Kate Copstick, London’s Mama Biashara shop
A couple of days ago, I blogged about comedy critic Kate Copstick and her Mama Biashara charity’s work in Kenya. It ended with a part-description of one Somali woman’s very gruesome medical condition.
Recently, Copstick has been staging some comedians’ Edinburgh Fringe preview shows at her Mama Biashara shop in London, with all proceeds going to the charity. She has now posted an update on the case I blogged about:
The good news is that a chunk of the money raised at Sara Mason‘s lovely preview at the Mama Biashara Emporium has paid for medication and stuff that I sent down to Lamu – triple header antibiotics, topical antibiotics, cleaning hooha and a big diagram explaining it all. Gloves and swabs and stuff. Now just a few days into treatment, the sores are drying up, the swelling and the fever and the sickness are disappearing and the pus has stopped. She is really getting much better very quickly! The maggots are diminishing but, as I feared, are coming from inside. I am heading to Kenya on Sunday and hope to get to the lady and start to sort that out with more meds also paid for by Mama Biashara previews at the Emporium.
ONE COMEDY SHOW WITH AN UNCERTAIN NAME
Yesterday, I blogged about character comic turned author Lindsay Sharman.
Lindsay is at the Edinburgh Fringe in a show called something
Yesterday afternoon I realised, when I transcribed our chat, that I had not asked the actual title of her upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show. I texted her a message:
I can’t find you in the Fringe programme. What’s the show title? One might have thought I would know this!
In the absence of an answer, I posted the blog. Several hours later, this little flurry of texts ensued:
I’m not in it. Probably a mistake. But the whole show is potentially a mistake.
I should, of course, have checked all this before posting the bleedin’ blog, shouldn’t I? But I think professionalism is over-rated. So wot’s your show called? Where is it? Indeed, wot time? I might even come and see it.
It has many different names. The preview is called Lindsay Sharman Gives Us The Willies – Comedy Museum, 30th July. In the PBH Free Fringe Programme, it’s The Madame Magenta Big Live Podcast Show Extravaganza, 2.40pm at the Voodoo Rooms. It’s not a podcast btw. And I sent it to Chortle, who might list it as Magenta Is The Warmest Colour. It is an exercise in ensuring low audience numbers and a miserable month. I am going to hire a flyerer.
A MONTHLY COMIC PISS-UP IN A BREWERY
A secret comedy world suitably accessed through a secret door
After that little flurry of texts, I went to Al Cowie’s extraordinary and un-advertised monthly comedy show staged under his LLaugh! banner (yes, that’s LLaugh) in Wandsworth, which has been running for the last three years. It takes place in a brewery where the beer is free – they are not allowed to sell it and the show is advertised nowhere, therefore it is, in itself an interesting gig.
I had to follow e-mailed instructions to find the venue. This included going to a station, walking for about 10 minutes, crossing a 4-lane highway, doubling back on myself to reach a building site, finding a white door in an orange wall and waiting for a man in a white coat called John (the man, not the coat) to come and escort me to the venue inside The Old Ram Brewery.
It was worth the trip. It was Al Cowie’’s 40th birthday, the acts were Alexander Bennett, Josh Howie, Joz Norris and Stu Turner and the room was completely full.
The man in the white coat turned out to be John Hatch.
“What is this monthly comedy evening called?” I asked Al Cowie.
“The LLaugh Comedy… The Piss-up in The Brewery… I dunno… Whatever… It’s not called anything, because we’re not allowed to advertise it.”
“Why?” I asked.
Al Cowie drinks his own Laughing Juice brew
“Because… um… Well, we… We… We can’t advertise it bec… I… I don’t actually know why we can’t advertise it. We can say that we run comedy here monthly, but we can’t advertise… “
“We’ve survived for nine years without advertising,” said John Hatch.
“So,” explained Al Cowie, “in order for people to find out about it, people have to e-mail John – firstname.lastname@example.org.”
“This is,” John Hatch explained, still wearing his white coat, “the longest continuously brewing site in the UK. We can trace it back to at least 1533 when a family called Ridon or Roydon owned it. There are two different spellings because, in those days, people just spelt things the way they wanted to. There is a record of there being a brewery in Wandsworth in 1512 which we assume might be the same one, but we can’t say it was continuous between 1512 and 1533. The Young family owned it from 1831 until 2006. I was with Youngs for the last 18 years.”
“What,” I asked John Hatch, “did this room the performances now happen in used to be?”
“The Tack Room,” he told me, “which was part of the stable building, built in 1896. There were 18 horses here when Youngs closed in 2006; I’m told there were at least 40 at its peak.”
“They must have been very popular with local gardeners,” I said.
Painting of John Young inside a stables urinal
“John Young was a bit of an extrovert,” explained John Hatch. “The horses were kept here right to the end because he liked animals. He also had goats here, hens, a Dorset horned ram, peacocks, ducks and 17 guard geese.”
“Why?” I asked.
”Because he could,” explained John. “He was the chairman and he got his way. The geese were brought in to ‘protect the site from hostile takeovers’. The hens laid eggs for the stable staff. The goats were fire marshalls. He said they were a calming influence on horses during a fire and were more intelligent than horses. So, in the event of a brewery fire, they would direct the horses to the fire assembly points, set off the fire alarms, phone the fire brigade and do what goats do best.
“He had peacocks and hens and geese but, one day he decided he wanted an ostrich. Then he did research and found that ostriches can jump very high and, to raise the perimeter wall around the entire site would be very expensive. So he decided not to get an ostrich and thought: What can’t jump? I know! An elephant!
“So he ordered a baby elephant to go in the stables to keep the horses company. After a few weeks, he got a bit impatient when the elephant didn’t arrive. After a few months, he got very, very impatient and phoned up the suppliers of the elephant and shouted: Where’s my elephant!
In a dark corner of the brewery, Joz Norris discovered the Queen Mother pulling pints
“They were surprised and told him: Oh, Mr Young, the order was cancelled months ago.
“What? he said. Who by?
“By your brother, they told him. Didn’t you know?
“So he didn’t talk to his brother for over a year. He was very, very angry about the lack of an elephant.”
“Did he,” I asked, “ever get an elephant?”
“Was there,” I asked, “a practical reason for wanting either an ostrich or an elephant? I would not have thought they could serve the same function.”
“Most breweries need an ostrich or an elephant sometimes,” said John Hatch, without explanation.
“In later years,” said Al Cowie, “the company’s shareholders wanted to sell this place because the land was valuable. But John Young didn’t want to. So, at one company AGM, he turned up in a beekeeper’s outfit just to ‘keep the pests away’. Another year he had boxing gloves around his neck and said he’d fight anyone who wanted to sell the place.”
John Hatch reads the fire regulations to the audience last night, amid birthday balloons
John Hatch told me: “We do birthday parties, stag parties, quiz nights, any excuse for a party and, because I can produce 70 pints at a time, we can brew whatever you want.
“I need to brew the stuff and it has to condition for a couple of weeks but, if people want me to brew a funny beer with a funny colour or a funny flavour, I can do that. whereas a bigger brewery can’t afford to produce 1,000 barrels of specially-commissioned beer.”
The next comedy night will be on 5th August. The beer will be free. There will be no elephant in the brewery.