Tag Archives: erotic

Prime Minister enters pig and prize winning sex worker enters politics.

Yesterday's Daily Mail story online

Yesterday’s Daily Mail story online

Yesterday, the Daily Mail alleged that Prime Minister David Cameron, when at Oxford University, put his penis into a dead pig’s severed head as part of a Piers Gaveston Society initiation ceremony.

While trying to guess the source of this story, political blogger Guido Fawkes yesterday mentioned an allegation by the Cherwell student newspaper that Michael Gove (later Secretary of State for Education) participated in a “five-in-a-bed romp” while president of the Oxford Union debating society.

The connection between politicians and sex is long-established.

In June 2013, I blogged about Charlotte Rose when she had just won the Sex Worker of The Year title at the British Erotic Awards. Recently, she won another award – for Recognition to the Industry – from UKAP, the UK Adult Producers’ Network. So I Apple FaceTimed her yesterday.

“It all started last year,” Charlotte told me, “when I did the face-sitting protest. On 1st December, the government created amendments to the 2003 Communications Act so certain activities were now deemed illegal online and face-sitting was one of them. So, on 12th December, I got about 350 people outside Parliament singing Sit On My Face by Monty Python while sitting on people’s faces.”

“Fully clothed?” I asked.

“Fully clothed,” said Charlotte. “It was a cold day. And I did my William Wallace speech at the end: You can try and ban our liberties, but you can never take our sexual freedom. You can see the speeches on my YouTube channel.

We got support from lots of people. I’ve always had support from Lembit Öpik – and from Rupert Everett since I did the Channel 4 documentary Love for Sale with him.

“I did three porn protests. I did the face-sitting one in London; I did the spankathon in Manchester; and I did the whipathon in Brighton.

“I’ve got a new petition coming up which I’ve just started to allow two independent sex workers to be able to work together for safety in regards to brothel keeping. Brothel keeping is against the law. In 2010, Labour looked at allowing 3-4 sex workers to work together. 10,000 signatures would start the ball rolling. 100,000 signatures will hopefully get me a debate if I can get the right people on board with it.”

“You’ve run for Parliament in two by-elections, I said. “Did you decide to do that as a result of the face-sitting protest?”

“No. Clacton-on-Sea was in October last year. It was a great opportunity for me to really talk about sexual freedom of expression. Then, when the second by-election came up in Rochester & Strood in November, I thought Well, I may as well. I quite enjoy it. But that is when I actually realised it’s like standing on top of a mountain screaming what you know is right yet nobody is listening. Unless you’ve got a good wedge of money behind you, you’re nothing.”

Charlotte on FaeTime yesterday with her latest award

Charlotte seen via FaceTime yesterday with her latest award

“Did you meet Nigel Farage of UKIP?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“What’s he like?”

“He’s just like a guy you’d get pissed-up with in a pub. There aren’t many people where I find there’s something I dislike, but he just has such a smarmy way about him. You don’t know if he IS coming across genuine or if he’s just a people-pleaser. I think it’s his mouth. His mouth doesn’t portray honesty. You know how some people have a wiggling corner of their mouth sometimes when they lie? It’s like horses.

“I don’t like horses because their eyes have no iris, so you can’t see where they’re looking. I’m just so wary of a horse – it’s probably one of the only animals where you would never know if it’s going to turn on you. Because it’s got no iris, you can’t read it.”

“Nigel Farage,” I said, “comes across as the man next door, but he was a commodity broker, wasn’t he?”

“Then he’d make a perfect hotelier,” said Charlotte, “because normally anyone who has stocks or assets or is an accountant goes into hotels but they lack the charisma. They probably have the same level of charisma as a caterpillar.”

“Perhaps,” I suggested, “Nigel Farage could become the new Basil Fawlty.”

“Mmmm…” said Charlotte.

“How did you do in the elections?” I asked.

Charlotte made a promotional reel for her Rochester election bid.

