Rainbow herd

PEOPLE: JAMES WILKINSON

Q&C spent a hot afternoon with the Bristol Bisons RFC at their training ground. Rolling in the mud, ankle breaks and dressing as Spice Girls are all in a day's work for members of South West's only inclusive gay friendly rugby team.

Under a clear blue sky at the Bristol Bisons RC training ground near Cribbs Causeway, rolling hills festooned with giant hay stacks adorn the landscape as far as the eye can see. I’m here to visit the lads from the team for a cover photo shoot while England swelters in a heatwave that shows no sign of abating.

As the mercury hits the low 30s, the boys didn’t need much encouragement to get their kit off, and for the pride-themed shoot, get doused in rainbow coloured paint.

The team had already been having fun by cooling down on a hastily inflated water slide in just their swim shorts. It was their annual sports day after all, so why not!

Bristol Bisons RFC is the South West’s only inclusive and gay-friendly rugby team and since 2005 have offered an open and welcoming environment to players and supporters of all abilities and backgrounds regardless of sexuality to Bristol, Somerset, South Gloucestershire and surrounding areas.

Some of the boys, including team captain Murray Jones, happily chatted to Q&C about the importance of rugby and the Bristol Bisons’ team spirit, and as the pride season gets underway, what the annual LGBT+ celebration means to them.

Joe

 Joe 

Joe 

Avid gamer and lover of manga and western comics, Joe Butler, 25, is a postgraduate student who lives in central Bristol with a Bisons teammate. “I’m one of those with a lot of pointless knowledge in pop culture lore,” he tells Q&C. Joe is single and has been playing with the team since last October.

What do you like about playing with the Bisons?

The camaraderie both within the club and the wider International Gay Rugby community is unrivalled. Having only been part of it for 9 months, I can safely say I’ve never experienced anywhere in my 25 years where I have felt like I have fit in as much. There’s not a single feature you can attribute across the members including shape, size, background, sexuality or mentality. Hearing the term ‘inclusive rugby club’ automatically generates a lot of ideas of what it will be, which I hear a lot of when I mention to others outside of it, and it defies all presumptions from the second you start.

How did you get to find out about the team and be a member?

My hometown isn’t too far away so I knew about the team already, however I waited to join as soon as  I moved to the city.

Any good team stories we should hear about?

While in Amsterdam, we stopped at the piano in Centraal Station and the whole team sang 1000 Miles by Vanessa Carlton at the top of our lungs. It’s our song for after a match, but it’s clear why we’re a rugby team and not a choir.

What does gay pride mean to you in 2018?

As far as we’ve come, in everyday life we’re still not entirely able to be ourselves, we still show reluctance to act a certain way around a lot of people and spend our lives combating stereotypes and fighting for acceptance. Every day the news is reporting hate crimes against the queer community and studies showing the insecurity felt within it surrounding everyday life which is why Pride is still so important. Even in 2018, it is the reminder that we are more than the statistics and caricatures you see in the media, and it’s a chance to celebrate the diversity in the queer community, which in itself can become quite divisive.

Any favourite country pursuits?

I used to partake in a lot of animal photography, spending days out wandering the wilderness in hopes of getting that showstopping photo. When at home I do a lot of clay pigeon shooting with my father and Barebow Archery with the local club.

Favourite holiday destination?

I recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of travelling to Japan, which I did solo. The ability to totally lose myself in the culture which was immeasurably different to that of home is something I look forward to feeling again. And yes, the toilets have about 56 buttons on them.

What's your life ambition?

In both career and life, I simply want to leave the world a bit better off than when I came into it for those around me. Looking to work in the environment field, I hope to preserve and restore our home to pass onto future generations, while also deconstructing the stereotypes and intolerances surrounding the queer community; as we all go through things that none of us would wish on those following us.

Przemek

 Przemek

Przemek

Przemek, 39, is a Landscaper-Gardener, and is civil partnered to Ben. They live with their beloved whippet Bluebell. He’s been with the Bisons since 2008.

What’s so great about playing with the Bisons?

A perfect combination of fitness, social life and banter in a competitive, yet non-professional international gay rugby environment.

How did you get to find out about the team and be a member?

