Richard Dunbar: Full Interview

Duration 44:31


Richard Dunbar
Interview by Anna Gower
8th July 2019

AG: This is Anna Gower for the West Yorkshire Queer Stories project, on the 8th of July 2019

RD: And I’m Councillor Richard Dunbar from Bradford Council, the Council’s first-ever LGBT Champion.

AG: Lovely. So, Richard, could you tell me a bit about yourself?

RD: Erm, yeah, so, like I say, I’m a councillor in Bradford. I’ve been a councillor for six years now. I grew up in an area of Buttershaw, quite a socially deprived area, quite a notorious area in the sort of ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s. Grew up most of my life in a single parent family, with an older brother and two younger sisters. Life growing up – whilst it was difficult in a lot of respects, was also quite good. So, yeah, it was ravished with drugs, the estate I was on, and perhaps one of the worst things growing up was experiencing the harsh realities of domestic violence on a daily basis.

So, my dad wasn’t a very nice person to my mum or to me or my siblings, and that sort of, I suppose it still does shape me, and scar me – however you might want to put it, and in a sense inspires me for the kind of person I don’t want to be, but also want to be as well, just what you learn from it and – I always use one story, and I’ve been given permission to share this and share it as widely as I want: once – what had happened – the usual thing with my dad would be, he’d get home, he’d go to pub, he’d get drunk, he’d come back home and he’d be, then obviously the domestic violence would come to the fore.

And I remember once, I were just on my own with my mum, cos all my siblings were out or whatever, and he’d basically battered my mum to within an inch of her life, d’you know what I mean? Blood running down her face, all that sorta stuff. He were annoyed cos he didn’t have any more money, so the money my mum probably were saving for our school lunches the next day she had to give it to him cos it meant it got him out of the house, d’you know what I mean, and probably wouldn’t abuse her any more, that day at least. And I always remember her saying – y’know, she were crying, blood running down her face – she said to me, ‘d’you know what, no matter what’s happening to us, like now, there are people round here’ and, cos there were, ‘they were far worse off than we are right now’. And I thought – I still thought I were like, ‘what?! What are you talking about?! You’ve just been absolutely, y’know, abused, no other way of putting it, to a really terrible degree, and you’re thinking about other people’, and I think that’s where I’ve got my sense of, y’know, solidarity with other struggles, my sense of internationalism came from that moment, d’you know it’s making me think, but, how can I improve the lot for the people here now, but around me as well, and it’s my mum who that instilled that in me, and I think then starts growing up, in terms of my sort of identity and stuff, it was – I think…

I felt like I was different from a very early age, but obviously when you’re growing up you’re trying to process what that is, and what it means and, y’know, all this anti- expectation almost that boys had to go out with girls, y’know and it was, okay. I don’t necessarily feel the same about that, but I didn’t know what that meant – I’d loads of girl mates or perhaps people assumed I had girlfriends and stuff, but then I think it might’ve got to about 12 or 13 where I really understood that I was attracted to men rather than women. And that caused me a great deal of angst and worry because of the way I saw the world and how it treated people like me, y’know, this is y’know I grew up in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, y’know, in the aftermath – no, during the implementation of Section 28 and hearing stories and reading stuff and being absolutely scared about what would happen if I sort of came out and stuff, and when I did come out it was, it was, it was late – well, when I came – well, we all know that y’know LGBT+ people don’t just come out once in their lives, it’s numerous times, but when I sort of did the ‘big reveal’ if you like to everybody it was, I were about 21, 22, so probably quite late.