“At Rochester & Strood,” Charlotte told me, “Britain First got 13 votes more than me. I can understand that Britain First has got some very patriotic points of view, but the majority of it was a racist, damaging stab and I thought: People would rather vote for racism than the choice of sexual expression.

“Whereas I believe, if people were having more sex, the serotonin levels in their body would be fantastic and everybody would be happy. We wouldn’t have time to be vindictive or have hatred towards people. We would be smiling more.

“Did you read that story about judges in the court system who got sacked for watching pornography at work? I would rather have my court judge watch pornography before my court case. If he’s just had a wank, I know he’s going to be level-headed, very happy and I’m not going to have a problem. I think I would specifically ask that, if I was up in court for anything, I want my judge to go and have a wank before he listens to my case.”

“Now there’s a project for you,” I said.

Charlotte & Erotic Award as Sex Worker of the Year

Charlotte with her 2013 Sex Worker of the Year award

“I’ve got a new project,” replied Charlotte, “called The Sex Avengers. That’s up-and-coming for January. I want to build an army of support – not a hierarchy – activists, then industry, then the public. A huge directory: a one-stop shop that people can go to.”

“If you are an Avenger,” I asked, “what’s your super-power?”

“I think to deliver strength and positivity in my speech. I’ve done a lot of speeches now and I love sharing what’s happening. But, rather than being a speech that moans, I build positivity, I build energy, I build unity. I think that’s my strength: to be able to share energy and build on positivity.”

“You have moved to London recently,” I said. “Why?”

“Well, I was already involved in The Sex Workers’ Opera and the travel time from the West Country…”

“Opera?” I interrupted.

“Yes,” said Charlotte. “The Sex Workers’ Opera. It’s an award-winning show. We’ve been running it since 2013. We put it on at the Arcola in Dalston last year and won the Pioneer Award at the Sexual Freedom Awards which used to be called the Erotic Awards. We are hopefully doing a documentary for Channel 4.”

“Do you perform in it?” I asked.

“Yes. You can see a video of me performing The Dom Song on YouTube. That was in the first ever production.”

“It’s a proper classical opera?” I asked.

“No. It’s more like a hip-hopera. It’s a bit more funky. Two hours. We’ve got scenes about prohibitionists, the Soho raids, the porn laws. It’s 50% sex workers and 50% allies.”

“Sex and music?” I asked.

“I’m also going to be putting on events to promote the Sex Avengers. Ben Dover is a good friend of mine and he plays the drums for a tribute band called Guns 2 Roses. It would be absolutely fantastic if I could find people in the sex industry who play an instrument and we actually form a rock band and go round all these events promoting sexual freedom through music. That would be great.”

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Comedy critic Copstick on cosy British feminists, sex and a Kenyan catastrophe

Mama Biashara’s Kate Copstick at a happier time in Kenya

Mama Biashara’s Kate Copstick

In the last two blogs, comedy critic Kate Copstick told me how she became disillusioned as a lawyer, discovered cocaine in children’s TV and met Jimmy Savile. Today’s blog, from a chat at The Grouchy Club, brings her story up to date.

“So you were a children’s TV presenter in London,” I said. “How did you end up writing for The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh?”

“I was rent-a-gob female for ages on TV,” she said.

“Rent-a-feminist?” I asked.

“Oh, you’re joking!” Copstick replied. “Good God no! Do I look that humorless? I’m not anti-feminist. I just find it very irritating… Not everything is the fault of men. There were women who used to have to fight for stuff in Britain but I work most of the time in Kenya now. Women there really, really have to fight and terrible things happen to them. Appalling things. I see the real fight women have to fight in Africa: the terrible way they are treated. Then I come back to Britain and find some twat of an actress has gone on Facebook saying Aw, we were hosting a serious play and someone said Nice tits! and I would really have thought blah blah blah blah… Hashtag EverydayMisogyny.

