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The art of holding hands

Artist Rosana Cade introduces her live art performance, Walking:Holding

Louise Carolin

Fri, 04 Oct 2013 15:00:58 GMT | Updated 3 years today

DIVA: What was the inspiration for your piece, Walking:Holding?


ROSANA CADE: I started this project because as a gay woman I found that I was sometimes uncomfortable holding hands with my partner in public. I spoke to other gay people about this, and they said that they had all experienced the same feeling at least once in their lives. Some people said that they never felt comfortable enough to hold hands with their partners in public. This is something that makes me feel very sad, and something I wish to challenge.


I began a series of experiments in Glasgow (which is where I live) where I walked holding hands with lots of different people in public, and I became interested in how different I felt with each person, and also the differences in the way other people on the street reacted towards me. I held hands with someone much older than me, with a pregnant woman, with a tall black man, with a goth, with a cross dresser, with an Indian woman and with my girlfriend.


It was a privilege to share this intimate action with all these different people, and hear their different relationships to hand-holding and stories about their experiences in the city.


So I decided to create this "performance" called Walking:Holding, where one audience member at time gets to go on a walk and hold hands with a range of different people. The performance asks people to challenge prejudices in the flesh, and experience first-hand what it is to walk in someone elseʼs shoes - or hands.


The work is focused on exploring the experience of queer lifestyles and identities within a city, and at the same time is a broader experiment into what can be learnt when two strangers share an intimate moment in public. It also asks questions of the social diversity and cultural codes within each city that it takes place. 


So what actually happens?


As an audience member, you will be met at the Basement by an usher who will bring you out to start the performance. You will then go on a walk, on a carefully designed route through the city, holding hands with about six different people in turn. These will be me and some local participants. I am the first performer in the piece so I introduce the work and walk with the audience member for the first five minutes of the route.


How do you select the walkers? Are they all LGBT?


In each place that I've done Walking:Holding I have worked with the theatre/presenter who is putting the work on to find a range of local people to take part. The idea is that they are all different ages, races, genders and sexualities, to make it a rich and diverse experience for the audience member. They tend to call out via various networks online and also to contact local groups. We always contact local LGBT groups and often have around half LGBT people taking part. The idea is to get the best range possible, and I always try to work with a local trans person/cross-dresser.


What kind of people have taken part in Walking:Holding and what effect does it have on them?


The audience members vary from place to place. Often it has been programmed as part of a live art festival so a lot of the audience members will be used to experiencing one-on-one performance. The responses really vary from person to person depending on their own relationship to holding hands and also to the place. It is very different in different places. In areas where sexuality feels like an issue, where it is unlikely that you would see same-sex couples then this becomes the biggest issue within the work. I recently did the piece in Leith in Edinburgh and I received a lot of attention whenever I was walking with another woman. I think this shocked some audience members but helped them to realise what some people have to deal with on a daily basis. The cross-dressing performer received a lot of negative attention in this area too, and I think audience members felt quite protective of him, and also quite shocked at the level of abuse. It can be quite a profound experience for some people. There is something special about actually holding hands with someone you've not met before, it really helps people to open up. It's very different to just walking down the street side by side.


What is your background as an artist? Have you made pieces like this before?


I'm based in Glasgow and make a lot of work that explores issues to do with sexuality and gender. I respond to a feeling of urgency that I have, and then I make a performance about it. I like to make performances for one person at a time, because I like to use performance to create "real life" experiences for people that they wouldn't have otherwise had, in the hope that they can learn something from that experience.


I am interested in the live moment in performance, and the endless possibilities that exist within that. Another one-on-one performance I recently made was called "My Big Sister Taught Me This Lap Dance" where I perform the lap dance that my sister used to do professionally for one audience member at a time. This will be on at Camden People's Theatre as part of their  feminism festival on 1 and 2 November.


I'm also currently developing a new performance with my sister that explores female sexuality, looking at our own autobiographical stories and our relationship. A preview of this will be on at Battersea Arts Centre from 14 to 16 November. And I run a live art festival in Glasgow called Buzzcut.




Walking:Holding is on as part of the Pink Fringe, Brighton


Begins at the Marlborough Theatre

Sat 19 - Sun 20 October

Various time slots from 2pm each day

£6 / £5 concessions


Pink Fringe makes startling queer culture for short attention spans all year round. For further details visit


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