Blog Posts

LSR’s Revision Radio Breakfast Show

In Leeds Student Radio’s Revision Radio season, I presented a breakfast show every day that the slot was available. You can listen to all of them here:

Wednesday 23rd May, with Natalie Aston:

Tuesday 22nd May, with Amy Rapeer:

Monday 21st May, with Sasha Williams:

Friday 18th May, with Joe Maddock:

Wednesday 16th May, with Georgia Carroll:

Tuesday 15th May, with Anna Palmer:

Monday 14th May, with Natty Siu:

The Band: A new musical which speaks to all of us…

…not just to the die-hard Take That fans.

I went back to see The Band for the second time last night. And I’ve already booked in at least three more viewings (Birmingham, Bristol and Milton Keynes, get ready for me). It is a roaring fire which leaves embers glowing inside you, and that fire is relit every time you see it. Yes, I did just create a really convoluted metaphor to make an awful pun. Apologies. But this show is something else. Never before have I laughed so much watching a show which has also brought me to tears, repeatedly.

In case you missed it, The Band is a musical written around the music of Take That. And if you don’t know who they are, where have you been for the past 28 years? But that doesn’t mean you have to be a massive fan of Take That to go and see it. In fact, watching the musical made me fall in love with Take That’s music.

The first time I saw the show, I tweeted about it…

…but after the second viewing, if I was confined to Tweets, I wouldn’t have said it all.

If you’ve got preconceptions, they’re probably misconceptions.

I decided to go and see The Band on a whim. I saw it on the front of a brochure for the Wales Millennium Centre and wanted to do something with a friend before he went back to uni after Christmas, 3000 miles away in the USA. It totally blew my mind. I wasn’t expecting much from it, I’ll be honest. But I was surprised in the best way.

Whilst it’s evidently got a lot of hype, being the fastest-selling theatre tour in history, I get the impression that the audiences aren’t flooded with students. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if I was the youngest member of the audience (without being accompanied by a parent!) both times I’ve seen it. And trying to find a student to go with me – in the Easter Holidays, with student loans due in soon, and the theatre not being the cheapest form of entertainment on offer – was a challenge. But it shouldn’t be. Because this musical is one of the most accessible I’ve ever seen. Sure, it helps if you understand the references to the nineties, but the message of the musical is as relevant to people my age as it is to anyone else. It’s a lesson, and a warning that the future can be a scary place, but it’s not all bad.

So why do I bring down the average age in the audience when I go and see it?

Obviously, its main appeal is to fans of Take That, some of whom will be able to relate directly to the plot. And therefore, lots of people my age think that it’s not something for them. Despite a lot of the music in the show being released around twenty years ago, the show’s reworking of them just makes them songs you’d expect to hear in a musical these days. (Pun count = 5. You are most welcome).

Sometimes, jukebox musicals are all-song, no story, and they rely far too heavily on the people who already loved the music to make the musical a success. However, this musical has one of the funniest, most surprising, most diverse plots of any I’ve seen. The first ten percent (ish. I didn’t take my stopwatch and calculator with me I’m afraid) is scene-setting. This is really important scene-setting, but the second time you watch it, you already know the scene so you don’t need it setting for you. Regardless, it’s needed for the majority of the audience, so I’ll just have a little patience [BOOM], because after the scene-setting comes twist after twist in the plot, and these twists are worked in really nicely, and the story takes you on an emotional roller-coaster ride and brings you to tears despite the fact you already know what’s going to happen.

And I’ll just leave this here for all those in the know, so we can all have a little cry together:

So the plot is substantial. The music – while cheesy – is great and the way it’s been worked around the dialogue is MAGICAL. The choreography is outstanding, but I suppose you’d expect that from a man with 15 Take That tours and TV appearances on his CV. The casting is spot on.

Why do I love it?

