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Polly Trope organising a book fair in a fluffy booth at the back of a bar in Berlin

Polly Trope (Photograph by Joe Palermo)

indieberlin’s Polly has bridged cultural gaps in London
(Photograph by Joe Palermo)

Polly Trope is literary editor of the German online arts magazine indieberlin.de and author of the autobio-novel Cured Meat: Memoirs of a Psychiatric Runaway – a Guardian Best First Book Award nominee last year.

I blogged about her in April last year.

She lives in Berlin but occasionally turns up at Il Puma Londinese‘s Italian-language comedy shows in London. I have no idea if she understands Italian.

A couple of days ago, I got an email from her saying:

We are organizing an indie book fair and meetup for authors in Berlin. Since some authors are abroad and can’t join us we thought of having them phone-in like a radio show. But then we came up with… The Literophone!

We were partly inspired by an iOS app which lets you be phoned-up by a random stranger by way of an alarm clock every morning.

At the book fair, we will set aside a little soundproof cubicle for one-on-one readings. But also, now, it will be the private booth where guests can call up poets and get a poem read to them down the phone.

So, obviously, yesterday I Skyped her in Berlin.

“When exactly is the indie book fair?” I asked.

“Next Saturday – 7th November,” she told me. “It starts at 1.00pm (German time) and goes into the night. We are doing the Literophone roughly between 5 and 8.”

“Where?” I asked.

“In Neukölln, the trendy part of town, where everything is going on. It’s the Shoreditch of Berlin.”

“Why are you doing a book fair?” I asked.

Polly Trope - rotary phones and a mini-Socrates cast upon the background of a Tanguy painting poster.

Polly Trope sent me her photograph of rotary phones and a mini-Socrates bust set against the background of an Yves Tanguy painting poster.

“Because there are so many young people who come to Berlin, who end up staying here for no reason and then they become authors. They’re all very fashionable and cool and they’ve written a chat book or a collection of three stories but none of them have a venue to do their thing in.

“So we’re working with them and also have some of the cool older guys like the Berlin faction of the punk scene from the past… indieberlin is not mainstream. It’s a lot of cool types and we just want to have this party with readings. So many people are going to be doing readings, it’s crazy.”

“Are you telling me,” I said, “that Berlin at the moment is like Paris in the 1920s? Loads of literary people roaming around being creative.”

“Yes,” said Polly, “though I dunno if it’s gonna go down in history like that. But it’s trying to be that.”

“What’s the object of the book fair?” I asked.

“The object?” Polly replied, sounding slightly surprised. “A weird and wonderful experience of poetry and stories and flash fiction. There are gonna be talks in the afternoon but it’s mostly gonna be a party.”

“So it’s not a literary fair at all?” I asked. “It’s a piss-up.?”

“Yeah, with lots of literary types. We call it a networking event.”

“So basically,” I said, “you are going to have a literary piss-up with drunken authors and invite people to phone in from foreign countries who can’t be there to drink with you.”

“Well,” Polly suggested, “they can get drunk on the phone or on Facebook.”

”So what is the Literophone exactly?” I asked.

“A fluffy booth located in the back of the bar.”

“The bar?” I asked.

“The bar where we are doing it: one of these rock ’n’ roll venues. They have a little soundproof cubicle in the back where they can do stuff without disturbing the neighbours.

“At first the thought was we would have one-on-one readings where authors who want to can read their work to just one person in an intimate booth setting. Then it evolved. We thought: Oh! All these poets want to come and they can’t make, so maybe we can have them phone in. So we’re gonna phone them from the fluffy booth. Members of the audience can step in and phone a poet, who will read a poem down the phone to them. We will pay for the phone call.”

“How,” I asked, “are you going to make the booth fluffy?”

