Fiddler On The Move

INTERVIEW: MARC ANDREWS

New age hottie Nikolas Jovcic-Sas rocked Glastonbury this year with his band Ninotchka, but this Theology major with the look of Rasputin is also the driving force behind Midsomer Norton Pride in Somerset

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You’re a self-described “activist, violinist & writer”. That’s quite a triple threat.

I’d like to think of myself as a Renaissance man, but jack-of-all-trades is probably more accurate. For the past five years I’ve been an LGBTQ+ activist, here and in Eastern Europe. A lot of what I do looks at the way traditional cultural identities interplay with the queer and trans community. I’ve been playing violin since I was 11 and currently in a folk band called Ninotchka.

What’s your primary day job at present?

At the moment I make most of my money through my music. It’s easily one of the most fun ways to make a living.

You performed at Glastonbury this year. Tell us more.

I was busking on Boxing Day in Bath when a lady stopped to watch me. She asked if I wanted to play at Avalon during Glastonbury. We briefly hung out backstage with Busted, shook hands with Thom Yorke and the guy who sang The Sopranos theme tune loves our band.

You have a very distinctive look.

I’d describe my style as “what Rasputin might have worn if he was a massive fan of the Libertines”! Guyliner, skinny jeans, wincklepickers, lots of black, Orthodox crucifixes, big beard etc.

What’s your background?

I’m from a mixed Eastern European immigrant background. My grandfather came from Poland to fight for Britain in WWII and settled in Bristol. My Mum’s family were members of Belgrade’s aristocracy, exiled from Yugoslavia by the communists. She grew up in Morocco and on a holiday in Britain met my Dad in a pub in London – six months later they married. They didn’t want to raise children in the city so ended up moving to rural Somerset. I got bullied viciously through my teens but always tried to give the illusion of a champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget.

When did you come out?

When I was 15. I’d known I wasn’t straight since I was maybe 10 or 11, but tried to convince myself it was just a phase.

How did your family deal with that?

My Dad and brother never minded, but my mother struggled with it until recently. Almost none of my family in Eastern Europe knows. It means I lead a bit of a double life. Elena Horne just made a documentary Lands of Lost Content where she filmed my life in the UK and in Belgrade.

Religion has played a big part in your life. How to reconcile that with your homosexuality?

As a Serb I was brought up to see Eastern Orthodox Christianity as an essential part of my identity. When I realized I liked boys I thought I was perverted and going to Hell. I began self-harming and contemplating suicide from an alarmingly young age. It led to a morbid fascination with Christianity, but as I read more I realised The Bible’s message on same-sex relationships is far from clear-cut.

How did you reconcile your faith with being gay?

I went King’s College London to study Theology. Some encouraged me to abandon my faith, both Christians and LGBTQ+ individuals. For this reason I ran an LGBTQ+ Christian support group at my university for people of all denominations, sexualities and gender identities to come together. If we want to create a more inclusive LGBTQ+ movement, we need to acknowledge the importance of religion in many queer and trans people’s lives.

You also run Midsomer Norton Pride in Somerset. How did that eventuate?

While at university, I had to take a long time out due to mental health issues. I ended up back in my hometown – a pretty conservative place. I decided the best way to cope was to bring a slice of the fabulous LGBTQ+ scene I’d been involved with in London to rural Somerset. Over the last two years Midsomer Norton Pride has grown to be this strange and exciting mixture of a village fete and a queer club night. It has a multigenerational Pride themed bake-off during the day and a raucous rock concert/drag show by night.

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As a visible and openly gay man do you see yourself as a kind of role model?

No, I just try my hardest to wear my faith, sexuality, ethnic background and mental health conditions on my sleeve. I was a huge fan of Sylvia Plath as a teenager and it opened my mind to the idea that confession can be a great source of power in helping others.

Are you romantically attached?

At present I am living as a nun. I used to have a type – if you lined up all my exes, you’d definitely see a pattern – but now I’m most interested in people with a drive to do something with their lives.

How has Brexit changed the world for the worse?

I’ve received abuse for playing Eastern European music in the streets post-Brexit, and many of my friends from similar ethnic backgrounds have told me some truly horrifying stories over the past few months. Whatever turbulence we might be going through can be undone if people are prepared to fight.

What’s the one thing that might surprise people about you?

I love Twilight. It’s awful, but soothes my soul. I’m Team Jacob if it matters.

How are you making the world a better place?

A wise person once told me you should be the person you needed when you were young. No child should contemplate suicide for being the person God made them to be, so I try to do what I can so others don’t have to go through what I did. On the lighter side, through Midsomer Norton Pride, I’ve created an annual baking competition judged by drag queens in rural Somerset. If that isn’t making the world better I don’t know what is.

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