Chatting with Chatty Man Alan Carr: 'If someone had told me I would live in a generation that had 'gay concentration camps' I would have spat my tea out and said ‘b***ocks'

I caught up with the comedian and broadcaster a few days before he hosts the British LGBT Awards.

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The Independent Culture

The British LGBT Awards take place this week with a whole host of activists, campaigners and celebrities coming together to celebrate the achievements of the queer community. 

The awards, which are held annually, celebrate individuals and organisations which work to advance the rights of LGBT communities; with previous winners including Sir Ian McKellen, Nicola Adams and Evan Davis.

Ahead of the glitzy ceremony on 12 May, I caught up with the award's host, comedian and broadcaster Alan Carr to find out what was in store.

JW: Another year, another British LGBT Awards! As a past winner you’ve experienced the whole thing on other side of the podium, are you excited to be hosting this time around? 

AC: Yes, I'm really looking forward to it, I always end up bumping into mates I haven’t seen in ages, so it turns into a work do slash belated Christmas drinks slash gay old knees up. Sharing the podium with Mel Sykes is an added bonus because I know with her it will be a giggle.

What is it about the British LGBT Awards that sets it apart from the increasing number of LGBT accolades that are out there?

This one feels like it has heart, it feels very inclusive, there's a really nice vibe about it - I think mainly due to its celebratory tone.

We, as gay men born and raised in the UK, are pretty privileged to be able to be who we are and say what we want, but that’s certainly not case for the rest of the world - This year, the LGBT community’s focus is very much on the alleged human rights abuses that are happening in Chechnya. What are your thoughts on the reports that are coming out of there?

Oh my God; awful, awful, awful. If someone had told me that I would live in a generation that had 'concentration camps' then I would have spat my tea out and said ‘bollocks,' but yes if the reports are true this is worrying. Really worrying. Why do we never learn from history?

And what do you think public figures like yourself and those gathered at the British LGBT Awards might be able to do about it?

If I’m honest, not a lot. The sinister thing about it all is that Russia and Chechnya are denying it's even going on so it's hard (and I’m sure that's exactly why they are dragging their heels and being vague) to actually accuse them. I know Angela Merkel has confronted [Vladimir] Putin about it, we just need Theresa May to show some of those 'strong stable leadership' skills she keeps telling us about and confront him too.

Do you think Chechnya will be addressed on the night of the British LGBT Awards?

It’s certainly an issue that’s close to a number of activists and people attending. I hope so, it's such a grim low point of human rights let alone gay rights that we wouldn’t really be doing our job if we didn’t at least bring it up. If I’m honest, I’m surprised it hasn’t been bigger news, I know your good selves have kept reporting it and kept it in the public eye so thank you.

Fortunately, there are some more successful stories emerging from around the world: Taiwan looks poised to legalise same-sex marriage, more LGBT rights are being introduced in Japan and all over Europe, what do you think we can learn from these success stories?

It’s easy to get bogged down with all the negativity, and I think social media can sometimes paint the world in a skewed way. There are some good people out there, a lot of progressive people who want to make a positive change. And let's not forget Disney introducing an out gay character in Beauty and the Beast this is a huge step.

Obviously, we have to mention Donald Trump – after promising to preserve the LGBT rights legacy that Barack Obama setup it feels like he’s not on our side as much as he said – If I could put you in a room, or perhaps a gay bar, with Trump what would you say to him? Do you think he needs a night on the town or telling off?

Well, he needs a day off Twitter for a start. I don’t really trust him, he’s hardly filled me with confidence with other issues but hey you never know with Trump do you, you really can’t second guess him.

A little closer to home, what did you make of Tim Farron’s ‘we’re all sinners line,’ when he was questioned about same-sex marriage (which he has now clarified).

To be honest, yes, it was a bit weird, but do you know what I don’t want to start knocking someone’s faith; he seems like a good guy and his previous LGBT record is good. It's just, I suppose he has to find the right balance between the spiritual and the political.

As the awards are happening slap bang in the middle of a general election campaign do you think there will be some political grandstanding?

I hope so.

This year is a huge milestone for gay rights in this country with the 50th anniversary of The Sexual Offences Act, you’ll more than likely have some people in the audience who lived through it and fought tooth and nail for our rights - will you be doing anything, saying anything, or possibly thanking them during the awards?

I feel it should be mentioned, even as a reminder of just how far we’ve come. 

It’s a huge chapter in the gay rights movement, one that a number of younger generations don’t fully understand or comprehend; do you think there is a knowledge gap for LGBT millennials?

There's always been a knowledge gap whatever your sexuality, in your 20’s its all about you, 30’s your trying to find your place in the world or trying to claw enough money together to get a deposit for a flat its only when you get to my age that you have the luxury of time and can probably see things clearer.

I said to the organisers, 'send me as much LGBT info and news as you can because I want to give it my all', and I know this sounds weird but I’ve almost been radicalised by it. The injustice, the human stories, the unfairness and the casual homophobia has filled me with such anger and I’ve become so passionate about it that I want to do more.

A 20-year-old Alan wouldn’t have given a flying toss. I don’t know though whether the whole idea of 'concentration camps' might be the thing that fires up this generation - the whole concept is so outrageously evil it might spark at least an interest in gay rights.

Finally, with everything that’s happening at the moment, and the world a seemingly scary place if you’re LGBTQI, what’s the overall message you want people to take from the awards this year?

The biggest takeaway, the kinda thing we’ll sing on the barricades if the country falls apart on June 9th: Can’t we all just get along!!!

The full nominations for the 2017 RBS British LGBT Awards are available on its official website. The ceremony itself is taking place on 12 May from 9pm BST.

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