And when I told – I told loads of me mates first, as almost like a security blanket, and I knew my mum would be alright with it, but I absolutely knew she’d be fine, but it was that 1% of doubt of what if, what if, what if? And it was that thought what sort of emanated in my head from when I understood what I were really attracted to from the age of 13, so I went eight years running all those scenarios in my head and everything like that, and I think that had a massive sort of impact on me. So when I actually told my mum, y’know there was all the tears, and the tears from her were just like – ‘oh my god’ – she knew, but she knows I’m stubborn. So she’s like, she knew I had to work out in my head and I had to tell her, cos she knows me, y’know, like back of her hand, and it was all the tears and it was all sorta fine, y’know. And from that point it was, like, I’m in a privileged position, because speaking to other friends who didn’t have the same experience, I were like, oh I’m quite lucky. But then I thought, am I lucky? Cos it’s taken me that long to tell people who I am, why should I be lucky? Actually, that’s something fundamentally wrong with the fabric of society that, a) I need to come in the first place, and b) that I think I’m lucky because my parent, well my mum and my friends didn’t react to me badly. So, I started to think about what I could do and obviously sort of taking it – I still struggled with it, d’you know what I mean, cos you do, and I think about some of the incidents what have happened to me – again, not as bad as other people, but still not right, y’know?

I remember being at Bingley Music Live several years ago with my then-boyfriend, we were just holding hands, y’know stuff. I’m a bit like, well, balls to what people think, d’you know what I mean, so, and just walking t’bar or something like that with a couple of us friends and one guy just literally stood in front of us and said, ‘urgh, that is disgusting, d’you know what I mean’ – and it just, to say, I’m quite a bolshy sort of character but it absolutely just shocked me, and I didn’t know what to say or do. But luckily, my friend who were my best friend, Jamie, and some other people around who we didn’t even know absolutely just went for this person, y’know sort of verbally, and I just thought again, what a sort of nice moment, d’you know what I mean, in terms of y’know there were people who were bothered, then there’s y’know – but then there’s other parts about certain pubs, where I’d be like – I wouldn’t even dream of holding my boyfriend’s hand. There’s like one pub I was in, in an area where I grew up in, in Wibsey, where me and my friends – because I didn’t know this guy, or it were connected to somebody within the area where I grew up, must’ve known I was sort of gay or whatever, and we actually got chased out of a pub. We’d ordered a taxi, cos we could feel the tension and d’you know what were happenin’ and stuff and the comments and the pointing with his mates, and I thought, ‘right we need to leave’, and me other, the guy mates who were with me were like, ‘no we’re bloody staying, why do we need to leave?’ And I get that and we should be able to do that, but I thought, ‘I don’t want summat to kick off in here, just let’s go’. And we were leaving to get int’ t’taxi and this guy sort of ran out of the pub – I remember it really vividly – and we’re getting in’t taxi and my friend who’s quite a broad, tall sorta guy, as he were just getting in the taxi, this guy – clearly goin’ for me, but punched my friend in’t side of t’ead, d’you know what I mean, and y’know, been spat at a few times, and it’s all that stuff, y’know what I mean, it’s like – that’s a part of my history and I tell those stories because it’s important.

And I sort of get to – cos I’m going all over t’place here, but I’m trying to get a thread through it – is take it back to a coupla years ago, I, there was two or three times where I’ve had incidents – and it will make sense, it’ll sound weird, but it will make sense, what I’m telling you – where I was, where I’d choked a few times, on food, and where a few times I’ve had to have surgery to sort out, and I could have potentially died, because of it, and it was – I thought – a physical thing in my throat, I had like a restricted gullet or something like that, just didn’t think beyond that. And after I went to t’surgery, I got referred to my GP and he said, ‘oh the results will come back’, so I had this thing where I had to put this liquid down to see, and the consultant could see I were visibly worried about the results and what it meant, and I were meant to have waited two or three weeks for t’result, but the doctor who did the test said, ‘you need to look at this’ , the x-ray he showed me straight away, ‘meant to get it signed off by a consultant, but it’s, I’m telling you now, there’s nothing physically wrong with you here. I’ve been doing this job 20 years, and there’s nothing wrong with you’. I thought, right, so he referred me to my GP. A few weeks later, and he goes – said t’same thing, and I were about to leave and get up and he just like, ‘can I ask you what you, sort of, do for a job’ – I explained about politics and how busy I always am and all over, and then told him a bit more about my background and growing up and what it were like – it became like a therapy session, really, and it was amazing, and – and I think a lot of it was to do with – and basically, he said, I had quite severe anxiety and, a part of that, I point that towards, is me coming to terms and struggling actually, with my identity over a number of years, because it was sort of caged in, it were locked in there, d’you know what I mean? I say, it was locked in there by myself, but it wasn’t, it was locked in, I think, by society’s prejudices, really, d’you know what I mean?

