Tag Archives: British Asian gay lives

Raindance

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Little Elephant just can’t get enough of London. It has two screenings coming up at the prestigious Raindance Film Festival on 25 September and 2 October 2016. It’s showing as part of the Animation Shorts Programme.

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Tricky Women

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Little Elephant to be screened at Tricky Women, an international festival for female directors working in animation, held annually in Vienna, Austria. Our film will be shown in the Beside Oneself category on 3 and 5 March. Kate Jessop, the film’s director will be there to talk about elephants, love and animation.Arts Council England

 

Here’s the trailer for the festival.

Parents

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Mother and childNowadays people say…

A straight friend of mine said she’d be cool with her daughter, who’s currently aged two, “if she grew up to be gay or anything else,” as it makes no difference to her whatsoever. “And it shouldn’t.”

But, isn’t there always, well let’s say often, a period of adjustment?

My mother expressed surprise, disbelief; she even thought I was joking in her confusion to understand. This was followed by shock, in fact a mighty blow! Whatever future she saw when she first held that baby close to her breast shattered in a moment… Leaving an apocalyptic vacuous residue…

There was a period of grief, for the future that will never be. And then the difficult feelings stirred, when she tried to comprehend what it all meant: being gay, having a gay son, what others would think?

Often time is a healer; often, but not always. Time allows for grieving. It allows for adjustment. Time, allows for love to heal.

I think my mother has tried to understand what having a gay son means, the way she knows best.

Parents too, of gay and bisexual children, are on a journey. They learn to experience their difficult feelings. They may talk to others, or not. They may try to become informed. They try to reason in their heads. They learn to live with it. And over time, it’s kind of OK. It’s not that bad. Bobby, is still Bobby.

Here are two dramatised parents’ perspectives as monologues interspersed together. Ravinder is a father being interviewed for a project. He talks about his daughter. Pooja is in a café with her son. Use headphones for the best quality experience.

Audio monologues: written by Carl Miller; performed by Dharmesh Patel and Rochi Rampal; Directed by Steve Johnstone and Kate Chapman; recorded and engineered by Adam McCready and produced by Bobby Tiwana. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England. Co-commissioned by GEM Arts.

Leicester blog Friday, Rob

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Just a short one readers. Friday we were in Leicester. I got off the train raring to go. I actually had a little time to spare so went to go and see Leicester Cathedral and the planned Richard III monument. It’s a cause close to my heart so if you fancied signing the e-petition to make sure that his body remains in Leicester rather than being moved to York then I’d appreciate it. Exactly why it’s so important to me is a subject for another blog (in fact I think I will write a post on my own site about it) so for now just visit and watch my own space theatremad.wordpress for updates.

So enough about dead kings. To the show. Well today was an interesting one. About one-third of the audience was young – members of a youth group run by Leicester LGBT Centre. The overall audience was also probably the least theatrical so far too. Several people found some of the theatrical conventions confusing and were happy to tell us so. Indeed, our use of audio was discussed dividing the group’s opinion; several younger members felt starved of visual stimuli during this; others found the images created through voice very potent. It’s also worth bearing in mind that this stage was deliberately bare bones, to bring characters off the page and present to people.

James, the wonderfully helpful technician at Curve added some lights for us, though, I’m not sure what this added to what we’d created. It brought an added formality – a ‘professional’ hue, perhaps taking a little away from the informal context we set out with and raising or mis-aligning expectations.

So  a good show, a brilliantly mixed audience in a hot room under the lights, and a youthful perspective on feedback. An older man did talk about the importance of such events taking place in Leicester, which was seconded by younger local voices in the room. Leicester turned out, good.

I did warn you this would be short. Fear not, Newcastle blog post to come, which will be heartfelt as it’s the last. Also, while I remember, I met one of the readers today – a truly lovely lady whom I hope is reading now. It was lovely to meet her and nice to know I actually have readers. So until the next time – stay fabulous!

