Meet Chris Gull, a true LGBTQ+ hero.

Meet the man behind, the Brighton Rainbow fund and The Ledward Centre. After working with Scene magazine for a while we finally got some time with Chris Gull. A man who does so much for our community. We were keen to know more about all his involvements plus a bit more about himself too. After posing some questions this is what we found out.

Scene magazine has been a fixture in the LGBTQ+ community for some time now. Can you tell us how it all started and were you involved from the very beginning?

I wasn´t involved from the very beginning, that was all down to the late James Ledward. He started a free LGBT listings magazine back in the 1990´s which was a “listings” magazine, which was printed and distributed mainly through “gay” venues and businesses, railway stations and libraries. James used that platform to use editorials to campaign on LGBT and HIV issues. James died in 2019, and expressed a wish that the magazine, and website, continue to be a community resource, and to keep campaigning. COVID came along and our distribution points were all closed,  so we had to change gear to develop the online version of the magazine, integrate it with the website, and build on the opportunities of reaching out beyond the South of England, so that we now have a national and international presence.

How would you describe the readers of Scene?

A broad, eclectic, vibrant representation across all the LGBTQ+ communities. We are “sex-positive”, interested in the challenges still faced by our communities, and relishing queer history and culture

When you work on an issue for Scene, how do you select what content goes in it?

We have some “special” or “themed” issues each year, for instance an HIV issue, a Trans issue, and a celebrating older LGBTQ+ issue. These are often guest edited with the guest editor “commissioning” and curating articles.

We also feature a lot of relevant news, which of course chooses itself.

How has the running of Scene changed over the last decade?

James was very “hands on” Editing, writing, photographing… with his death, and with COVID, we have become a not for profit Community Interest Company, and online only. Most of our content is contributed, and we have a very small team who make it all happen on a daily basis on the website, and a monthly basis with the magazine.

You also run the Brighton Rainbow Fund and The Ledward Centre, can you tell us a bit more about these organisations?

Again we have to go back to the real hero here, James Ledward. Back in 2010 he started a public appeal to raise the funds to commission an AIDS memorial for Brighton. There was some money left after the statue was in place, so he worked with a few others to create The Brighton Rainbow Fund. I´ve been Chair of Trustees for nearly ten years now, and we are a central hub for distributing funds raised in the community (Brighton Pride, Brighton Bear Weekend, individual venues and donors) to local LGBTQ+ and HIV projects. We have distributed nearly a million pounds over the last 13 years.

We also research what gaps there are in local provision for our LGBTQ+ communities and aim to facilitate solutions that will fill those gaps. Our biggest project so far has been the establishment of The Ledward Centre, Brighton´s new LGBTQ+ Community and Cultural Centre. This involved 8 years of work, sorcing premises, acquiring the lease, consulting, planning and fitting out 7000 sq ft of retail space, two big empty spaces, into a thriving, safe, social space for our communities.

What does a working day look like for you?

Calm and relaxed sums it up really. After 40 years in Brighton we moved to Valencia 8 years ago, and have spent the last 18 months renovating a house which we moved into 4 months ago. It´s 5 kms inland so I can´t get me daily sea dip anymore, BUT we have built a small exercise pool, and a sauna, so my working day actually starts with a bit of yoga, a few weights, then sit in the sauna going through emails and The Guardian online, followed by some breaststroke in the (unheated) pool.

Then breakfast, and a few hours in the office we built on the roof terrace, with beautiful views.

There are always things to do during the day, so I fit (Zoom) meetings in between shopping, enjoying the surrounding area, and domestic routine. Supper at 18:30, bit of TV (currently obsessed with traitors) then a couple of hours in the office catching up with funding bids, catching up with managers at The Ledward centre, Editors and bookkeepers at Scene…then bed.

What does the future look like for Scene?

The “grand plan” is to take advantage of our online presence (printing and distributing a physical magazine is no longer viable) and publishing 14 regional versions of each monthly magazine. Each version will carry the same news, adverts and features which are of interest across the country, but will differ in carrying their own local and regional news and adverts. We think we will roll this out by working with the many Prides across the UK and putting them in control of their local contributions. So, if any of your subscribers fancy getting involved we´d love to hear from you.

Now that we know a little more about all your involvements, let’s see what we found out about Chris himself:

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from, your family etc?