So, but I were dealing with that in me head, cos like I say, I am quite – well, I think I’m quite tough – well I am – but I don’t like burdening other people, d’you know what I mean, like? My mum’s had her shit, I don’t wanna tell her necessarily how I’m feeling all the time; and similarly, good friends, everybody’s got their own stuff, so this anxiety built up in me over so many years. And I think that’s what those incidents were really about, d’you know what I mean? So, since then, I’ve start to look about self-care and I’ve sort of started – I know what like me triggers, like, I get ‘em now, it’s like weird, d’you know what I mean, so coming to terms with something like that, so I think, ‘oh, I’m alright me, I can deal with anything’, d’you know what I mean? So, but knowing your sort of weaknesses and vulnerabilities and knowing how to deal with ‘em I think’s massively, massively important.

And that sort of gets to why I do what I do now, so I always make a point like – I said that on Bradford Pride stage, just gone, now – always make a point of saying, I’m an openly gay councillor; I always make a point of saying I’m the first ever LGBT Champion in this district – and that’s not for any sort of self-aggrandisement, aren’t I great – it’s nothing to do with that. It’s because I know again that I’m in a privileged position as an elected member of this Council, so it’s how I use my privilege, in the right way, t’say, y’know, give people who don’t have that privilege a voice and a platform off which to say, d’you know, first of all: a) your voice does matter; you do have a voice, you can make a difference, which you can be a leader, you can be a pioneer, you can be anything you want to be with the right support and that’s why I’ll always – always challenge, and I think visibility first of all is massively important, so why you’ll see very LGBT-related festival or day in, in, in the world sort of calendar, you’ll see those flags up – Bi-Visibility Day, it’s up; TDoR, it’s up; Orlando Tribute, it’s up; Pride month, it’s up; IDAHOBIT, it’s up; and we make a point of that. We put motions in Council as well, but again, it’s not – it’s not tokenistic stuff: we’re looking at policy-level change, so we’re looking at the moment at devising new trans-inclusion policy for the district.

Our new HR director who’s just come in, in the last year, he used to work for Department of Health and did a really good trans-inclusion policy there, so; we’ve had members of the community look at that, and that’s hopefully in the next few months gonna go live. We’re also looking at doing an LGBT inclusion charter for the whole district – it started off with a thing we wanted to do just for t’council, just to sort of self-assess how we were doing on LGBT issues, because I think – I think we’re better than some other Authorities, but we could do so much more as well, and we’ll never stop until we get true inclusion and equality. But, that sort of inclusion charter again, we want t’take that to other businesses and organisations to put the onus on everybody in Bradford, because when I did – I did an interview in LGBT History Month, I think it were two, three years ago, for Gay Times, and I said to them, I have the hope and the actual real thought that Bradford could be one of the most LGBT friendly districts in the UK, we want every district to be like that, actually, but you gotta start somewhere, so, and I think we can be there, d’you know what I mean, and I think it’s about talking, it’s about sharing stories, it’s about celebrating the good stuff the LGBT community does in this district, across the country, and across the world, actually, also remembering the history, that’s massively important, cos I sometimes feel that that’s been erased.

