Category Archives: Stories and Interviews

Spotlight On: The Gay Agenda

Not many small time radio shows have achieved more than they dreamt possible from their humble beginnings and reached out beyond their country of origin but The Gay Agenda, on Fab Radio International, is currently Europe’s number one online radio show, with listeners in 46 countries across the globe. Since its launch in 2014, The Gay Agenda, which actually started out as a little challenge and a jest amongst a group of friends, has grown from strength to strength to get where it is today. Gay Homestays spoke to creator and host, Rylan Cavell about the show:

gay-agenda-logo-head

GH: Hi Rylan, can you tell us a bit more about the beginnings of The Gay Agenda?

RC: The Gay Agenda began life as a jest. I was discussing the launch of a new online radio station with the chaps putting it together. After a few pints they jokingly suggested that I should do a show and call it ‘the gay agenda’. Never one to back down from a challenge, I agreed. And so the show was born. I found a few friend who equally had a passion for equality and media, and launched as one of the original shows in November 2014 at the same time as Fab Radio International. The Gay Agenda is actually one of only a small number of original shows that is still on the station.

GH: And what kind of topics on the “agenda” of The Gay Agenda?

RC: Being in a privileged position has enabled me, via the show, to shine a light on issues faced by many in the queer community who are often marginalised and ignored by mainstream media. Ignored often even by mainstream LGBT media.

Recent topics have included Transgender discrimination, the destructive nature of ‘masculinity’, LGBT University Societies, Asylum Seekers, Sexual Health and much much more! The show is light-hearted, but covers important topics. We hope that we are an entertaining platform where sometimes inaccessible and hard-to-understand topics and issues are opened up for debate in an interesting and amusing way.

GH: How does it feel to know you’ve got listeners in so many countries worldwide?

RC: Being on a station that reaches 46 countries around the world, and that is the number 1 online radio station in Europe shows that Fab Radio is doing something right! The station’s tag line is ‘Embrace The Alternative’, and the figures demonstrate that the grass-roots nature of station and the shows is what people want! It is flattering and humbling to know that so many people are listening, and I hope what we do spreads a little more awareness and understanding of the LGBT people of the worlds.

GH: And finally, are there any celebrities you would love to feature on your show?

RC: I would love to be able to get Sir Ian McKellan and Sandi Toksvig on the show, to name just two.

Sandi Toksvig

The Gay Agenda will be taking its show on the road on Sunday 26th February when Ryan hosts a frank and open discussion on modern queer life at the renowned Frog & Bucket Comedy Club in Manchester. He will be joined by drag king comedian Lydia Bernsmeier-Rullow, trans activist, broadcaster and musician Ashleigh Talbot and campaigner Junior Maxwell. Also featuring are compere Laini Johnson and guest speakers Steph Pike and Sali Owen.

The show will start at 4.30pm and tickets are currently available on The Gay Agenda website.

In the meantime, you can tune into The Gay Agenda every Friday evening from 7-9pm and also catch Rylan hosting That’s Pride TV channel every Monday evening from 7.30pm.

 

Wayne Hart: Carving himself a future

We at Gay Homestays are always interested in other businesses and individuals who have a different and intriguing background and product that they offer, a great work ethic, ambitious minds and have done well to achieve a lot, especially in short amounts of time. We recently met Wayne Hart, who at only 26-years-old is one of the UK’s few remaining carvers of his generation, but has already achieved so much in the space of a few short years. Since leaving university he has done a 3 year apprenticeship and obtained several prestigious scholarships and grants to help fund his work, training and studio start-up costs in AWOL Studios in Manchester – an old cotton mill that is now a workplace for many other creative arts people and their businesses. And this year he won two reputable craft&design awards – a Gold Award in Specialist Media and Selected Maker of the Year award that, in the past has been awarded to very experienced individuals so is an amazing feat to have accomplished.

Wayne, who is originally from Norfolk, has always had an interest in art and design since he was a child – his nan was an amateur calligrapher and he loved going to art galleries and museums where he was inspired by ancient Egyptian history, mythology, art, architecture, sculpture and inscriptions, but only got into typography while studying graphic design at college. He later studied Typography at the University of Reading and his interest in this field began to grow as he learnt more, getting into lettering and carving; it was a visiting lecturer who inspired him to start it and has been doing it ever since. He soon got a letter-carving apprenticeship with renowned craftswoman Pip Hall through the Memorial Arts Charity. He now occasionally returns to Reading as a visiting lecturer himself. “I never thought I’d be a carver when I was younger – I originally trained as a graphic designer before moving onto typography and then carving, and it’s just something I specialised in more and more over time,” he says.