“If you really, really care about women and women’s rights, then in Britain we’re doing kind of relatively OK. Why not come with me to countries where women are really doing very badly? If you care so bloody much, come with me and help them. Don’t sit here and get outraged because in Britain some woman has five children, is adopting a third, can only work every third Monday and then only until 5 o’clock in the afternoon and is complaining because she’s not chairman of the bloody company board.”

“So,” I said, “you were a rent-a-gob female but not a feminist…”

“Yes. And I did loads of TV gameshows. I hosted a couple for the BBC. But, at the same time, I was doing lots of writing.”

“About what?” I asked.

“Sex,” said Copstick. “Mainly sex. Stick to what you know. They say that in comedy. In writing too. I could have written about Kelsen’s Pure Theory of Law, but it just never had the sales potential that sex and alcohol did. I wrote for FHM magazine. I did a column called Stuff Your Face With Copstick. I used to take famous men out for lunch and we’d get reasonably drunk and then I’d write about what I remembered of it and it seemed to go down well.”

“I’m sure you did,” I said.

The Erotic Review led to comedy reviews

The Erotic Review led to comedy reviews

“Then,” said Copstick, “I interviewed Rowan Pelling, who was working for the Erotic Review. She was posh totty. The Arts Editor of The Scotsman – Robert Dawson Scott – sent me down to interview her. He liked what I wrote and (in 1999) he said What about coming and devastating young people’s dreams in August for a month (reviewing comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe) and I thought Weyhey! That sounds like fun! The Darth Vader effect seemed to suit me and I did more and more writing.”

Copstick now owns The Erotic Review and is the doyernne of comedy reviewers at the Edinburgh Fringe but, for around six months of each year, she works in Kenya.

“You have a charity in Kenya,” I said to her.

“Yes. Mama Biashara, which is Swahili for Business Mother. I get people who are really up to their nipples in horror and – I’m not a particularly touchy-feely person – I don’t do all that I feel your pain. Let’s go and talk thing. You can talk till the cows come home and it’s not going to do any good.

“No! You don’t empower people by talking. You empower people by giving them money and a skill so then they can tell the bad guys to fuck off. That’s how you empower people. Not by sitting and giving them ideas that are never going to come true.”

Mama Biashara gives people who previously had no hope small amounts of money and practical help to start their own self-sustaining small businesses.

Copstick (in blue) at Mama Biashara project

Copstick (in blue) at new Mama Biashara well

“For a lot of the commercial sex workers,” said Copstick, “we have a thing called Kucha Kool (kucha is the Swahili word for finger nail) where they become roving manicurists. You have to start a business that plays to your strengths and the girls who come off the street we try to set up in hairdresser businesses or sewing or as manicurists.

“With the Kucha Kool girls, I give them a dozen assorted nail varnishes, emery boards and buffers and whatever else in a nice case and then they hit the ground running, because they can make 1,500 bob a day (a ‘bob’ is a Kenyan Shilling) and when you consider they got 40 bob for a shag, then 1,500 bob a day is pretty good.

“I buy all that in bulk here in Britain, where it’s cheaper, and then we can hand somebody a business start-up in Kenya.”

“You used to live in the Nairobi slums in a storage container,” I said.

“I have to live in the slums, really,” said Copstick, “because I can’t afford anything else and because I’m kind of obsessive about the money from Mama Biashara going to the women – the people – who need it. I pay all my own expenses. And it’s fine. Who needs to have an inside toilet? My gran lived perfectly well without one.”

“And where do you live in Nairobi now?” I asked.

“Well, thereby hangs a tale,” said Copstick. “Just before I went into my first show at the Fringe (at the beginning of August), I got a text from Kenya saying: Call us! Call us! It is a disaster! 