And I think with the very real threat of far-right, the rise of the far-right and, establishment politics and media who seek to purposely divide for their own sort of means, it’s even more important that we stand up and say, ‘we matter, we do have a voice, and we challenge’ – even the comments, y’know when you hear those like, ‘oh gay boy’, and all that sorta stuff – it’s massively important that we challenge that every turn, because I’ve just been in a thing about remembering Srebrenica where 8,000 Muslims were killed during the genocide there, and actually we’ve had somebody, one of those refugees who works for Bradford Council now, said, ‘I never thought that would happen in my community, in Serbia. I never thought’, she goes. It reminded me in a sense what Bradford were like, and that’s why challenging those comments at that very base level is massively important, and that’s why inclusive, mandatory, I would say, relationships and sex education is massively important. It’s also important that we teach about our history, so that’s why I’m so excited about this project; it’s why we’re looking at, also in Bradford, developing LGBTQ+ hall of fame to look at what people in our community, locally, regionally and nationally have done – perhaps we could speak about how we can link in on that.

And it’s also about speaking truth to power, like I said earlier. It’s like, d’you know what, use your privilege in’t right way, and I don’t care what political party you’re from or you’re from’t media or a community organisation, if you’re in a powerful, influential position, people like me, it’s incumbent upon me, cos I’ve got a certain amount of power – it’s to use that in the right way, it’s to stand up for people who don’t have a voice or who are being attacked like – and absolutely, if you need me to shut up, tell me, and ask me other questions – and if, at the moment, what’s really, really annoying me and getting to me is the clear-cut and systematic attacks on the trans community. It absolutely boils my piss, for’t want of a better term.

Y’know, we’ve just had those figures released where it says that hate crime against the trans community alone has gone up 800% alone in the last year. And you sort of, y’can, yeah some people might say, ‘oh it’s to do with improved recording’. I said, I’ll take that to a certain degree, but actually, when you’ve got world leaders, when you’ve got people in positions of influence, when you’ve got certain media sources sort of using, and those awful despicable views, where the very existence of the community is debated, I’m just, I’m absolutely appalled by that. I’ve had it where, in the area I represent, in Bradford, I’ve had – well, somebody might be described as a trans-exclusionary radical feminist who’s, who debates with me quite a lot, sends me lots of emails, I saw her last week, trying to debate with me over the existence of the trans community. I’m like, ‘I’m sorry, I cannot debate this’. If – this is reminiscent of what was happening to gay men in the ‘80s and some people’ve said it’s reminiscent of what’s happening to the very existence of some people in Ser – in Syria for example, where we’ve heard of LGBT people being chucked off of buildings, y’know, it’s having views on the sort of extremists and other people in Northern Ireland where same sex marriage isn’t still legal – it’s all connected, and actually when you debate the very existence of somebody’s right to be who they are and to exist, I can’t – well, I am gonna try and educate people, but, actually, have we gone too far? Can we – you can only debate so much.

So, and absolutely, people, from the trans community, from the LGBTQ+ spectrum, their existence should never be up for debate. And actually, the time has come, and I’m glad, in terms of self-declaration it’s absolutely the right thing, and I submitted to the Gender Recognition Act consultation a submission on behalf of this Council, with the support from Equity and MESMAC, to say very clearly what the views of this Council were, and there will be motions going to Council again to support the trans community, and we’ve got an active, thriving community, and like I said, I was on’t stage of Bradford Pride and with some people managed to squeeze a way into that to protest against the rights of the trans community to exist. I sort of said, y’know, we are this community – we are the leaders, we are the pioneers, we are the people who can ultimately make a difference, and we will come against some awful shit and – sorry, there’s no other way of saying it, cos that’s exactly what it is – but we’ve got to be unified, d’you know what I mean, that’s massively, massively important, and that’s why – all those things I said we’re gonna do, so all the visibility stuff we do as a Council is massively important and, but it’s all the other stuff, it’s the policy change we’ve got to seek, it’s the lobbying of government, it’s the lobbying of local councils, it’s the sharing positive stories of LGBTQ+ community members, and it’s also about educating as well, because, and doing stuff at schools and youth clubs. It’s about standing up and saying, y’know, those spaces what are important for LGBTQ+ people to be, should be funded and should be given support, so.

