Geoffrey Marshall profile

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[00:00:00] This program was funded by a generous grant from the gay Oakland Business Association charitable trust. For more information, visit gather.org.nz ID. [00:00:11] Hi, I'm Jeffrey Marshall, I'm 59 years old. I came out at about 22. And I've been involved in the gay community since that time. While not driven to leadership, I've tended to step up when I see a perceived need. Sometimes this is a, I've been asked to join things. And then things have led from there other times, it's just happened in a different way. I remember at secondary school, I wasn't elected to prefect, which was not completely surprising, but perhaps disappointing. And at the same time was a period when the students associations were being developed. And so another girl from the school and I actually set up the Student Association in that college. It wasn't hugely successful. We weren't, we were driven more by the idea, perhaps, than having a need to actually achieve anything, but I guess it was the first sign of the way I would perhaps paid later in life. Where [00:01:14] do you think taking that kind of initiative comes from? [00:01:17] I guess, it's in night, in the sense and family upbringing, I've just always felt, certainly, as an adult, I've always known that if you saw something was wrong, then you should do something about it. There's no point sitting back and complaining and doing nothing, you just had to get on and do something. And my mother was intelligent and intellectual. And we used to have a lot of discussions, as teenagers over the dishes and so on. So I was used to thinking my father was a businessman. So I guess from him, I learned not exactly driving motivation in line, but the sense of getting out and do things for yourself. I suppose those two things came together. Certainly I was part of the late 60s, anti Vietnam generation very concerned with social issues. So the whole tenor of the time was that you were, if you had a conscience, you got out there and did something about it. [00:02:19] So were you involved with any specific groups? [00:02:23] No, no, it was just a discussion with contemporaries and going on matches Really? [00:02:29] And how did that interrelate with your family? How did your parents react to those kind of issues? [00:02:36] My father was horrified. He had lost his only sibling in the Second World War. And he felt that the anti war people were just completely mentally wrong. I remember checking him checking friends of mine out of the house, we were sitting around talking about some into Vietnam stuff, anti war stuff. One day, he got really angry and upset, because of his brother. My mother was always sympathetic to the idea. [00:03:01] When your father did that, how did how did you feel? [00:03:05] God? I was probably embarrassed that he had done it and upset, but I suppose I understood at the same time, where he was coming from personally. I suppose I mean, it's a it is it is part of my character that I'm incredibly objective and rational. And so my always know that my way is not my view is not the only view possible. So I could see it from his point of view as much as I disagreed with him. [00:03:35] So it wasn't quite a liberal or conservative household. [00:03:39] It was pretty liberal household. No, my parents were, well, what we're talking about mid 60s, they were proactive in providing 66 education to us. And because my mother was intelligent and rational, everything was up for discussion. My father was an unthinking as a man considered conservative, it was just natural to him. But other than that, he tended to let us evade, we just had freedom to develop our own ways, pretty largely. [00:04:10] So when did you start realizing that you liked mean? [00:04:17] subconsciously, it was always there. But it wasn't until I read the Kinsey report, the secondary school that 18 I think, and in the Kinsey report, he talks about bisexuality for the first time, or at least, that was the first time I'd ever come across it. And the moment it was quite revolutionary, the the second I read that sentence, I remember thinking, so that's what it's all about. And it made sense of things that I'd experienced dreams I'd had or experience or things that have happened over the past teenage years that I basically buried as being unacceptable, and in comprehensible, because I knew I was interested in women as well, or girls, at least at that stage. But at that point, I recognized bisexuality, and there was from there on it was more just a process of civil years and realizing that in fact, the gay part was dominant. And now I would describe myself as being exclusively gay. But I think a lot of vets and I find this is an interesting subject in itself. I think a lot of our sexual behavior is learned and can be unlearned, so that by sexual responses to women, and those days, have basically been forgotten. [00:05:27] Had you been aware of kind of homosexuality prior to that Kinsey report? [00:05:33] Oh, yes. [00:05:36] Certainly my best friend, and I've been playing around since we were very small, which wasn't seen as