Charcoal queen: barbequing for Mind
Steve knows how it feels to struggle with a mental health problem and wanted to use his passion for barbequing to raise money and awareness for Mind. Then he had an idea...
I first heard about Mind when reading a newspaper article about charities that don’t tend to get as much support as others, either because they’re not trendy or they deal with something that’s stigmatised in our society. The irony was that I had experienced mental health problems myself and yet to most people I seem like a well adjusted and pretty normal member of society.
I was lucky in that my issues centred around mildish anxiety and were not hugely debilitating, although they certainly felt like it at times, I spoke to a very understanding GP and did some cognitive behavioural therapy, which was hugely successful for me. I still to this day have bouts of anxiety at times and my head can be a horrific place when I do, but I’m equipped with the tools to deal with it fairly well most of the time.
Through all this I realised how much fear there is about mental health issues. That's pretty sad, and made me decide to do something. I’d been wanting to do something linking charity and BBQ (which is my real passion in life) for ages but I didn’t want to do the same old pop-up restaurant model because it doesn’t tend to raise much money and gets very little exposure.
My plan involves the Grillstock festival in Bristol which attracts around 15,000 people. Competition BBQ is quite a male-dominated thing if I'm honest. So for Grillstock this weekend I've formed a team of women to compete and I'm going to lead them as the most fabulous BBQ drag queen the world has ever seen! All to raise money and awareness for Mind.
"Biggest surprise: being told I’m a much hotter girl than I am a boy."
I knew that an outwardly masculine bloke like me doing this and also talking openly about mental health on social media would be on the receiving end of some unpleasantness. I also knew it would grab attention. Fortunately, I’ve had relatively little of the former and tons of the latter! I’ve been amazed by the number of my friends and acquaintances who’ve opened up about their own experiences with anxiety, depression and other issues I hadn’t known about.
I’ve had ups and downs during this process but this has made me more determined than ever to raise as much money and awareness as I can. I’ve been blown away by the overwhelming and humbling level of sponsorship and support I’ve received (nearly £3,000 so far). So even when I’ve been in stilettos for three days, and my waist cincher, hip and bum pads and wig are getting unbearably hot, it will be worth every teetering step.
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