I always big the idea, I know I’m a politician and you shouldn’t expect me to say this, but it’s absolutely vital, and cos I believe in social justices – austerity has made a fundamental difference to the LGBTQ+ community in a negative way, because the very spaces we’re talking about – we’ve talked about, one of the amazing organisations already, Equity Partnership, the umbrella support organisation in Bradford, who’ve been in existence I think since 2005 giving support – they’re really struggling at the moment. And that’s no – there’s no coincidence that in the cuts to public services and community grants and all that sorta stuff, and that’s happened over the past nine years under this awful, terrible government – and I don’t use those words lightly, and I absolutely mean that. Then you go look at some of the support I’ve given, through Equity, to people I know, LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and the trouble they’re going through, and the tribunal process, y’know I’m helping somebody, supporting somebody from the Caribbean, I’m currently supporting somebody out of Bradford from Nepal who’s in the process of – basically, if he gets detained and gets sent back to Nepal, he’ll die – simple as that. And the government are presiding over this and luckily, t’Shadow Home Secretary is now involved, so hopefully that’ll make a difference.

So, you’re seeing all this thread, all this trouble that’s going on – cos I talk about y’know celebration of how good we are as a community, but there’s all this underlying stuff – well it’s not underlying anymore, it’s spilling over onto’t service, all the abuse what exists, so it’s like, when I’ve had people before say to me, just before, after I got elected, somebody in quite an influential position, who we won’t say who yet, said via a friend: ‘oh, you need to tell Richard to stop it with all this gay stuff’. And I’m like, ‘you what?’ I went absolutely mental when I found out, and it were Bradford Pride t’next day, and I went on stage and said – this were just after I got elected, first time – and said my promise that I’d stand up for LGBTQ+ community at every opportunity, and I think it’s absolutely important that we do that, because there’s not a lot of – it’s about giving the support and the unity there.

And I think there’s other stuff what we could do as well, like, bit of an exclusive, but I’m looking at setting up a, potentially a national organisation what I’ve been working on with a few people called the Pride Action Network, and the aim of that – we’re hoping to launch that in September – would be threefold: one would be to provide training to people in the community and to allies around activism and organising; the second bit would be to lobby for change, whether that’s on an individual organisation or nationally or regionally; and the third thing would be about action, and taking non-violent direct action. So, for example, if there’s an organisation what’s treating a member of the LGBT community really bad in the workplace and there’s no signs of showing that that person is getting the fair treatment and change is not gonna happen in that organisation, we’ll go and we’ll take some direct action at that – y’know, at that company, for example, so. And the idea is, there’s like a central network what offers the training and the sort of policies and tips and stuff, and the idea is, is for these network groups to set up of their own accord, with central advice and support all across the country – that’s the sort of aim, and trying to get different communities involved in doing that, so that’s the, that’s the aim at the moment. So, that’s where I am, I’ve talked about who I am question there, haven’t I, so?

AG: That’s fine; that’s really interesting. From what it sounds like, that community, and sort of history and representation are very important to you. I was just wondering – you’ve spoken a lot about Bradford now and your work now, I was wondering what, in the time after your coming out, sort of when you were in your early 20s, what was the sort of vibe or feel of community in your experience of the LGBT community in Bradford then?

