Being A Man (BAM) is a three-day festival that takes place in November each year, celebrating boys and men, and addressing the pressures of masculine identity in the 21st century.
Past topics to have been covered by the BAM programme – via talks, debates, exhibitions and performances – have included lad culture, gang culture, depression, fatherhood, pornography, mental health, male suicide, men behind bars, body image and sexuality.
The festival, now in its fourth year, attracts more than 150,000 visitors to the Southbank Centre in London. Events encourage conversations and the sharing of stories – serious, challenging and light-hearted – about being a man today, including paternity leave, shyness, video games and transgender identity.
To launch the 2017 Festival, the Pure Land Series at China Exchange is hosting a panel discussion led by the event’s founder, Jude Kelly CBE, artistic director of the Southbank Centre.
Speakers on October 24 will include Jack Rooke, whose Edinburgh Fringe show – Good Grief – was nominated for Best Show by an Emerging Artist at the Total Theatre Awards 2015, and LionHeart, a TEDx speaker, award-winning poet and international spoken-word performer, author of upcoming poetry collection The Mute’s Rebellion and co-founder of innovative debate platform SubjectivityUK. Completing the line-up is Leiran Gibson, a British-born Caribbean actor, writer and illustrator, who trained at St Mary’s University before becoming a Youth Ambassador and BAMbassador for the Southbank Centre.
The festival itself takes as its theme the question What Makes a Man? Discussions will cover masculinity and power, Nordic masculinity, male identity and fatherhood, bullying, porn, teenage knife-crime and music, to name just a few. Confirmed speakers include Robert Webb, the comedian, Peep Show star and now memoirist; American race and women’s rights activist Kevin Powell; the Booker Prize-winning author Alan Hollinghurst, famous for chronicling gay life in modern Britain; and the refugee turned movie star Antonythasan Jesuthasan.
In 2016, BAM looked at what it means to be a hero, from the artists who challenge expectations to the heroism necessary to embrace your true identity. Speakers included rapper and documentary film-maker Professor Green; hip-hop artists The Last Poets, alongside Ashley Walters; solo artist and frontman of Bloc Party, Kele Okereke; and the late Sir Roger Moore, who reflected candidly on stepping into the shoes of the ultimate on-screen hero, 007.