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The National Theatre’s River Stage Summer Festival in London (image supplied) The National Theatre’s River Stage Summer Festival in London (image supplied)

Arts & Culture

An awesome festival. No camping.

The National Theatre’s River Stage Summer Festival in London (image supplied)

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Each year, the National Theatre presents London’s largest free outdoor arts festival — creating an outdoor stage at its South Bank precinct location.

The festival delivers five weekends of live music, DJs, family workshops, club nights, and theatre.

Here’s an overview of what’s on offer:

13–15 July 2018

  • The Glory — one of London’s leading queer performance venues — takes over the stage for a weekend of drag queens, club kids, and comedy.
  • Highlights will include Sex Shells, Sodom & Begorah, and Drag Life Drawing.

“River Stage is an amazing opportunity for underground performers to share their work with a big, varied crowd — it’s like a cultural exchange. People ask us all year round when the next one is happening — it gets bigger each year, we can’t wait!” — John Sizzle, The Glory

20–22 July 2018

  • Home brings our friends in the north for a Manchester take-over of the River Stage. An eclectic mix of theatre, cabaret, and family-friendly entertainment.
  • Highlights will include Bourgeois & Maurice, The Beat Chics, and a giant game of Battleships.

“Get ready for a Northern invasion! Trains permitting…” — Kevin Jamieson, Home

27–29 July 2018

  • Sadler’s Wells dance theatre are in charge for the weekend, so get ready to feel the rhythm.
  • Highlights will include a Lindy Hop workshop, a Flamenco taster, and the collaborative performance of The Dance We Made.

“I’m very excited to be presenting a weekend of fantastic free dance performances on the National Theatre’s River Stage.” Joce Giles, Sadler’s Wells

3–5 August 2018

  • Nonclassical are setting the agenda for this weekend, exploring music in all its shapes and forms.
  • Highlights will include DJ Mr Switch, Cecilia Bignall, and Tre Voci.

“We’re looking forward to taking live music and DJs out of our club nights and into the open air on the riverfront.” — Eleanor Ward, Nonclassical

10–12 August 2018

  • The closing weekend of the River Stage Festival is the domain of the National Theatre.
  • Highlights will include Mrs H and the Sing-along Band, Shirt Tail Stompers, and Session.

“The key thrill for me is seeing the crowds of new faces that River Stage brings to the South Bank.”Rufus Norris, National Theatre

See the full program of the River Stage Festival

Read more from Gareth Johnson

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Arts & Culture

Giving a voice to gay Arab men

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Samer Bo (image supplied)
Samer Bo (image supplied)

I caught up with author Samer Bo to talk about writing erotic gay fiction in Egypt.

What led you to start writing erotic gay fiction?

I was forgetting what was happening. I noticed that when someone asked me about what happened to me the previous week, I couldn’t remember the details.

I think forgetting was my defence-mechanism for all the pain and trouble.

So, I started by writing my diaries, which ended to be quite erotic sometimes. Then that moved to erotic fiction.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your stories?

Inspiration comes from my personal experiences and sometimes my friends’ experiences. Other times, I just meet a guy or watch a movie, and it inspires me to write a story.

Who are your target audience?

I write for myself before anyone else. I’d love all gay men to read and get aroused by my stories.

But I guess I do write for minorities — people who don’t usually get represented in media, porn, or erotic stories. I want people to see themselves represented in my novels.

What sort of feedback do you get from your readers?

I get a lot of positive feedback from people in the Middle East who finally find a voice speaking to them. Some see me as a role model — a type of Egyptian guy that they never see in the media.

Do your friends and family know that you write erotic gay fiction?

Only some close friends know. I’m not in touch with my family anyway. Samer is my real name, but I changed my last name to Bo.

Have you had any negative reactions to the gay erotic fiction that you write?

I only tell people about my writing if I know that they’re either gay or gay friendly. So I haven’t had negative reactions in that respect.

However, I have had multiple incidents of homophobia. I was arrested once.

Son of the President isn’t an erotic story, how did that story come to you?

That story is based on the real-life story of an older friend that I met a few years ago. I told him about my erotic stories, and he asked me to write an erotic story inspired by his experiences.

However, I felt that if I wrote it as erotica, it would take away from the essence of the story. So I left it as non-erotic story.

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What do you hope that people feel when reading your stories?

First of all, aroused from my erotic stories. Plus, I want people to feel represented.

Gay Arabs are not represented in any kind of media. We’re being suppressed and discriminated against. A lot of gay men in the Middle East feel that being gay is wrong, and that homosexuality is a sin.

This is my small way to help those men feel better about themselves.

What are some of your goals and ambitions for the remainder of 2018?

More stories, maybe some non-erotic ones. I’m also helping a friend of mine to change his non-erotic short story into a play.

Read the novels by Samer Bo

Follow Samer Bo on Twitter

Read more from Gareth Johnson

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