homosexuality. But it was, was the [00:05:48] night I was aware, because there was there were things that have happened, I knew that [00:05:55] there were men who had I've been followed once by a man and I understood what was happening. And I'd been befriended by someone who was gay, and I knew what he wanted. But I was prepared to do things with him occasionally as an outings while rejecting his advances. So I was aware of what it means. It was just that, given that I was I seemed I was responding to girls, I just assumed it wasn't me. [00:06:24] Were you involved in the gay political movements in the in the 60s and 70s? [00:06:29] Once I moved to Oakland, that was the I moved to Oakland and what that simply one, [00:06:37] they was the [00:06:40] gay rights, Gay Liberation Front on campus. And they were staging matches. Down Queen Street was particularly cool. And I took part in those and the gay dancers, so to only to the degree that I was part of that loose, wider community. [00:06:57] How was it marching in a gay rights man? [00:07:01] Both exhilarating and frightening. It was, for me, I always have a need to be true to myself. So to stand up and be counted, was important, personally and politically. And quite exhilarating, because of freedom that creates, at the same time being very aware that there were people on the sidelines, who were shouting abuse, and [00:07:35] there was negativity around there. But in the end, I was strong, that's fine. [00:07:43] So another strand of your life that we haven't touched on yet, is the whole idea of nature and gardens and plants. When did that aspect of your life begin? [00:07:54] That's always been there. Right from as little from as long as I can remember, I've always been interested in the natural world have always explored the plants, animals, I might say now to my shame collected birds expected butterflies clicking with anything grew plants. As a teenager, my father built in a glass house, I could grow orchids, I mean, this is this has always been a part of me. I left behind for some years, I became a computer operator and programmer, and then went back to work when I was in England, where I wasn't legally allowed to work and managed to find work with a garden maintenance company, and discovered that I didn't actually milsom the rain, and I could work outside and I didn't have to have an intellectual occupation. So when I came back to Auckland, I had did a couple of things briefly, but basically through meeting someone who was working in garden and garden design in Auckland, in the boom time of the 80s, when there's heaps of work, he basically gave me a customer of customers, and it just got me into it. But the gardening so the gardening is just a natural offshoot of a long interest in natural history. My initial interest was really about the plants and growing them as much as anything. The design is almost grafted onto that. But I've always been interested in design in general, since I remember, I was very interested in architecture as a kid, and I might have become an architect, except that a friend of my father, who was an architect assured me that architecture was all about building office buildings. And I wasn't interested in least in there, how would some housing, so I abandoned the idea. And so the design grew on me really, I suppose the more I worked in that area, the more I became aware of gardening or design possibilities. It's always been a believer, instinctively, I suppose. And lifelong education. I never stopped reading, talking, looking. So the design skills slowly grown, [00:10:00] what goes into a good garden design, but what are the things that you look at? [00:10:05] I have never been a designer who wants to create their own fantasy or who wants to do hugely innovative things. My interest in garden design has always been about creating an environment for the clients livin So, atmosphere is always been very, very important in creating a garden for me. It's about integrating plants and gardens into a client's life. I've never been interested in the particular wow factor of someone walking in and saying, Oh, my God, look at that. And then find it's boring Two months later, because they've seen it. There's nothing really there. I want to create an atmosphere that can be lived in, explore that changes with the season. And I think that's pets were [00:10:56] in the [00:11:00] I'm not an artist. I'm a synthesizer. [00:11:04] I think that I've always made that distinction. [00:11:07] In what is that distinction? [00:11:09] I think a true artist is a real innovator. And they flooded with ideas they want to express where a synthesizer draws the elements that others have created, which are the elements that we live with in society and puts together put some together in a way which is satisfying the true creators and not synthesizers, but the synthesizers probably create products that the general market, find satisfy. [00:11:44] There's some fantastic quotes and I was not article that you featured on them, nothing was 2009 the idea of using familiar plants and an unfamiliar way. And also that whole kind of Lisa's more type thing when you come