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Championing Inclusion

As well as being poets who changed the world of literature and the arts, Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine are also LGBTQ icons. They are celebrated for this, as well as for their great artistic achievements. Their love affair challenged the institutional proscriptions and deep prejudices of their era, and their courage in writing about gay love mark them out as early pioneers of LGBTQ rights and of a tolerant and inclusive approach to sexual identities. It should also be remembered that Verlaine was imprisoned for two years in a Belgian prison in the 1870s not for the infamous shooting incident involving Rimbaud, but for the ‘crime’ of being a homosexual.

R&V is an arts organisation, proud of its eclecticism, and championing inclusion is a very important strand in its work, informing nearly all of its projects. Many of its original artistic commissions are vehicles for telling great stories about LGBTQ identities and make a strong case for a society based on tolerance and inclusion. The poets Rimbaud and Verlaine provide the inspiration for a number of exciting artistic commissions including a chamber opera and a puppet show. In creating these new artworks R&V is using the arts to champion inclusion and communicate a much wider values-based vision of how society should function.

Research shows that tolerance and inclusivity typify high-performance cultures. Thanks to its partnership with LGBT Capital, a leading advocate for best practice in this area, R&V is also using the arts in an innovative way to deliver learning and development objectives in a corporate setting. R&V has developed a corporate learning and development programme using the arts (in this case Renaissance Madrigals) to promote tolerance and inclusion, leadership and organisational development, and wider cultural change within an organisation.

Cultural change is one of the most difficult things to achieve, whether it is within an organisation or in wider society. However, it is in the area of winning hearts and minds that the arts really excel. The arts have a unique ability to tell stories, offer different perspectives, articulate problems, and challenge unproductive behaviours. The arts are one of the few things that can succeed in challenging established attitudes, persuading, and achieving a paradigm shift in the way people think, feel and behave. They provide a great way in which to ‘mainstream’ the values associated with LGBTQ rights and other forms of inclusion.

As an arts organisation R&V is committed to this vision and objective which, because of the inspiration of our two poets, is an important part of our DNA.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Foundation’s commitment to LGBTQ identity and inclusion, please email us at

Simon Callow, film and theatre actor, and friend of R&V