“In the slums, we had set up a little house. The front of it was mbati (corrugated metal). The sides were stone. The back was bits of wood. And the roof was a patchwork of everything. I was describing it to a friend in Kenya and he said: Oh, that is a very random house. So we called it The Random House. It was the headquarters for Mama Biashara, with loads of stuff there, blankets, lots of hair dryers to start hairdressing businesses, three sewing machines which I had just bought, loads of medication and just everything to help people start up a business.

“You can hire men from the City Council. You pay them 200 bob and they will do any type of thuggery you want. Apparently at 4.00am on a Tuesday morning, about a dozen men from the City Council came to the compound where The Random House is, broke in, carted out on City Council handcarts everything that was inside and then brought a bulldozer and flattened it.”

Copstick returns to Nairobi on Sunday.

When I asked her last week where she was going to live, she told me: “The house has been knocked down, so I have absolutely no idea. I will just have to see when I get there.”

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Filed under Charity, Feminism, Kenya, Sex, Television

Comic Arthur Smith and critic Copstick talk comedy & hard core pornography

(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

Moi, Arthur Smith and Kate Copstick chatted on Monday

Moi, Arthur Smith and Kate Copstick chatted in Edinburgh

A couple of weeks ago, I staged five daily hour-long chat shows in the final week of the Edinburgh Fringe.

In the first show, the guests were comedian Arthur Smith and doyenne of Fringe comedy reviewers Kate Copstick (who hates being called Kate). This is a short extract:

_____________________________________________________

ARTHUR: A naked man is funny whereas, with a naked woman, there are different things going on.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Why?

ARTHUR: Well… because of the evil that is Man.

COPSTICK: A round of applause, please. The feminist contingent has arrived.

ARTHUR: Well, I do consider myself a feminist. When I arrived at university in 1974, there was a woman setting up The Women’s Liberation Society. You only had to think about it. Men had been oppressing women for thousands of years and she was absolutely right.

I always thought that the feminist ethos would continue more. For example, the ‘Ms’ thing. Fair enough. Why does a woman have to announce her marital status on a form by being Miss or Mrs? Men don’t have to. So I just assumed Ms would become standard, but it didn’t.

I assumed that the Feminist revolution, for want of a better word, would continue, but then Lad Culture suddenly appeared, courtesy of Frank Skinner and David Baddiel amongst others. And porn was alright.

COPSTICK: Porn IS alright!

ARTHUR: Yeah, but… I’m not suggesting porn should be illegal, but it’s another area of controversy.

COPSTICK: Have you ever been on a porn set?

ARTHUR: I was asked… Victoria Coren

COPSTICK: Oh, that’s not a proper porn set. That’s middle-class girls playing at making porn.

JOHN: Copstick has proper porn sets.

ARTHUR: I’ve always had this joke about balancing a tray on the end of me knob. It’s an idea that perhaps I could learn to do.

COPSTICK: I was only asking because I have spent quite a long while within the porn industry.

ARTHUR: Have you?

COPSTICK: Yeah.

ARTHUR: I didn’t know that.

COPSTICK: Oh yes.

JOHN: She owns the Erotic Review.

COPSTICK: But I’m not talking about the Erotic Review. I’m talking about hard core porn. Proper hard core, you know? Every industry has its sleazy end. I know nothing about the illegal stuff. I’m talking about… The mainstream porn industry is where the one group of people who can turn up on a set with a list of what they will do and what they won’t do is the women. And that list is adhered to.

A very good friend of mine does everything. She does things probably none of the lovely people here could even imagine.

JOHN: Such as?

COPSTICK: Have you ever seen a cream pie?

ARTHUR: Oh, I’ve heard of that one. There’s a woman I know who’s actually quite well-known who said Ooh, I’ve seen this lovely profiterole. I’ve got me eye on it. I didn’t understand what she was talking about, but… she… she doesn’t eat it. Let’s put it like that.

COPSTICK: My friend does double-anal, she does double-pussy, she does cream pie, she does everything.

ARTHUR: With profiteroles?

COPSTICK: Well, there’s somebody there balancing them on a tray on his dick.