Polly Trope on fluffy bedspread (Photo by Iain McKell; fox mask by Cecilia Lundqvist

Polly Trope sitting on fluffy bedspread (Photograph by Iain McKell, with a fox mask designed by Cecilia Lundqvist)

“With blankets and fur coats and other furry things. My mum has a very beautiful fake fur bedspread which I’ve stolen. You know when you go to a London phone booth and you can see all these cards for ‘escorts’? It’s going to be a bit like that, except it’s going to be fluffy and it’s not going to be escorts, it’s going to be the names of poets. I’m going to get a rotary telephone and stick my iPhone in it.”

“Who is taking part?” I asked.

“Loads of people,” said Polly. There’s Penny Goring…”

“Not another of Hermann Göring’s relatives?” I said. “I had a blog chat with his very interesting great niece Bettina two years ago.”

“No,” said Polly. “Not Göring with an umlaut. Just with an O. This is a London Goring. And there’s Lucy Furlong: she’s a fantastic poet. I mostly asked poets if they wanted to do it – though there are storytellers of all kinds. We have so many people from America, England, Israel, all over, all going to be available for a couple of hours. I think it’s gonna be awesome.”

“Only Americans can be awesome,” I told Polly. “British people can’t be awesome.”

“But British people can be soo-perb,” she suggested.

“What would Germans be?” I asked.

“Super,” said Polly. “but with a soft S – szuper. Would you like to go into one of those fluffy poet phones if you could?

“I don’t know what I would say.”

“You don’t say anything. You phone up a writer or a poet and they say the things. But you would have to be in Berlin.”

“Someone in Berlin,” I suggested, “could phone me up and I could read one of my blogs to the person sitting in your fluffy booth in Berlin. I could read the Polly Trope blog to him or her.”

“Indeed you could,” said Polly. “I could put your card up in the booth. Will you send me one?”

“Yes. Is there any sequel to Cured Meat on the horizon?”

“I’m finished with Cured Meat,” said Polly. “I’ve run out of copies. I’m doing a new book now.”

“About?” I asked.

“It looks like it’s going to be a set of inter-connected short stories about smoking and ageing.”

Looks like?” I said.

Polly Trope (Pt=hoto by Joe Palermo)

Polly Trope with cigarette (Photograph by Joe Palermo)

“Something like that,” said Polly. Stories about smokers and bars and womanhood and ageing and the quest for eternal youth. It starts with a smoking lounge that I used to go to and the people I met in there.”

Polly’s blog gives a hint of what the book may be like.

“What is a smoking lounge?” I asked.

“Just a part of a bar or a cafe where you can smoke.”

“Over here,” I said, “you can’t smoke indoors in public places. You have to go outside. In Scotland, all the smokers will slowly be killed off by hypothermia.”

“Berlin is very lenient for cigarette smokers,” said Polly.

There is a video promo on YouTube for the indie book fair.

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Filed under Art, Books, Germany, Performance, Poetry, Writing

Great Sexpectations next week and then socks sex shocks on Night of the Senses

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

“I’ll have what she’s having” - Grace Gelder yesterday

Erotic supremo Grace Gelder yesterday

Back in January, I blogged about The Erotic Awards and The Night of the Senses, being organised in May by photographer Grace Gelder.

First though, this coming Friday, are the semi-finals of the live part of the Erotic Awards, which are taking place in London’s Shepherds Bush at an event called Great Sexpectations.

“What’s the venue?” I asked Grace yesterday.

“Bush Hall,” she told me.

“That seems appropriate,” I said. “Is there a dress code?”

Kinky Dickens and Victorian Erotica is the suggested theme, but it’s not compulsory.”

“Kinky dick ins?” I asked.

“Kinky Dickens,” Grace corrected me. “It allows gentlemen to jazz up an outfit with nothing more than a top hat.”

“An Artful Roger?”

“Possibly. The costumes that people are dreaming up sound quite exciting. Ladies are doing corsets and frilly things. The Bush Hall is just such a gorgeous venue. It has Viennese chandeliers, deep red velvet stage. It is a beautiful room, a music hall in its first few years.”

“So,” I asked, “do you see Great Sexpectations as a return to Victorian values?”

“It is celebrating the venue and getting everyone dressed up, but with a modern twist.”

“Which is?”

