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#StartupStory: Scaffold aims to promote queer creators and culture in South Africa

With over ten years of experience in the media industry producing successful television shows, directing award-winning theatre productions and creating editorial content, Gary Hartley has created Scaffold, a platform for queer creators and culture.
#StartupStory: Scaffold aims to promote queer creators and culture in South Africa

Gary Hartley shares more about his mission of creating a platform for LGBTIAQ+ creators.

Bizcommunity Can you tell us a bit about Scaffold?

Scaffold is a space dedicated to uplifting, celebrating and promoting queer creators and culture. The platform has two primary sections: “Storage”, which features in-depth interviews with queer South African artists and creators; and ‘Developments”, which is a curated space of local and international queer arts and culture news.

Bizcommunity When, how and why did you get started?

I had the idea for the site for quite some time, but I started creating content for the site in July 2020. Thankfully, I have quite a bit of experience in conducting interviews and creating digital content, so the main challenge was finding the time to build something from scratch. So, when the lockdown came into effect I finally had the opportunity to sit down and create the platform.

In terms of the “why?”, I think the answer is two-fold: I think it’s important to add another voice to the growing chorus of sites that are embracing queer content, and I wanted to write about work and people I truly admire.

Bizcommunity What's the meaning behind the name?

I was looking for a name that would reflect the idea of the site being a platform and providing support for queer creators and culture. “Scaffold” had a nice ring to it, and, conceptually, the site draws on construction jargon, just to make everything somewhat cohesive. I also thought the 'double f' in the middle would work well when it came to creating a logo of sorts. So, I commissioned a logo design from my friend Rohan Kruger aka Couger, who is an up-and-coming queer graphic designer.

Bizcommunity What is the purpose of Scaffold?
I would say its primary purpose is to build an archive of queer South African artists and creators.
We know there is a lot of queer erasure in history, generally. What’s more, I think it is important for any documentation to not be through a heteronormative lens. It’s a space for queer people by queer people.

Bizcommunity What approach will you take to achieve this?

It’s so incredibly important for these creators to tell their own stories, so choosing the interview format felt like the right fit. I think you can really “hear” their voices when you read the interviews, and that’s something I am very proud of.

Bizcommunity Who is behind the team? How did you come together with this platform?

At the moment it’s a one-person show, but growing the team is absolutely a priority when it’s possible for me to do so.

Bizcommunity What are some of the obstacles you've had to overcome since starting out?

Starting out was the biggest obstacle, I would say. As exciting as it is to create a site and take full ownership of a creative venture, it’s also terrifying, especially when impostor syndrome rears its nasty head.
Self-doubt is something many creatives struggle with, but I just tried to focus on one element at a time and asked my friends for feedback before I made the site public.
Bizcommunity What has been the most exciting part in this journey?

So far, the most exciting part has been the response to the interviews. The interviewees have all been incredibly open about their personal and professional struggles, and I think that resonates with a lot of people. I think Sade Giliberti’s interview was particularly eye-opening for many people. But it’s also a celebration of their work and their artistic vision, which I think is very inspiring, especially for up-and-coming queer creatives.

Bizcommunity How do you go about finding the artists, creators and performers that are featured?

Some of the featured artists, like Umlilo and Llewellyn Mnguni aka Lulubelle, I’ve known for quite some time, just from being in the arts and entertainment industry myself. The others, like Tandile Mbatsha and Yahto Kraft, I came across by staying up to date with news and developments in the industry and keeping an eye on art festivals, exhibitions, performance art programmes and music events. If their work has a very specific and interesting point of view, I do a quick Google search to find out a little bit more about who they are and what they stand for. From there, I usually reach out via social media to see if they would be interested in being featured or not.

Bizcommunity Where would you like to see Scaffold in the next couple years?

I really want to work towards extending the mission of being a platform for LGBTIAQ+ creators to include commissioning other queer writers to create content for the site and build their portfolios. Of course, that depends on securing funding, creating revenue streams and building media partnerships.

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