An exceptional resource for gay men to explore and better understand the complexities, joys, challenges, frustrations, thinking and emotions involved with being a gay man in today’s world.

Filter

The Quest goes up North!

Thank You to all those who voted for The Quest and got us shortlisted for the Homo Hero Business of the Year award!

There were 600 nominations and we were runners up for our category. We are especially proud that we were the only non North West organisation to be up for an award.

The important aspect of this acknowledgement is that we are now getting known outside of London and having met The Lesbian and Gay Foundation in Manchester we will be looking to deliver our workshop up north – achieving one of our other major intentions!

The Homo HerosThe evening in Manchester was a very glitzy affair and had people from the police, fire service, clergy, politics and some lovely mums of gay children.

It was an inspiring evening and we thank you for making our presence known.

National Coming Out Day -Coming Out Still Matters

Ade: So, 11th October is celebrated as National Coming Out Day and the theme for this year is ‘Coming Out Still Matters’ – what does that theme mean to you?

Darren: For me ‘coming out’ represents something different from the ‘one off’ event many of us consider it. I think that every day we make choices of whether we allow ourselves to be seen and I consider these moments ‘coming out moments’. So it may be talking about our partners, about wanting to find a boyfriend, a book we are reading or even something about a hobby we have. It can be subtle moments where we are faced with a choice – shall I be expressed or shall I divert, go silent, retreat. Continue Reading →

What are you into?

In this conflab, Ade Adeniji and Francois Lubbe talk about Gay Men, Online hook-ups, Dating, Sex and Intimacy.

200px-Grindr_iPhone_home_screenAde: I’m really looking forward to our conversation, as the subject is one I am sure many gay men can relate to. I think a good place to start is the recent survey by Grindr, which said that — “Out of 2,000+ respondents, an overwhelming 77% of them [gay men] want to get married someday (and 4% of respondents already are married)….” What were your initial thoughts when you saw that?

Francois: I get stuck here: “an overwhelming 77% of them want to get married someday”. This clearly shows that gay guys are looking for a lasting connection with one other person, which is in stark contrast of the image of gay men in the gay-and-mainstream media depicted as a bunch of half-naked exhibitionists who party hard 4 days of the week and having numerous sexual partners.

However, it will be interesting to know if those who participated in the survey hoped to meet their potential life partners on an app like Grindr, or on other similar gay hook-up sites. Continue Reading →

The Father+Mother Storytelling Performance

In this conflab, Ade Adeniji & Paul Woodward discuss their upcoming storytelling performance – The Father+Mother Project.

Father and Mother Continue Reading →

Sex, Drugs and Drink

vauxhall-and-iIn July, the Southbank hosted a discussion and debate chaired by Matthew Todd, Editor of Attitude magazine, looking at whether there is a problem with Drink, Drugs and Sex for Gay Men. Francois Lubbe, Editor of The Quest publication ‘Love Me As I Am‘ and The Quest Co- Founder, Darren Brady went along and this conflab took place a few days later.

Darren – So Francois, how did you feel during the discussion?

Francois – I was hoping to hear a solution-driven discussion, since most of the panel members had already engaged in similar discussions in the past. The fact is, as a gay man, I can see that there is a problem within our community in terms of destructive behaviour and how it affects our community. In my view this is beginning to take on epidemic proportions.

D – Yes I agree. I wanted to hear more about the root causes of this behaviour and less about what the behaviour was. It felt like we were describing the problem and not considering ways forward. A bit like listening to the music being played on the deck of the Titanic. Do you think that it is difficult having a solution driven conversation? Continue Reading →

The State of Gay

There are two distinct and very different stories being told about the experience of being gay in the UK in 2013 and the difference in these stories could not be more stark.