JOHN: And then?

ARTHUR: Is this comedy or porn?

COPSTICK: Oh, it’s porn.

ARTHUR: It sounds quite funny, doesn’t it?

COPSTICK: She’ll do all these things, but she doesn’t like anyone playing with her nipples. So, on her list of things the guys are not allowed to do, none of them are allowed to go anywhere near her nipples, no matter what else they are doing… And, if they do, she can stop the scene. The women are not downtrodden in porn… I haven’t convinced you, Arthur?

JOHN: Few people know you’re in the erotic industry.

COPSTICK: I thought we were talking about Arthur.

JOHN: Few people know you were in the erotic industry, Arthur.

ARTHUR: Mr Knobbo? He never really caught on.

JOHN: There was a lot of nudity surrounding Malcolm Hardee in the 1980s for no reason I could figure out except The Roman In Britain was getting publicity.

ARTHUR: Well, like I said, naked men are funny.

JOHN: Why?

ARTHUR: Kate will tell you.

COPSTICK: It is the danglies. Little squishy things that dangle are quite funny.

ARTHUR: Well, the testicles and penis are slightly silly things. The rest of your body doesn’t have things hanging off. You look at them and you think What the hell are…

COPSTICK: One wonders what Mother Nature was thinking… And there are an increasing number of chaps in really quite middle-of-the-road comedy shows who, at the end of the show, just randomly get their knobs out.

If I was male and I was going to get my knob out, I would want to know that people were going to have to gasp Whoaaah! but none of them are. Maybe it’s just a comedian thing. They’re all…

ARTHUR: All comedians have small knobs?

COPSTICK: Yeah.

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Coming soon – Great Sexpectations, the Erotic Awards, The Night of the Senses

(This was also published by Indian news site WSN)

Grace Gelder in Soho yesterday

Grace Gelder in London’s Soho yesterday

It was comedian Matt Roper – currently in India – who first told me about The Night of the Senses. This year, it is being organised by his photographer friend Grace Gelder.

“You’re not actually going to call it an orgy, are you?” I asked her yesterday.

“No. It’s an erotic ball,” she replied.

“A good combination of words,” I said. “Do you have a job title?”

“Apparently I am officially called The Director of Pleasure,” laughed Grace.

We were at Bar Italia in London’s Soho yesterday, talking about The Night of the Senses, which has been run by Tuppy Owens for 25 years to raise money for her Outsiders Trust, the UK charity which aims to raise awareness about sex and disability.

“So,” I asked Grace. “This year it’s you organising The Night of the Senses. Why you?”

“I originally met Tuppy,” explained Grace, “because I had started to develop a documentary film about sex and disability. We worked on that for two years and went to interview Tuppy at her home in Inverness. She’s in her late sixties now and said that, when she started running the event, all of her friends came. A few weeks ago, she said to me It’s the same as you guys. All your friends are gonna come. We’re all over sixty; it’s time there was a new generation of people starting to hear about it.

“A new generation of sensual people?” I suggested.

“Well, it feels,” said Grace. “like there’s a lot more interest in this kind of thing right now. I’m not sure why. But people want really experiential things. The Secret Cinema has taken off. People want to go to an event and be integrated into it. There’s a lot of parties which touch on the ‘erotic’ like people who have hot tubs in the middle of their parties. But I think people are quite scared of putting on something that is so overtly sensual because they’re worried about How do you manage it? How do you handle it? I feel confident that I’m able to do that, especially having done erotic photography with people who start off really scared because they’ve never done anything like it.”

“And you’ve been to previous Nights of the Senses?”

“I’ve been to two.”

“How many people turned up last year?”

“About 1,000. This year’s one is in May with the Great Sexpectations semi-final in March.

“Basically, on The Night of the Senses itself, there are the events and included in that there’s The Erotic Awards, which have been running for about 17 or 18 years. They champion the stars of the erotic universe. People are picked out in different categories – books, films, campaigners – people who are campaigning for sex workers’ rights for example – artists, strippers, live artists whose work has an erotic element.

