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Goodbye Grumpy Gay Critic?

Grumpy Gay Critic Living up to his name. James Waygood (back) looking extra grumpy whilst Daniel York (front) is interviewed for BBC News London. Screencap: Courtesy of Paul Mooney

There are some huge changes coming up in my life after some incredibly trying months, which means the future is uncertain for Grumpy Gay Critic.

I thought 2016 was bad enough with Bowie kicking off by kicking it. Then, Trump got elected and it seemed 2016 would be the worst year ever. But 2017 has been much worse for me on a far more personal level. Many of you will have known that I had to take a break from September 2016 to January 2017 due to stresses at my full time job. Although things were starting to look up for my criticism and Grumpy Gay Critic from January to March 2017, things took a really bad turn.

Breakdown Cover

“Grumpy Gay Critic could have easily have ended back in April because I could have easily have ended myself then!”

Essentially, I had a major mental health breakdown in April. I don’t mean sitting in the dark listening to Morrissey “breakdown”, I mean, ending up in A&E because I was a major threat to my own safety “breakdown”. It’s really not something anyone can really plan for, and in hindsight, because of work pressures and other factors, this breakdown was merely an eventuality. I have always been very open about how difficult it can be for bloggers to do their thing alongside real world/job pressures, and even more open about my mental health issues and the challenges that poses, so you can imagine how implausible it was to see shows and write up about them whilst recovering from this precipice. In short, Grumpy Gay Critic could have easily have ended back in April because I could have easily have ended myself then!

Nice Work if You Can Get It

“…it has been almost impossible to get out and review things because sorting out the rest of my life has taken precedence.”

To add insult to (self) injury, when I finally returned to work after being signed-off for over a month to receive a tonne of emergency therapy and support, I was back in the office for less than a week when it was announced that our workplace was closing down and we’d all be made redundant. Now if that’s not a further killer to creativity and motivation, I don’t know what is. During the last three months I’ve been desperately trying to figure out what to do with my life next, including not only trying to find a new job but also deciding if private sector higher education administration and student support is something I really want to continue doing. Because of this, it has been almost impossible to get out and review things because sorting out the rest of my life has taken precedence.

Tired of London, but Not Tired of Life

“London is no longer a place where I feel I can balance work, health, and theatre criticism effectively.”

Now that I’m am officially redundant, I have decided that it’s time to move on from university administration and also London. London is an amazing city to live in if you can make the best out of it using what resources you have. I’ve been incredibly privilege to have gotten into theatre critiquing as a hobby which has opened up whole avenues of opportunities and experiences that very few have in London otherwise. However, given how hard it is to support this without significant financial security and time, and with my mental health to look after, London is no longer a place where I feel I can balance work, health, and theatre criticism effectively. I believe that everyone has a time for London in their lives: for some it’s longer or shorter than others, and mine’s up. What’s next for me personally is moving to Poland to try my hand at teaching English. At least if I do continue reviewing, one would hope my grammar would improve as a result!

Goodbye Grumpy Gay Critic?

“I’m less willing to kill Grumpy Gay Critic than I am myself!”

Is this the end of Grumpy Gay Critic? I can’t say that it is. I’ve met too many wonderful people and been given so such wonderful support in the near six years I’ve been writing about theatre, from PRs, producers, actors, writers, directors, theatres, and readers. In brutal honesty, I’m less willing to kill Grumpy Gay Critic than I am myself! Right now, covering a week of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as part of the Network of Independent Critics scheme is a pseudo-“last hurrah” for Grumpy Gay Critic and #FreshOffTheStalls: that is, until I can figure out what to do with the website afterwards.

My current idea is to keep the brand and website going, expanding the scope of Grumpy Gay Critic to involve other critics writing to the style of reviews that I publish that have received a lot of positive feedback. Although I have some criticism about my long-form style, it has nonetheless managed to build a readership that exceeded over 6,000 unique visitors per month and around 10,000 views per month in the months leading up to my mental health breakdown. I will still look to do some reviewing in London myself as I’m certain I will be making many visits back to the capital with my partner (who is also a theatre critic), but the bulk of it will be done by other writers. Furthermore, I really want to try and spend more time helping to strengthen the importance of bloggers in theatre criticism by assisting in research and campaigning to ensure that new voices in criticism aren’t eclipsed by circumstance, using Grumpy Gay Critic and the reputation it has built as a cornerstone for that. Needless to say, that I won’t really be able to make any firm decisions on this until I’m fully settled into Poland, but I’m sincerely hoping that the above will be viable and what will actually happen.

So, this isn’t so much of a “goodbye” but certainly an “adieu”, and I’m hoping you’re all looking forward to what happens next for Grumpy Gay Critic as I am! Until then, EDINBURGH BABY!

Yours grumpily,

James Waygood
aka Grumpy Gay Critic

PS Here’s a short list of all the people I’d like to thank so far, and who I hope will still be working with in the months to come whatever happens!

Kevin Wilson PR, for taking a massive chance on me as a solo blogger after leaving So So Gay, and also being incredibly understanding and supportive about the challenges I’ve faced over the years.

Chris Hislop PR, for giving me so many fantastic opportunities to broaden my reviewing, and also being an amazing amazing amazing friend.

Chloe Nelkin PR, for being a fantastic supporter of not just myself, but bloggers everywhere.

Laura Kressley, for being a huge inspiration to myself and bloggers everywhere, from her unsinkable campaigning for diversity in theatre, and also in her incredible support for fellow bloggers by setting up the Network of Independent Critics with Katherine Kavanagh which has enabled me to go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Sammy O’Neil and Rebecca Felgate for setting up Theatre Bloggers (formerly #LDNTheatreBloggers) which is a network I’m still very proud to be a part of.

The following people have provided not just vital support and advice but also fantastic hijinx: Gail Bishop (gailebishop.wordpress.com), David C James (London City Nights), Andrew KeatesEd Nightingale (The Gizzle Reviews), Tim Read (Civilian Theatre), Nastazja Somers (founder of HerStory), Natasha Tripney (former editor at Exeunt), Rebecca Usher (The Bardette), Paul Vale, Aline WaitesAndy Wasley (former Editor in Chief at So So Gay), Tom Wicker (freelance journo extraordinaire), Matt Wolfe (renowned international critic and former colleague at NYU London).

The following theatres and their Artistic Directors I have a lot to thank for being so accommodating and supportive of my reviewing: Hope Theatre, Jack Studio Theatre, Kings Head Theatre, Old Red LionStockwell Playhouse (formerly LOST Theatre), The Space, Theatre503, Theatre N16, Tristan Bates Theatre.