Edgy lesbian history documentary Rebel Dykes to air on Channel 4

From politics and feminism to art and sex, Rebel Dykes is a portrait of lesbian activism in London throughout the '80s and '90s.

A still from the Rebel Dykes trailer. It shows two black and white archival images of a group of lesbians dressed in leather jackets and hats.
Image: Riot Productions via YouTube

In the realm of documentaries, few manage to capture the raw essence of a community as authentically as Rebel Dykes. Directed by Harri Shanahan and Sîan Williams, the film dives deep into the vibrant and radical world of the 1980s lesbian feminist movement in London, offering viewers a glimpse into the lives of a fearless group who defied societal norms and paved the way for future generations.

At the heart of the film are the rebel dykes themselves – a term coined by the group to describe their radical approach to life and politics. From anarchist squats to underground clubs, the documentary shows how these trailblazers carved out spaces where they could express themselves freely. 

Set against the backdrop of Thatcher-era Britain, Rebel Dykes transports viewers to a time when queer activism was at its peak, and the LGBTQ+ community was fighting tooth and nail for visibility and acceptance. Through a combination of archival footage, interviews and animated sequences, the documentary chronicles the lives of a diverse collective of women and others who embraced their identities with unapologetic fervour.

One of the most striking aspects of Rebel Dykes is its celebration of diversity within the queer community. The film showcases participants of different races, backgrounds and identities, highlighting the intersectionality that has always been a central tenet of the LGBTQ+ rights movement. Through their stories, viewers gain a deeper understanding of the complex challenges faced by queer individuals, both then and now.

From politics and feminism to art and sex, Rebel Dykes truly is a self-documentation, by lesbians, for lesbians, about lesbians, that allowed the often neglected community to reclaim its place in Britain’s queer history.

But Rebel Dykes is not just a historical document – it’s a call to action. As the LGBTQ+ community continues to fight for equality and recognition, the film serves as a reminder of the power of collective action and solidarity. It urges viewers to embrace their own rebellious spirits and stand up against injustice in all its forms.

The documentary, which has won multiple prizes and screened at the GAZE International LGBTQIA Film Festival in 2021, will be shown on Tuesday, February 6 at 2:20am, on Channel 4, and is available on the Channel 4 player

Feeling curious? Make sure to check out the trailer below:

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