Of course. My Mum was a refugee from the East of Germany to the West in 1945, and came to the UK in 1949 as an Au Pair in 1949, met my Dad and stayed. They married when they were 19 and had me when they were 20.

I studied Dentistry at Sheffield University and moved to Brighton in 1976 for my first job. I started my own practice in 1980, was the “UK Dental Practice of the Year” in 2002, and sold my practice and “retired” in 2009. My husband (strictly my Civil Partner, we don´t see the point of converting to a marriage) and I have been together for 32 years, having “bumped into each other” in the famous Bushes on Brighton seafront at 4am on New Year´s Day 1992.

After quitting Dentistry we started, grew, and sold on a series of hospitality businesses before moving to Spain. Since we´ve been here we´ve bought, renovated, and sold 3 houses before buying this one and keeping it.

You are very active in making life better for the LGBTQ+ community, how did this all come about?

In the 80s in the fairly early days of HIV and AIDS impacting our community I was one of the very few Dentists who were taking people living with HIV onto the books. I became involved with a charity called Brighton Cares in 1990, a charity raising funds through entertainment (big fundraising concerts etc) and acting as a hardship fund, helping individuals, often with washing machines for instance in those early days when people were already weak and with night sweats having to take their bedding to launderettes. We were able to close that charity in the early noughties as the need for our help diminished with the advent of new treatments.

Inevitably my practice had a large proportion of patients from the LGBT communities, so it meant that I was well connected in the scene.

Who or what inspires you?

People who inspire me are very often those who go unrecognised, and usually, those whom I have personal contact with, and whom I can see work tirelessly day in and day out, most of them in unpaid positions and recognise a need in those around them, and work to fulfil that need. So many of the smaller organisations that we can fund through The Brighton Rainbow Fund or accommodate at The Ledward Centre are started and run by inspirational people. I also had the good fortune to know Alan Rickman from being at the same school, and we were friends for 50 years until he died. He was an inspiration to me because I saw that he truly recognised the “lemons” that he had been given with becoming a well-paid movie actor, and he really did so much good, in a very quiet way, in supporting many good causes and individuals, really turning those lemons into lemonade.

What does your ideal holiday look like?

Ha! My life is really a permanent holiday nowadays, and the prospect of long-haul travel is very off-putting now. Again, I´ve been very fortunate in my life regarding travel. My Dad worked for BA so even when we were young our school holidays were spent in what were then far flung places, Kenya, Fiji. Singapore…in my twenties I got cheap “stand by” travel with BA, and every Easter flew to Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Laguna Beach. These holidays always involved bath houses, dark rooms, cruising areas… It really was the good time that was had by all. Later on, I had a house and shop in The Algarve which I went to every month, a timeshare in The Gambia which I used twice a year for ten year.

So, the short answer to your question is my ideal holiday WAS a combination, literally, of sun, sea and sex, and I don’t need the sun and sea anymore on holiday, I have it every day

Outside of work how do you prefer to spend your free time?

Again, my time really is mostly free. I love using my hands, and at the moment that involves grouting, painting and a bit of bricklaying, but also knitting and tapestry.

If you could send a message back to yourself when you were 16, what would that be?

You´re gorgeous! I was never secure about looks, and looking back at photos I can see now that I shouldn´t have been (Gorgeous is an exaggeration, but that´s what my 16-year-old self should have.

Who is the sexiest man ever?

Ooh! Interesting question! To be honest the man that first gained my attention in that obsessive way was a COLT model called Bruno. In those days (the 1960´s) there was no easy access to porn, or images. I discovered a shop on the way home from school that sold second-hand, “physique” and bodybuilding magazines, and eventually COLT magazines. Bruno was pretty damn HOT!

What is the one thing in life that you would still like to achieve yourself or see happen in the world we live in?

I´m going to say it, and actually mean it.. World Peace

If you were not running Scene, what other profession would you like to do?

My answer now that I´m really retired anyway is nothing. The answer for most of my life would have been the theatre. It was my intention at 16, but my logical head steered me in safer directions

That is about it Chris, thank you for your time and for giving our readers a behind-the-scenes glance into your world.

Don’t forget to check out the magazine here Other organisations Chris is involved in are  and  

With love,

Team esmale

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Team esmale

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