Monday, 26 July 2010

tears, gravity and distance

"We are one crew of 6 billion people."

This weekend I enjoyed my first quiet couple of days for a while and a full moon in France.

And I found myself thinking that maybe after all the recent posts and edits on and around the subject of sex, (and don't worry there'll be more coming soon), I though I'd just pop up with something a bit different.

A little something I did a while ago but haven't published until today.

This is something all children can listen to.

And something perhaps all adults should listen to.

This is my conversation with the astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy. 

You can listen to it via my free podcast on iTunes  here and - if you'd like to - read a transcript of it here.

I recorded Jean-Francois in his office in Paris in the Spring of 2010..

His mellifluous French accent serves only to highlight his sense of wonder at the planet's beauty from space.

His passion for the environment comes from a place not many of us will ever have the opportunity to occupy.

He talks with equal dexterity about adventure, borders and fragility.

And finally he shares with me just about as delicate and economic a description of the atmosphere as I could ever imagine hearing.

So - please do enjoy the edit I've called: tears, gravity and distance.

Ceci n'est pas un dialogue. It's an interview.

But like many of the people I've spoken to as part of the Intimate Conversations series, this one-off is a conversation that I feel privileged to have had.

(Note: I also produced a shorter edit of this conversation which was featured on BBC Radio 4's Short Cuts programme broadcast on September 25th 2012. You may even find yourself here for that very reason.) )

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

few words

A nice little review for Intimate Conversations at Latitude today:

“Entrancing. Each year the topic of the conversations changes and this year it's sex. One might expect lewdness from such a subject - either that or sentimentality - but in fact, the tone of these interviews was so gentle and honest that I was almost moved to tears.” 2010

Monday, 19 July 2010

dear listeners

Welcome to a special page for anyone who's curious about listening to the series of Intimate Conversations on sex that we first released at Latitude Festival 2010.

Just click on the titles to download...

(Or subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes by clicking here.)


Olivia's first sexual partners led her to think that sex with men wasn't as interesting as it was on her own. Even at University, she wasn't getting what she wanted or needed. And then, things changed.

Editor's Notes
Olivia was a great woman to meet. We were maybe a little nervous in each other's company at first. And we tackled some juicy subjects that never made it to the edit: female ejaculation, the techniques of clitoral stimulation, radical ideas around sex education. But the edit here is really centred on what became the core of our conversation: which was about the confidence it takes to say what you want and what you need. So this is a frank, tender and personal conversation. And at Latitude we had a lot of men keen to listen to this and a lot of young women who said everyone should listen to it. I'm really glad to have met Olivia. She's a great woman. And a beautiful one. And as a man I'm extremely glad to have had the conversation we did. I just wish I'd had it 25 years ago...

At the age of 42, Adrian decided it was about time he had penetrative sex. So he saved up £500 and hired a male escort for just one night. What he got was an experience he'll never forget.

Editor's Notes
Adrian is one of the most beautiful men I know. Beautiful in that he has a heart so full of love that sometimes you doubt he's actually a real person. This man must be a persona created to divert attention from the 'real' thing. But he's not. Not at all. He has a camp, very funny side to him but when that mask drops... it reveals one of the most authentic partners in conversation I've ever met. So when I asked him to be on my list of people to talk to, I secretly knew (or hoped at least) that I would get candour, openness and honesty. And I did. But I got so much more. Adrian 'gave' himself to this conversation. Gently; quietly; tenderly. But fully - and without prejudice. So of course what happened was the dialogue grew and grew. So much so, that this is just Part 1. Later this summer, I'll publish Parts 2 and 3. (If you can handle the love...)

At the age of 14, Jane lost her virginity to a man who attacked her and her mother. Now, nearly 24 years later, she feels ready to talk openly about her experience and what it's taught her.