“The theme for this year’s Night of the Senses event in May is ‘The Zoo’, because Tuppy is a former zoologist, so it’s like a homage to Tuppy and the work she’s done over the last 25 years.”

“But,” I said, “as in movie disclaimers, no actual animals will be hurt during the production of this event?”

“Only humans dressed as animals,” said Grace. “Or zoo keepers. It leaves some space for the more kinky members of the public.”

“What was the theme for last year’s event?” I asked.

Last year's theme at Night of the Senses was 'Equestrianism'

Last year’s theme at Night of the Senses was ‘Equestrianism’

“Equestrian.”

“And you officially only started organising all of this on Monday this week,” I said. “Why did you get involved?”

“Initiating my film documentary project about sex and disability,” explained Grace, “completely opened my world to all this stuff which I didn’t know about. I found it very, very fascinating… which fed into my own life and ended up initiating a sexual journey for myself… of liberation and exploration and that sort of thing.”

“Any details?” I asked.

“What sort of details?” laughed Grace.

“Preferably quirky,” I said.

“Well,” said Grace, ignoring this, “I had to go to The Night of the Senses as research, for example, and that blew me away. Going to the event was a real catalyst. You step into a completely different environment.”

“How?” I asked.

“Just because of the nature of the event. Tuppy has never said to people You’ve got to come to this, because it is still a sophisticated event where you need to have some understanding of being in a sexual environment. To be aware of what you’re going to go and experience. People just being completely open and free with their… fetishes, with their actions… but in a very safe and well-held event.”

“I know nothing about this world,” I said, “but I did once get dragged to the Torture Garden club about twenty years ago.”

“That’s very much more specifically fetish and power games,” said Grace. “The Night of the Senses has all of those elements, but more as well. There’s always a dungeon-type place, but there’s also a tantric space where people can get a massage and put their name down to be tickled with feathers: that type of thing. A lot of sensory stuff. So it’s a lot more… You don’t have to be into power games. And there’s a bit more of a theatrical aspect to it as well. There’s a sensuality chamber for couples where live musicians play along.”

“You said your eyes were opened…” I prompted her.

“I’d never been in a situation like that,” said Grace, “where there was every spectrum of people – people with disabilities, people who were older, younger, gay, straight, all spectrums with all sorts of fetishes. Apparently one year they had a turtle-neck jumper fetish corner. They have their own clubs.”

“For people who have a fetish for turtle-neck jumpers?” I asked.

“Apparently.”

Ed Wood, fan of angora

Ed Wood, movie fan of angora sweaters?

“I seem to remember,” I said, “ that the film director Ed Wood had a fetish for angora sweaters. I think he had an angora sweater in every one of his films. Or it might have been his refrigerator that he had in every film. I have a very bad memory.”

“Interesting,” said Grace.

“When is your event happening again?” I asked. “I’ve forgotten.”

“Two events,” said Grace. “The Night of the Senses is in May with the final of the Erotic Awards as a stage show as part of it and, after that, everyone goes upstairs to play – or just watches – it’s up to you.

“But the first event is Great Sexpectations – in Bush Hall, Shepherd’s Bush on 22nd March. It’s a beautiful old music hall. Great Sexpectations is a sit-down table event, including the semi-finals of the live part of the Erotic Awards. The judges decide who will be finalists at the main event in May.”

“Is it like ice-skating?” I asked, “where you get awarded points on style. content and artistic interpretation?”

“It’s not like The X Factor,” laughed Grace. “Our judges watch and take notes and decide afterwards. Best Stripper and Best Live Artist are the two categories for the live aspect – It’s a cabaret, basically. I think we’ll also include a comedian and a singer, whereas the ‘stripper’ is anything from pole dancing to burlesque and boylesque. But then there’s also the author, photographer and the other categories at The Night of the Senses in May”

“Where is the main Night of the Senses going to be held in May?”

