Poets and performers line up to launch Being A Man Festival 2017

On October 24, some of Britain’s brightest young voices appear at a special event as part of the Pureland Series at China Exchange, coming together to celebrate the launch of the 2017 Being A Man (BAM) Festival.

Discussing topical issues facing young men will be: Rhael Lionheart Cape, a TEDx speaker, award-winning poet and international spoken-word performer; British-born Caribbean actor Leiran Gibson, BAMbassador for the Southbank Centre; and the critically acclaimed comedian and activist Jack Rooke, whose Edinburgh Fringe production, Good Grief, was nominated for Best Show by an Emerging Artist at the Total Theatre Awards 2015.

Lionheart, author of upcoming poetry collection The Mute’s Rebellion and co-founder of innovative debate platform SubjectivityUK, is an advocate for those young men who grow up feeling negative and insecure. In his poem Pretty Hurts, he comments: “If self doubt was a religion, it would be the only thing we’d believe in.”

Jack Rooke created the BBC3 series Happy Man, looking at mental health, identity and body image. It showcases Rooke trying solutions other than talking to improve male mental health and was inspired by the suicide of his friend Olly in 2015.

The panel discussion, which will be led by Jude Kelly CBE, Southbank Centre’s artistic director, is sponsored by the Pureland Foundation, whose founder Bruno Wang says: “We know that being a man is not easy – and that the notion of ‘masculinity’ – the way men are brought up to behave and the roles, attributes and behaviours that society expects of them – contributes to suicide in men.

“We compare ourselves against a masculine ‘gold standard’ that prizes power, control and invincibility, and somewhat inevitably find ourselves falling short. We need to find new ways for men to break through the stereotypes that are reinforcing these negative spirals.”

The three-day BAM Festival, now in its fourth year, takes place in November and celebrates boys and men, addressing the pressures of masculine identity in the 21st century while attracting more than 150,000 visitors to London’s South Bank.

Topics on the BAM programme this year – via talks, debates, exhibitions and performances – include masculinity and power, Nordic masculinity, male identity and fatherhood, bullying, porn, teenage knife-crime and music.

Confirmed speakers include Robert Webb, the comedian, Peep Show star and now memoirist; American race and women’s rights activist Kevin Powell; the Booker Prize-winning author Alan Hollinghurst, famous for chronicling gay life in modern Britain; and the refugee turned movie star Antonythasan Jesuthasan.

Seminars will include: Emotional Rescue: Men, Suicide and Mental Health – Is talking about feelings still a taboo for men?; Class: Boys and Education – How does social class define the chances young men and boys have in life?; and Boys in Care – Hear about the challenges and experiences of boys in care.