‘Madonna of Bolton’ author challenging prejudice
Bolton-born author and journalist, Matt Cain, visited the college last week to give a talk to mark The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
The talk, organised by Blackpool Sixth’s LGBT+ group, gave students and staff a fascinating insight into Matt’s experiences growing up in Bolton in the 1980’s as a gay teenager. The background of homophobia, media hysteria about AIDs and bullying at school meant that Matt was increasingly withdrawn and unable to express his identity. ‘It made my spirit shrink and wither,’ he said. It was the inspiration of the mould-breaking musician Madonna that helped him overcome these challenges and fire him up with the determination he needed to achieve a place at Cambridge University and build a highly successful career in journalism and novel writing.
In October 2017 Matt crowdfunded his third novel ‘The Madonna of Bolton’, after receiving over 30 rejections from publishers, reportedly due to its gay protagonist and theme. The title reached its funding target in only seven days. Pledges came in from 28 countries, including Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka, where homosexuality is illegal. The project was backed by celebrities including David Walliams, Mark Gatiss, Gok Wan, David Nicholls, SJ Watson, Lisa Jewell and Arlene Phillips. The Madonna of Bolton was published by Unbound in July 2018 and immediately broke into the best-seller lists.
The writer reflected on this experience in challenging the narrowness of the UK publishing industry and said that it showed how the greatest successes can come out of ‘the darkest times’ in your life.
Matt’s uplifting and thought-provoking talk inspired a wide range of questions at the end of the talk. He praised the Blackpool Sixth students attending for being an ‘amazingly intelligent and aware’ audience.
Jack Grant, a student who attended the talk said, ‘I will apply what I learnt from Matt’s talk to the British value of respect by respecting and accepting people regardless of race, gender, or sexuality.’
Blackpool Sixth staff co-ordinator of the LGBT+ group, Julie Halliwell commented, ‘I read Matt’s book last year and absolutely loved it, not only for it’s message of overcoming challenges, but also to never forget to appreciate where you come from.’