Despite the growing number of out gay pop stars, it’s unusual to hear an overtly gay song on the radio – so a Brighton musician has become an ITV Fixer to redress the balance. Viewers can find out more about his project on ITV’s Meridian Tonight on Thursday 5 May at 6pm.
Simon Walton (24) from Brighton felt confused about coming out as a teenager, and feels that homosexuality is often under or misrepresented in the media and music industries, even though many of the most high profile stars are (often secretly) gay. He feels that there needs to be more focus on loving and romantic gay relationships so they are normalised and as accepted as heterosexual relationships. He felt he was given confusing mixed messages and fears that this is still the case for young people who are thinking about coming out.
One of Simon’s biggest problems is that even when a musical artist is gay they often sing lyrics as though they are in a heterosexual relationship, presumably because it is thought that gay relationships are less marketable.
“Romantic songs are generally written for straight couples because that’s how true romance is perceived. Growing up as a homosexual teenager, I didn’t find any one in the industry I could really relate to. I was told by a teacher that to be successful I shouldn’t reference my sexuality, and that is the root of this project because that’s something I really disagree with.”
Simon sings and produces his own music, and as a Fixer is shooting a music video, professionally recording a track and receiving vocal coaching from local singing teacher Francesca Young. The track is called WBU and features lyrics from the perspective of someone experiencing heartbreak in a same-sex relationship.
In the Meridian news feature, Simon plays the tune to breakfast presenters Neil Sexton and Debbie Ryan from Gaydar Radio, who say the record companies are most to blame for the overwhelming straightness of modern pop. Debbie tells him it takes someone very brave to stand out as a new gay artist, “especially if you’re a guy, it can kill your career as the main audience is young girls.”
Simon says it was fun turning his track into a music video with ITV Fixers, and hopes to get the serious message across: “I hope this will show young people that are coming out that you can be who you want to be in life, you don’t have to hide who you are in order to be successful.”
ITV Fixers with vinspired.com is a major campaign created by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust, giving young people between the ages of 16-25 the opportunity to tackle any issue that they feel strongly about. What they choose to do is up to them as long as it benefits a t least one other person.
The Fixers are given all the resources they need to make their chosen project a success, with creative help from media professionals to make their own promotional material, from DVDs to websites. Support is on hand for the duration of the project and a broadcast production team produces features about the Fixes for ITV regional news.
Margo Horsley, chief executive of the Public Service Broadcasting Trust, says: “Fixers are young people with passion, setting the agenda and changing stereotypes. We want to give them the chance to decide what they want to do, develop their own projects, and give them a little bit of help if needed. I’ve seen how energetic and committed they are when what they’re doing means something to them. What we’re seeing has really made me question whether young people deserve such a bad press.”