Ollie Locke Brings the Chappy Tour to Liverpool- Interview and Event Review
(Interview by Ally Dinning)
Former Made in Chelsea star Ollie Locke made an appearance at the Guild last week as the last stop on his UK Chappy tour. Chappy is Locke’s very own invention; a new gay dating app which he promises is a safer, more inclusive method of online dating for the gay community. With options to search for ‘Mr. Right’ or just a ‘Mr. Right-now’, the focus is on responsibility and encouragement rather than what he perceives other gay dating apps embody; secrecy and taboo. The idea that no one should have to hide behind a mask (much like the image of the app Grindr, he was keen to point out) is at the forefront of Locke’s message with this. He emphasised that there is no way to discriminate on his app, whether that be through race or gender or even hair colour.
Despite the relatively small crowd, Locke seemed genuinely humbled to have been granted the opportunity to address anyone at all about issues you could clearly see were close to his heart. He introduced the two other members of the panel as Glynn; founder of legendary London club night ‘Sink the Pink’ and Ben; an ambassador for Chappy. As it happens, all three of the men on the panel had remarkable stories to tell about their experiences of coming out to their families, their first time in gay nightlife communities and how exactly they each identify as gay men. The room was indeed silent throughout the entire panel aside from the odd giggle as someone made a relatable comment about being hungover. It was, to me, a remarkable experience to be able to sit and hear these men discuss their thoughts and feelings about gay culture and realise just how far they had come today from the stories they were telling.
We may think we know Ollie Locke’s story, I’m sure many of us saw parts of it broadcast during his MIC days. However, it is a very different experience to hear it come from the mouth of that person in its entirety, rather than bits of the story being left on the cutting room floor. Not only this, but to know that these men have volunteered to come and speak to a room full of strangers about their struggles both physically and mentally, is somewhat inspiring.
Despite the panel being focused around Ollie’s new app, the sense of inclusivity and friendliness was overwhelming. There was no doubt that this was ever about the promotion for him, instead a completely genuine attempt to inspire and motivate anyone who needed a reminder that being you is all you ever need to be.
Despite a. having already trekked through ten out the eleven tour dates and b. being fresh off a big night out on Canal Street, Ollie Locke was kind enough to tell us a little more about the Chappy app, the events he has been doing to support it, and how he enjoys the LGBTQ+ community. With an obligatory MIC question too, of course!
So- Liverpool’s your last stop of the tour?
Yeah, the last date. It’s been a long, eleven dates! A whole month.
Why did you choose Liverpool for the last date?
Well, we’re recording- we recorded Brighton and we’re recording Liverpool- it was something that we wanted to do, as there’s 96,000 LGBTQ+ people living in Liverpool. That’s actually larger than Brighton! So, we wanted to do that one last and leave the best until last.
What is Chappy?
It’s a more respectable, responsible platform for gay men to date on. Hopefully safer, too- I think that’s our main focus right now in the gay community, what was needed- safety was a big thing. But also, there’s no responsibility or respect on these apps anymore- and we’re going to bring that back. We’ve got this amazing thing called the Pledge, that is fantastic, and it’s basically that you have to sign a declaration of respect before you come on the app. So you can’t be discriminatory in any manner- you have to be a gentleman!
I suppose, then, it was a kind of reaction to Grindr culture?
It was exactly that! The idea that the platform there when someone was coming out of the closet was only Grindr or Scruff or whatever- it seemed like the responsibility behind it was slightly lax. I was terrified of going on those apps- Grindr was difficult, I found it difficult. No respect, no responsibility, everyone sending d**k pics the whole time, and I didn’t feel safe on that platform, so I wanted to create something that was safe for other people.
Is that the key difference with Chappy or are there others as well?
There are a couple of different things- so you have to sign the Pledge and there’s a screenshot function- so if you’re sending d**k pics of whatever, someone can’t screenshot it (and send it to a million people in their group chat) without you getting a notification. You also have to sign in through Facebook- you have to have at least 30 friends to be verified- and you have to have your face in every photo, not just a torso shot.
Why did you decide to go on the Chappy tour?
I think it was important for me to go around Britain. I was the first man to come out on national television in Britain, so I thought it was important for me to go around telling my story and to have amazing people come along with us to talk. Basically, just to share our experiences and show that you can be gay, and fabulous, and still have a wonderful career!
What have you learnt over this past month?
So much. And I’ve met so many people from different walks of life who are struggling, and that has opened my eyes so much. I know what we’ve done, and I know we’ve helped so many people’s lives, I’m so pleased- I’ve learnt that I’m so lucky to be in a community that’s incredible, around the country. Because they are amazing f*****g people!
I know you said in an interview a little while ago that you considered being a gay man one of the best aspects of your identity- could you say why?
What I often say is that it’s the biggest privilege in my life, to call myself a gay man. I was unsure for a long time, didn’t know where I was or what I was doing- and it’s the community I needed. The ability to help people, and to talk about it, and to make a change in people’s lives for the positive is fabulous. The community is a massive circle of mates and friends and I love them, that’s what I love.
Finally- how are you finding being a godfather?
I’m having a lovely time! I get to see Binks loads more now, we spend a lot of time together, I’m seeing her tomorrow. It’s just lovely!
Chappy is free and available now on App Store and Google Play.