Rikki Beadle-Blair is a passionate fighter for gay rights. From the age of 17 he was writing and performing at Gays the Word book shop in London, one of the few gay spaces that wasn’t a bar or a club. Since then he’s gone on to become an actor, director, screenwriter, playwright, singer, aerobics teacher, designer, choreographer/dancer and songwriter… in fact, in his 50 years here on Earth, there is very little he hasn’t done. Last year his anti-bullying DVD FIT, was not only released to the general public but sent to every school in the UK and received unanimous support from all quarters. Now his latest creation, Kick Off, takes a humorous look at a gay 5-a-side team as they prepare to take on ‘straight’ opposition for the first time.
You seem to get yourself involved in these projects with a message… is this something you’ve always done?
I’m a 60s baby you know… went to an experimental school in the 70s where I could learn what I wanted, wear what I wanted and say what I wanted so, as I travel down my life’s road I’m drawn to the concept of making entertaining but also mind expanding work.
OK. Tell Bent the inspiration behind Kick Off.
That’s simple. My family is football mad so I wanted to do something that they could watch. I really wanted to approach that whole thing of “…where are all the gay sportsmen?” Even though recently we’ve doubled our out gay sports men (with cricketer Stephen Davies coming out to join rugby star Gareth Thomas) but when we conceived this project there was no one… it’s encouraging but it is still just a drip, drip really slow and I wanted to do something that. Gay people are so alienated from sport. There are many who like it, many who take part in it but that there is still a perception of separation in society… particularly between gay men and sport.
In the movie you mention the only out gay football player Justin Fashanu who died under very sad circumstances… how do you feel about the current crop of out sportsmen?
Hopefully they won’t have sad endings and that the current coming out stories can inspire us, even though it may be painful… they can still inspire. Now it serves as something that makes the establishment look and think – OK maybe we can handle this better because, unless you are way down the road of homophobia, you don’t want our best sportsmen killing themselves.
In the movie, despite the lack of football I gather you had a strict fitness regime that the guys had to undertake.
There is football in it but you’re right… I wanted to make a film for people who liked football to enjoy and for people who didn’t like football to enjoy so, a lot of what actually goes on is them trying to get the game started. A lot of the football you see in it is just one take on a long panning shot and so they had to do the football tricks and dribbling that was needed. Of course I wanted them to have great bodies because I wanted to bring in people who weren’t particularly crazy about football of all sexualities and appealing looking people can help with that. Also the actors themselves wanted to show off their bodies so I organised for all the boys to go on a gruelling two hour training course around London twice a week, which despite being hard was also a great bonding exercise
In the movie you play a bit of a screamer, a schemer and a tactical genius… is this how you see yourself?
(Descends into laughter) If only. My character is the same one I had ten years ago when I played a part on TV in show called Metrosexuality and I pulled that character right over to this project. Max, the character, is a gay parent but it isn’t really me, it’s more like my mum. I’m a product of a gay family… my mum’s gay and so that’s kinda representing her. I wanted to portray the difficulty of being a gay parent, or parent at all, wanting to control everything and wanting them to have freedom and always struggling between that. It was a bit like a director or a football coach… wanting to keep control of the project giving discipline, keep them focused but giving them the chance to let their genius come out
On the Rikki Beadle-Blair Wikipedia site you have tons of credits mostly around gay rights… what are you most proud of?
I don’t do anything that I’m not proud of but you’re asking what am I most proud of…
I guess the project FIT (the anti school bullying play, movie, DVD) as it has gone to every school in the country. We get loads of e-mails from gay people in countries all over who have been really positive about what we’ve done. I’m so proud of the group of actors who have been great ambassadors all round the world. We have a new film based around Urban Music about to be released called ‘Bashment’ which I’m also very proud of. We trailed it as a play and we performed it in front of a very, very homophobic audiences and it completely changed the way they responded to gay characters during the performance.
So what would you say is the biggest threat to gay rights?
Gays themselves. Whatever others might say about us they cannot have nearly as much power if we don’t accept it or believe it. We can accept that they have that opinion but we don’t have to accept that opinion within ourselves. Our biggest problem is when we fight and turn on each other as opposed to having diverse opinions, disagreements and spirited debates. When we start attacking one and other and being mean about each other, not supporting people who come out and being fearful… that’s when we’re in trouble.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
(Dissolves into laughter) I have to be honest. I put them in those pink short shorts as I thought it would be more fun to watch.
And who are we to disagree?
What happens when the hardest team in the Sunday Soccer league comes up against a gay team and finds they’ve finally met their match? Watch and wince as fledging referee Elton Glixton struggles to control this testosterone tsunami as rude-boy meets bum-boy in this outrageous new comedy set in the crazy gung-ho world of 5-a-side football. Pink shorts may not be to every players taste but these boys fill them out perfectly. An amusing gay slant on the meaning of team building and terrific fun.
Out: 11th April – £14.99 – Peccadillo Pictures
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In the name Stonewall FC, what do the letters FC stand for?
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