Rob Beck

Rupal interviews Bobby live at 14:00

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I think in families, lying is the norm… Rupal Rajani interviews me today just after 2pm on lunchtime show for BBC Radio Leicester. Catch it live. A few hours remain to get those tickets.

Sheffield rocks, Rob blogs…

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Well, well, well Sheffield you do surprise us. Before I begin though, what a day it was – I felt like I’d hardly stopped moving all day. Jumped on a train in the morning to be whisked ‘oop north’, arrived with an hour to wander around Sheffield which was resplendent in the autumn sunshine, and then straight down to business at the theatre where we had to set up, chat about the previous show, and then perform. And then, sat back down on a train heading in the opposite direction, wondering where all the hours of the day went. Home beckoned, but certainly not because the show was anything less than brilliant. CrucibleDay_cropped

So, details then – our illustrious writer, Carl Miller, had some notes yesterday which resulted in a bit of a shake up on some of the scenes in the piece. I often find this is a great way to keep actors on their toes and to ensure that everything is kept crisp and fresh. In fact, I think some of the script was the best I’ve ever seen it and certainly the audience responded really well.

I should also point out that, Sheffield, you provided us with our biggest audience yet (Go Sheffield!) and what a great audience it was. I counted twenty-six heads and all of them thoroughly screwed on and engaged with the piece. A very creative audience too – some poets, some playwrights and a fair few theatre-makers. AdelphiReadyThe result being that we had some great discussions about the characters and how they made the audience feel. One gentleman responded to one of the characters by saying it was nice to hear parental voices and that, while we didn’t actually hear from her at the end, the mother with the tea cups (or, interestingly, bangles perhaps) represented a more positive angle where parents could be accepting – an interesting follow on from the discussions we were having at mac birmingham.

For the first time yesterday I was able to have a very in-depth discussion with one man who had come from a very similar family background to me. I enjoyed talking about how a small family can sometimes seem very restricting because the support we crave can only come from a select number of people and how, in many ways, we had grown our support network from the communities we inhabited so as to have a larger group of people we could reply on for love and acceptance. By the way, readers, this is not to decry the support I get from my family whom I love and am very grateful for, but sometimes a person needs a larger foundation and this can often come from one’s community of friends.

Interestingly in this instance, I am maybe guilty of forgetting  that my family has feelings – something we talked about last night and I found very interesting. We expect so much from our families and yet how much do we really give back to them? AdelphiPairDiscussionOne gentleman raised the issue that, after coming out to his mother, she refused to talk about it and, when finally pressed on the subject, responded with “why should I talk about it, nobody asks me about my life!” – a really interesting idea and one that has definitely made me stop and think about how engaged I am with my family’s troubles and issues. I would like to hope I am not all take, take, take but the conversation yesterday encouraged me to think about this.

So I think that will be enough about last night. We’re now over half-way through the run. Leicester is our next stop on Friday. And then Newcastle on Friday. I hope you’ll have a read of that post when I’ve written it. Finally made it home by 2am…good job I wasn’t working in the morning…oh wait, I did! Deep joy! Until the next time – stay fabulous!

(Robert Beck’s future projects include assisting on a commission by Transport for London to commemorate the workers that came over from the West Indies and the Caribbean in the ’40s and ’50s to work on the tubes and buses  as well as assistant directing a production of Treasure Island – both with The Greenwich and Lewisham Young People’s Theatre. He will also be working with Dickie Beau on a number of workshops in October. Follow him on Twitter @Rhubarb1992…I know he asks this in every post but do it anyway!)

4 days more – radio interview with Ruchi Tandon

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BBC Journalist Ruchi Tandon, visited us in Birmingham last week. She spoke to one of our interviewees from last autumn and me. This piece was aired on BBC Asian programmes local radio across the regions on Sunday (22nd) just gone. It is available to listen online for another 4 days here. It starts 54.45 and ends 59.20.