Editor's Notes
When someone has a life story as compelling as Jane's, it's hard not to be more taken by the story than the person. And yet as I edited this conversation, I kept finding that I wasn't listening to the narrative. Instead I kept being drawn to the woman describing it, occupying it. So this edit took a long, long time. And actually, this is only the first section of what will be a three or four part series, because there's not much of our conversation I want to cut out, so full and potent as it was. So yes, the content is powerful - incredibly powerful and sometimes almost unbearably so. But through the harrowing details, beyond the nightmarish plot and behind the unfolding story you hear someone who is a survivor. A powerful, passionate, life loving survivor. Please don't listen to this conversation if you're feeling vulnerable or if the subject of rape is too personal or raw for you. But if you're robust enough to hear someone who's been through hell and who's coming out the other end, I urge you to listen and breathe in about as much inspiration as it's possible to take. And then when you've listened, check out Jane's brilliant blog.

Giles has been straight, bi-sexual and gay. He's always had a strong relationship with sex and his physical and spiritual journey through life has been hugely informed by who he shares himself with.

Editor's Notes
I didn't interview Giles; Julie did: "The first time I met Giles was in a dance workshop. To dance with him is to be gathered into his generous, inclusive, sensual, laughing energy. I lost all self-consciousness and tuned in to the joyous body, surrendered to music and movement and the flowing patterns of my feet and his. This was dialogue like I’d never experienced it before. Conversation in words was trickier, less direct. But as we talked I kept hearing the same qualities: a courageous, playful, improvisational approach to both life and sex; a fierce desire to express himself truthfully, to connect; and the courage to be witnessed standing in that truth. And on top of all that, a infectious humour and lots of love. I hope you get to dance with Giles one day, but until then, I hope you enjoy listening to him as much as I do."

Brian is in his early forties. An Englishman living in America, for most of his life he's had a lot of sex with a lot of women. Then, just six months ago he met Dana. And fell in love.

Editor's Notes
Brian and I met while he was in London in June 2010. We'd met only once before, very briefly at a mutual friend's party. Within just a few minutes, we were exchanging incredibly personal details. I think maybe in a way we recognised aspects of ourselves in each other. We share a love of great sex, of women, we share a tubby round the tummy rejuvenation in our lives that slightly belies our age. And I think we both share a deep, energised passionate wish to have our spoken language serve our thoughts and feelings. And we both know that words can't do it all. So in a very boisterous way... we met. And then something more happened. After lots of graphic stories, questions and curiosities we got into something a little bit deeper. And when I began to listen (really listen) back to the tape, the change in Brian's voice was extraordinary. His tone softened, his breathing slowed and his rhythms began to settle. And so did mine. I started to listen. And I was listening to a man in love.

To all of you who came to Latitude - thank you! We had a really wonderful series of sessions each morning, with hundreds of you choosing which conversation you'd like to listen to, sitting down in the woods with your iPod and headphones and listening. It's great to share these same conversations now, beyond those few days in Suffolk.

Wherever you are or were - thank you for listening.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

splintered reflections

So while we're here at Latitude - with 35,000 other people - it's impossible not to wonder at the way in which people can be so accommodating of each other. People look out for each other.

They pick up rubbish.

They help each other find directions.

They cheer together.

They clap together.

They dance together.

They sing together.

They find toilets together.

They pay exorbitant prices for food together.

They get on with each other. Together.

And yet - in amongst all this glorious togetherness - a horrible piece of news broke on Friday. On Thursday night, a girl of 19 was raped here. In the public camping area. By up to four young men who were presumably ticket holders to Latitude Festival just like everyone else here.

I hope they're a long way away right now. And I hope they're terrified of being caught. And I hope the CCTV is good here. And I hope they're made to pay for what they've done.

I heard about what happened from outside the festival and my sense is that not many people here knew about it or maybe know about it even.

It's a strange bubble of a world is a festival. Where even things happening inside the bubble can remain unheard or unnoticed.

But I'm glad the bubble burst for me. I'm glad I heard about it. It saddened me. It made me angry. It made me feel a bit sick. It changed the Festival for me.

And it made me get in touch with Jane - who's one of the people I recorded conversations with; the conversations we're sharing here.

Jane's edit, called why not me? is one that starts with a terrifying ordeal. A rape.

So of course I wanted to consult Jane on whether she felt okay about us still sharing her conversation, given what had happened to that poor 19 year old, whose name I don't know; not yet.