On the one hand, we have the positives – the soon to be legal status of gay marriage, established civil partnerships, increased visibility in the press and media, an equal age of consent, mainstream support for positive role model and anti bullying work, cross-party support for gay equality, the effective treatment of HIV, governments globally legalising equality and gay marriage, increased openness about sexual identity from public figures and gay parenting becoming widespread. This picture has lead to some naturally optimistic assumptions that things are looking good and that being gay is no longer an issue for those lucky enough to live in a progressive United Kingdom. It is a picture and a set of assumptions we all so desperately want to believe. And it is a picture that is so at odds with all the data available that demonstrates so alarmingly the state of Gay mens’ mental health both in the UK and around the world. Continue Reading →

Daring Greatly with Brené Brown

Ernesto Moreno, Darren Brady and Ade Adeniji recently sat down for an interview with Brené Brown to talk about her work as it relates to the lives of gay men. Here Ade shares his reflections on the journey to meeting Brené.

Ade - Daring

I remember being filled with such excitement and anticipation when in early April I discovered that Brené Brown was coming to London to give a talk at The School of Life. I immediately posted the details on Facebook, and notified a few of the guys who had journeyed with The Quest about the event. Since discovering Brené’s work via her TED talks, Darren and myself had often referred to her research in our work with gay men on the issue of shame, vulnerability and courage.

I got out my diary to put in the date and then noticed that I had another engagement on the same day, which I could not get out of – or could I? I was in the process of starting a monthly group coaching session in June, and our second session would clash with the Brené event. I debated whether to move the session, but everything was already in place and so I gradually settled to the possibility of the talk making its way to YouTube and seeing it there.

Few weeks later as Ernesto told me that he had his ticket for The School of Life event, I silently debated whether I could take my coaching group for an outing to see Brené, but by that stage the tickets were all gone. ‘Oh well, that’s that’ I thought! Continue Reading →

Meeting Brené Brown

Ernesto Moreno, Darren Brady and Ade Adeniji recently sat down for an interview with Brené Brown to talk about her work as it relates to the lives of gay men. Here Darren shares his reflections on the journey to meeting Brené .

Darren - BreneThere are moments in life where reality meets a dream. The moment someone agrees to a date, we hold the keys of our new home in our hand, we look into the eyes of our new born child for the first time, we open the letter containing the results of our hard earned qualification. These moments can be large or small, outwardly major or seemingly insignificant but they contain a magic where suddenly what we imagined becomes possible, what we dreamed of emerges in front of our eyes. And so it was for me on the day we met Brene Brown.

A few days before we received confirmation that Brene would be able to meet us during her upcoming trip to the UK, a friend had sent me an Internet  link to one of her famous Ted talks. Ade and I had just completed one of our foundation weekend workshopsand as I watched this talk I had the repeated realisation that almost everything she was saying was the same as what we were doing with the gay men who had just completed the workshop. It was as though her last 12 years of research was being plugged directly into what we were exploring within our workshop. Continue Reading →

About meeting Brené and being vulnerable

Ernesto Moreno, Darren Brady and Ade Adeniji recently sat down for an interview with Brené Brown to talk about her work as it relates to the lives of gay men. Here Ernesto shares his reflections on the journey to meeting Brené .

ErnestoSince I was a young teenager, I have been reading lots of personal development and psychology books. Throughout all these years I have come across wonderful books, those that change us and leave a profound impact in us. Brene’s latest book ‘Daring Greatly’ is definitely one of these wonderful books. Sometimes I even say that ‘Daring Greatly’ is probably the best book I have ever read – and yes, I know that is quite a statement to make!

I am also aware that how good a book is, depends highly on where we are in life at the time we read such book and it’s normally a very subjective matter. A book that can be great for me is not necessarily as good for someone else. I believe this is the result of how well we can relate to the book personally. If the book resonates with something we are going through or have experienced before, then the better the book is. It is like if the book was directly speaking to us. This is also why when we read a book again some time later we discover complete new meanings, because we are now reading it with a different state of mind.  And this is probably why ‘Daring Greatly’ was such a good read for me; because it came at the right time and it relates to things I have gone through; and I continue to go through. Continue Reading →

The Quest sits down with Brené Brown

– Navigating the gap between Shame and Pride

Brene BrownBrené Brown PhD, LMSW is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestsellers Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection. She is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and has spent the last 12 years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.