“It’s a bit overwhelming with the success I’ve had so far, yet also exciting being one of the youngest but I like to focus on my present projects and always aim high for the future,” Wayne tells us, “I feel I have a responsibility to maintain the craft for future generations but I have both the drive and determination to do this.” He not only wants to maintain the traditional craft of carving but also wants to push it forward with new ideas and modern technologies, saying “of course it’s important to maintain the traditional methods of carving that we use on materials such as stone and wood but it is equally important to accept the technological age. There are technologies out there that allow for new artistic outputs and for the use of additional materials.” An example he gives us is of the commemorative piece of a local poet’s work he recently did in Amiens, France where he used water jets to cut through corten steel – it is the first and so far only time he has done carving on metal.

Having achieved so much in such a short amount of time and having created so many important and great pieces – a few of which, like the piece in France, are available to view in famous public spaces – Wayne has quite a few special moments to choose from as the highlight of his career so far. “I’d say winning Maker of the Year a few months ago was amazing, especially since last year’s winner is already so well-established, so being new to all this and then to follow in her footsteps, it was a great honour.” He says it’s hard to pick one of his favourite works to date but is currently very proud of his working progress of another memorial piece for legendary novelist C.S. Lewis that will go up in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner in mid-November. “The project is still ongoing and it is a great honour to have my work selected for Westminster Abbey.”

Wayne’s main line of work lies in doing private commissions, usually commemorative gifts, memorials, signage, pieces for craft fairs and craft shops, for interiors and gardens, house signs, etc. but really loves doing larger art pieces for public spaces and exhibitions and galleries. One of his favourite pieces of work that he has done privately was carving a sandstone sphere for his friend’s wedding. “I had to draw directly onto the stone which was my first attempt on a curved surface. It had to be done this way as a flat piece of paper can’t be wrapped around a curved surface. It was also a challenge because the curved surface would distort the lettering, meaning subtle alterations had to be made to make it look right, but I was very pleased with the end result.”

Wayne would love to continue doing more public art pieces that will really put him on the world map as an internationally-recognised craftsman and artist, but also wants to expand into doing sculptures as well. “I wish to pursue sculpture as well as lettercutting in the future which I find an organic progression; both are based on form, structure and texture – things which I have a passion for, and I started this recently by attending a short course in stonecarving at Dartmoor Arts, for which I was awarded a bursary. I also want to take on my own apprentices when I have a bigger studio so I can take on and teach other young carvers my trade as I learnt from my mentors.” We really admire Wayne’s ambitious and business-driven mind, wish him luck for the his bright future ahead and we’re sure he’ll go even further in years to come and achieve his goals and more!

To find out more about Wayne and his work, take a look at the video above and visit his page on AWOL Studios’ website. His own personal website will be coming soon.

Interview with artist Adam Pryce

You may have noticed on our Facebook page and Twitter and Tumblr accounts recently that we have posted illustrations by Manchester-based artist Adam Pryce. Adam is an up-and-coming freelance artist and illustrator who has worked with several magazines, publishers and websites such as Hallmark, Walker Books, The Illustrated Ape, Juxtapose, Design Week, Amelia’s Magazine and CreatureMag. In July 2012 he wrote and illustrated his first children’s book entitled “Mr Ordinary’s Prize” with children’s writer Emily Capstick, which was released in partnership with the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

He is now currently working on a his own new range of children’s books and a multimedia animation to be released later this year as well as teaching and leading workshops and painting murals in and around Manchester. We love Adam’s creative and quirky designs which follow an almost standard style throughout, no matter what he’s drawing or who his audience is, and the fact that they are something different and fresh that cannot be seen in other artists’ work. We caught up with Adam to talk more to him about his work, his artistic inspirations and his hopes and dreams for his future as an artist.

Adam’s first published children’s book, “Mr Ordinary’s Prize”.

1) When did your love of art start and when did you begin realising your talents as an artist?

I have always drawn and I’ve always got excited at the possibilities my imagination can create; I remember the thing that would make me happiest as a child would be to be given a pad of white paper and before I’d even draw on the front page I would think for hours of what characters I would draw and what adventures they would go on.

Growing up I’d always make my friends and family handmade cards, posters and comics and that’s when I realised that what I do is different from other people and then began to think about how to build a future that includes me drawing everyday. Luckily things went well and several years later I’m waking up each morning and drawing all day!

“Milo & Duke”.

2) Which artists or what animations inspired you when you were growing up and as you developed your skills and your own artistic designs?