I’ll be honest, it’s hard to describe. There aren’t many musicals that I’ve been to which have you laughing every 2 minutes and then suddenly crying. But at the same time, the plot isn’t ridiculously unrealistic: the writing is SO CLEVER.

The pace and energy of the show is outstanding. You don’t get bored watching it, at all. And from the audience you can tell that the cast love each other to bits, and that comes across if you meet them at stage door…oh yeah, that happened:

And don’t forget that Alison Fitzjohn (Claire) walked out of the stage door, saw me, and knew my name because I said lovely things about the show on Twitter in January (and quote-tweeted myself…I am the king of self-promotion). And why did I say lovely things about the show? Because they’re all true (I do not do #fakenews…).

Personally, I cannot wait to see it again. I’m already making plans for Bristol, Birmingham and Milton Keynes. And when I spoke to him outside stage door, Curtis T Johns recommended trying to get to Edinburgh for one of the 3 performances, because the audience will be huge. And I’ve discovered that the night the show opens in Edinburgh is quite an important anniversary for me, and I can’t think of many better ways to celebrate…

So if you haven’t seen it, why not? Visit the show’s website to find out when it’s going to be near you, and if you’re in need of a pal to go with, drop me a line…

 

Quite a year…

A year ago, I came out as gay. One year on, I’m happily living as an openly gay young person, and I just had the proudest week possible. I’m going to talk you through my year in the most ‘me’ way possible…

It all started 365 days ago…

12 months on from 10th July 2016, whenever I think about the moment my secret was no longer a secret, I feel all warm and fuzzy…

As soon as I’d come out to friends, there was another question at the forefront of my mind…

The challenge was that I was on DofE at the time, and I wasn’t going to see my family until the end of the week. I rang Mum on the evening of the 11th, after a day of walking, and the only painful thing about that conversation was the fact that – in a bid to avoid sitting in/on sheep poo – I had decided to sit/squat in a really unsustainable position, and my legs felt dead enough as it was, after a day of gold DofE…

During the Summer, I spent a couple of weeks at an international Scouting event, where I soon decided that I’d like to be open about my sexuality. As well as feeling no obligation to hide myself, this meant that I had the privilege of being the first port of call for a friend when he was realising his sexuality and thinking about coming out. Talking openly about feelings and emotions is something I’ve felt the confidence to do over the past year, and this is largely down to the fact that I no longer have a big thing that I want to hide.

Between Summer and October, I decided that I wasn’t going to hide my sexuality in school. Increasingly, my appetite for people to know who I am increased. I obviously listened to Diana Ross too carefully…I wanted all the world to know…!! It came to my attention that International Coming-Out Day was a thing, so I told the world. You’ve probably read how I did that – if not, check it out here.

February marks LGBT+ History Month every year. This year, in my role as station manager of BOL Radio, I decided that I wanted to mark this in a variety of ways.

The main thing I did was creating a documentary film exploring life as an LGBT+ young person in 2017. Not only was this a great experience for me in terms of media experience, it meant that I got to know people who are LGBT+, and I got to know their stories. This really helped me to understand where I fit into the world.

I also hosted a panel Q & A about living as an LGBT+ young person, and that was not only the first time I’d been so open about my life, but it was the most open that most of the student panelists had been as well, so that was an enriching experience for all involved.

Later on in March, I did something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but something – if you asked me 13 months ago – I never would have thought I’d be confident enough to do…I’ll let the pictures do the talking…


Of course, I was dancing to this ABSOLUTE BANGER:

And that pretty much brings us to this week, in my ‘out and proud’ calendar…

On Thursday 6th July, I was extremely honoured to collect the school’s award for Outstanding Contribution To The School Community. When I received the letter telling me that I’d won the award, I thought it was going to be mainly for my work setting up the radio station, but it turns out that the first half of the speech from Rev G Rayner-Williams (who featured in my documentary) was based on my work with the documentary, and my “leaving Bishop an even more accepting school than the one [I] entered”. It meant a lot to me that this happened in my anniversary week!

