(BlogMensGo – July 21st, 2011) Within the UK, Manchester is well known for its large and friendly gay community, bustling gay scene and wide selection of bars, clubs and entertainment for all tastes. Manchester Pride is now known to be one of the biggest and best gay prides in the UK leaving London disappointingly behind with it’s lack of entertainment and effort.
Born from the gay village and scene is Jonathan Robinson whom I interviewed recently, below is the interview which I hope you will enjoy!
Jonathan Robinson, a….(what are you?).
My job title is a Producer / Director as far as my broadcast TV work is concerned. This means I would be responsible for making the ‘Insert VT’s’ that appear in a bigger live or pre-recorded TV show. Much of my TV career has been working on children’s, entertainment and factual programmes in the UK for ITV and the BBC.
What made you start making videos in the village?
We have YouTube to thank for that, and the Manbears group in Manchester, UK. In 2004 I filmed the Manbears group in Manchester Pride (those unfamiliar with bears, it’s a term for more masculine, broader, hairier men who are gay). In these days before video even existed on websites, and you would have to leave the computer downloading 3 minute video clips overnight from Kazaa, someone who worked at AOL in Europe uploaded the bears Pride video and sent the link to some friends so they could download the film. 30,000 people shared it until AOL found out and gave the guy a ticking off- situation we now know as a video being ‘viral’ (Video here). I thought there must be an audience for this, and I started filming bears for my own channel (called ‘JonathanRobinson’) on what was then a brand new video website called ‘YouTube’. The films were all based around the ‘bear scene’ in the UK and some in Europe.
What difference is I love the village to the other videos?
I avoided doing anything too mainstream gay in Manchester gay village as it might put the bears off, and I was also aware of a video website that was due to be launched that would cover many LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) areas. But by 2010 the other video website never happened and I couldn’t let the opportunity to do a YouTube channel just for Manchester gay village pass. So I called the channel what so many people, admittedly straight, say… ‘Ilovethevillage’.
Compared to my own YouTube channel, ‘Ilovethevillage’ covers everything gay- from leather muscle Mary’s, camp twinks with shirts off, everything iconically gay. The films are effortless to make, simple, and done so you feel you are having a night out in probably one of the best districts in the world (I say with bias as I’m a mancunian!).
What inspired you to make music videos for pride?
I had already filmed the bears in Manchester Pride for a few years. In 2009 Grahame Robertson from the Lesbian and Gay Foundation suggested we did a singalong to ‘Fuck You’ by Lily Allen. It had been done by video bloggers in France with GayClic, and we decided to do our own British version.
Since then I have done several more, from Kylie to Lady Gaga,(Editor: and my favorite) as to be honest they are perfect marketing opportunities to promote my YouTube channels. The ‘Fuck You’ video alone resulted in people who saw it wanting similar videos for various companies- from shopping centres, Council departments, to holidays and resorts!
But they are starting to spark imitations, which is probably an indicator to go back and re-invent the video wheel.
Do you work for any affiliation of the village?
No- I answer to nobody, which is the very reason I started my own company ‘BellyflopTV’. The gay village videos are all of my choosing and none are done with any bias to promote a business apart from my own video production company. In the past some people have been very good at piggybacking on the back of your creativity and I’m older and wiser now. I can see people with alternative intentions a mile off and keep my distance. The videos are done for the very people who love the village for a fun night out! And this is a chance to say thank you to some amazing venues- New York New York, Churchills, AXM, Poptastic, Cruz 101, Via, Legends and the Outpost never say no when I turn up to film at 1.30am half pissed with a camera in one hand and a bag of glitter in the other! (Editor: As you can see about 2 and a half mins into this video)
What do you get out of this?
Well the intention is to have the channel for the gay village firmly established as the way a video can be distributed to the biggest online gay audience for Manchester and the north west of England. Health Authorities, charities, and commercial businesses are all now recognising the power of video communication. And with funding and my broadcast experience some pretty excellent stuff is on the horizon- it just needs a cash injection.
BUT and it’s a big BUT, if there is one thing I have had confirmed, luckily by others mistakes, is don’t tease the audience and promise them something amazing and then don’t deliver. For example I’m not promising ‘Ilovethevillage’ to be anything more than a bunch of fun videos from the gay village. When I do some bigger stuff I think it will be talk about stuff but I’m not going to tease the audience with that. I’ll just make it and put it out there, and people will say OMFG and share it with their friends on Facebook.
How far does your following reach?
The whole world! As far as the bear thing is I now just say hello to every bear I see as I probably have spoken to them on Facebook and YouTube. If I don’t I’ll get a message a day or so later and they’ll say ‘I saw you in such and such a place’. Interestingly 8% of my bear video audience is female, and as all of the films are done almost like kids TV, they are safe for people to share in work.
What is your biggest success or what are you most proud of in relation to this work?
The two biggest successes may seem nothing that big to some, but both things bring a lump to my throat thinking about them. One is a comment made on the ‘Fuck You’ video from a guy sat in an internet café in Beirut. He was one of the first to comment when the video went live and he said ‘I’m sat in an internet café watching this and its making me cry, as I now know why I hate Beirut’. Another is a guy who was not out and totally didn’t identify himself as gay as he was neither attracted or looked like, in his words, a ‘typically’ camp, gay man. The bear videos motivated him to realise there were others like him, he met an American guy in another YouTube video, he moved over to the UK and they had a civil partnership.
The thing with video is people think you watch and listen with your eyes and ears. But when its done well you watch and listen from the heart.
Matt / MensGo