Disney was a huge inspiration to me – I used to watch the animated films countless times and then practice drawing the characters by freeze framing old VHS tapes. These films made me realise my true passion was for character design and so I began designing my own characters and writing stories that I hoped one day would be made into a Disney film.

As I went through College and University, my inspiration changed as I found out about wonderful artists such as Paula Rego, Sara Fanelli and Grayson Perry – all of whom shaped the type of artwork I was creating back then. I then began researching outsider art and the works of Henry Darger and the possibilities of the type of work a person can create when they have limitless imagination and no boundaries.

When I began working professionally as a freelance illustrator, my inspiration found its way back to Disney and the fantastic works of Mary Blair and the bold colour and composition she uses. I’m also fond of modern day illustrators such as Marc Boutavant and Jon Klassen and the worlds they create in their books.

Adam working on his art and displaying it in public.

3) You mainly do illustrations for and write children’s books, but what kind of work have you done in the past that also appeals to a wider and older audience as well?

My work has fallen into children’s books as its a perfect vehicle for my characters to get from inside my head and onto a piece of paper. I also create posters, logo designs and most recently branded a local festival – from the banners to the T-shirts. I also design for Hallmark cards on a freelance basis and design artwork for friends’ bands and tour posters.

I’ve recently started taking pet commissions, which I have found to be a really fun creative outlet and reignited my love of drawing animals and I love seeing and hearing people’s reactions when they see my illustration of their pet. I have also experimented with animation and shadow puppetry – something I wish to continue doing more when I get some free time.

I feel as an illustrator you really can’t have a set way of working – my approach has always been to not disregard a commission if its something you’re not used to doing – do it and surprise yourself!

A selection of Adam’s “Happy Friday” illustrations.

4) Your “Happy Friday” pictures are quite popular with our Facebook fans and our followers on Twitter and Tumblr. Where did you come with the concept and how do you get ideas and keep it fresh and innovative every week? 

I used to draw these characters and then put them to one side and nobody would ever see them, until one day a friend remarked how much they loved them and said “why not create one character a day for a month and post them on Twitter?” So I did that and soon got a lot of interest on Twitter and Facebook and approached the website CreatureMag about becoming a regular contributor, and thankfully they loved my work and readily agreed.

The “Happy Friday” item was already a weekly thing on CreatureMag with contributions from several illustrators. The creators of CreatureMag felt my characters fit the brief so well that I’m now the main contributor and have been for the last year or so. It’s a great working relationship we have for in exchange for weekly promotion through social media sites, and for them we create a character.

The main inspiration is the world around me and when that fails to inspire me I either close my eyes and the character just appears or I simply start drawing and surprise myself by what character walks onto my iPad.

An image Adam created using his iPad.

5) Where do you hope to take your art in the future and what kind of work or illustrations would you love to do if you got the chance?

My dream is to be a concept artist for Pixar and Disney so that’s where I’m working towards at the moment and without intentionally doing so my work is becoming more and more “Disney”. I’m about to have my second book released later this year – both in the UK and America in digital and printed paperback so I’d really like to do more books and write some more stories. I’m really happy with the direction my work is going in and my work has evolved so much in the last 12 months I can’t wait to see what type of work I will be producing in 5 years time!

You can “like” Adam’s Facebook page, follow him on Twitter and Instagram or watch his art and music videos on YouTube.

Exclusive Interview: LGBT Equality Activist, Simon Rodgers

Simon Rodgers may be young but he’s already achieved a lot in the past few years; not only is he a Category Manager in Procurement at Aviva, but he has been campaigning for LGBT equality and human rights in the UK and worldwide since 2007, is a founding member of Aviva Pride (the Aviva Employee Network Group), been involved in local politics and fundraised for numerous charities, to name but a few of his accomplishments.

Recently, Simon attended the One Young World Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he gave a rousing speech in front of 1,300 people from 180 countries about key issues affecting the world. Focusing on LGBT equality and human rights, his session was a huge success. He joined other big-name personalities, including Bill Clinton, Bob Geldof, Jack Dorsey (founder of Twitter) and Jamie Oliver.

We managed to get an interview with Simon to talk about his work as a campaigner of LGBT rights and equality and ask for his thoughts on some recent news topics regarding human rights, homophobic abuse and bullying, as well as what he thinks about Gay Homestays as a company.

GH: When did you start getting into LGBT rights and was there a specific reason for doing so?

SR: I haven’t been involved in LGBT equality for very long actually. I only became involved in 2007 when I helped found the Aviva LGBT Employee Network Group, which is now called Aviva Pride. But it wasn’t until later that year when I went to my first Stonewall Workplace Conference, which really opened my eyes and made me want to do more.