The night after – Friday 7th July – was my year 13 prom. 12 months ago, I would not imagine myself having the confidence to wear a rainbow bow-tie and rainbow braces…but I did. And it makes me happy – and dare I say proud – that I’m in comfortable enough an environment to do that.

And then the next day, getting a train to London, wearing [in addition to my regular clothes, don’t worry!] my rainbow bow-tie, rainbow braces, and rainbow laces. Being part of the London Pride Parade with Stonewall was a really special way to end the year, amongst a community of people who welcome and accept anyone and everyone for who they are and who they want to be. Ruth Hunt, Stonewall CEO, spoke at the Youth Pride event I was part of before we walked the parade. She made it clear that – as an LGBT+ young person – there is nothing I have to do a particular way. I can just wend my way through life, living it how I want to live and being who I want to be…

Bigly Brother

[DISCLAIMER: I wrote this in early March, so facts might have changed.]

Dystopias such as George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four were written as a warning to readers to ensure that the events described in the novels, which are usually loosely based on real-life historical events, are not allowed to happen again. In 2017, almost seventy years since the publication of Orwell’s masterpiece, has some of the world missed the point?

Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four in response to his experiences reporting on the Spanish Civil War, and in response to the rise of political dictators, such as Adolf Hitler in Germany and Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union. Following his work in Burma as a British Imperial Policeman, where he was contractually obliged to enforce the harsh political regime, he pursued a career as a writer, and dedicated his career to writing politically-charged works about dictatorships and harsh political regimes, aiming to discourage their existence in the future. One might say that Orwell wrote as a protestor against ‘establishment politics’.

Someone else who claims to protest against ‘establishment politics’ is the forty-fifth President of the United States of America, the one and only Donald Trump. Voted in in November 2016 and sworn in two months later, in January 2017, Trump promised to fight the establishment and bring change. He was the candidate for the people, not for politics. Many perceived him as a ‘joke candidate’. For some, that perception hasn’t changed.

Orwell wrote 1984 as a warning – there could be dire consequences if we let society descend into a totalitarian and capitalist regime similar to that of the novel. Assuming that The Donald possesses the literary talents to read the novel, I don’t see any way that he can have read it, and continue to tear apart the so-called ‘free world’, or if he did, did he not take the massive hint? He seems to see himself as a ‘Big Brother’ figure who has control over everything, and if anyone tries to stop him, they shall not succeed. The US may not technically be a single-party political system, but with the number of Executive orders that Trump’s issued in the past two months, it cannot be called a true democracy. Personally, I don’t understand how the United States of America’s election system can be called a true democracy either, but that’s a whole new kettle of fish.

The Party don’t have to worry about a free press holding them to account in 1984. If something is printed in a newspaper that could make them look bad in any way, shape or form, they destroy every trace of negativity against them and re-write the news archives. Unfortunately for the Trump administration, they don’t have the power to destroy all traces of – for example – a Reuters photograph taken at the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009, or an equivalent image captured eight years later. Even if the administration had access to the Reuters archives, the image will have been duplicated thousands – if not millions – of times within minutes of being published online. News organisations across the world will have had permission to publish the images within their own articles, and individuals will have tweeted the images and posted them on their social network streams. Social media is, in many ways, the enemy of the Trump administration.

However, social media is also partly responsible for the election of Donald J. Trump into the most powerful office in the world. Not many people could have predicted that he would win. Nobody really knew the full extent to which he had taken over the US. This is partly due to the ‘echo chamber’ effect of social media, and the fact that we are all living in our own personal social network bubbles, alongside people who share our views. We surround ourselves online with the people and the organisations who share our views. I know that personally, none of my Facebook friends were rejoicing on the morning of 9th November 2016, as the news broke that Donald Trump had been elected, and there were no pro-Trump tweets in my timeline. When it comes to politics, my Facebook timeline is filled with the views of my mainly leftwards-leaning ‘friends’ (I don’t really have any actively far-right-wing Facebook friends), and the views of the public pages I have chosen to follow – pages like The Guardian, The Independent, Britain Against Britain First, and a variety of LGBT+-supporting pages which – understandably – are not the biggest supporters of a president who stripped back the rights of transgender children, or a vice-president who believes in ‘conversion therapy’. Therefore, my experience online is that everyone is against Trump, and as such, there is no way that he could possibly be elected as the leader of the free world. How wrong we were.