Brené became a global sensation after her TEDx Houston talk on The Power of Vulnerability went viral and became one of the most watched talks on TED.com with over 10 million views. In 2012, she returned to TED and gave the closing talk – Listening to Shame – at the Conference in Long Beach. Brené and her work have been heavily featured in media all around the world, and Oprah recently interviewed her on Super Soul Sunday.

In our work at The Quest we spend time exploring shame and how it relates to the journey of gay men. Brené defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” In her research, Brené found that shame is highly correlated with addiction, violence and depression and that this ‘shame’ is ultimately what prevents people from ‘Wholehearted living’, which she defines as the ability to engage in our lives from a place of worthiness, and feel love and belonging.

Brené explains that for us to feel love and belonging, we need to embrace vulnerability, share our story and let ourselves be seen; this is the essence of our Weekend Exploration Workshop for Gay Men and lies at the heart of The Quest.

We sat down with Brené on her recent visit to London to discuss the insights from her research as it relates to the lives of gay men. Continue Reading →

Reflections on Gay Pride

Ade: Around the world, the Gay Pride season has truly begun! When you think of Pride what comes up for you?

Darren: Pride for me has always been synonymous with being within a large group – a sense of being the ‘majority’ for a day. I remember the feeling of walking on the marches with thousands of other LGBT people and looking at members of the public on the pavement and thinking ‘the roles have been reversed’.

It created such a wave of confidence in me. How about you?

Ade: Yes, I feel the same. I always equate Pride with ‘the day being gay is celebrated’. I went to my first Pride in 1995 in London. I was still in the closet and had tagged along with some gay friends – out of curiosity. I remember calling them to ask if I could come along and feeling a sense of shame about asking. On getting there, I wanted to be ‘Out & Proud’ like everyone else, but remembered feeling unworthy and deeply flawed about being gay… 12 months later, I was out and proud, and a steward at the 1996 London Pride – from Shame to Pride!!! Continue Reading →

My New Best Friend!

When I was in Thailand recently a very powerful thing happened to me. Bear with me as this may sound a little strange… my body started talking to me.

Many times before on holidays I have made it a routine to go running along the beach and this time was no exception. I found myself jogging, barefoot along the beach and I could suddenly hear my body talking.

“oh, this feels gooooood ” it told me, “I really needed this, I need to move through space”

It was a different sounding voice to the one I was used to. That voice said things like –

“oh, ok, were going running but not too far. Look for a marker in the distance and that’s as far was we will go and then turn back. Let’s not overdo it”.

This voice was absent. Continue Reading →

Introducing The Quest Bitesize

On Wednesday 22 May we held our first Bitesize event. The Quest Bitesize is an evening designed exclusively for The Quest graduates to come together and explore issues relevant to their journey of authenticity, reconnect with other graduates and to learn and discover new things that can facilitate their journey of self-discovery and authenticity. In a way, it is an evening that is aimed to reignite the passion that brought us together in the first place.

Continue Reading →

Masculinity, Manhood and being a Gay Man

Ade: So in our Conflab today, we are exploring the topic of masculinity, manhood and being a gay man. I thought a good place to start might be looking at this quote I came across in a blog recently –

As a gay, you understand that while you’ll always find peers who allow you to be exactly as queeny as you are, there is still a social hierarchy that puts a premium on masculinity. Tops are valued. “Straight-acting” is a badge of pride, despite the term’s corrosiveness…”

What comes up for you when you digest that?

Continue Reading →

The List – A new take on speed dating

You must know the feeling. You go through your drawers and find an old favourite shirt you’ve forgotten about. You think: “Gosh, I wondered where this had gone. I thought I’d lost it.” When you put it on and look in the mirror, it still fits like a dream and looks smashing.

That’s how I felt when I recently landed back on the ‘dating scene’ — pleasantly curious and ready to strut my stuff. With 40 around the corner and because I’m wary of repeating old patterns, I was a bit apprehensive too despite my enthusiasm.