And Jane responded, through her anger and rage and upset, as articulately as ever in her blog, which is called Splintered Reflections.

Rape, abuse, call it whatever you want, it keeps happening. And sadly, it always will. I do not claim to be in any way a kind of “voice for other victims”. I can only speak for myself. But if hearing my voice can help another victim in some small way, even if it is just to get them out of bed on one particular morning, then this is all worthwhile.

You have a choice. Please choose to listen.

Jane x

So I've continued to share Jane's conversation.

And it's continued to inspire and astonish people who've listened to it.

And the young woman whose name I don't know yet won't have a clue about Jane... or the extraordinary way in which she has come to terms with what happened to her when she was a 14 year old teenager.

Maybe one day she will.

Right now it won't matter to her. She'll be going through what I can only guess will be a really grim time and all I can do is wish her well.

And I hope that maybe the 35,000-odd other people at Latitude today will send a bit of their joy and love and togetherness in her direction.

almost as good

On a very beautiful sunny Suffolk morning... our sessions at Latitude have been going extraordinarily well. We could have had at least twice as many iPods with queues forming around trees in the Faraway Forest.

So here's the third of the five dialogues on sex that we're premiering here at Latitude:

Click here to download and listen.

almost as good

Confidence is an interesting thing /

I remember feeling sexual from a young age /

But I think for a long time my head was way /

Ahead of my
body /

Olivia's first sexual partners led her to believe that sex with men wasn't as interesting as it was on her own. Even at university, she wasn't getting what she wanted or needed. And then, things changed.

These conversations are indeed intimate, honest and (given the subject matter) sometimes explicit and graphic in terms of content. Our recommendation is that they should not be heard by children but by adults only, young and old alike

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

prepared to love

Here you go.

The second of five dialogues on sex originally premiered at Latitude Festival:

You can listen here to listen on iTunes 

Or click here to download.

prepared to love

I knew that it was about really deserving it so therefore

I deserved /

Top notch. You know? /

And did you get it?

At the age of 42, Adrian decided it was about time he had penetrative sex. So he saved up £500 and hired a male escort for just one night. What he got was an experience he’ll never forget.

An important additional note that explains itself I hope.

I met Adrian in 2009 when he agreed to be in The Author, a play by Tim Crouch that I was co-directing at the Royal Court in London.

Truth was Adrian didn’t really enjoy the experience of being in the show. So he said he’d rather leave the company and let us re-cast his part for the touring version.

Adrian knew he had his own thread of work to continue; work based on extreme intimacy, real trust and demonstrations of love towards total strangers. The Guardian called him “a pioneer, who created intimate performances of unabashed honesty and generosity that were not just made for the audiences, but actively invited their physical and emotional participation.” For me – it’s simpler than that. Adrian just met you. He met you. Wherever you were. He met you in the richest possible way you can imagine that to mean.

It was during rehearsals for The Author but more especially perhaps in that conversation about leaving the show that Adrian and I realised we had something profound in common: a desire to be courageous in our conversations. To talk about the difficult things even though they might sting a bit, or break a bit or hurt a bit. So when it came to looking for people to talk about intimacy, love and sex for a series of podcasts I was doing, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to ask Adrian if he’d like to have a conversation with me, about some of the things that we’d maybe not talked about, even though we knew they were there. And that’s what we did, on May 10th 2010.

We met in a friend’s writing studio and gave ourselves permission to say anything. “It’s all allowed” was Adrian’s mantra. And we stood by that I think. We laughed together, cried together and fell silent together.

Our friendship grew or deepened perhaps as a result of this conversation which went on for a maybe two hours - there are chapters still of Adrian’s life I haven’t edited or shared. But he was very moved by the idea that that people might hear this part of our conversation and consider for themselves what intimacy, closeness, love even really mean to them.

I saw Adrian several times after our conversation. We relaxed in France together. We sat on steps together in London and talked about future projects. And finally, we sat outside a café in Edinburgh in the summer of 2012 when he said he found himself enjoying the Festival for the first time, because he was there as an audience member; there was no pressure to perform. We joked, giggled, listened and talked, hugged and said goodbye.

