Tag Archives: Conway Hall

Comedy singer Ariane Sherine – from Duran Duran to Humanist ‘reservations’

Ariane Sherine and I first had a blog chat in October 2014, when she released her music album Beautiful Filth.

This Saturday, she is headlining the annual (free) One Life Humanist Choir concert at what she calls “the fabulous heathen palace” of Conway Hall – more correctly the Ethical Society’s London HQ.

JOHN: Are you in the choir?

ARIANE: No. The choir are amazing and brilliant. They’re going to be playing seven songs including two of my favourites: Days by The Kinks and Billie Jean (Michael Jackson). When I was originally approached, though, it was also suggested they might supply a choral backing for my songs and I was so excited. I was thinking about writing out sheet music for the first time in decades and what sort of arrangements I would score, but then the choir heard some of my songs and I was told they had ‘reservations’.

JOHN: Why? Are you singing about God?

ARIANE: No. Singing about sex. The choir ‘had reservations’, so I sent them one of my cleaner songs and they said: “Wow! If that is the more subtle one then the extreme ones could be interesting!” They said they had too full a schedule to do the backing, but I think they were being polite and were actually put off by my filth.

JOHN: What was the clean song you sent them?

ARIANE: Would You Still Love Me

Would you still love me
If I took you to the cleaners?
Would you still love me
If my nose turned into a penis?
Would you still love me
If I never said thank you or please
And I always did asparagus wees
And my flange smelled like blue cheese?

JOHN: What did they find objectionable?

ARIANE: I don’t know. I’m totally baffled.

JOHN: You are also bringing out a book in October. I presume that is going to be full of filth too?

ARIANE: No, it’s not. It’s called Talk Yourself Better: A Confused Person’s Guide To Therapy, Counselling and Self-Help. It’s a beginner’s guide to therapy and types of therapy. I’ve written guides to the different types of therapy which are short and funny like myself. And there are contributions from people who have had therapy – including Stephen Fry, Charlie Brooker, David Baddiel, James Brown…

JOHN: James Brown the singer?

ARIANE: No, John. He’s dead. That would be difficult, especially as I don’t believe in an afterlife. James Brown, the former editor of GQ who also launched Loaded magazine. 

JOHN: What are Humanists anyway? They’re just atheists.

ARIANE: They are atheists with ethics. Atheists who are good without God.

JOHN: Surely it’s just a way of making atheism into a religion, isn’t it? Which is a bad idea, because almost all religions are OK. It’s organised religion that turns things bad. And Humanism is just organised atheism.

ARIANE: No. We have no places of worship; not even community centres. We don’t stop anybody from doing anything.

JOHN: Except joining in with rude songs.

ARIANE: (LAUGHS) That might be a drawback.

JOHN: You keep saying “we”. You created and organised the Atheist Bus Campaign in 2008. But are you a Humanist?

Ariane at Atheist Bus Campaign launch with Richard Dawkins (Photograph by Zoe Margolis)

ARIANE: I am. I’m a patron of Humanists UK. 

JOHN: Shouldn’t you be a matron not a patron?

ARIANE: That sounds a bit frumpy. I’d rather be the sex goddess of Humanists UK.

JOHN: That would involve flanges, though… So what are you going to sing on Saturday if you can’t sing dirty songs?

ARIANE: I can sing my dirty songs. The choir just won’t be doing the backing.

JOHN: What would they have been doing if they had done it? Ooh-aaah Ooh-aaah ooh-aaahs?

ARIANE: I might have had them sing “vaginosis”. I have always dreamt about one bit in Will You Still Love Me?

Would you still love me
If I had pungent halitosis?
Would you still love me
If I had bacterial vaginosis?

I would have loved to have had that Vaginosis, John. 

JOHN: You’re not just a singer of dirty songs, though. You have a bit of previous. With Duran Duran.

ARIANE: Yes. I left school at 16. I was asked to leave.

This girl was bullying me and she spat in my lunch and I threw a full coke can in her face and gave her a black eye. Her step-sister’s gang were waiting outside the school to beat me up or worse and the deputy head had to escort me past the gang and it was made clear to me this couldn’t happen again and that I should leave school.