A ticket for the Great Sexpectations event

A ticket for next week’s Great Sexpectations event in London

“I don’t think in the Victorian era what we’re doing would have been quite so publicly advertised. Perhaps, on the surface, Great Sexpectations is similar to a lot of other cabaret nights. But one difference is that we have strippers coming who would normally work in a strip bar; usually, in cabaret, it’s more burlesque. We have the burlesque, but we’ve also got the striptease category.”

“It’s a lot of work for you,” I said. “setting up an event like this.”

“Well,” said Grace, “we’ve had lots of support and advice from Tuppy Owens, who organised the event previously and I’m doing it with Lianne Coop, who is a radio producer. We’ve got a complementary set of skills. I’ve worked a lot in theatre and I’ve got a background in erotic photography. She worked at the BBC for a number of years and produced the New Comedy Awards for two years, so she’s got fantastic event production skills.”

“But isn’t this just trying to make nudity and lechery sound posh?” I asked.

“Well,” said Grace, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admiring people who are comfortable to be on stage with gorgeous bodies and happy to perform in a sexual fashion. I also feel that, in the world of erotica – because it’s been such a taboo area in our culture – there’s a lot of people who do really essential work and who are regularly entertaining hundreds of people every week that don’t get the respect they deserve.”

“So,” I said. “I am Fred Bloggs. Why should I go along to see Great Sexpectations next Friday?”

“It’s going to be a fantastic visual feast for the eyes,” explained Grace. “Lots of amazing performances.”

“So you’re selling it as a Las Vegas cabaret event rather than a sleazy Soho event?” I asked.

“I think it really bridges everything. It’s visually-beautiful, cheeky, saucy but filthy in places. We’re trying to cater for everybody, because this is The Erotic Awards and erotica doesn’t just mean one thing. We’re trying to cater for people who might want something more extreme. We’ve got a woman called MisSa Blue who does fantastic performances with candles.”

“She’s burning the candles at both ends?” I asked.

“All I’d say,” continued Grace is that MisSa Blue is definitely one to catch. And we’ve got some fantastic burlesque, some fantastic drag performances. One of our judges – Rubyyy Jones – has been a massive help to Lianne and me. She is all over the London cabaret scene and is also a drag performer in a troupe called ‘&?!’ (pronounced And What?!). They will be doing a special performance for us. The idea is to make the night as diverse and celebratory as possible.”

“Have you ever had the urge to dabble in burlesque dancing yourself?” I asked Grace.

“We studied Latin at my school,” she replied, “and, when I was 11, I had an amazing Latin teacher. She wrote a school play set in Pompeii. My character’s name was Ava Gropadis – Ava-Gropa-Dis – and I was a prostitute. I had to stand there in a really short skirt and fishnet tights, being a bit tarty.”

“Was your mother proud of you?”

“She came to watch the play with my dad and was pregnant with my younger sister and she thought it was good. It was a good script. The loan shark was called Callus Lenda… and Sicka Fant was some grovelling bloke.

“Later, I was in Bugsy Malone as a flapper and then, when I was 15, I was in the musical Cabaret at school, as one of the slutty dancers. I loved it. It’s not completely out of the realms of possibility that I would stand up on stage and do that one day. It’s just not where my life’s leading.”

“Where is your life leading?”

“Much more into the photography. I do a lot of work with women to help them reclaim their own sexuality.”

“Their self-esteem?” I asked.

“Definitely,” agreed Grace. “There’s such a lot of fear of the male gaze. One of the things that annoys me in discussions of pornography is that some people assume all these women couldn’t possibly have actually chosen that career.”

A highly coveted Erotic Award - the Golden Flying Penis

A highly coveted Erotic Award – the Golden Flying Penis

“So,” I asked, “you don’t see the Erotic Awards as just putting on a show for a bit of fun and entertainment, it’s more an ongoing project?”

“It’s actually turning out to be really exciting,” Grace told me. “Lianne and I have both said it’s got masses of potential. The world has changed in the last 25 years it’s been running and we think we can expand it, raise its profile…”

“Expand it,” I asked, “in what sort of way?”