Nowadays, gay men are certainly spoiled for choice when it comes to how we can connect with other guys. The obvious and easy choices are online dating sites and smartphone apps. I’ve tried both and I know they offer loads to look at and hold the alluring promise of immediate gratification, but they’re also time-consuming. I mean really, how many frogs can one man kiss? Continue Reading →

Rediscovering my core need for intimacy

A participant on our recent one-day workshop ‘Getting Clear on Sex & Intimacy’ shares what led him to attend, and his insights from the journey.

Reaching my mid 30s and not having a sense of what imtimacy is, let alone what it means to be, has been rather disconcerting. A comment Darren (co-founder of The Quest) made recently resonated with some of the thoughts on sex and intimacy I had been having in recent months. He reminded me of a time when I was younger, when my identity as a gay man was not determined by sex or the overt sexualisation of the gay scene I find around me. It permeates so many aspects of our lives whether we choose to admit it or not: the gay press, scene magazines, limitless online pornography, online hookup sites, phone applications.. the list is endless. Continue Reading →

Stories, Ghosts & The Art of Performance Storytelling

In the third and final conflab between The Quest co-founder Darren Brady and international theatre practitioner and academic Paul Woodward, they make their final reflections on the power of crafted storytelling for the stage and its potential within The Quest provision, as well as heralding the launch of the next phase in storytelling The Haunting

Darren
So this is our final conversation about storytelling. I know that you have recently performed yourself and I was interested to know- What do you think happens when somebody shares an important story about themselves with an audience? Continue Reading →

Reflections on Sex and Intimacy

Rainer, a participant on our recent workshop ‘Getting Clear on Sex and Intimacy‘, reflects on the one-day exploration.

sexandintimacyIn our society there aren’t many places where I feel save enough to allow deepest feelings to occur. During the ‘Sex and Intimacy’ workshop in April, I had the possibility to ask myself how I am in this subject in relation to old lovers, to clichés and to my own beliefs. The questions being asked scrutinised my own thinking and opened something up in myself.

Exploring what my relationship to sex and intimacy is, I found myself having a hard time to separate those two. Although one can have sex without much intimacy, I find it still confusing. If I just want to have sex with a guy, maybe what I really want is intimacy, but it’s hard and too difficult to create it. Maybe the sex is easier to deal with, as it can be a technical thing. Continue Reading →

Reflections on The Quest Mastery Weekend

sunrise over london croped flattenedI’m real pleased that I signed up to do The Quest’s Mastery Weekend. It helped to complete a few of the things that I started to deal with during The Exploratory Weekend. In fact, I kind of think of them both now, as a single entity. A week’s worth of Questing, with a bit of an intermission, half way through.

Seeing guys change, seeing guys free themselves from their shackles and weighted chains, has been truly heart-warming. So fantastic to witness. And I hope the other guys who have drifted away, are in a better place than they were before.

I suppose it’s about Expectations, ours and others. Do people really think that spending a weekend or two with Darren and Ade is going to immediately transform all of our lives? Ah, but wouldn’t that be miraculous if they could. Just a swish of their magic wands. . . Unfortunately though, we live in a world without that specialist brand of magic. Continue Reading →

My Journey with The Quest (Part 2)

Jason, a recent participant of The Quest Weekend Exploration and The Quest Mastery Workshops, continues the personal story of his journey with The Quest. (Part 1)

Uber-GayI began to regularly attend the First Tuesday Socials. Still shy and awkward though. This new peer group was so different from my “other” peer group. The one of “Grebs, Goths and Metal Rockers.” Oh and please don’t think I was not being gay when I was with the “Rockers.” I was. I still am the ultimate Uber-Gay there. How could I be anything else? Surrounded by a sea a heterosexuals, the only man in the room, with any sense of style when he danced. And with such a “predatory, sexual, menace.” How the girls love it. And yes, the straight guys there too! And both peer groups accepting of me, for who I am, what I am, whoever that maybe.

Love, unconditional love, anything less is not worth a damn.

