Publish Date: 15/08/2013
The Feeling front-man Dan Gillespie-Sells has never been shy of talking about his experiences of sexuality, whether it be his own or that of his parents (Dan was raised dividing his time between his mother and her partner Dilis and his father) and he has been vocal in many national campaigns to end homophobia and empower LGBT people, so it may seem surprising that Manchester Pride 2013 will be his first Pride event as a performer.
“It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do, but I’m the only gay one in the band, so it’s not just about me, it’s about the other 4 boys in the band having a chance to earn their living and do their jobs, but I knew they wouldn’t have a problem with doing it if we actually got booked! We’ve got a lot of history together and they’re like a really good, supportive family.”
The Feeling have been together as a band for a long time, or at least a lot longer than the charts would suggest, so the bonds between the members are deep rooted and strong. However, as much as the guys work closely together and are passionate about similar issues, there have been barriers to them doing what they really want to do as individuals.
“I suppose, in a way, when we were first successful we were so busy we didn’t have much time to do anything which was outside of promoting records around the world. There wasn’t time for these slightly more personal projects.”
These days they are a slightly more ‘mature’ band (Dan’s words, not mine!) and they don’t have to spend so much time making connections with people in the industry or introducing themselves to new territories so they have more time to dedicate to the work they want to do outside of the music business.
So what work does he want to do? At the Manchester Pride Supersonic event in April this year, Dan announced that he’d like to do more work with LGBT youth, particularly in schools.
“It’s the story of most gay people that I know, that the most difficult period in their lives was the time when they were coming to terms with their sexuality, and often at the same time as that happening they were being bullied at school or they were having trouble with fitting in and the last thing they wanted to do was ‘stand out’.
“It’s just a very fragile and awkward time in anyone’s life and if you have the added thing of something about your sexuality making you different then that makes it so much harder. I just think it’s a really valuable thing if you can help people through that in a way that’s going to make them feel good for the rest of their lives.
“It stays with you, that stuff, and it helps form the way you are as a human being. It really stays with you.”
With that in mind, I asked Dan what he thought of the LGF’s Safer School Packs (training resources designed specifically to help both teachers and students tackle homophobia in schools). “They’re very helpful. I think anything that lets a kid know they’re not alone when they feel like they are, in school, is really important.
“The education part of it is so important. The idea that you can tell a child that there are so many different ways to be gay, there are so many different ways to be lesbian, there are so many different ways to express yourself and the important thing is that you find the one that’s right for you. Kids will latch onto that and see that light at the end of the tunnel”.
Our conversation naturally tilted towards people in positions of power harbouring slightly archaic views when it comes to sexuality and it was fairly inevitable that the topic of equal marriage should come up. Dan has been very vocal in his support for marriage equality, and perhaps the reasoning for this doesn’t lie as much in his own sexuality, but his experiences as a kid growing up.
“To me it seems like a crazy thing that there is opposition to it because I grew up in a gay family, I was raised by two women and my story is of this alternative family and it seems very strange to me that anyone would think it’s a terrible idea. As far as I was concerned my family was perfect, it was great. We were all well clothed and well looked after and well loved.
“I presume that’s the whole point of this opposition, people are talking about families not being families anymore… it’s a multi-faceted subject.
“The whole thing about this is, there has been this ban on same sex marriage that has protected the church from it’s divisions within itself. Because it hasn’t been possible they haven’t had to have this row amongst themselves. That’s the thing about the Church of England – half of them would be ok having gay marriage and half of them really don’t want it.”
But shouldn’t we be worried that there are a fair number of people who sit in the House of Commons and the House of Lords who still have such fierce objections to same sex marriage? Dan doesn’t seem to think so.
“The establishments of any country are always going to be full of old fuddy-duddies who will die out eventually and we’ll have moved on a bit. There’s always going to be retrograde people in politics and there’s always going to be people in politics who are more progressive and moving forward… and then a bunch of people in the middle! That’s just how politics works.”
Further afield though, people are regularly arrested, tortured or put to death for expressing their sexuality and I asked Dan what he thinks could be done to help our brothers and sisters overseas.
“Its something I’ve wanted to do a lot more work on actually. My brother was recently in Uganda and met a lesbian woman who has been trying to do something about it in her country. She’s been trying to get the funds to come over here so she can create a framework that she can take back with her in order to fight what’s going on in Uganda.
“There’s some really terrifying stories out there in the world. Internationally I think it’s a much more grass routes, front line thing. I think it’s about getting over there and helping these people and when it comes to the politics that’s something we’re going to have to leave to our leaders… it’s our job to remind them and make sure they’re doing something about it.”
Closer to home though, Manchester gets ready to welcome The Feeling on Friday 23rd August as they headline the Manchester Pride main stage and Dan has ambitions of marching in the parade, although there’s a few people he’ll have to convince to change some plans!
“If I can get the tour bus to leave Edinburgh in enough time, I can arrive in time to get to the march…it’s not just me though! There’s the whole band and the crew! But I’m definitely going to make time to meet up with people and say hello to everyone.”
The Feeling have recently signed a new deal with BMG and have a new record coming out in October with single releases scheduled for before that, so they have plenty of work to be getting on with, but as a live act they go down a storm and describe themselves as a ‘party band’ who like to get the crowds going, so they certainly won’t disappoint at this year’s festival.
So, in closing, what are his feelings (pardon the pun) about performing at his first Pride?
“Looking forward to it!”… and so are we!!
The feeling perform live at Manchester Pride’s Big Weekend 2013 on Friday 23rd August. You can find out more about the band by visiting www.TheFeeling.com