Progressive Smethwick Library

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photo (32)This morning was like a blast from the past, leaving Wolverhampton for Smethwick. Accurately speaking the former commute was to Oldburyphoto (31) and then West Bromwich. It was drizzling but quite mild with a damp breeze. I met with Jean Fenn, the Library Manager. She was great. We started by looking around the space. I used to know the library quite well. When I worked for Black Country Touring we ran an event or two in the community room upstairs and even the odd show in the main space downstairs. I always liked the place for it’s ease of access, its location in a community setting and the types of participants and audiences we engaged with. I suppose I feel like I did a bit of creative growing up here from the genesis of Apna Ghar, A Thin Red Line workshops and The Corner Shop oral history training. Dawn Winter, the former manager was a great support.

Jean Fenn was as equally impressive. We ran through the practicalities of the space. It’s a little all change. photo (27)I was aware of the Big Lottery grant award they received a few years back, but I’d not seen the results: the new cafe, toilets and widening of the overall space.

But what I was most impressed with was the strategic development of LGBT resources: evident through displays, rainbow spine-tagged books, DVDs and magazines. Diva and Attitude sat next to Asiana and Asian Bride.  I was delighted to see my Beneath the Surface publicity materials centre stage. The image of two men kissing blown up and clearly visible to library users.

There is an LGBT reading group that meets monthly. The library also organises an annual LGBT event. And now I’m on the cusp of presenting Asian gay and lesbian lives to the Smethwick community within a workshop setting, can’t wait. Roll-on Smethwick…

Rob-blog trois

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It really is a most enjoyable experience writing these posts for you. I get home from rehearsals and plonk myself down in front of my laptop and get typing. Through them I’m getting to share with you the amazing work that is being photo (29)produced in these rehearsals and to (I’d like to hope at least) tickle your fancy into coming along to the Performance/Workshops at one of our six venues across England.

Now, as I intimated in my last blog, yesterday was about laying down the voices for the multi-media bits. Working in a recording studio is always exciting. Fantasies of doing a duet of Born this Way with Gaga re-emerged out of some adolescent part of my brain – honestly, put me in front of a microphone and all sense of professionalism seems to evaporate from me.

ANYWAY, fighting these rising urges, I accompanied the team into the room where we sat down and bashed out the parts of the script that will be played over the sound system. To my great joy I actually got to record a few lines myself – perhaps not quite my dream of recording a future chart-topper but it will do…for now. Plus it’s great to have my voice used as part of the project!! One thing that really strikes me about these recordings is just how different the performers sound. Had I not watched them record the lines, I may well think that we had hired a couple of extra actors to read these parts. A real testament to the versatility of our actors who, when all’s said and done, have the challenging task of multi-rolling characters, some of whom, twice their age through to characters that have experienced next to nothing of the world.

My theatre-senses tingled when I thought about the job the directors had to do in order to make these characters distinct and recognisable without disrupting the flow of the overall piece. Lucky they had me in the room, really, so that I could watch what they did – chip in a bit – but ultimately take it all in in order for me to retell it here to you lovely readers.

The fact that we have now done the recorded bits means that the focus can shift to the live-action bits – which are my favourites! Working with Dharmesh I was able to watch the creation of two completely contrasting characters – one a shy, fay northerner with a boyfriend he met online and the other a more mature guy who has grown tired of the superficiality of the gay scene and is looking for something more real.

Perhaps the most fascinating discussion we had was on the pros and cons of the gay scene. At one point, Dharmesh asked me why some people don’t like the gay scene and it got me thinking about how LGB culture can be a real refuge for some people but can also exclude a large proportion of the community. This made me assess my own views on how inclusive places like Soho and Canal Street really are and whether there needs to be something done to tackle exclusivity and superficiality at the heart of the gay scene. Working on this project has really made me take a good, hard look at myself and the culture I have surrounded myself with and to reflect upon what needs to be changed. IMG_5826 Just another way that Beneath the Surface is challenging ideas and encouraging discussion.