“Expand it in an awareness way, so people have more knowledge about what’s going on. We chatted to Brooke Magnanti (Belle de Jour) who wrote Secret Diary of a Call Girl about her book The Sex Myth – that’s been nominated. She’s hopefully going to attend the finals at the Night of the Senses in May.”

“And that bigger event will include…”

“The finals of the Erotic Awards… The finalists in the performance categories will perform and then it’s the prize-giving ceremony up until about midnight. And then it’s an after-party with lots of different areas where you can try out lots of different things with an emphasis on it being playful, inclusive, very diverse. You can have a massage, you can get spanked, you can spank somebody, you can get tied up, you can go and do some sock wrestling, you can…”

“Whoa!” I said. “Let’s do a re-cap there… Sock wrestling?”

“You have to take the other person’s socks off,” said Grace matter-of-factly.

“I feel I am an innocent in this world,” I explained. “Is sock wrestling an acknowledged sexual pastime?”

“I think it’s been quite popular on the festival circuit in recent years,” replied Grace.

I was advised rehearsals are vital for the sock wrestling

I was advised rehearsals are vital for the sock wrestling

“And the object is…”

“…to get the other person’s socks off.”

“While retaining your own socks?” I checked.

“Yes,” confirmed Grace.

“And are you wearing anything else while you do this?” I asked.

“That depends on the event you’re at,” explained Grace.

“But at this event you would not be?”

“It’s optional,” said Grace. “There will be a nudist disco at the event which, obviously, speaks for itself.”

“What happens when you get the socks off?” I asked, pursuing my research.

“You’ve won,” said Grace.

“Then what happens?”

“You probably get a prize.”

“A pair of socks?” I asked.

“Could be,” said Grace. “I think someone’s going to be running it as an area.”

“So it’s not just one couple wrestling each other for their socks, it’s an entire sock wrestling area…. Are there any other things happening I would not guess about, having been brought up a Presbyterian?”

“There’s usually a nocturnal area,” explained Grace, “where you can be blindfolded and tickled.”

“Ah” I said.

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A spectacular Lions party in Kiev with sword fights and Red Hot Chilli Pipers

(This piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

Honestly! I had to have breakfast in Kiev to hear about the current protection rackets of Glasgow gangsters and Glasgow Council officers. Other people’s lives!

Stuart McKenzie - master of spectacular events in the Ukraine

Stuart McKenzie – master of highly spectacular events in the Ukraine

But, really, I was in Kiev to attend the annual Burns Night celebration which, it seems, is never held anywhere near Burns Night in the calendar.

The only thing I can say about it is that Stuart McKenzie (stepson of the late Scots comedian Jimmy Logan) sure knows how to throw a charity party. I was at last year’s celebration, which was wonderful, but this year he has outdone himself.

Iconic Scots TV presenter Dougie Donnelly flew over to present 11 acts, 55 entertainers, multi-lingual addresses to the Haggis and genuine sword-fighting.

The Lions Club in Kiev is the biggest in Eastern Europe and, judging from last night, no wonder they manage to raise around $300,000 every year for charity, with this annual event contributing mightily.

The Red Hot Chilli Pipers playing in Kiev last night

Red Hot Chilli Pipers left Kiev reeling & rocking last night

Classical music, bagpiping, the aforementioned swordfighting by The Clann, Dutch singer Mark Enthoven and the extraordinary Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

Plus 38 ‘silent’ auctions in which people bid for everything from a $500 Muhammed Ali autograph to a $3,000 two-day training prize for up to 15 people… plus ten ‘live’ auctions which started with an $11,000 bid and ended with the auction of a $23,000 holiday-for-two in the Seychelles (all money going to charity).

The various holiday auction prizes included two separate Seychelles holidays, two Kenyan holidays and a $7,000 London holiday all put together by Fred Finn, the Guinness Book of Records’ title holder as ‘most travelled person’.