Then The Quest did the “Going Beneath the Surface” performance. Gay men standing up on stage and telling true stories from their lives. Telling their uncensored truth. And yes sometimes, the painful, brutal truth of their history. Continue Reading →

My Journey with The Quest (Part 1)

Jason, a recent participant of The Quest Weekend Exploration and The Quest Mastery Workshops, shares the personal story of his journey with The Quest.

Hmm, my journey with The Quest.

Okay, so where to start? Where to begin? Hmm, okay, here goes.

Hi. My name is Jason. Pleased, very pleased to meet you.

NightwishYou may have seen me around. May have seen me at one of those, The Quest events. Seen me standing there. Oh, you know the one, that strange guy in the gothic clothing. The “freak.” The “fuck up.”

There now at The Quest, in my assumed role of service. A point of light along your way, if you so choose, to stop on by. There for those, most alone, those lost in the darkness of their nights. A safety net for the fallen and the dispossessed. A hand held out to “My Brothers in Arms.”

And tell me, do you wonder about me? Wonder how I got to be this creature before you?

Ah, my history, now that really is a story in the telling. . . in the showing. . .

But, I will hold myself, in talking to you now, about only these past several months or so. The months that I have journeyed with The Quest.

My first contact with The Quest was via their Website. It seemed interesting. Some place different. It called to me in my darkness. And my darkness was. . . Well. . . Very DARK. Continue Reading →

Getting Clear on Sex & Intimacy

Ade: In our upcoming one-day workshop on April 13th we will be exploring  Sex and Intimacy. Do you feel that many gay men are able to distinguish between the two? We often see Sex portrayed in many of the gay magazines, and very little said about Intimacy, Connection, Openness and Engagement. I think many of us know the language of Sex and only few know the language of Intimacy. When I look back to when I came out in my late 20s, my approach based on what I saw was – sex first, intimacy second.

Darren: Yes and often we think the act of sex is intimacy when in fact it can be totally lacking in intimacy. So how would you describe the ‘language of intimacy’?

Ade: I would say the language of intimacy is the same as the language of Vulnerability. I recently heard Brene Brown say vulnerability has three components – Risk, Emotional Exposure and Uncertainty. When I look at my own journey with intimacy, it’s when I allow myself to be open to those three components, that I find myself in a space of connection and authenticity with the person that I am with. You? Continue Reading →

Cardinal O’Brien and the recipe for disaster

“Doing the inner work gives us access to our own power. This creates the conditions for a transformed world”


Ade:
There has been a lot in the press over the past couple of days about Cardinal O’Brien in terms of him allegedly having ‘inappropriate relations’ with a couple of priests. Not sure if it is indeed true, but if it is, what came to mind for me was – here we go again with a closeted homophobic person who has unresolved shame issues. What thoughts and feelings came up for you?
Darren: A mixture of feelings. Partly I was sad at the idea of somebody being trapped in a role that demanded suppression of a central part of their identity and who then allowed this to find release in circumstances that were not consenting. Another part of me felt excitement that a silence was being broken, that some truth – however dark – was coming to light. How about you?

Ade: Yes, also a range of emotions. I felt sad that someone in a position like his was not using his life to help heal the wounds of others. This is a guy who has been very openly homophobic and infact last year was named Stonewall Bigot of the Year. He is someone who could help bring about change and help many gay men and lesbians heal their relationship with God. Instead, due to his unhealed stuff he has not helped at all.
Darren: Yes the ‘unhealed stuff’ can have a powerful and negative impact and when that is present in someone with power and responsibility it can be a recipe for disaster. For most of us – who do not hold these positions – I suppose we can look at the negative impact that our own unhealed stuff has not only on ourselves, but also on those around us. If we do this we can begin to understand – not condone – the behavior of people branded as bigots. Continue Reading →

Reflections on ‘Beneath the Surface’ (Part 2)

In the second part of a trilogy of discussions, the creators of Beneath The Surface explore the many issues raised in reviving a live storytelling performance

Paul Woodward: So… in resurrecting the performance Velvet Rage Live: Real Stories which was performed at the Sarah Siddons Theatre in November, it became the revised version Beneath The Surface which was presented last week at The Embassy Theatre at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama… I wonder if we could reflect this session on what happened in-between these events in terms of the cast and their relationship to the material…  and I guess within that there is a good question that we can use as a conflab starting point and focus…

Is a story completed once it is told?