A few months later, Adrian decided to take his own life. No note. No final message. Just an exit. I suppose he had reached a moment of despair that he just couldn't see ending. And so he took his mantra and extended its reach. He gave himself permission to take himself away. And he is missed. Sorely. But his legacy of love, tenderness and generosity will live on in everyone he touched for a long time to come.  

These conversations are indeed intimate, honest and (given the subject matter) sometimes explicit and graphic in terms of content. Our recommendation is that they should not be heard by children but by adults only, young and old alike.

why not me?

So here it is.

The first of five dialogues on sex that we're premiering this week at Latitude Festival:

Click here to download and listen.

why not me?
It's almost like you go /

I mean for me it went up in levels of seriousness at what he was there for /

The sexual thing in all honesty /

Hadn't really crossed my mind at that point /

At the age of 14, Jane lost her virginity to a man who broke into the house and attacked her and her mother. Now, nearly 24 years later, she feels ready to talk openly about her experience that night and what it's taught her.


These conversations are indeed intimate, honest and (given the subject matter) sometimes explicit and graphic in terms of content. Our recommendation is that they should not be heard by children but by adults only, young and old alike.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

intimate conversations

In the last few months, I've been recording and editing conversations on the subject of Sex.

Initially, when it was suggested to me, I thought: no; there's far too much stuff on sex out there already.

Bad porn.
Shoddy writing.
Sensational tabloid journalism.
Terrible late night TV programmes.
The internet.

Why add to the list?

Then I thought about it a bit more.

What would it be like to record and some really powerful conversations on the subject?

And what would it be like if instead of the physical act being the desired climax (yes, double entendres really are unavoidable), what if you took having sex as the starting point?

What if you pay attention to the quality of the conversations so they build into a dialogue: an honest, curious respectful exchange.

And what if we let the theme develop... and go wherever it needs to go?

Wherever that is.

Already it was beginning to feel like a better idea.

And like Pain and Friendship (themes I've taken on in the previous two years), Sex is a subject that people find hard to talk about honestly and openly.

So maybe, with some real dedication there might be some unchartered territory to explore?

(And in a way, sex is a natural follow on from those two themes. I suppose I'll have to do Death next.)

Now I was interested. Really interested.

So I took the criteria I've always applied - to talk to people who've experienced things that not many of us have - and I set about finding some people to talk to.

And I found some wonderful people.

(Thank you very much to all of them.)

So - I started. And now, a few months down the line I've interviewed seven people and edited five of the conversations.

There are more people I want to talk to... more conversations to have.

But for now, I want to share the ones I have.

And luckily for me, each year, Latitude Festival gives me the perfect setting to do just that.

Latitude's a fantastic place to let the conversations loose and open them up to a wider world than my just my two ears.

We have a two hour slot every morning, in the relative peace and quiet before the rock 'n roll kicks in.

People are in a relaxed, curious and open-minded frame of mind. They're not rushing to get to an appointment, or a meeting, or bathtime with the kids.

They amble gently up to our shed in the woods.

They take time to look at the various conversations on offer.

They consider which one they'd like to listen to.

And then we lead them to a quiet spot in the woods, give them an iPod and a pair of headphones.

And leave them to listen in peace.

When they've finished, they might want to talk.

Or they might want to gently walk away.

As Seasick Steve (another Latitude veteran) might say: it's all good.

But not everyone can get to Latitude.

And I'd like as many people as possible to hear the conversations.

I'm proud of them. And I'm fascinated to see and hear what people think of them.

So for the first time, I'm going to publish them here on the blog.

One by one.

Starting on Friday, with the amazing Jane, who I've written about before. (Here.)

I'm full aware that listening to conversations isn't for everyone.

But for some - I hope it's a refreshing, engaging and (who knows) even satisfying way to spend 20 minutes or so.

An important note: the conversations are indeed intimate, honest and (given the subject matter) sometimes explicit and graphic in terms of content. So my recommendation is that they should not be heard by children but by adults only, young and old alike.

(We have other conversations on other subjects designed for younger listeners at Latitude which I'll share here too for summer holiday listening.)

So for now... thanks for reading.

Look out on Friday...