Kate Copstick, the doyenne of Fringe comedy reviewers, is an interesting person. Call her Copstick, never Kate. She used to appear on children’s TV series No 73, owns the TV production company Bobby’s Girl, owns The Erotic Review and was cast as the ‘outspoken’ comedy judge on ITV’s Show Me The Funny.
According to ITV, she “has seen more live comedy and spotted more new talent than any other comedy critic in the UK… with a fearsome reputation on the circuit as being the toughest of the tough, who can either make or break a career.”
Every year, 100% of any profit from staging the Malcolm Hardee Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe (no costs are deducted) goes to the Mama Biashara charity run by Copstick. She is currently in Kenya and sent me this:
Yesterday afternoon I spent $2,500 on prostitutes in Nairobi. Fifty two of them, in fact. Fifty girls and two boys.
My charity (how I hate the proto-Christian smugness of that word) Mama Biashara works in the slums setting women (mainly) up in small businesses to pull them out of the absolute poverty in which they are living and elevate them to simple poverty. It is, I have found, generally the best I can do.
Most sex workers here are girls with no education and no skills who turn to the street as a last resort to feed, house and clothe their children. Offer them a chance to do some other business and they leap at it. Mama B just gives them a financial trampoline to leap over the big barrier called ‘set up costs’. I say big barrier – usually $25 suffices.
Most of the girls (and two boys) are great. They mainly have good workable business plans – some even great. Waldah – an absolute charmer – is not fazed when I balk at the cost of a hot sausage selling machine. She has identified one and the owner has told her his price. Which is too high for Mama B.
“Eh” says Waldah, twinkling, “I am a sex worker… I can persuade him to lower his price!”
There is one older woman, a widow, from out near Mombasa who has come specially to see me. She is in her late forties. She has four children and now they are all in secondary school or college. When her hotel (cafe) business was simply not making enough money to pay school fees she did the only thing she could to give her children the education she believes they deserve – she went on the game. I felt like giving her a medal, never mind a business grant.
She got 5,000ksh (about $50) which will enable her to set up a much bigger and smarter cafe. We are staying in touch to see how things go. She is the loveliest woman, a real quiet, gentle person. I hope her kids appreciate her.
One boy was a victim of the post-election violence in the Rift Valley. His family were killed and he lived on the streets for two years. Now – by becoming a rent boy – he has accommodation. But he has researched a business selling hot sausages (yes, yes, as opposed to selling his own ‘hot sausage’). There is, he assures me, a great demand.
Martin is quite a high-end (if you will pardon the expression) rent boy. He has a degree in International Relations, speaks perfect English, Farsee and Russian and worked successfully in PR till his employer sacked him for being gay.
“So you have real skills!” I remark.
“I’ve got skills!” affirms Martin, “I can get a ten inch cock up my arse”.
His mother recently died and left him her house. Not exactly in the most salubrious setting, but it could be worse. There are two bedrooms. Sadly all the furniture was sold for funeral expenses. Martin wants to furnish the second bedroom (already decorated in fabulously flamboyant colours) and rent it out to gay people (workers, researchers, writers… people from activist groups or just travellers) as a place where they will be welcomed and safe when they visit Nairobi. Homosexuality is not at ALL safe in Kenya. I think this is a great idea. A Brighton-style B&B in the heart of Homophobialand.
Everyone, as well as their start up grants, gets a dozen condoms and a small vibrator. Martin gets a Durex special vibrating cock ring. He beams with delight as he lopes off to his next client.
“Charge extra,” I advise.