Zap, the magician, mystifying a glamorous guest last night

Zap, the magician, mystifying a glamorous guest last night

Fred had also arranged for the magician Zap to perform table magic during the show. I am ashamed to say I had never seen Zap before but, as a close-up magician, he is flawless. One trick involves taking a low-value note given to him by a punter and changing it into a high-value note ‘before your very eyes’.

Fred told me: “I took Zap to Kenya where he changed low bills into high ones and some of the guys there got a bit rough and took him outside to make him do it for all their money. And then there was the occasion with the UK celebrity where he turned £5 into £50 and the celebrity just walked off with the £50…”

Andrei Trilev got into the Chilli Piping spirit of last night’s event

Profile of publisher Andrei Trilev air guitaring

The six hour long but astonishingly fast-moving Burns Night event yesterday evening was quite something.

I was on an interesting table with, among others, Andrei Trilev, founder of the ultra-glossy Profiles magazine. He is a man unafraid to join in the fun.

And let’s not even mention the Scots croft in the foyer, the Scots castle set on stage or the live sheep.

Not surprisingly, Stuart McKenzie co-owns Ukrainian events company Pulse.

He has been in Kiev since 1994 and his company interests now include entertainment, events, logistics, marketing, property, research and training and his attitude is far from that of the cliché dour Scot.

His view is:

“The best marketers are in the game early and are always on the lookout for the next selling opportunity, the latest trend, the next unmet need. It’s enough to keep you awake at night – but from excitement, rather than from fear.

Some of The Clann members fighting during last night’s show

Some of The Clann members fighting during last night’s show

“My crystal ball has been in the repair shop for a long time. I have absolutely no inkling of what the future holds. Don’t ask me what the trends will be in 2015. I do not have a clue. I can say this, though, with absolute certainty: the future will be glorious for the optimists; the creative marketers who will set the trends and stand to profit from the opportunities that they represent!”

It was announced that, after 18 years of being involved in organising this annual Burns Night celebration in Kiev, it may be Stuart McKenzie’s last. If so, Kiev social life and local charities will be poorer for it.

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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’


“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.


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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Guinness Book of Records spurns spaghetti-juggling as “too specialised”

The ghost of late, great godfather of alternative comedy Malcolm Hardee must be turning in his urn.

The Edinburgh Fringe this August will host The Malcolm Hardee Spaghetti-Juggling Contest – Year One but, today, Guinness World Records cruelly dealt a bitter blow to spaghetti-juggling enthusiasts worldwide when they shockingly refused to recognise spaghetti-juggling as a legitimate event.

“While we certainly do not underestimate your proposal,” Guinness World Records write, “we do however think that this item is a little too specialised for a body of reference as general as ours. We receive many thousands of record claims every year and we think you will appreciate that we are bound to favour those which reflect the greatest interest.”

How can people not be fascinated or, indeed, be obsessed by spaghetti-juggling?

I am sure I read somewhere that Nero juggled spaghetti while Rome burned. He later spread the rumour he was playing the violin because he wanted to seem more cultured.

My lifelong hopes and dreams of spaghetti-juggling becoming a recognised, legitimate – perhaps even Olympic – sport may have been dented today, but they will not be so easily crushed.

Spaghetti-juggling may not be in the Olympics next year nor in 2016, but the stupidity and pointlessness of an idea should be no barrier to its acceptance as an event. This is Britain, where stupidity and pointlessness have been widely cherished for centuries. And still are.

Clay pigeon shooting.


I rest my case.

And spaghetti-juggling is an event in which Britain could take a decisive lead this August.

Throwing a javelin is a remarkably pointless thing to do in the 21st century, except possibly at Celtic v Rangers football matches. But people still get gold medals for it. Or arrested.

Spaghetti-juggling has the potential to rival javelin-throwing and curling – an Olympic sport which is basically just polishing ice as quickly as you can.

Spaghetti-juggling is the future for pointless sports. It has its days of glory ahead of it, starting this year at the Edinburgh Fringe Outside The Beehive Inn on 24th and 25th August.

Be there or risk missing the start of a cultural phenomenon.