to arranging or designing gardens. Can you talk a wee bit about that? [00:12:05] I would resolve somewhat from the listeners more because it's easily misunderstood. I don't believe in minimalist gardens a tool. As for using familiar plants and unusual ways, it's not about unusualness for the sake of it. But rather, that familiar plants can be seen a new suddenly, they become attractive, we didn't think they were by juxtaposition with other plants or in certain environments. So it's about creating a totality of atmosphere, textures, light and shade shades of color. And that I think is what I really meant about the the old, you know, familiar plants and unfamiliar settings. And also that color is important to my gardens. But that is not necessarily the color of flowers. It's more the structural elements, garden and the structural greenery and foliage colors, which more year round. [00:13:05] You belong to the fifth season. Can you tell me about that? What is there, [00:13:10] the fifth season was a garden group set up. I think that 95 it was the idea of it was to have monthly meetings, generally outings to gardens on things of God led interest and some social activities. And we saw an ad probably in the movie man to man at that stage, and joined within the first few months of it. So the fifth season as it became it wasn't known as that initially was one of the groups which also led into the creation of the Europe guns festival. There's some dispute over where the initiative actually came from. But between Gabba and fifth season the idea of a garden festival to raise money for whom by house came about. So initially it was very much a joy to it's between the two groups gather providing some money backing and organizational background and fifth season providing gardens and garden knowledge to be able to make it happen. [00:14:15] We just the name for the season come from [00:14:18] God knows. We had a another name demonstrate I think it was but it was already registered. So when we became a registered group, they had to find a new name. And all sorts of names were thrown up. And one of the names that was thrown up was season. No one could ever really explain why it was a good idea. I always hated it. I think the idea was as a gay group, we were outside the normal run of things. And therefore the idea of the fifth season outside the Four Seasons was somehow appropriate it I still think it's rubbish. When you say a gay group is open to transgender lesbian. Oh, I know. It was always a GB lt group. The biggest show in the early stages with a straight should be allowed to join. I'm not I distinctly remember anyone wanting to know but nuts. It's been a mixed group from the south very much. [00:15:06] And it's quite sizable. It's [00:15:09] it's generally been three 350 people who have belonged over the years. Yeah, [00:15:13] that's a very strong group. [00:15:15] I yeah, I mean, for a long time, we were probably the biggest gay group in world New Zealand, probably Sydney in Auckland. And given population it probably means museum. And it's always been a very good group because it wasn't revolving around youth or bar or anything like that. It was always very much a community organization. with anyone who was interested in gardens even vaguely as a social group where they could spend an afternoon going and visiting gardens, even with minimal knowledge was it was very good. community group, always here. [00:15:49] So in the early days of the Herat guns festival, how many gardens from from that fifth season group were involved? [00:15:58] from memory, I think all of the initial gardens were owned by fifth season members apart from whom, by house itself, which we include them, which was including the first couple of festivals. And, and it was only a bit further down the track. When we needed to keep finding new games to refresh right gardens that we needed to go outside and find, find more gardens and that often brought on people who weren't for season members, although usually especially once I was involved with always tried to sign those people up to become physician, [00:16:38] which usually worked at least for one year. So these are all private gardens that are opened up to the public. [00:16:45] Yes. All private? Yes. The idea always was that it was a showcase of gay own or gay, lesbian, whatever, gay own gardens opening as a fundraiser. [00:16:58] And so how does it work? Oh, it was a it's always been a two day festival. [00:17:05] opening for six or eight hours a day, I'm objective orders, probably longer. People buy a ticket and then have two days to visit as many or as few of those gardens as they wish. The interesting thing, particularly the beginning, it was very obvious that a lot of people buying tickets was interested in the houses and lifestyles of the owners. And we sort of had to discourage people from peering and Windows etc. Better help to throw the punches. So we were I was happy that everybody liked it. The first year, they were it was largely I think, gay and lesbian visitors mainly because we we could advertise. But that quickly ramped up. And God knows by the third year, at least, if not