Gaydar. We are talking now prior to the social media boom when other avenues like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were not yet generally in use to spread the word and recruit new players. Although Pride is now the biggest opportunity to spread the word and recruit new players.

Any good team stories we should hear about?

Well what happens on tour stays on tour. There is nothing I can reveal from our ventures to the UK based and international tournaments. However, I still remember my very first training session as though it was yesterday. It was one of those dark and wet winter nights on a soggy pitch. A player broke his ankle when his leg got stuck in deep mud. It was the loudest crack I’d ever heard on a rugby pitch so far. I learned two things from that. One of them is warm up properly, something we now pay extreme attention to, and the second is know your body. I learned that it’s OK and that you’re not a wimp if you rest and let your body recover from the ordeal you put it through during a game.

What does gay Pride mean to you in 2018?

Pride means to me celebrating who I am as an adult gay man, particularly in this current politically unstable world full of polarised views and right wing anti-LGBT views.

Any favourite country pursuits?

Recently I’m getting more into photography, thanks to a little spark reignited while volunteering at last year’s Pride to run our club Instagram and Twitter accounts. I have since passed on duties to my team buddy Joe, but my claim to fame is doubling the Instagram following that we have. I’ve had lots of fun with it and love seeing Joe now taking it to the next level with his witty sense of humour and great eye for content.

Having a four-legged friend at home means we’re always out and about exploring new walks around Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. Our neighbouring counties are beautiful.

Any favourite holiday destinations?

I love to explore new places. My absolute favourite and close to my heart for many personal reasons is Pembrokeshire. If you have time go camping to Bosherston with its lily ponds and fabulous coastal walks stretching from Green Bridge to St Govan’s Chapel or from Stackpole to Broadhaven Beach.

It’s absolutely magical and never overcrowded with only few well-seasoned climbers enjoying the challenge of getting down the cliffs to the secluded stone beaches with its Atlantic grey seals sunbathing.

Murray

 Murray - Captain

Murray - Captain

Murray Jones, 43, is the Bristol Bisons team captain. He’s a veterinarian and lives in Bristol with his husband Richard.  He's also partial to dressing up as a Spice Girl when on tour in Amsterdam - but don't tell anyone!

How long have you been playing rugby?

This time, just under 2 years, but I played in school and uni 20 years ago.

What’s the best thing about playing for the Bisons?

The camaraderie and the fact that it is full contact, tackling, scrums rucks and all, a fantastic stress relief.

How did you get to find out about the team and be a member?

I had been keen to join for a while but had to work most Saturdays so knew that I wouldn’t be able to give it 100 percent. Then my work situation changed and I jumped at the chance.

Any interesting anecdotes from your time with the team?

Every time the team meet, something funny or outrageous happens. It’s just the nature of the team and what makes it so much fun. The highlight of my time would have to be the most recent Bingham Cup in Amsterdam where we all dressed up as Spice Girls and walked through the middle of the city on a Friday night. We couldn’t walk two steps without people stopping us and taking photos.

What does gay pride mean to you in 2018?  

Pride is the most important event for recruiting new members for our next season. We are after anyone who is keen regardless of experience.

What else do you do for fun?

I like to go kayaking with my other half and my Labrador. Recently we took off to Norway and did it in the fjords which was amazing.

Any favourite country pursuits?

Definitely finding the perfect country pub for a cheeky pint and a dog walk. Easily the best thing about England. Nowhere else does it better.

How well are the team doing at the moment?

It’s the best we’ve ever played. We made it to two finals and have the most members we’ve ever had.

You’re ranking really well in the league. What’s been the key to that success?

It’s comes down to everyone working together. I can’t say that there is just one element but there has been a very good relationship between coaches, captains and the team which has made it all happen. We take our rugby seriously but we also have a lot of fun.

How do you keep all the boys on the team in check?  

By remaining positive and making sure that everyone feels welcome and equal. Then I shout at them!

What are the team getting up to for Bristol Pride this year?

Well we will all be there marching, throwing the ball around and signing up new members. There will be plenty of opportunities to meet the team and join in. There will also be a taster session a week after so any newbies can get a feel for what it’s all about.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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