What is 21st Century masculinity? This is the question at the heart of Being A Man, our celebration and exploration of what it means to be a man in a modern world. Through a broad spectrum of speakers and workshops Being A Man addresses male identity, it’s pressures and challenges, and the issues men struggle with.
Last year, we looked at what it means to be a hero, from the artists who challenge expectations to the heroism it takes to embrace your true identity. This year the festival’s theme is ‘what makes a man?’ and we’ve a collection of leading figures from literature, film and music helping us in our attempt to break down this question, including these five gentlemen below.
Best known as one half of the double-act behind Peep Show, and That Mitchell & Webb Sound, Robert Webb in an actor, comedian and writer. In his 2014 book How Not To Be A Boy, Webb examined the rules and expectations that boys and men placed upon men, placing them against the experiences of his own life and the relationships he has forged.
One of contemporary America’s most acclaimed political, cultural, literary and hip-hop voices Kevin Powell is a respected public speaker and commentator, who, as a senior writer for Vibe Magazine interviewed such diverse names as Tupac Shakur and Colin Powell. The issues and constructs of masculinity and male identity have featured often across Powell’s twelve books, notably in his 2003 essay collection Who’s Gonna Take the Weight: Manhood, Race and Power in America, and his 2008 work The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life.
Simon Amstell first came to public attention as co-host of Channel 4’s Popworld; his acerbic unsettling of mainstream pop acts cutting through the otherwise cosy comatose world of Sunday morning television. After a four-year stint presenting long running panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks in a similarly distinct style, Amstell has gone on to write and direct a number of his own projects, including Grandma’s House and Carnage for BBC. He continues to perform as a stand-up comedian, as he has done since his teens, and recently penned his first book, Help, about his compulsion to reveal his entire self on stage.
Novelist and poet Alan Hollinghurst has been making literary waves, ever since his 1988 debut novel The Swimming-Pool Library won the Somerset Maugham Award. He went on to win the Man Booker Prize in 2004 for The Line of Beauty, and made the Prize’s long list in 2011 for The Stranger’s Child. With the protagonists in each of Hollinghurst’s novels being gay men, the author has often found himself pigeon-holed as a ‘gay writer’, rather than an award-winning author.
The Sri Lankan Tamil author and actor Antonythasan Jesuthasan has lived in exile, in Paris since 1993 and has written several short stories, plays, and political essays about his personal experience during the Sri Lankan Civil War. His 2001 novel Gorilla was based on his own experience of the militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and in 2015 he starred in the Palme d’Or winning Dheepan, a film about Sri Lankan refugees seeking asylum in France, which closely mirrored his own backstory.
Known by his stage name, SlinCraze, Nils Rune Utsi is a Sami rapper from the northern reaches of Norway. He performs in Sami, a language spoken by only 20,000 people, in order to preserve the language itself, but also to fight stereotypes about his home region and encourage other young Sami people not to feel ashamed of their culture. Utsi’s verse often focuses on what it’s like to be a young indigenous man living in between two worlds.