“The location of the venue is always released much later on to everyone who has bought a ticket. There has been trouble with the event in the past because of people campaigning against it or ringing the local council because of the nature of it. Some venues have an issue, but most people are totally fine with it: they know what it is and that it’s a fundraiser, so…”

“And,” I interrupted, “there’s no illegality of any kind. It is not ‘outraging public decency’ because it’s a ticketed event and people know exactly what they’re buying the tickets for.”

“Exactly,” said Grace. “You have to choose to go. You don’t just pass by and say Oo-err! I think I’ll pop in there and see what’s happening. And there’s a very clear code of conduct which is on the website.

“I’ll be updating the website in the next few weeks. Like I said, I only officially started organising all of this on Monday. There’s more to come.”

Grace asked me to say: “Any enquiries to gracegelder@gmail.com.”

I am not sure this is necessarily wise, but what do I know?

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Top comedy critic Kate Copstick spends $2,500 on prostitutes in Nairobi, Kenya

Oy! Oy! - Kate Copstick reveals her other life

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.”

She has also been a judge for the Perrier Awards, Amused Moose, So You Think You’re Funny and my own highly-esteemed-by-the-comedy-cognoscenti Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards.

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.

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Why Charmian Hughes is back for an erotic dance at the Edinburgh Fringe, but without dog, tortoise or husband

Yesterday, I had tea with Charmian Hughes at the Pleasance Dome in Edinburgh.

It is twenty years since she last performed at the Edinburgh Fringe.

“Last time I was here,” she told me, “I got a review on an airline magazine that someone saw six months later; I’ve never seen it myself.”

The show was called Greyfriars Bobby Speaks to the World.

“I had my dog Arthur with me on stage,” she explained. “He was quite old and he just sat there. It started with the theme music from Lawrence of Arabia and I pushed him on and he had a camel hump bag on his back. In the show, he was called Catharsis: Dog of Love and Healing. I hung the whole show round that. Every so often he was supposed to channel the thoughts of Greyfriars Bobby.

“It was a 50-seater and, in the first two weeks, maybe 7 or 8 people would come in each day. Then, after that, I had 50 people in every night. I have no idea why. But I also got children in because I had mis-directed with the title. I had lots of irate parents trying to get their children in because they had thought it was a children’s show.”

Charmian is back this year with her show The Ten Charmandments in which she allegedly gives her audience the benefit of her own esoteric wisdom… and it also includes an erotic dance, of which more later.

“I’ve had to wait all this time – twenty years – to get away from my children,” she told me.

“When I go to perform at the Glastonbury Festival, I take my children and my husband David but, even though they are meant to be self-reliant, I spend my whole time looking after them. Or watching them go off to have fun while I go off to work.

“This year was the first year my younger daughter – 14 – could hang out on her own with my husband holding the fort. David can’t come up because the dog – this is another dog – has already been in kennels because we went on holiday just before I came up here and he is a bit emotional. He has been very difficult, but now he is in his own space where he feels he doesn’t need to react to other dogs with violence. He’s very calm and peaceful. But, to keep him that way, David can never go out while I’m away; we have to nurture his emotional needs. The dog’s, not David’s.

“I am enjoying being up here on my own it because I’m doing a lot of walking, I haven’t had many late nights and haven’t drunk lots. I’ve been eating really well at Henderson’s every day: a fantastic vegetarian restaurant. I used to go there years ago when I was at St Andrew’s University and visited friends in Edinburgh.

“But how do I get coverage in the press?” she asked me.

“Claim Scottish heritage,” I told her. “Or find any Scottish link of any kind. St Andrew’s is a good start – or do a bizarre publicity stunt that may get you nominated for the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award,” I advised her, solely so I could then mention it in this blog and give it a plug.

“Cunning Stunts are what brought me into showbiz,” Charmian said in reply. She did. She really did. Truly.