RD: Yeah, it was – so, so yes, so that’s sort of 20-30. That’s a really interesting, question. So – I’d not really, I’d not even prior to me coming out, not even done like the gay scene much or anything cos I were frightened of being seen and even to that point, d’you know what I mean? So, so when I sort of started to go out into those spaces the – I was really sort of impressed by sort of the immediate acceptance, and that was sort of quite an alien concept, it was like ‘oh, people actually accept me for who I am’ and were bothered about what I had to say, and y’know. So, it’s been, quite a few – not many bars in Bradford – but the people at the time who were running them were just, quite open and accepting and I still speak to and friends with some of those people now, so I think that was – in terms of the LGBTQ+ community, that was really positive. In terms of the wider community, I think things had moved on from the early ‘80s and ‘90s. I think people were more tolerant – I wouldn’t say accepting; there’s a big difference – tolerance is often the word people use to sort of hide behind deep-rooted prejudices sometimes, actually, so, that’s why I always prefer to use the word acceptance.

So, I think people were more tolerant than they were when I were younger, but I think there were sort of issues as well, because people weren’t educated in the school setting, because people weren’t – parents might not’ve been educated, kids’ parents might not have been educated when they were younger or they didn’t talk about things – so I don’t necessarily believe people are inherently homophobic, biphobic or transphobic, I think it comes back down to education. So conversations were starting to happen more, but I still think there were issues, and – one thing is, what’s got to be talked about is, the links between sort of, sort of faith, religion and LGBTQ+ acceptance – I think we need to have a very good conversation about those things. Like, when I was a youth worker, cos that’s my main trade, before getting into politics, I used to help run the Sound group out of Equity Partnership, actually. And ¾ of the young people that came to that group were from South East Asian backgrounds, so for me, it’s about how we start to engage and have conversations and try to look at common grounds we have. Cos there are difficulties we have, y’know, it’s not saying everybody’s awful and doesn’t see through things, it’s just saying let’s start to create spaces where people can talk and listen to each other and find common ground and build on that, so.

In answer to your question, in the immediate community, LGBT community was 20 to 30 were great in terms of I was accepted almost straight away, then, but the wider community in Bradford I think there are some issues, but, what’s different about Bradford I think is our whole approach, our openness to being welcoming. It’s not saying we’re perfect; it’s not saying we get everything right all the time; but it’s saying we want to welcome people, y’know, being a City of Sanctuary – that’s quite a bit step. It’s saying, when we fly the Pride flag in front of City Hall, that says to that young person who might be struggling with identity, ‘oh my city accepts me’, y’know. It’s having when we do Pride, when we have LGBT History Month, because we’re now in us 14th year of Pride, so that’s obviously taken up that 20 to 30 sort of time period you’re asking about, and when we start to have Pride in the city centre, for example, and if those people from those communities that might not necessarily have been exposed explicitly to sort of LGBT culture were exposed to it very loudly, proudly and colourfully – but actually, what that did was brilliant in Bradford, cos I see this area where we’re sat know in City Park as, on a busy summer’s day, it’s a microcosm of Bradford’s sort of cultural, social, economic diversity, if you like, and that educates it itself. That’s, not – yeah, it may be more so in some sense than might you be able to do in a classroom cos it’s there and people just naturally talking.

So, so yes I think things have improved, but I just think they all need – because of austerity, because of cuts to public services, I think there needs to be a very – a reassessment of, a) how we educate; b) the spaces we sort of put out there for LGBTQ+ people to be supported; and c) it’s about investment sort of in services as well, but also about what we do in workplaces, which is why we’re gonna try and do this LGBT+ inclusion charter for Bradford. Cos there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence – and this can be one of my things on the Action Network talked about – I want to investigate more, there’s a lot of work that’s rightly going on around the gender pay gap, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence, and I want the unions, and I want business, and I want government to do stuff around the sexual orientation pay gap, cos there’s anecdotal evidence emerging that perhaps there is some clear disparity there, so we need more research and y’know prominent figures shouting about that a bit more, which is what I’m hoping to do at’t Labour Party Conference later this year, d’you know what I mean, so. So there’s a lot there, sorry – I’ve got a proper, I go off on one don’t I? Typical politician, y’know so [laughs]

AG: That’s absolutely fine.