Darren: The guys had moved on in quite a significant way after they performed their piece the first time. When we regrouped to go through the piece for the performance a few months later there was a different energy to the stories. It was less ‘charged’. They were assured and confident and had a distance between themselves and the events they had retold in their stories. It was actually quite beautiful to witness. It also created a challenge- how do we now make these stories have emotional impact for the audience? Continue Reading →

God is on our side guys!

Peter, a recent participant of The Quest Weekend Exploration Workshop, talks about his faith and love of God.

I’ve been wanting to share this story about my life and faith for some time, since my love of God is at the very foundation of who I am. My faith is so important to me in my everyday life, and in my understanding of who I am as a gay man, but I know for many gay men the notion of God, the church and religion generally evokes very negative feelings and in some cases can trigger very painful memories and experiences. It’s my hope that the following words could stir up some hope and possibility for the future.

After years of trying to conform to the straight life I’d chosen and to ignore and suppress the growing desires and feelings within me, the pressure became so overwhelming that I couldn’t lie any more or hide the real me. When I eventually left my wife and family 7 years ago I was an assistant pastor of a church, head of the youth ministry, chairman of a Christian charity and Governor of a CofE church school. Once I came out I had to resign from all of those roles as well as being totally rejected by my children. I was also the MD of a business I ran with my wife, and some time later had to resign from that too as well as leaving our beautiful home that we’d lovingly restored. From having what most people thought was a perfect life, I suddenly had absolutely nothing and was living in my sisters dark and dingy box room. Most of my friends were from the church and they all turned their backs on me. And if that wasn’t enough, it was made very clear to me that unless I repented of my sin I was no longer a Christian or a child of God. It was such a dark and utterly soul destroying time. The rejection of my beloved children was the most painful of all, and life just didn’t seem worth living any more. I had no strength left in me to fight back and my guilt was almost too heavy to bear. I could hardly look anyone in the eye I was so ashamed of myself and what I’d done. Continue Reading →

Journeying with The Quest

In December 2012, Gabriel participated in  The Quest Weekend Exploration Workshop. Here he reflects on his journey with The Quest.

Despite being a lot in my head, sometimes I take decisions without thinking too much; I just jump into the water. The Quest was such a case!

Late last year, a friend invited me to the book launch of ‘Love Me As I Am: gay men reflect on their lives‘, which appealed to me because it showed something I could easily relate to – my difficulties in growing up gay. That same evening, when I arrived home, I registered for the next available workshop with The Quest; no further questions asked. Continue Reading →

Reflections on Robbie Rogers Coming Out

“Breaking that silence means emerging from the closet of shame. To proclaim oneself openly as gay is, above all else, to come out of shame – profoundly, to break the silence. This is why the term “Coming Out “ is a shame metaphor’ – Gershen Kaufman and Lev Raphael (Coming Out of Shame – Transforming Gay and Lesbian Lives)

I remember being a closeted 22 year old, when the footballer Justin Fashanu came out in 1990. It was the talk of the office, as we all watched from the sidelines to see how the story would unfold. Sadly, that story did not have a happy ending, for whilst Justin had taken the bold and courageous step to come out, he was not met by a world ready to embrace a footballer, who happened to be gay. Regardless of how that story concluded, I continue to be inspired by the courage displayed by Justin, and his story certainly gave me the courage to eventually come out and live my life as an openly gay man.