The scary thing is that this marks the end of the second day of rehearsing, when we only had five days to start with. Steve made the brilliantly terrifying point that if this was a four week process we would now be very close to the end of the second week…somewhat unsettling considering how much we still have to cover. However, rather than focus on how much more we have to do, a healthier stance is to celebrate how much we’ve got done. As well as the show we’re attracting attention online – Attitude Magazine tweeted us yesterday (a personal highlight for me as I absolutely love that magazine). So progress on all fronts …how exciting!! Until the next time – stay fabulous!

Rob Beck

Introducing guest blogger Rob Beck

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Back in December last year a conscientious final year student from a North West university got in touch who was intrigued by the project and wanted to get involved in some way. He went onto support the project by doing some media research earlier in the year. He’s an aspiring/growing theatre maker. He’s now engaged on the project as a graduate placement so that he can be immersed in all that happens in the rehearsal studio this week and the delivery for two weeks afterwards.

I’ll let him speak for himself…

Where to start? I often find beginnings the hardest. Beginning a blog; beginning the process of creating a piece of theatre; you have so many ideas and expectations and no way of knowing how they’re going to pan out. Let’s start with introductions. My name is Rob Beck (that’s me in the picture…yay!!) and this is, or will be my contribution to the project blog that will track the journey undertaken by a group of intrepid theatre makers as they devise, rehearse and showcase a piece of theatre that will explore the relatively unheard stories of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) Asians living in the UK. As a piece, it aims to shed light on these lives, the sorts of prejudices they come up against, and how their own sense of sexual, religious and cultural identity is influenced. Rob Beck

So how did I come to work on this project? Well, as a gay man living in the UK, you might say I’ve picked quite a good time to live my life. LGBT rights, The Equal Marriage Act, general equality and tolerance are better now than they have ever been. Yet I can’t help but feel what if I didn’t have the support of my family? What if I risked losing all my friends if I were to tell them how I really felt? What if the culture I had grown up in was less tolerant of my choices? I don’t actually know how well I’d cope when faced with all that pressure.

Now obviously I’m not Asian (the picture should be a pretty good indicator of that fact) but I do have some very close friends who are. My best friend growing up was an Indian Sikh. When I came out back in 2010 he was incredibly supportive but I do think it was a bit of a culture shock to him and even now my sexuality isn’t something we discuss at any great length. Another one of my very close friends is a girl who I met at university. Another Indian Sikh, she’s one of the funniest most uplifting people I know. She’s also a lesbian and proud of it too! It was having friends like her in my first term at uni that made it so easy to finally accept who I was and to come out. Yet amazingly, her sexuality is still something she has to hide at home. A couple of years ago there was a scare that her parents might try to force her into a marriage and even now she has to watch what she says online in case it somehow gets back to them. The fact that someone so strong and confident in every aspect of her life should have to hide anything was truly astounding. Having friends like these made me begin to think about the taboos that still exist in some cultures in the UK. How someone like my friend from uni copes with the constant juggling of her family life with her actual life or the reasons why I’m so lucky to still have my best friend from school when he might potentially have discarded me. This was why I got involved with Beneath the Surface and is why I will be contributing to the blog over the next few weeks as the work develops from page to stage.

As well as blogging, I’ll be helping out with the creative side of things too. I expect to have my assumptions about different cultures challenged and there will probably be parts of the show that I find quite difficult to work on. The script has been developed using real stories of LGB Asian people in the UK and therefore I am expecting some pretty poignant stuff. I’m excited, but also nervous to begin working on something that has the potential to be very powerful. The process is going to be an incredibly interesting one and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you. I should also warn you that I will be doing a lot of travelling for this show and there may be a fair amount of complaining about traffic jams and late running trains…just so you know! Anyway, that’s the introductions done. Until the next time – stay fabulous!

Rob Beck