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 →

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 →

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 →

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 ‘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 →

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 →

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 →

Gay Men Living their Best Lives

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 – Gay Men Living Their Best Lives

Ade: So, it’s the beginning of the year and many people are thinking ‘new year – new start’, for some this means living their best life. I guess its therefore apt that our theme should be ‘Gay Men Living their Best Lives’ – when you think of that statement, what comes up for you?
Darren: For me ‘best’ equates to ‘true’ – so when I am being and acting my truth, I have the greatest experience of life. When I am dishonoring my truth, problems and dissatisfaction set in. What does it bring up for you? Continue Reading →

Being Gay at this Time of Year

We hope you enjoy the The QuestConflab. What is a Conflab? Its pretty simple really, Conflab is another term for an ‘informal discussion’.

The theme of this Conflab is – What does this Time of Year mean to gay men?

We would welcome your thoughts, reflections and feedback on the discussion.

Ade: So what are we conflabbing about today?
Darren: Christmas?

Ade: Not keen on that as it is a Christian holiday and potentially excludes so many people. Maybe something broader, like ‘What does this Time of Year mean to gay men?’
Darren: Good idea. This time of year for me has usually led to me feeling very much an outsider – like the uninvited guest looking through the window at the party inside.

Continue Reading →

A new language between gay men

We are really excited to introduce another innovative offering to our friends and supporters, and that is – ‘The QuestConflab’.

What is a Conflab? Its pretty simple really, Conflab is another term for an ‘informal discussion’.

How did the idea come about? Due to our passion for working with gay men and exploring what lies beneath the surface of our lives, we often find ourselves having a range of conversations on that issue. Whenever we mention this to others, the feedback is that we could share more of these musings, as they are relevant to what The Quest is all about. And so we thought – why not try it? Therefore every fortnight, we will review your suggestions on topics and then let you ‘listen’ as we discuss and explore the issue..

We hope you enjoy the The QuestConflab, and we would welcome your thoughts and feedback on the conversation. The theme of our first Conflab is – A new language between gay men. Continue Reading →

Redefining Gay Community

This past weekend has been such an exciting chapter in the journey of The Quest. It was not so long ago, on one sunny Sunday afternoon on 8th May 2011, that Darren and myself sat in a Thai restaurant on Charlotte Street and talked about the journey of gay men. We had just left an event where Attitude magazine, in association with The Drill Hall, London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard and Pace Health had put on a panel discussion exploring some of the issues that gay men go through.

The event had used as its premise ‘The Velvet Rage – Overcoming the shame of growing up gay in a straight man’s world’, by Alan Downs. I was a big fan of the book, having bought it a few years prior and had since read it a number of times. The book had spoken to me on many levels and articulated my journey from childhood to adolescence into adulthood. Continue Reading →