Robbie RogersYesterday, almost 23 years after Justin became the first openly gay footballer associated with English football, another footballer came out as gay. The player in question was 25 year old, US born Robbie Rogers, who had played for the US and Leeds United. Whilst Justin’s coming out had provided the tabloid press with stories reinforcing certain stereotypes of gay men around the issue of sex, Robbie’s coming out was very different, as he took us on a journey that many gay men travel, in their quest to live an authentic life. Robbie showed us what lies beneath the surface of the masks that many gay men have learnt to wear. In his note, Robbie says –

“Things are never what they seem….. My whole life I have felt different, different from my peers and even different from my family………” Continue Reading →

Review: Beneath the Surface – Real Life Stories

As part of 2013 LGBT History Month, on 6 February, The Royal Central School of Speech & Drama in a unique collaboration with The Quest for Gay Men, presented a special one-off showing of the groundbreaking and compelling performance storytelling event – Beneath the Surface: Real Life Stories.

The performance brought together a diverse group of nine gay men as they reflected on their lives, with a raw unflinching honesty to describe their individual and collective fight to come to terms with growing up different, in a heterosexual world. Inspired by the book ‘The Velvet Rage’ by Alan Downs, this performance was first performed in November 2012 as part of the 2-day event – ‘Gay Utopia: going beneath the surface‘ – hosted by The Quest.

To read a review of the performance by the online magazine, ‘So-So Gay’ – click here.

Living Well, who have been a supporter of The Quest right from the first workshop that ran in June 2011 also wrote about the performance – click here for details.

Continue Reading →

Reflections on ‘Beneath the Surface’ (Part 1)

In the first part of an ongoing Conflab, The Quest co-founder Darren Brady and Storytelling Coordinator Paul Woodward discuss their journey as Storytelling Facilitator and Dramaturg (respectively) for the recent performance piece ‘Beneath The Surface’.

The show was first premiered last year at the Sarah Siddons Theatre as part of our Gay Utopia weekend, and recently re-worked and performed to great acclaim at The Embassy Theatre at The Royal Central School of Speech & Drama.

 
Paul: I thought we could kick this off with our responses to a quote I read recently: The secret of a moving story is to tell it from a place of complete authenticity Annette Simmons.
Darren: Yes absolutely! But in reality that’s easier said than done! As gay men we learn very quickly (from the ages of 4 upward) to start hiding a key part of our true (authentic) selves, so showing ourselves does not come naturally to us.

Paul: And I think its interesting that the very nature of theatre itself presides on a kind of inauthenticity – in the traditional sense, the actors and the audience are collaborating in a lie – pretending neither is there in the same space at the same time. There’s always been speculation about why gay men in particular are drawn to the theatre arts. I wonder if its something to do with two forces prone to hiding reality, or a masking of truths based on some fundamental in-authenticities. Gay men and theatre – the mix in some ways was always going to be explosive, for our performers and audience both. Continue Reading →

Ghost Rider

~ Shame and Disclosure in the Curious Case of Lance Armstrong

A Personal View, by Paul Woodward

Lance Armstrong

The world recently watched with anticipation as the most successful championship cyclist the sport has ever seen perform an extraordinary series of disclosures in his highly publicised interview with Oprah Winfrey. Despite many years of staunch denial, supported by a mercilessly aggressive campaign of defence against almost all detractors, including libel actions upon both friends and colleagues alike, Lance Armstrong finally came clean to the world, and admitted he used performance-enhancing drugs to clinch the once legendary championship victories that had inspired so many.

I don’t know about you, but it was, for me, a uniquely unsettling experience. It wasn’t just due to the squirm factor of watching a publicly disgraced man attempt to seek absolution through trial by TV. Nor was it embarrassment at watching a man making a last ditch attempt to claw back some remnants of a career for himself. It was something else, something deep inside of me that stimulated these acutely uncomfortable feelings. Continue Reading →

Coming Out at 48

Mark, a recent participant of The Quest Weekend Exploration Workshop, shares the journey of him coming to terms with his sexuality – and coming out as a gay man, later in life.