RD: So, yeah, so I think that has changed, I’m not saying it’s perfect, but I think there’s a genuine sort of will to change, because you do need to – cos they say how does change happen, and y’know sometimes it takes individuals or small groups to create that, but like I know now, that the leader of this Council – she’s not an expert in LGBTQ issues, but cos I’ve talked to her, I’ve engaged her in the different events, she’ll be the first up there on that stage. I were just talking to her last night about how we push forward this LGBTQ inclusion charter, and I’m like, ‘well we need to get all these people in a room, we need to do this, we need to do that’, and she goes, ‘why do we need to wait three months for that? Why can’t we just do it? How much does it cost? Can we find the money? Okay, let’s not wait three months, let me have a conversation with the director, can we find the money? If we can let’s try and do it in the next month rather than waiting three months’, d’you know what I mean, so. It’s, it’s that sorta stuff, so it’s trying to get key influencers to try and have their say and push things out and, it’s sharing stories, it’s building relationships, it’s just really important things – it’s people speaking, y’know, that’s how you sort of create change and its suppose almost evolutionary, in a sense, it’s like, y’know, we’re doing what we’re doing now, having that one-to-one conversation, it’s like that’s how you change hearts and minds about things and it’s like people have perceptions about, ‘oh certain communities, they’re not gonna listen to you, cos they’re all X, Y and Z’, but actually, ‘how do you know that? Go speak to them. Let’s find common ground and let’s look at how we get to a point where we can have true equality, y’know so. And of course, that’s the challenge, it is and it’s always gonna be but actually if you’ve got the will in you to say you want to see positive change and y’know that by getting true acceptance society ultimately will benefit, then that’s great.

Cos, actually, if you’ve got a workplace where you might have ten percent of your workforce who’re, who identify as LGBTQ+ but only one percent of them are openly out because they don’t feel comfortable. So, actually, if you’re a business and you’ve got policies in place, what make them feel more accepted and if they choose to they can hold their hand up and say, yeah, I am LGBTQ+, that’s gonna make your company more productive, cos you’re gonna feel more safe, you’re gonna feel more accepted, they’re gonna work harder, they’re gonna have more good will, d’you know what I mean, it’s like it’s a no-brainer. Whilst also remembering the history, definitely, so yeah.

Cos we’ve got some pioneers in Bradford y’know, like, even I like, in’t ‘70s y’know, I don’t know if you’ve heard about ‘em, like the General Will, it were a gay and lesbian theatre company in Bradford who were quite radical and put plays on and all sorts of stuff and I were like: I didn’t even know that existed until recently, it’s like –

AG: What was it called again?

RD: The General Will. So, it was an LGBT – yeah, a lesbian and gays and allies sort of theatre company, I could find you one o’ people if you want, we’re in touch. So, from that they were on, when there was the strikes during the ‘70s and ‘80s, either for the miners or for other work-related issues in Bradford, the LGBTQ+ community in Bradford were quite prominent on those picket lines, y’know, it’s actually, it’s that sort of stuff that I want to remember cos there’s loads of good stuff nationally and internationally that’s remembered, but actually if you scratch beneath the surface there’s bloody amazing people in our community who’ve done so much in Bradford, y’know, so. So like, Margaret McMillan, that tower over there which is just beyond t’lamp, the children’s services buildings, for in Bradford for’t Council, well it’s thought, from what I understand, Margaret McMillan was lesbian – it’s like, y’know, where’s the celebration of that, d’you know what I mean, she’s prominent, that’s – that should be celebrated. So I’m, this is why when I’m talking about this, also that other aspect of LGBT Hall of Fame in Bradford, that’s again another angle in which we can celebrate the contribution our community has made, and it should go a little way to telling people who might be struggling with their identities still that they do matter and there’s people out there who care for them, y’know, so, so yeah.