GH: What is the most shocking case regarding homophobia or anything else that you have heard or come across whilst working as an activist?

SR: That’s a tough question because there have been so many over the years that have touched me or shocked me and come from all over the world, but closer to home,  I  have worked with the Albert Kennedy Trust for a number of years now. I’ve heard many stories from young people who are disowned and kicked out of home by their own parents just for being gay, which really upsets me… I can’t believe anyone could do that to their own child!

Others would have to be when I was at the One Young World Summit where one delegate wrote a note which was read out in the Q&A session after my speech, saying that he couldn’t speak himself because he feared what might happen when he returned to his home country.

The new “kill the gays” bill which may be passed in Uganda really scares me It really saddens me because there seemed to be a glimmer of hope earlier in the year when they had their first Pride march over there, but now there is this issue, which I’m shocked by.

GH: In your Gay Star News article you mentioned a man who said he was no longer homophobic after hearing your speech. Apart from this, what other instances can you recall that was just as heartwarming?

SR: Again, there have been quite a few, but the one that really sticks in my mind was going back to my old secondary school in York, which I hadn’t been back to in over ten years. My old teacher invited me to go back and talk about LGBT issues and homophobia. I was a little anxious about doing so to be honest, because I was bullied there for being gay, however I also felt it would be important to share my experience. I was not expecting such a positive reaction from my speech; many pupils came up to me or contacted me afterwards – and a lot of them were straight young men – and told me how inspirational my talk had been. This really surprised me and touched my heart, making me think maybe I can make a difference if so many young people are interested in what I have to say.

GH: We recently interviewed Michael Black, one half of the gay couple who were turned away from a B&B for being gay. What are your general thoughts on this and the controversial issue of mixing religious and personal beliefs with business?

SR: This is certainly a controversial issue as I always think it’s a contentious one when it comes to religion and sexuality. The most basic point for me is that I think it is a basic human right that everyone should be treated and, in the case of businesses, served equally, no matter who they are and somebody’s sexuality, gender, race or anything else should not come into it.

GH: We also ran a recent opinion piece about homophobic abuse that took place on a train where the man was only cautioned by the police, and not punished further. Do you think that this was fair, especially compared to those who have been arrested and jailed for racial abuse in public before?

SR: Well first of all, I think his comments were disgusting and I was really shocked at some of things that were said; I don’t believe anyone should be spoken to like that. As regards to his punishment, I’ve not been close enough to the case to understand the full details, but I think the fact that police intervened showed that they acknowledged that a crime was committed. This story showed the power of social media and how strongly people feel about this since the response was huge, but it also shows how much work still needs to be done when it comes to LGBT equality. I do believe that sometimes we do actually need to see these sort of things so we know about it and it highlights that people should report homophobic crimes more often.

GH: For National Coming Out Day we compiled a list of our favourite pro-LGBT songs and ones that do or could relate to coming out. What would be at the top of your list?

SR: Another tough question with a lot of songs to choose from but I would say Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”. It is a beautiful song, and I remember it bringing tears to my eyes at the Manchester Pride Candlelit Vigil this year. After a hard weekend of volunteering at the Pride event, that moment closed the event and the weekend perfectly for me. I think its particularly relevant because of the work Cyndi Lauper is doing in the US, recently launching the Forty to None Project, to address the inordinately high rate of homelessness among LGBT youth.

And although it is not directly related to anything LGBT, I feel like I can definitely relate to “Hall of Fame” by The Script and will.i.am because it’s about achieving one’s place in a “hall of fame” and making a difference or inspiring others so people know you for doing or achieving something; this is related to my purpose and what I do and what I’m all about, plus it’s a very universal song.

GH: We at Gay Homestays are passionate about providing friendly, safe and affordable accommodation to LGBT travellers who want to stay with LGBT hosts. As a worldly traveller yourself, what do you think about this and what we do as a company?

SR: I was actually really intrigued by the company and its concept, and yes, as someone who travels a lot I was definitely interested in it. Most of the time I am travelling on business so I do stay in hotels a lot of the time, just because it’s easier to relax and have my own space, although if I travelled more for pleasure I can understand why many people would like this, as hotels are impersonal. I you stay with a host in their home you can learn more about the place you’re in and meet new people. I think staying with LGBT people is a good idea as well, as you already have one thing in common with them, whereas if you booked a hotel or just any old B&B, you really have no idea who the owners or staff are or what they’re like at all. So in short, I think it’s an exciting organisation and I’ll be interested in seeing how things go for you in the future.