1967b BidefordI first noticed I might be relating to the world differently from many other boys when I was very young. My friends at infant school were girls rather than boys. I was timid and avoided the ‘rough and tumble’ play of other boys. Even although as a slightly older child most of my friendships shifted to being with boys, I naturally befriended those who were gentle, more imaginative and more cerebral.  In those early years I also began to sense that not liking team sports, or not wanting to put myself in physical danger, meant that I was not conforming with what the world expected of ‘proper boys’. Although I could see I was not alone in these tendencies, a ‘mis-match’ was definitely becoming apparent. Unbeknown to me, even at this early age, my shame began to insidiously influence my self-perception and behaviour. Continue Reading →

“I’m fine. I don’t need any help”

Welcome to The QuestConflab. What is a Conflab? It’s pretty simple really, Conflab is another term for an ‘informal discussion’.

Every fortnight, Ade and Darren, founders of The Quest, discuss and explore a different theme. The theme of this Conflab is – “I’m fine, I don’t need any help” 

Darren: Something I have been thinking about a lot is that as very young children we learned to be self sufficient in response to finding ourselves ‘different’ from others and not getting acknowledgement and support. This led me to thinking that this often gets in the way of us asking for help and certainly showing our vulnerability in front of others. It may also be the reason that many gay men find the prospect of the work we do as very daunting
Ade: When you say them ‘finding the prospect of doing the work daunting’, do you mean – doing the work by being with other gay men or simply them doing the inner work and facing their demons? I for one, think both apply. There are a number of gay men that I have spoken to who tell me things like – I don’t trust other gay men and I don’t like being with other gay men. And in terms of doing the work, I guess that ties in with what we discussed when we had our conflab on ‘talking a new language‘. Continue Reading →

Tenderness, Taboo & Togetherness

~ A Dramaturg’s Perspective on ‘Beneath The Surface: Real Life Stories’

As we await the next incarnation of The Quest storytelling performance inspired by The Velvet RagePaul Woodward, the production Dramaturg reflects here about how the original production Velvet Rage: Real Life Stories was shaped and structured, and the processes which brought the piece to fruition….

What is a ‘dramaturg’?

It’s a weird old word, German in origin (and boy does it sound it), which when I describe myself as such makes people check my breath, to see if I’m drunk and trying to say ‘dramatist’ or ‘director’ – in actual fact, its kind of a specialized combination of both of these things. I’m going to resort to Wikipedia here (the academic in me shudders at this of course) for the clearest definition I could find:

Dramaturgy is the art of dramatic composition and the representation of the main elements of drama on the stage. Dramaturgy is a distinct practice separate from play writing and directing, although a single individual may perform any combination of the three. Some dramatists combine writing and dramaturgy when creating a drama. Others work with a specialist, called a dramaturg, to adapt a work for the stage.

Dramaturgy may also be defined, more broadly, as shaping a story into a form that may be acted. Dramaturgy gives the work or the performance a structure.

And that’s basically what my role was for this project. I was the structure and shaper guy for the piece, the guy in charge of production design, and who took a co-directorial position, alongside Darren Brady, who was taking the reigns on this particular project, as facilitator. Continue Reading →

Facing the Man in the Mirror

It’s been two years since Attitude broke new ground with the ‘‘issues issue’’ which focused on the sensitive and somewhat taboo issues of mental health problems in gay men. Sparking a national debate, this special edition of Attitude lifted the veil from discussing controversial issues such as internalised homophobia, depression, sex-addiction and shame in an open and transparent way.

But what has changed since then? Having identified the key issues we face, there are now a growing number of gay men who are seeking a new kind of conversation, one which allows them to explore the deeper meaning behind their experiences as gay men. This is reflected in the new book ‘Love Me As I Am: Gay Men reflect on their lives,’ which presents the moving stories of 24 gay men from all walks of life writing an open letter to their sixteen year old self. Developed from a workshop exercise by life coaches Ade Adeniji and Darren Brady, the book signals a new willingness of gay men to step forward and tell their stories in a way that empowers them to break free from the self-destructive patterns that have blighted our community.

In this article James Barber speaks with Ade and Darren, to find out how they are helping gay men to heal the wounds of their past so they can live more authentic lives. Continue Reading →