Actor, activist and politician Michael Cashman has released a memoir and it’s wonderful
BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS, IMAGE VIA TWITTER
Lord Michael Cashman has one of the most inspiring stories, and it’s a tale that warrants being told for years to come. One of Them: From Albert Square To Parliament Square is the new memoir, written by Cashman himself, adding author to the list of his achievements.
A remarkable and dynamic figure in LGBTQI history, One Of Them is uplifting, inspiring and heartbreaking – much like Cashman’s life itself.
DIVA caught up with the activist and former actor ahead of the book’s launch party to find out what we can expect from the long-awaited memoir.
DIVA: Tell us about your memoir, One Of Them.
LORD MICHAEL CASHMAN: I’ve been writing my memoir and working with Bloomsbury for about three and a half years now. It’s about my unimaginable life that started here in the east end [of London]. It’s where I was born and where I grew up and where I had the most amazing life. But also where I had some quite dreadful sexual abuse that I suffered as a young boy.
In secondary school, my life changed. I was discovered singing at a talent show and within weeks I was in the West End play Oliver. That changed my life and thrust me into the world of show business. Going into this other world, into the West End, was magical. It was where I could be myself. Where I knew there were other people like me.
Within the book, I celebrate all of the amazing things that have happened to me, but I want to deal with the darkest parts of what happened to me too. Otherwise there is no truth in the memoir. At the heart of this book is a love story about me and my husband Paul. Our 31 years together and how I had to watch him die from a very aggressive cancer.
It’s an unimaginable life, some parts of wish I might have wanted to wish away. But you have to deal with the things that life throws at you.
Who is the book for? Who were you writing for?
Anyone who wants to look behind the public face of someone they believe, someone they know, and read about about how, in the end, it’s only love that sustains you. Your relationships that you have to work at, day in and day out. Someone who might like a bit of showbiz gossip, but someone interested in a young man going on a journey and arriving somewhere great.
I leave home and quietly walk through the West End, nervous, excited and wishing Paul was with me as I head to the launch party for the publication of my memoir, One of Them. I can hardly believe it’s happened and I think of him. Together. Always together. @BloomsburyBooks pic.twitter.com/VZxdmw6ZSe— Michael Cashman (@mcashmanCBE) February 6, 2020
How do you think your personal journey ties into progress for LGBTQI people more generally?
For me, it runs side by side. If I hadn’t publicly stood up against Section 28 while I was in EastEnders, I wouldn’t be where I am now. It took me on that journey of following my passion, into fighting for equality, against the injustice the LGBT community was suffering. In some respects, we still suffer, particularly in this country and especially the trans community.
Going on that journey and allowing all of my passion to go into the quest for equality took me into politics. To places around the world which I never thought I would be in, arguing for change. But I have to say that, at times, there was a personal cost to my relationship and I’m honest about that in the book. We did very nearly separate.
People always say what I do is so difficult. Of course what I do is difficult, because we are resisting and campaigning. When you give up on other people’s lives, you ultimately give up on your own. You can’t pass away somebody else’s rights. You can’t forget another group, because ultimately, it will come to your time and your rights taken away. Your rights will be given.
How difficult did you find it to open up and write so honestly?
It was very emotional for me. But I had my wonderful agent Robin Caskey working with me and giving me that encouragement at Bloomsbury. It helped me to work in a different way. You have to write not only what you want to read, but how you want the reader to receive it. You have to put it down different and control the emotion. It has to become a story that the reader is inside, rather than outside, of.
Why did you feel like now was the right time to write your memoir?
I decided shortly after Paul died that it was time to set down my life and his life together. That gave me the desire to write my life story. Choosing the moment is one thing; having having the guts to sit down and do the hard work, right day in, day out, is another matter. I’m pleased to say I have the the motivation and the discipline to get on with the story, one that will resonate with many, many people.
As a gay man who played the character behind the first ever gay kiss on EastEnders – a historic moment for representation – do you think it’s important that queer actors play queer characters?
No I think, otherwise you’re saying that only straight actors can play straight parts. I believe that as an actor, you have the ability to imagine and use the script and do your research. You can’t discriminate people on the ground of sexual orientation. Equality means taking the difference out of the equation, not putting it back in.
How do you think LGBTQI representation has changed in the media since your storyline in EastEnders in the 80s?
As a gay man on popular television, I was always portrayed as very camp and very effeminate and weak. This was an ordinary man with an ordinary boyfriend and that kiss broke the mould. There wasn’t so much outrage when the lesbian kiss happened on Brookside [in 1994]. Now, it’s just a matter of fact. It’s part of life and it happens. There isn’t the same reportage and the same reaction that there was when we did. The show was called to be taken off air and the characters to be taken out of the show. We’ve come a very long way now and the depiction is now much more varied.
To be in with a chance of winning a copy of the book, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ONE OF THEM, your name, postal address and phone number, and tell us the name of the soap Michael appeared in.
Competition closes at 5pm on Friday 14 February 2020.
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