earlier, we realized that the majority of visitors not the majority, but the biggest element, were probably middle aged women interested in gardens, and really not caring too much, who owned them, they just wanted to see plants and gardens. And all the other big thing that we did, which proved very successful from the beginning really was we made sure that the garden owners were present to talk to visitors. And that was always a really important element of its success, I think [00:18:20] how many visitors would go through a particular garden? [00:18:23] hugely various, at its peak. Now in our garden, we had anything up to 1800 people over the two days, the central city gardens, especially the ones that were no bit non, would get those sort of numbers consistently for several years. And so yeah, there was a lot of people, [00:18:40] but number of people, the kind of logistics of actually, you know, allowing people through your garden or even just things like parking on the street. How did you go about organizing their [00:18:52] parking on the street I didn't want to know about because our God was always open, I never had to face that location, you would get anecdotal reports of be walking for miles down the road to riches. But in selecting gardens because I was involved with the organization from year three, in selecting the gods, we tried to make sure that there was reasonable access for large number of people I in terms of secularity, if there was a narrow passage only then we had to think twice about a garden. So ideally, they should be separate. A gris gris, just to make it easier to handle numbers. There were times sure when God's became incredibly crowded. But at all, actually, the word gardens I remember, where we get did have to consider limiting the numbers at any one stage. So if things got too crowded, we allowed for the possibility of people being asked to wait at the gate until people had Lyft. And we were we knew about this problem because of the Trinity Garden Festival, which had run several times earlier. And we picked up some ideas from and certainly they had some quite strict controls. So we were aware of that problem. [00:20:01] Now you were the chair of the road gardens festival for a number of years. And in fact, about seven years. What was involved with that role for you. [00:20:10] I suppose it was, again, Altima about stepping up to a need. The person who had essentially runners for the first three years had to back off for personal reasons. And just because it always was exhausting. And so the members of the committee that live will lift asked if I would share it. I would add that at this point to my partner john has always been very important, all the things that we've done. And so he's always been there as well. But so that was a matter of of improving the festival and making it work as well as we could one of the reasons I got involved in running the festival is because I'd been critical in the second year with the way the ticket was designed. And so someone said, Well, if you think you've got a better idea, come on, committed do something about which is what I did. And once I took the chairmanship, it was a continuing process of trying to make the festival work better of an always really know the quality of the gardens, maintaining the standards, the numbers of gardens, keeping that consistent future planning so that we would try and always if somebody wasn't didn't want to open the guard and try and T them up for future year. We worked very hard with was seven years, we worked very hard to develop the festival. And I think at its peak when we finished, we gave I think about 60,000 to the City Mission, he would take another from him by houses our charity of choice at that stage. Because when my house is closed, we always believed in the festival, both as a fundraiser, and as a community event, as a showcase for the gay community teach to the wider straight public, because we'd become very aware that the images created for a lot of straight people by the garden first were extremely positive. Of course, it was a long way from the bars and six as much as I love bars and six. But it became very Yeah, it was a really important PR exercise for the wider community or to the wider community, as well as being a great focus for the for the gay community in Oakland. [00:22:30] It's interesting me hearing you speak. Because a number of times, you've said things about, you know, stepping up and kind of taking on the challenge. And the whole idea that you don't need to accept how things are now, but that things can change, and that you're always looking to improve or move forward or create a positive difference. [00:22:56] Yeah, I've two paths, I think I'm very much a realist. Which means if I think that something is a pipe dream, I'm not going to put the energy into something which I see is absolutely hopeless. But if I can see real scope for improvement in pet small ways, then I can see you know, then I think your duty bound [00:23:24] you out to the wider community, something like that to do something. [00:23:30] All of the things that I had become involved with I've essentially