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At the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe, two comedy debates, two bizarre live events and a two-hour variety show

Forgive me while I amiably meander in almost – but not quite – the same way as preparations for the Edinburgh Fringe meander – well, OK, they meander increasingly manically as the year progresses. Preparations for the annual August adrenaline fest normally start around December or January…

As background for what is coming, remember that, in the wonderful world of showbiz, TV shows always take precedence over live stage shows. One year, not so long ago, well after the Edinburgh Fringe Programme deadline had passed, comedian John Oliver was offered a regular spot on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in the US so, quite rightly, he decamped Stateside. He had been due to appear at the Edinburgh Fringe in his show with Andy Zaltzman in the August and was billed in the printed Programme to appear but Andy successfully carried it off as a solo show. So it all turned out well.

Pity the poor Edinburgh Fringe staff at this time of year, though – indeed, pity them at any time of year.

The Fringe this year does not start until the first week in August, but the deadline for entry into the Fringe Programme was nine days ago and yesterday afternoon at 5.00pm was the final deadline for making changes to any of the entries. The Programme is published in June.

As we are talking of Fringe performers here, chaos must have reigned all over the UK yesterday. I got phone calls from two comedians changing their show titles and wording and asking me what I thought. One of those calls was from American comedian Lewis Schaffer who, last year, managed to incorrectly bill his 7.00pm show in the Programme as a 17.00 show. What can you expect from a nation that calls mathematics “math” instead of “maths”?

Lewis reckons that it is Europe’s fault for confusingly listing 5 o’clock as 17 o’clock.

Last year, however, he miraculously managed to get a second timeslot at 7.00pm for part of his Fringe run to compensate and did two shows a day and then, when he lost the venue for the extra slot, he waited outside the venue at the appropriate time, picked up people who thought he was performing inside and dragged them off like some latter-day Pied Piper for a performance outside in another street.

Lewis is a New York Jew and he did those performance in a street opposite the main Edinburgh Mosque. I think he claimed to me at the time that this location was coincidental (and it was never referred to in his show) but I have never been too sure, as he is that rare thing: an American with a hyper-active sense of irony.

Anyway, this year it was me who had to change one show I’m putting on.

The Malcolm Hardee Awards for Comedy have been around since 2005 and, in varying ways, there have been stage shows since then in London or Edinburgh.

This year, there is going to be a two-hour Awards show – well, maybe ten minutes of actually awarding Awards in the middle of a two-hour comedy variety show – at the Edinburgh Fringe on Friday 26th August.

Until yesterday, it was going to be preceded by four nights of comedy debates – chaired by me on the Monday/Tuesday and by Kate Copstick, doyenne of Fringe comedy critics, on the Wednesday/Thursday.

At the last minute, though, a TV show to which Kate was already committed switched its recording days so she now has to be in London on the Wednesday/Thursday (and possibly also the Tuesday). She can’t do her two Malcolm Hardee Debate shows and can’t switch her two dates with mine.

So, at the last minute yesterday, I changed the Wednesday/Thursday show and its venue (don’t ask about the venue change – private grief).

Now, in the final full week of the Fringe, 22nd-26th August 2011, there will be Malcolm Hardee debates on the Monday/Tuesday evenings at The Hive, a bizarre event which I have always wanted to stage on the Wednesday/Thursday evenings in the Grassmarket and a two-hour Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards show on Friday night at The Counting House.

Alright, it means bugger all to you and I didn’t say what the bizarre event is.

But to me, this blog posting counts as a promotional pre-launch. You insert in people’s brains the vague idea that something is happening in the future, then say nothing about it for a while and then plug it increasingly nearer the time.

You have been warned.

More will follow.


Unless it all changes.

We are talking, here, after all, about the Edinburgh Fringe.

Kate Copstick should be appearing in the Malcolm Hardee Debate on Monday 22nd August. But who knows?

Any profits from the debates and from the two-hour Malcolm Hardee Awards show on Friday 26th August will certainly go to her Mama Biashara charity.

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