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’m constantly dissatisfied. I’m not somebody who feels comfortable resting on my laurels and I’m always looking for the next move.” So says Paul Burston as we sit in his central London apartment. I’ve known Paul, 49, for over five years now and during this time he’s never failed to turn this restlessness into positive energy. Not only did he edit Time Out’s LGBT section for 20 years, but he’s also written four novels, including 2009’s bestselling The Gay Divorcee. And as if that wasn’t enough he’s the brains and ebullient host behind the country’s foremost LGBT literary event, Polari. Polari — named after a form of cant slang used in gay subculture at a time when homosexuality was illegal –— provides an invaluable platform for new and established LGBT authors to showcase their work. From its humble beginnings in a Soho bar in 2007, it’s grown to become one of the Southbank Centre’s most popular monthly fixtures. “Polari’s success has been overwhelming,” explains Paul. “We were coming up for our sixth birthday this year and we’d been at the Southbank Centre for four years. It had reached a point where it had plateaued in a way. I no longer had to market it as fiercely. Every month we sold out. And that freaked me out; where was I going to go next?” Typically proactive, Paul reached a solution: he acquired Arts Council England funding and threw himself into a Polari national tour. With its vibrant gay community Brighton was the obvious starting point and the first date played to a capacity audience at the Marlborough Theatre

Leading author and journalist Paul Burston has lived in London for 30 years. He always considered himself a city boy — until he visited Hastings. Alex Hopkins finds out why

in September, featuring the critically acclaimed writers Neil Bartlett, VA Fearon, Jill Gardiner, Stonewall-nominated author VG (Val) Lee and winner of the 2012 Polari First Book Prize, poet John McCullough. It’s not just in his professional life that Burston is being drawn to Sussex. For the last year he’s been visiting his friend VG Lee, who lives in Hastings. It was the beginning of a love affair with the quirky but often overlooked seaside town that has culminated in the purchase of a second home. “I’ve always had an affinity with seaside places because I grew up close to the sea in Wales,” he explains. “In my head I thought that at some point in my life I’d move out of London to somewhere on the coast. For a long time the assumption was that it would be Brighton. That was in the days when you could sell your two-bed apartment in London and buy a house in Brighton for the same money, which of course isn’t the case any more.” When Time Out closed the vital LGBT section — in a wave of cost-cutting that also axed the cabaret, classical and dance sections — in December 2013, Paul was made redundant. He combined his payoff with his civil partner Paulo’s savings and decided to invest in property. Paul already had his heart set on Hastings, but Paulo favoured a flat in his native Rio de Janeiro. “Something clicked in Paulo’s head on one of our Hastings trips. Like me, he fell in love with the place. Val lives in the old town, on the West Hill, and she took us on a

november 2014 | sussexstyle .c o m | 1 7

Sussex Style Magazine November 2014  

Lifestyle Magazine for Sussex

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