been asked to do, and then where because I do see room for improvement. I speak up or do something. I don't have a lot of patience with dreamers. But I equally get very frustrated with people who criticize think they can see how something should be done, but they won't actually make any efforts to be something about themselves. And it seems to me that the that middle way of everybody making the improvements they see possible. And this is really important society. [00:24:07] Another interesting thing that I am picking up is how one thing leads to another. So the gardening leading to the fifth season leaving for gardens. And that will lead on the into the gap charitable trust. [00:24:21] Yes, I was I was trying to think about the timeline of this earlier. I got involved in the organization for her out gardens. I don't think I was chair at that stage. And the gathered Charitable Trust was being set up, I think, as a member of gather, but someone decided that I might be useful on the trust. So I was invited to join. And that seemed like a an interesting idea. And I suppose I was flattered, of course. So I became a trustee. And that was always very interesting, because our major role, really, in those days was to distribute the money that gather had raised. So it meant having my say about which community groups got supportive, which is always an interesting idea. And just being involved and meeting different people and seeing what was out there it [00:25:14] was it was good fun. What [00:25:16] kind of drove your decisions in terms of what were the groups that you thought really should be, you know, with supporting, [00:25:24] we made a decision very early on, which I was very keen on, which was that the money shouldn't go to individuals for their own benefit. But as much as possible, all the help should go to groups, which then feed back into the wider community. So it was perhaps supporting, like the swim team got uniforms that was a community driver, [00:25:48] or body positive or God rainbow youth. [00:25:55] So it was Yeah, it was about it was about the wider community. It was about education. [00:26:01] In its broadest sense. Those are the areas I was interested in changing attitudes. [00:26:09] Over your time with the the charitable trust, have you found that it's been easier to raise money or is it actually got harder to actually tap into [00:26:19] the trust was never really a fundraising body. It was designed as the spinning body if you like, that eventually ran into problems because the governor executive changed over the years and became [00:26:36] partly because I think the way the trust had [00:26:38] behave weird sort of made a point of saying we were set from executive we had our own decisions to make, we came to be seen as a separate body and the executive in under changing leadership began to wonder why they were supporting the trust and why we weren't raising the money. It was never the idea. And so for mixture of reasons, that was part of it. Also pets, the economic climate. Certainly we started the charity auction, which was the main source of funds for the trust, started to get more difficult with the recession was it three, four years ago. And the whole mood of what we're doing now is starting to change under new leadership again, [00:27:26] into what well, [00:27:29] the trust and gather are growing closer again. And we started looking for new ways of raising money. So I mean, these are early stages yet and remains to be seen how successful they've been. But certainly under the give it newcomer prism, Glenn Sims has been very keen that the trust and the community activities should come back as a giver focus, which had been lost for a couple of years. [00:27:58] In terms of the applicants, so the charitable trust, has that changed over the time that you've you've been as the type of applicant changed? [00:28:08] No, not really, the biggest change actually came from a trust initiative was while I was the chair of the trust, but it wasn't my idea, the idea came up that we should introduce scholarships for secondary students. So that we've just had enough three years of that. And that's been absolutely fantastic. We initially put up the idea that we would do one scholarship a year for a gay leader from secondary schools for their first year of tertiary studies. We've ended up giving more than one each year for multiple reasons, partly because we just love them so much. But it's been absolutely fantastic. Not just getting the applications but actually interviewing the shortlist. It's been one of the best things I've done the last few years is been interviewing these incredible Symphony, not just meeting them and seeing what drives them, but also hearing how how they live their lives at school, what their schools are, like the support or lack of it from their teachers and fellow students. It's been quite extraordinary, quite amazing. [00:29:14] And these are completely out students. [00:29:16] Oh, yeah, I mean, to be eligible for the scholarship, they've got to be out, they've got to have made a difference to the gay community at their school. So they've got to be good gay role