AG: Yeah. Lovely. Well, thank you very much for sharing with me. Is there anything further you think you want to expand on, sort of, the community in Bradford at the moment and your sort of maybe personal relationships with that in terms of like, I know you said a lot about what your work is, but like, in your free time? You sound like a very busy person! What’s on offer in Bradford at the moment?

RD: In Bradford at the moment there’s all sorts of good stuff going on. So you talk – that is a key difference, actually what I’ve noticed, sort of from me 20s to sort of, y’know impending 40s in four years’ time, is the amount of places across the district what seem to be and actually are more accepting. So like, I go out a lot in Saltaire – amazing place, so diverse, loads of artists, y’know, loads of musicians, it’s a really great place to be, but ultimately people who are really sort of accepting, y’know. There’s, y’know, the college do amazing work, as do the university, on LGBT inclusion stuff, whether it’s through specific events or throughout the hole year. And what else do I do? So, yeah, live music’s my main thing, to be honest with you, d’you know what I mean, that’s – that’s, there’s loads of stuff on that front. I love the stuff, I love this space just where we are in City Park, it’s just amazing, y’know.

AG: What sort of stuff do they put on?

RD: So – they do all sorts of stuff, to be honest with you, so like we’ve got the Bradford Festival coming up, which is basically a multitude of local, regional, national and international acts, whether it’s from musicians, from poets, whether it’s from artists, y’know, all sorts of stuff going on. What’s, to be fair, truly representative of Bradford, really. What else have we got? Put on the spot – there’s just so much stuff happening, y’know. You’ve got Saltaire Festival, as well; you’ve got the – what else is there? What else do I? We’ve just had the Literature Festival, we’ve had y’know there’s theatres, as well, are amazing, so a lot of artists love coming to Bradford for that.

And one thing I’m really excited about is that building directly opposite where we’re sat now, the Odeon, which is gonna become, like, the biggest live music, mid-size music venue outside of London in the UK when it opens next year, so about 4,000 people it can fit in there, but it doesn’t look like it looking from t’outside, but it’s huge when you go in there, y’know, so. So yeah so, I think music and cultural, it’s just quite an happening place at’t moment in Bradford. And I think its biggest strength, and I say this a lot, right, well, its two biggest strengths, is its diversity – y’know, you talk about the thought of 150 different languages spoken, no one language is that spoken in Bradford, which is madness to think that, y’know so, then, but also the young people – we’re thought to be like by next year, it’s thought we’re gonna be the youngest city in Europe by next year. So the opportunities that provides – that’s huge, y’know, and that gives you an opportunity as I see it for real change and innovation, y’know. You talk about – I was talking about earlier the rise of the far-right, but actually young people are the people who come up with ideas, who aren’t as influenced by age-old views, d’you know what I mean, are more accepting, y’know.

I like, I go back to school where I went, a great time growing up, went back a coupla years ago, y’know kids who were very open about who they are and their identity and it were just – it were amazing to see, it was like, ‘oh my god, I wish I was here right now, but at your age!’ so – I’m not saying I had a bad experience at school, it wasn’t, it were quite good over all, but actually things would’ve been better in terms of people being more accepting, maybe I don’t – well I would’ve come out earlier, y’know, so.

But yeah, it’s that old thing of, like – I’ll finish on this actually – one of my favourite quotes, and it comes back to all the crap what’s going on in the world and people trying to divide – a quote from Bob Dylan and he said, ‘I think of a ‘ero as somebody who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom’, d’you know what I mean, I think there’s so much in that, d’you know what I mean, we, yeah we talk about freedom and free speech and stuff but there is massive responsibility coming with that to make sure people feel accepted and feel like they belong, feel like they can make a difference, y’know, and we’ve all got an opportunity – how we change heart and minds like I said is we go out there and speak to people, we listen to ‘em, we learn from ‘em and we get angry and we get active, and we get the change when people don’t listen to us, yeah, so and that’s what we will do and that’s why we’ll never stop.