I remember the deputy head saying to me: “You’ve got to work out what you are going to do with your life now,” and I said, “I know what I’m going to do. I am going to go and find Duran Duran.”

A young Ariane Sherine with Simon Le Bon

So I found out where they were recording, went down to the studio, met them and started hanging out with them and that’s what I did for the next three years.

JOHN: As a groupie…?

ARIANE: No, no. As a songwriter. I wanted to write songs. I told them that and they would listen to my songs and give me advice and feedback.

JOHN: But you never actually played with them…

ARIANE: I did do some sessions for one of their records, playing piano and singing – Ken Scott was the producer. But my contributions didn’t appear on the album and they meant to thank me in the liner notes but forgot. And then I didn’t see them for eight years. Then Simon Le Bon saw me interviewed on television when I was promoting the Atheist Bus Campaign and he sent me a letter via the Guardian.

JOHN: Because you were writing columns for the Guardian at the time.

ARIANE: Yes. So we kind of rekindled our friendship then.

JOHN: Any chance of Duran Duran doing a cover of your Hitler Moustache song ?

ARIANE: No, John, it wouldn’t work.

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Improbable but true: The Edinburgh Fringe ‘Big Four’ venues are not so big

Two updates to yesterday’s blog in which I mentioned an odd coincidental meeting at an Edinburgh Fringe launch in London.


I also mentioned that, last night, I was going to a London Fortean Society talk on The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles and Rare Events Happen Every Day.

I had already seen this talk by David J Hand back in February at the splendidly-titled Dirty Dick’s in the City of London. But the talk was so interesting I thought I would see it again. It may seem improbable that I would see it a second time, but it is true.

Conway Hall - improbable meeting place

Conway Hall – an improbable meeting place

This was the first meeting in the Fortean Society’s new, occasional, venue Conway Hall at Red Lion Square in Holborn.

The host asked how many people had been to a Fortean Society meeting before. I think only three hands went up.

There were, I think, just over 100 seats and eventually only four empty seats remained, scattered around; one was next to me. Almost at the last moment before the talk started, a man sat in the seat. After the talk finished, we chatted.

He, too, had been to a Fortean Society meeting before. In fact, he, too, had seen exactly the same lecture back in February.

A coincidence. Not a big one. But, in a hall of just over 100 people, only three of whom had been to any Fortean meeting before, with only four empty seats before it started, another man who had seen exactly the same lecture before had sat next to me. Proof that coincidences, miracles and rare events do happen every day.


In yesterday’s blog, I also mentioned going to a launch event for the Edinburgh Fringe’s ‘Big Four’ venues – the Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance and Underbelly.

This brought a comment from Charles Pamment, who runs the Space UK venues at the Fringe:

Charles Pamment at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe

Charles Pamment of theSpace at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe

As you know I’m not one to rock a boat but I reckon but all this rock and roll over the term the festivals “big 4” when it comes to venues is a tad inaccurate, depending on I suppose ones definition of ‘big’ of course. In fringe terms I’d like to think it means a venues performance programme size, a number of shows, or number of difference performance genres or even the number of sub-performance genres defined in the fringe programme. What else could it be?

Knowing you as one who still embraces the fringe ethos as a platform for all I thought you would appreciate some stats, these may be a little rough as not all shows are listed on the fringe site yet but for all wants an purposes we (theSpaceUK) have produced the largest programme on the fringe since 2012. 

And this year is no exception, this August we will include some 290 shows in our programme, apparently the largest programme by one producer in the history of the fringe, so I’m told.

This is likely to be more shows than two of the big 4 put together (recent years define such), and near on 60 more than the Pleasance and give or take a few, 100 more than Assembly.

Now, you could I suppose throw in the free fringe as the producers of the largest programme, but I suppose there seems to be a varied number of different producers of that these days too. So, I suppose when one hears this weary term ‘big 4’ you can understand that one wonders exactly what that defines or is it as someone recently said to me simply a 00’s term that stuck!

Charles is. of course, correct, in that Space UK is a bigger provider of Fringe shows than any of the oft-called Big Four.

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