models. And that's been Yeah, has quite explicit the stories you get, in terms of them helping other students, or the way, despite being in relatively either neutral, the homophobic schools, they've risen to become hit boy, or on the school board or whatever. Just through sheer drive force, a personality and the willingness to be out. And to face up to it all. [00:29:53] Must be a wonderful chance to see a new generation of, of kind of openly gay people better out there doing positive work [00:30:02] are incredible. I mean, when I was at school, there were no one I knew at school was gay, although there were rumors about people. And certainly, it wouldn't have been acceptable. So while I know, there's still a huge amount of homophobia and difficulties out there, when you see what the younger generation can do, and are able to do, if they have some strength is extraordinary. It's it's really inspiring. People, some people seem to think we've made no progress. But God, when you look at what some of these secondary institutions are doing day, it's fantastic. [00:30:38] I guess doing those kind of interviews would also give you an insight into some issues that are still around it. And again, there's been communities in Auckland, [00:30:48] there was obviously there are still students who are victimized or who are unable to come out, because it's still not comfortable enough, you still have as needed sitting strength to be out at school. And perhaps, for young students today. It's the most marginalized group is probably still would be happy to transgender, I'm guessing and pad. But what was extraordinary in some of the interviews was the support that some colleges provided to transgender students. And there are I can't underscore that I think was the South Hampton School that had toilets available to for her female. And we heard an extraordinary story out of West Auckland, where a very large alpha female student who was being hassled by the first 15, basically just beat him up. And so that the school became very safe for transgender students dad was attracting them. But it was that was more while it was. Basically his story was also evidence of the problems still being faced, obviously, in any other environment, and Sydney and that school, if he hadn't been particularly strong and strong, that would have been a problem for students. [00:32:03] If someone's listening to this recording, and is just really unsure about, you know, they'd like to contribute in some way they'd like to start doing work in the community, but just don't know where to start. What What kind of advice would you give them? How did how do you start making a difference? I guess. [00:32:25] Basically, by joining the relevant organization, there are very few people who do things [00:32:33] solo. [00:32:35] And this, they are particularly strong individual with very strong ideas who just suddenly land on us, I think most people that make a difference, have become involved in a group because they're interested in the area, and then start working through that organization. If somebody wants feels, they want to make a difference. The only thing that's really can either be holding them back is perhaps, difference about putting themselves forward. So if they would like to make it if they would like they've joined an organization and would like to make a difference, but no one's listening to them, then it can only be about pushing yourself more than I suspect that pushing yourself is something that's part of you will not. So I don't quite know what the answer to that is. I mean, basically, if you want to make a difference, get involved. [00:33:36] Suppose it's also that idea of knowing that you have the power to make a difference, you know, not not not just being a consumer of something, but actually an active part of participant [00:33:48] having the power to make a difference is both being in the right place. [00:33:54] And having the will [00:33:58] of sufficient willpower, in the niche in terms of got that correct, because I think if you're if you don't like something, but don't have the energy or drive to do anything about it, know that that can be created. I think, from my experience, it's more that something innate in me was released. By the things that I got involved in I was asked to do, rather than being created from the outside. It's hard, harder for me to imagine someone who wanted to make a difference, who was joining an organization but then couldn't make a difference. And lyst. Basically their personality was such that they just weren't able to work with others or push themselves forward. And the creation of confidence, which I suppose is what that's about is a whole separate issue. [00:35:05] This program was funded by a generous grant from the gay Oakland Business Association charitable trust. For more information, visit gather.org.nz id

This page features computer generated text of the source audio - it is not a transcript. The Artificial Intelligence Text is provided to help users when searching for keywords or phrases. The text has not been manually checked for accuracy against the original audio and will contain many errors.