A PUBLISHING house known for instigating public debate, Penguin brings Penguin Pride to the Komedia on July 25 to showcase LGBTQ+ talent through poetry, book readings and music.

The festival-style show’s host is poet Tobi Campion, and performers include musical headliner Heather Peace and Brighton-based activist Fox Fisher.

Zainab Juma, organiser of Penguin Pride, says, “The point of Pride and Penguin Pride is to create room for voices we don’t always get to hear from. There was no better way to give a platform to that talent.”

The first Penguin Pride was held last year in London. Zainab says:0 “It was awesome, it was about getting people with different perspectives together.” The idea behind the event is to show the audience that there is as much variety within the LGBTQ+ community as outside it.

Zainab says, “We want to reflect the complexity of the issues and the community and want that reflected on the stage.”

As readers, she says, we influence the work that’s produced and the work that is published. “It’s true across Netflix, across all industries, and I want everyone who comes to Penguin Pride to hear one perspective and follow up on it. It’s essentially about connecting to the narratives they hear.”

She explains that no matter what your voice, what community you belong to and how you identify, your expression should have a specificity and a universality. “The amazing thing about writing is not that it shows you something new but that it shows you something familiar with a new perspective.”

The message of Penguin Pride is all-embracing, that anyone can be that “everyman” of literature and art, anyone can put themselves into the main character or author’s shoes. Anyone is welcome at Penguin Pride, as the organiser says, “LGBTQ+ or ally, it doesn’t matter, as long as you come to listen.”

The performers at Penguin Pride Brighton include Dizraeli, rapper, poet and musician from Bristol, and Jay Bernard, recent winner of the Ted Hughes award for new poetry and named “one of the most exciting and relevant queer poets in the UK”.

There will also be Matthew Todd, whose book, Straight Jacket, about LGBT mental health, was voted Best LGBT Book 2017 by Boyz readers and has been described as “an essential read for every gay person on the planet” by Sir Elton John.

Zainab calls it an important book for gay men because it addresses the impact of shame and the inability to talk about shame for gay men.

Activist Fox Fisher says he was invited to be part of Penguin Pride last year. He spoke about trans rights and read a poem written by one of his friends, now in his 70s, who was put into a mental hospital at the age of 14 for coming out as trans.

There has been a lot of hype around Penguin Random House’s (PRH) recent diversity value statement and pledge which called for more diverse voices to lead to a greater richness and creativity across publishing.

Lionel Shriver was very vocal about her concerns that a deliberate push on diversity or “positive discrimination” in publishing would destroy the quality or meritocratic nature of the work. Zainab says the focus at Penguin is to find ways to listen better to under-represented voices.

She works closely with the diversity team at PRH to make sure they don’t waste the talent that they find. She says: “Just giving the voices a platform helps us attract more talent like them and this all feeds into making us a LGBTQ+ friendly publisher.”