So…let’s pause for a second and get a hang of things. Trump represents Big Brother. The Party is represented by the Trump administration, as they seem to have a total disregard for what either of the two actual main American political parties think, with the Donald taking more than a month of his presidency to stop signing executive orders and actually get around to visiting a joint session of congress. The main culprits for enforcing The Party’s nonsense are two …logically challenged… robots, going by the names of Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer.

Kellyanne Conway is the Trump administration’s chief enforcer of doublethink, presenting “alternative facts” at every possible opportunity. It’s hardly surprising that soon after she stumbled her way into the press spotlight, sales of Orwell’s novel skyrocketed, so much so that Amazon’s warehouse ran out of copies. In the novel, the main occurrences of doublethink come when The Party insists that ‘2+2=5’ is a statement of fact. The Trump administration attempted this, with press secretary Sean Spicer insisting that despite the fact that the Washington Metro was used 513,000 times by 11am on the day of Obama’s inauguration in 2009, Trump had a better turn out with 193,000 journeys in the same time period eight years later. Yes, you read that correctly: the Trump administration tried to insist that 193,000 is greater than 513,000. Conway also tried to re-write history, citing the ‘Bowling Green Massacre’ to support her argument in favour of Trump’s first attempt at a travel ban on refugees. The only issue is the fact that no such massacre took place. Again, The Party could just insert a news story into the newspapers of 2011 to include such a massacre, and then claim what Conway claimed, saying that the incident didn’t get much media attention. Of course, the ‘massacre’ received absolute zilch when it comes to media attention, because THERE WAS NOTHING TO REPORT ON – THE ‘MASSACRE’ NEVER HAPPENED! Reporting in such a way, on a totally fictitious event, would surely have been an instance of… (wait for it) …Fake News!?

The Party had no free and impartial press to worry about. The Trump administration does have a free and impartial press to worry about. The Party produced its own press in the form of a newspaper that was the source of news for everyone. Unfortunately for The Donald, not everyone believes everything reported by Fox News. The solution, according to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer? Block any news organisations who have ever said anything negative about the administration from a press briefing, instead holding a ‘gaggle’ with a select few pro-Trump news organisations. This rocky relationship with the press is largely down to the mainstream media’s tendency to report facts. Real facts, rather than alternative facts. Throughout his campaign, Trump’s outlandish claims were debunked by press organisations making use of ‘hard facts’ to counteract Trump’s arguments on most topics…

Finally, Trump’s grasp of the English language does leave a lot to be desired. Taking his personal Twitter account away from him would seem a good idea, but instead he has runned his Twitter account into a rather ungood state. In fact, his use of language is occasionally closer to newspeak than standard English, as many of us grammar nerds, who are not in any way loyally blackwhite, are keen to point out on social media. So as The Donald continues to churn out his duckspeak, we can only hope that some anteDonald normality returns sometime soon, before the world makes too speedful a decline. Donald, please ungo with your sorry excuse for a presidency, and take a leaf or two out of the Obama administration, which was indisputably a doubleplusgood time for everyone involved.

I’ve got a story I’d like to share…

Today is National Coming Out Day. From those six words, you’ve probably pretty much grasped what this article is going to be about. I’d like to share my story with you, which will hopefully enable me to live my life to the full, without worrying that someone might find out…


COMING OUT…

…is different for everyone. My story is totally unique – there aren’t really many clichés when it comes to people coming out (that I’m aware of). There’s also (in my opinion) never a ‘right’ time to do it. The moment will just arise at some point, and once you’ve told one person, telling the next one, and the one after that, gets easier and easier.

