A Welsh Rarebit

I’m in first position for London 2012

Since I got hooked on rugby league after following the Leeds Rhinos for the photographic book I did last year, my interest in sport has grown.

My partner Michael has long been a season ticket holder at Manchester United but I very rarely go with him. I can’t sit still for long enough, and unless I’m running around the pitch taking photos then I’m not interested.

The success of team GB at the Beijing Olympics seems to have gripped the nation and we’ve been screaming at the TV in the office quite a lot in the last couple of weeks.

London 2012 seems so far away but I certainly want to be in the heart of the action so I’ve put my name down for 10 pairs of tickets for the opening ceremony.

American Express Centurion my credit card company offer a concierge service where they can obtain tickets for almost any event so I’m on their list already, and apparently I’m at the top. There’s sure to be some jostling for the tickets amongst my family and friends.

One thing that does surprise me greatly about Olympic competitors is that there are over 10,000 of them competing, however only 10 of them are openly gay " that’s 0.1% of the total. Worse than that, only one of those 10 is a male, Matthew Mitcham the Australian diver.

Of course there are probably a lot more who have not yet come out. The percentage of gay people in sport generally mirrors the entire population of between 2 and 10% which means around 1000 athletes are for some reason not comfortable to come out of the closet.

Their reasons range from fears about effects on performance, attitudes of their team mates, fans and even lack of sponsorship for gay athletes. Also. the majority of competitors are under the age of 30, and that can be a key time for someone who is wrestling with their sexuality.

The athletes are also solely focused on their sport and put off dealing with their sexuality until their careers have peaked.

I’m hoping that over the next four years attitudes will continue to change and by the time I’m cheering on the Brits in London, there’ll be a lot more pink union jacks flying.

M15 are after Me

For decades the gay community has been shunned by the security services, along with women and other minorities.

But now in a big recruitment drive, M15 wants to broaden the range of UK society it serves, and they have finally realised that to access this diverse society it needs members of that society working for it.

I knew that all that hard work in the gym would eventually pay off, and I could one day parade my Daniel Craig style six pack and Prada sunglasses in exotic locations around the world, whilst getting paid a decent salary for it " not!

If it’s anything like Spooks on TV though I don’t think I could handle it personally.

Seriously though, I’m pleased to hear that M15 is working with Stonewall, the organisation which campaigns for equality for gay people, to create a workplace environment which is supportive of gay people, and I feel it’s long overdue.

A Welsh Rarebit

It’s been a weekend of celebrations and partying in Manchester which began with a fantastic day on Friday to mark the 15th anniversary of the Mr Gay UK contest.

The excitement started at 11am when all the contestants arrived at the venue, the Ritz Ballroom, Manchester and came face to face with their competition for the first time.

I’m always surprised how great they look, and how different from when you first meet them months earlier at their regional heat. Their bodies are toned and muscular from all the hours they’ve put it at the gym, their tans perfected and not a hair out of place.

Manchester was buzzing already, as thousands of people flocked to the city for the Pride weekend which is one of the most popular events on the gay calendar.

The cameras were following me and my partner Michael all day and all night as part of the documentary being filmed about us, so there was more pressure than usual to ensure the event was a huge success. I’ve never had my make up touched up so often!

After a couple of hours, I forgot the cameras were even around, but I’m a bit worried about the scenes they filmed of me with all the contestants in the gym in the afternoon " I tried to keep up with them anyway.

There was no time for a break even when rehearsals were over as we’d organised a parade through the city with all the boys. Then I dashed back to the venue to meet up with the celebrity guests for their rehearsals.

Co-hosting the show with me was the fabulous Jane McDonald, the Loose Woman who has been back on our TV screens over the last couple of weeks in ‘Return to the cruise’ which re-visited the programme which shot her to fame back in the 90’s.

Her new album was released last week too, and she admitted to me that she’s overwhelmed it’s reached number 7 in the charts already.

I love Jane to bits, she’s a down to earth northern girl who is proud of her roots but she is extremely talented at what she does.
She’s no stranger to hosting Mr Gay UK as she did it 9 years ago and was fabulous which is why I invited her back for this special anniversary.

We only managed to run through our script together once before we went on stage, and I can’t believe how fantastic and natural she is , so spontaneous and witty, perfect for the crowds, many of whom had come along just to see her.

One guy was in tears at the front, as he sang along with her. She performed 2 songs halfway through the show, and didn’t even have a break to touch up her lipstick!

A true professional, and the contestants and audience loved her. I was delighted that she’d brought along her boyfriend, Eddie Rothe, who was the drummer in The Searchers and Liquid Gold who we all ‘danced ourselves dizzy’ to decades ago.

He’s a lovely guy too and they make a great couple " I’m hoping when they tie the knot I’ll get an invite…

Our celebrity judging panel this year included loved up couple Luke and Rebecca from this year’s big brother. He is very camp, and told me that most people think he’s gay, but looking at the body language between him and Rebecca that’s definitely not the case. They are very loved up, and went down a storm with the audience.

They were joined by Aled Haydn Jones, the gay Producer of Chris Moyles’ breakfast show on Radio 1. He was driving home early the next day to attend the wedding of Chris’s sidekick Comedy Dave, but said he wouldn’t miss our contest for the world.

80’s pop and fashion icon Steve Strange, Corrie mechanic turned stripper Scott Wright and Bent Magazine Features Editor Adam Lowe also had the difficult job of picking a winner.

2 of my friends from Hollyoaks the actors Kieran Richardson and Dominque Jackson also came along but Hollyoaks wouldn’t allow Kieran to be a judge as even though he’s gay he plays a straight character.

The 19 contestants first appeared on stage dressed in fantasy wear, which ranged from a welsh rugby player to soldiers,sailors and even James Bond.

Their second round was swimwear, and the crowd went wild as the guys strutted their stuff in hotblood trunks " I had to wipe Jane’s forehead to calm her down after she’d interviewed them all!

The tension was building backstage as the contestants waited for the judges scores to be counted then they were called back on for the big announcement. I had a few favourites including Will Bate from Birmingham but of course I have to remain impartial.

3rd Place was announced " Davie Henderson the cute sailor from Glasgow, followed by the runner up, John Dewey from Chelmsford " both great looking guys.

Then my partner Michael appeared on stage with Luke and Bex and the gold envelope containing the name everyone wanted to know " the winner is….

Dino Gamecho from Cardiff " our first ever Welsh winner. He couldn’t believe it and was genuinely shocked as he turned to me to ask ‘ is it really me?’

I think it was his welsh rugby players outfit and the perfect backflip he’d done on stage which had helped him to the title but he is definitely a popular winner.

I’m delighted too as I have to work closely with the winner. Along with the cash he won, he’ll have a photo shoot in Morocco, a holiday to the Canaries courtesy of Jet2 and be the face of Red Army aftershave.

It was the most amazing night and it’s going to be a memorable year for Dino, congratulations Mr Gay UK 2008.