 

Exclusive Interview: Michael Black (gay couple and the B&B refusal case)

If you have been paying attention to the news recently, you will most certainly have heard about the resolution to the controversial case surrounding gay couple Michael Black and John Morgan who were turned away from a Christian couple’s bed and breakfast in Cookham in 2010 because the two men’s sexual orientation went against the Wilkinson’s religious beliefs.

Black and Morgan decided to take Susanne and Mike Wilkinson to court and now, two years later, have won their case which orders the Wilkinsons to pay £3,600 in damages to the couple. However, the Wilkinsons are considering to appeal against the case, but have just two weeks to make a final decision.

Michael Black (L) and John Morgan (R).

We managed to get an interview with Michael Black who talked to us about how the original incident unfolded, their feelings throughout the entire case up until now, how they hope the result will affect others in the same situation and what they think of the service that Gay Homestays provides for gay travellers.

GH: When you travel, do you normally stay in gay accommodation or not or do you not usually have a preference?

MB: It’s a mixture really.  We do have a preference for gay-owned places but we have stayed in those that aren’t before, although we’d never come across this particular problem before.

GH: What initially drove you to decide to book at the Wilkinson’s B&B?

MB: We were visiting friends who live in that area (Cookham, Berkshire) and it was the nearest accommodation we could find that was in our price range, so location was the main factor, but also price as well.

Susanne and Mike Wilkinson, the Christian owners of a B&B in Cookham.

GH: How did you feel in regards to your treatment by the Wilkinsons and what were the sequence of events that led to the case being taken to court?

MB: We were really shocked by their attitude, and we honestly felt like we were treated as if we were second class citizens, it was very shocking and hurtful. When we arrived at the place and got out of the car, Susanne was standing at the front and soon as she saw that we were two men, we noticed her body language change. When we entered the B&B, she first of all confirmed that we had booked one double room for the both of us – to which we replied yes – and she immediately told us she could not allow us to stay due to her religious beliefs. We thought it might be illegal but we were not sure so we asked for our deposit back – which she gave – and decided, since we had no choice, to drive all the way back home that night instead.

Although we knew it was illegal for hotels to discriminate against anyone based upon race, religion, sexual orientation or anything else, we were unsure as to whether this law also applied to B&Bs. We first of all contacted local papers to try and get something put in them about the B&B and why we would not recommend it to anyone, which was soon noticed by the local BBC news and eventually the national media who took an interest in the story; we never expected it to become so big, so the national coverage was accidental really. We soon got in contact with Liberty, who were very helpful and when we were made aware that B&Bs that discriminate are breaking the law, we decided to take the case to court to be resolved.

GH: What are your feelings now after winning the case and do you think this will affects other B&B owners’ attitudes in the future as to who they accommodate?

MB: We are obviously delighted that we won the case, although we realise this may not be the end if the Wilkinsons decide to appeal, which reminds us of a similar case that happened in Cornwall with a gay couple who were turned away by a Christian couple who own a hotel; although they won the case initially, the owners have taken the case to the Supreme Court, so who knows what the outcome could be now. However, we hope this case will make other B&B and hotel owners aware that discriminating against anyone, no matter what their own personal or religious beliefs are, is illegal. We also hope anyone looking for accommodation in the future will make sure they are more knowledgable of the places they look at before booking or going anywhere.

BNP leader Nick Griffin caused more controversy over Twitter regarding the incident.

GH: What were your thoughts when you heard about the things BNP leader Nick Griffin had tweeted?

MB: At the time of this particular incident we were actually on Radio Cambridgeshire doing an interview and the news editor told us about it, which made us very worried about what could happen. We were horrified that he had tweeted such things and especially posted our address online, but thankfully Huntingdon police, our local force, and Liberty were very helpful to us again in ensuring our safety and privacy. That same night (Thursday) we did not return home as we were due to stay at a hotel in London, but when we heard on Friday that no-one had come to our house and that nothing had happened, we felt a lot more relaxed about the situation.

GH: We are passionate about providing safe, affordable and friendly accommodation for gay travellers. You have had a look at our website, so what do you think about it and what we are trying to do?

MB: We definitely think it is a good idea and important that LGBT people have the option of staying in gay-owned or at least gay-friendly places of all sorts, but we also believe gay people should not have to feel that they should have to only stay in gay accommodation and they should be able to stay anywhere they want without discrimination.

We’d like to thank Michael Black for his time and please let us know what your thoughts and opinions are on this whole case!