Avant-garde artist David Hoyle is gearing up for a month of performance, and ponders why life isn’t always a musical.

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Judging by his stage persona, which is notoriously provocative and sometimes aggressive, it’s hard to imagine performance artist David Hoyle ever feeling nervous, but that’s what he admits to ahead of this year’s Homotopia festival.

The Blackpool-born avant-garde performer made his name in the gay clubs of Manchester in the 1990s and while he has been part of the Liverpool-based arts festival since its inception 14 years ago, this year he takes a bigger role than before. Hoyle is contributing both performance and visual artwork to the month-long event, which also incorporates film, talks, readings, dance and debates in its line-up of more than 50 events.

Fifty is an important number for the festival this year. Its subtitle #Liberation50 marks the fact that in 1967 consensual gay sex between men was decriminalised. Having just turned 55 himself, Hoyle has seen first hand the changes that have taken place in society since decriminalisation and explores some of these issues in his performance Diamond.

“The name actually refers to the sixtieth anniversary of the Wolfenden Report,” says Hoyle, referring to the parliamentary-commissioned report that a decade later led to decriminalisation. “But also the fact that all of us are diamonds, and it’s incumbent upon us to shine as brightly as possible.”

Diamond weaves together Hoyle’s personal experiences against a backdrop of landmark events, celebrating the progress that has been made in the last five decades while also exploring the difficulties that Hoyle and many other LGBT people have faced. “All I heard as a child were negative things about being gay. I think that’s key to what I do and where I’m coming from,” he says.

More than 100 artists from the LGBT community are involved in Homotopia this year. The event, says Hoyle, gives “marginalised voices the opportunity to get their work out there. It does a lot for Liverpool and a lot for the different performers and artists who take part.”

Aside from Diamond, Hoyle is also taking part in another anniversary-marking performance with Dear Edna, a tribute to the work of playwright Joe Orton, who died in 1967. The work is inspired by the letters of Orton’s alter ego Edna Welthorpe, a persona he created as a spoof “guardian of public morals”. Off stage Hoyle’s visual artwork appears alongside pieces from artists including Chelsea Berlin, John Lee Bird and Derek Jarman in the exhibition Creative Rage at The Gallery, which explores the anger, bravery and non-conformity that’s been at the heart of the LGBT fight for equality.

“Art is completely central to my life,” says Hoyle. “It’s the way that I express myself and how I deal with things cathartically.”

With so much to do in the run-up to the festival, Hoyle says things are “quite intense” but he’s proud to be a part of it. He’s also looking forward to working with other artists during Homotopia, including the LipSinkers, a drag troupe that will be doing a “big show number” for Diamond.

“The show also explores the therapeutic nature of the musical,” he explains, noting the escapism they offered to him as a child. “Once you’ve seen Hello Dolly you sort of think why isn’t all life lived singing and dancing on the street? Swinging around lampposts, leapfrogging over post-boxes. I still don’t really understand why we’re not living like that.”

Homotopia is on until 1 December (

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