread this message. My co-researchers and I believe that a verbatim play weaving together women’s common experiences across time will show the extent to which they have had to alter their behaviours because of the threat that some men pose to walking womenand will encourage both knowledge transmission and discussion about how boys and men can help other genders in their quest to feel safe when they walk.  

Dr Eleanor Rycroft is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theatre and is involved in the Early Modern Studies Research Group, which consists of scholars from the Arts, Humanities and Modern Languages, active in the Renaissance and early modern periods. To find out more about Eleanor’s research, please email e.rycroft@bristol.ac.uk