“I worked in an advertising agency,” she said, “as a copywriter and I was very depressed because I had thought I was in a creative job and it turned out I wasn’t. All the other people said: Ooh! You’re so wacky! because I wore tartan trousers.

“I used to put all my creative energy into writing things that ended up as: Oh, come and be a nurse in Saudi Arabia. You don’t have to pay tax. Whereas I had tried to write: Come and heal the sick! because I had thought it would be more interesting… The uniform is all-encompassing.

“I was about 26 and thought, at that age, my life was over. It was so depressing. What have I become? I have done nothing! I am not a Nobel Prize winning writer.

“I was driving my car and, on the radio, they were talking about an international theatre festival and there was a group called Cunning Stunts doing women’s theatre workshops. So I went along and I spent the first evening having to pretend I was a rock, which I had never done before; I was a good rock; it was lovely.

“So I did their course, then I did clowning at City Lit where Pierre Hollins was teaching and I suddenly found I was rather good at drawing attention to myself. Pierre was a clown then and did street shows. He had a teaching exercise where you just had to make everybody look at you rather than the other person on the stage. People tried all sorts of clever tricks but actually being as still as possible but being stupid drew their attention.

“Lots of them went off to join Gerry Cottle’s Circus but I gave up my job and did a bit of children’s theatre.

“Then I met this old man, aged about 70, called Eugene Boller who was a Hungarian acrobat and he taught acrobatics to lots and lots of students in the front room of his huge house in Brixton which had loads and loads of junk because he was a hoarder and it stank of cabbage all the time. He had electricity in his home, but no heating. People said, Oh you have to be really good to go to him! and I could just about do a cartwheel.

“I met him at a tea party where I was sitting alone feeling sorry for myself and he invited me along because he said he could teach anyone and I stayed for about 20 years and I never managed to do anything.

“It was a very small room and these very athletic students used to queue round the room to go in this harness where he flipped you over.

“I had a lot of resentment from the other people because they didn’t know why he was letting me be there. He would dismiss some really good people, saying, I don’t want you in my class any more; I don’t like your attitude but with me he’d go Hahahahaha…. The other students would ask me:

“So you’re doing a stage show are you? What do you do in it?

“Talk.

“Hah!

“I used to be quite good at roly-polys. Everyone else was doing back-flips; I was doing remedial moves. Eugene said he had me there because I made him laugh. He told me that a fat girl doing ballet will get everyone watching.

“He said watching me do a cartwheel was more entertaining than watching the athletic ones go backflip-backfliip-backflip.

“I started going to him in my 30s, then I had the children, then he invited me back when I was about 42, then he got very very old in about 1992 and he said, Oh, I’ve had this… I dunno… stuff… I think it’s called cancer… but, ah, stuff and nonsense, stuff and nonsense… and, once he had it, he had to go to the toilet for a long time and people told him You should go to the doctor and he said Oh no, I just take my olive oil.

“He had a massive bowel tumour and he was about 90 years old by then. With lots of people of that age, they don’t bother to operate. But they did operate on him and he was teaching again six weeks later.

“Later on, when he was dying, we all used to go up to his bedroom, where he now had a small gas fire, and just sit around talking to him. One of his great pupils, Annie Griffin, came along and he asked her: What have you been doing?

Oh, she said, well, I’ve written a TV series called The Book Club. and I wrote and directed a film called Festival about the Edinburgh Fringe…

Enough of that stuff, he said. Show me your handstand! Show me your handstand!

“When he died, he got an obituary in the Guardian.

“He had a tortoise called Jimmy, who he had found in a rubbish skip and who I was meant to look after when Eugene died but his weird niece took Jimmy away and sold him. We had a fight about that.”

And that is why, if you go to see The Ten Charmandments at the current Edinburgh Fringe – as you certainly should – Charmian Hughes does an erotic dance.

It is very funny.

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