For me, the moment was at about 11pm on Sunday 10th July 2016. “‘Twas the night before…” well, my Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition. I never thought I would come out as gay in a Youth Hostel on Dartmoor, but as I said, the moment arose, and I seized the opportunity. The first people to find out were my DofE group. In fact, when it came to it, I was actually incapable of uttering the two words, “I’m gay.”

The previous night, we’d started to delve deep into discussion – very deep. It was the first time I’d really opened up to anyone, and I’ll be eternally grateful to the four people who set up that safe environment that I could trust. At the end of this DMC (for the uneducated: Deep, meaningful conversation), in true broadcaster-style, I ‘trailed’ the next night’s DMC, asking my companions to try and guess what the “something important” was that I wanted to tell them.

The next night, the usual light conversation had ended, and I was still sat on the side of my bunk. I was about to start speaking when there was a knock at the door and another DofE group from our school came in, and started a conversation. The only detail I remember from that conversation is that there was a reference to the smell of the room – apparently it was quite weird! I expect that the reason I don’t remember much of the conversation is that I was physically shaking for the entire duration of that little conversation…in many ways, they were the most nerve-wracking few minutes of my life.

It was noticed that I was still sat on the side of my bunk, and I reminded the group of my challenge to guess the thing I was going to say next. After a period of awkward silence & reluctance, I heard the four words which still make me feel a fuzzy warmth inside…

“SeB, are you gay?”

Obviously, I responded positively, or else I would not be writing this right now…

Having told my friends, I spent the next day planning how to come out to my family, and rang my Mum in the evening.

I never really worried about being accepted – my parents have always made it clear that being gay is okay, and I wasn’t worried about being accepted by my friends – it’s 2016. Being gay – in my society – isn’t a problem. Having said this, I know I’m very fortunate to have this privilege, and it’s something to which not everyone can relate…


BEING RELATIVELY OPENLY GAY…

…is quite liberating.

It’s a lot easier to come out to people you’ve just met than people you’ve got to know well, and people who have therefore got to know you quite well, assuming you’re straight. I sometimes wish everyone needed to come out, regardless of their sexuality. Surely, if society never assumed that anyone was straight, coming out as lesbian, gay or bisexual would be much easier. The same could be (and has been, I think) said about gender, but I’m not going to comment on that, because I don’t really know enough about it without doing research, and after all, this is supposed to be my story…

Anyway, I digress…

Soon after coming out, I went on a Scouting event where I got to know quite a few people, and pretty quickly. I made the decision after about 20 hours that I was going to try and be openly gay for the duration of the event. I didn’t go around flirting with every guy I saw, and I didn’t tell everyone I spoke to, but I felt no pressure to fit in, and felt able to speak my mind – frankly. There’s one discussion that sticks in my mind; a discussion about international politics and political campaigns. Being the pedant that I am, I was a bit offended when someone listed ‘LGBT’ as a political campaign. Of course, what they meant to say was ‘LGBT Pride’, and the person tried to argue that nobody would be offended by it. I disagreed:

“I wouldn’t describe the fact that I’m gay as a political campaign”

I don’t think that I’d told that person I was gay. They retreated rapidly!

The point of me mentioning this is that if I wasn’t ‘out’, I wouldn’t have been able to argue this point.

NOTHING MUCH CHANGES…

I’m still the slightly odd, radio obsessed pedant. I just happen to be gay. In light of my radio obsession, I urge you to read Scott Mills’ ‘coming out’ article from 2001 – my stance is pretty similar.

Thanks for reading this – it’s very much appreciated and I hope it’ll help me to be myself. The main reason for me writing this is so that I don’t need to worry about sharing stuff on social media or saying something in public which would reveal my sexuality.