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Interview with Brian Kennedy… June 9, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.

…in the Mail conducted by Jason O’Toole. it’s interesting, particularly in relation to how he came to terms with being gay growing up in 1960s and 70s Belfast (he’s 45). And some interesting points made along the way, for example this:

As his music career took off, he decided to come out to his parents. ‘I just thought to myself, it’s something that I need to say so as at no point would anybody ever have any power over me to say, “I’m going to print a story about you and your whole world is going to collapse”. ‘I decided to tell my father first because I felt that would be more difficult. And again, it’s not like me to do the most difficult thing first. And I said to him, “Look, in the future when I have a partner it will more than likely be a man!” Those were the words. So, as far as I’m concerned the people who needed to know knew.’ How did his parents react to the news? ‘I don’t really know. It was one of those things that I told them — I presume it was like a very slow bomb going off — and then I left and went back to London and I think the s*** hit the fan… as they do in families like that. They’d no experience of it.’ He believes that the negative reaction from his parents can be attributed to the homophobia they heard from the pulpit. ‘The priests would stand up and say, “Homosexuals would burn in hell”. I don’t even know why they were talking about it. It was never discussed in any type of loving context; it was always sexualised in an abusive way. So, God love most people who then confront a child who might be this thing called queer. The only info that they have is negative info.’ Did his parents eventually come to terms with it? ‘Who knows,’ shrugs Brian, who left home at 11 to live with his grandmother because it was closer to his school. ‘I mean, only they can answer that. God knows. They don’t have any other gay children. I’m not close with my parents at all. Not at all. So, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what they feel because only they know.’

And also:

‘I suppose it’s a good example of how there are natural singers in the world and I happen to be one of them. Because really I shouldn’t be one at all because I didn’t grow up with it; I didn’t have lessons. I didn’t have much music around me. Yet this wee fellow on the Falls Road in the middle of six kids in all of that war this little voice appeared.’ Brian recalls how he himself felt the ire of British soldiers. ‘One asked me something and out of pure contrariness I started answering him in Irish. He put his gun right to my balls and he goes, ‘Paddy, you better start speaking in English”.’ If it wasn’t for the sense of disconnection, does Brian think he would have ended up joining the IRA? ‘I knew where to go if that was an option. I was indirectly asked. Ultimately for me, one of the saving graces about the thing that made me different from the other boys was essentially grappling with the gay thing. I was always on the outside of things. I was never that popular, so I wasn’t in a gang really. ‘I think if you were in a gang that was probably more likely to happen. I knew people who had gone to prison at my age, who were shot dead at my age. I was terrified of guns and explosions and bombs.’ Did he have a hatred for the British back then? ‘I hated how scary it was. They could stop you at any time and ask you were you were going, when you were coming back — and clearly I was going to school. They got into an awful habit of making you take your shoes off and socks off to search you in the freezing cold in the morning. Then they would say all these awful things about your mother, about your sister — and that was just so you could get beyond them to get to school. ‘I understand the question — you certainly hate what’s in front of you stopping you from getting to school. ‘Let’s just say of course we would have every licence to feel every negative thought you could think of. But ironically when I did eventually move to England it was actually the beginning of the making of me. It’s a great irony.’

And this too…

We move onto the subject of samesex marriages. Does he feel that the Government is being homophobic — particular in light of how both Enda Kenny and Lucinda Creighton have both stated publicly that they are against same sex marriages –— by not bringing forward legislation to allow for gays and lesbians to marry? ‘That’s all it is. It’s ridiculous. How does it affect him, is what I would like to know,’ he says. ‘How does it actually affect his world? It’s extraordinary, isn’t it. If Enda wants to have a conversation with me, I make great coffee if he wants to pop by. ‘Let’s not forgot that we are in a country where it’s difficult enough to be heterosexual, never mind any other natural version of humanity!


1. Tomboktu - June 9, 2012

I’m saddened to see Brian Kennedy discuss his parents with the interviewer, and not because of the content of what he says.

Many years ago on an RTÉ programme, a young gay activist in the campaign on decriminalisation showed great respect and diginity by refusing to say anything about how his parents reacted to his coming out. He told the interviewer that he was on the programme to discuss his views, and that his parents had a right to their privacy. While he was happy to talk about his experiences in the youth group or school, he was not going to talk about individuals who could be identified and that RTÉ should ask them for permission to interview them if it wanted to know how they felt about his coming out.


2. Ramzi Nohra - June 10, 2012

I agree with what Tombuktu says, but other than that he (Kennedy) sounds like a cool bloke.


3. WorldbyStorm - June 10, 2012

Yep, it’s a fair point that third parties shouldn’t be brought into the discussion at least not unless they wanted to. In a generalised way it might be fair enough to discuss differing responses. But otherwise not.


4. Former British Agent Admits Irish Citizens Were Waterboarded « An Sionnach Fionn - June 14, 2012

[…] the British Occupied North of Ireland, and throughout the lifespan of the conflict. Take this recent account from the Irish singer and celebratory Brian Kennedy of his childhood in Belfast under the British […]


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