Tag Archives: sexism

If you want to assault a woman and not go to prison, join an English police force

On Saturday, the Daily Mirror carried a well-researched and detailed article headlined:

MET POLICE’S SEXIST CULTURE OF PORN, BULLYING AND SEX JOKES EXPOSED
with the sub-heading:
EXCLUSIVE: Former female police officers have lifted the lid on the shocking misogyny in the police including male colleagues passing around porn and making jokes about having sex with a missing woman

It quoted former Greater Manchester Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy saying: “I have three grown-up daughters. If a member of my family was attacked, I would probably say no they shouldn’t report it. (The criminal justice system is) built on Victorian principles. It needs an overhaul.”

Susannah Fish, a former Nottinghamshire chief constable, the Mirror reported, believes that “misogyny in our police forces feed into the UK’s shockingly low rape and sexual harassment conviction rates… Misogyny is so ingrained in the decision-making… I would worry about reporting a crime against myself because I am not sure that it would be taken seriously.”

The Observer yesterday ran a piece headed:

REVEALED: THE GRIM LIST OF SEX ABUSE CLAIMS AGAINST METROPOLITAN POLICE
with a sub-heading:
The force upheld 119 cases among 600 complaints; they included an officer who was sacked after having sex with a rape victim

It included this:

“Figures from the Royal College of Policing’s current ‘barred list’ – officers who have been dismissed from a force and are banned from joining another – show that nearly a fifth of offences include abuse of position for sexual purposes, domestic violence or harassment against the public and colleagues.

“Of the 555 officers barred since the list was introduced in December 2017, more than 1,100 reasons for dismissal are listed of which more than 200 involve sexual, harassment or domestic abuse offences. Nearly a quarter of the barred officers served in the Metropolitan Police.”

Today, I read a piece in my local paper, the Borehamwood and Elstree Times, about a woman who had been sentenced to prison for assault – spitting at a Hertfordshire police officer. Admittedly spitting in someone’s face during the COVID pandemic is serious.

But a week ago, I posted a piece written by promoter Sally Homer about her niece, who had been brutally attacked and violently assaulted in the street at night in Warwickshire by a serving, off-duty West Midlands police officer.

It detailed the delay and obstruction which was encountered in trying to prosecute the police officer, despite a CCTV video (with clear sound) of the incident showing the unprovoked attack.

PC Oliver Banfield at the court (Photo by Sally Homer)

The policeman – PC Oliver Banfield – was last week found guilty of ‘assault by beating’ and sentenced at Leicester Magistrates’ Court for his attack. He was given no prison sentence. He was prosecuted in Leicester despite the fact the crime did not happen in Leicester, he does not live in Leicester and does not serve in Leicester. One can only presume this was done so as not to embarrass him in his home area. 

Instead of a prison sentence, he was given a 14-week night-time curfew and faces disciplinary action; he is still a serving police officer and avoided a community service order because it was said it would be difficult for him to work with criminals.

A propos the 14-week night-time curfew – PC Oliver Banfield’s ‘sentence’ for a violent ‘assault by beating’ – it is worth remembering that the current COVID Lockdown restrictions mean no-one is supposed to leave home unless it is absolutely necessary; all pubs, restaurants, cafes are closed except for take-aways; and all entertainment venues are closed.

I cannot see his life being affected.

Sally Homer has written this follow-up piece which discusses the PR spin (some might call it continued dishonesty) used by the police in this case.…

Sally – an expert in issuing PR statements – suggests that this piece should be a must-read for Police Communications Officers. I agree.


My niece’s attacker was sentenced on Friday. She gave an exclusive interview with Channel 4 News and the story went far and wide. This was media relations – the job I have done all my career.

On Friday afternoon both police forces – Warwickshire (investigating) and West Midlands (PC Banfield’s employer) – issued statements after C4 News invited them to respond within 24 hours.

West Midlands’ statement begins: “To protect the criminal case we’ve not been able to carry out our own misconduct investigation until its conclusion. Now sentencing has taken place, our investigation will be carried out and PC Banfield faces allegations of gross misconduct and is currently suspended.”

We were pleased to learn he had been suspended but the word ‘currently’ is deeply misleading.

We received a phone call and follow-up email from their professional standards dept on 17th February (this year) explaining that, because PC Banfield pleaded guilty, they did not have to wait until sentencing and their conduct review could begin immediately:

To clarify our conversation today I have explained that this matter is no longer Sub Judice as the officer pleaded guilty to assault and he is due to be sentenced on 5thMarch 2020. That now means we can continue with our conduct investigation which will include the review of the criminal case too.”

Did they give us false information a full month ago whilst PC Banfield remained in post (albeit on restrictive duties)?

Were they lying to the victim or misleading the public?  

Frames from CCTV video of attack by PC Oliver Banfield (6ft 2in tall) on the woman (5ft 2in tall)

Warwickshire’s statement ended:

We acknowledge that, due to internal process errors, the initial response to the report of the assault was not as swift as it should have been and an apology has been issued with regards to this. A proportionate investigation was then conducted, which ultimately led to the charge and prosecution of the perpetrator.”

A ‘proportionate investigation’ – nothing to do with the case against Banfield – was conducted into their OWN investigation because we made a formal complaint in August 2020 – that ultimately lead to the apology offered to my niece. The charge was made because we made a ‘victim’s right to appeal’ to the Crown Prosecution Service and the prosecution resulted because he pleaded guilty.  

In fact, Warwickshire Police did less than nothing to bring this case to court and this statement is deeply inaccurate and misleading.

So Police Communications Officers take note:

THIS IS HOW TO WRITE A PR STATEMENT:

  1. DON’T TELL LIES
  2. DON’T TAKE CREDIT FOR SOMETHING YOU HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH
  3. DEMONSTRATE COMPASSION

Personally, I think it is a faint hope that the police will change their ways.

Found guilty – but PC Oliver Banfield walks free (Photograph from C4 video)

Harriet Wistrich, Director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, issued the following statement:

“No wonder women are angry and protesting against male violence, misogyny in the police and across the criminal justice system.

“They are being failed by the police, failed by the CPS (the Crown Prosecution Service) and now failed by the judiciary.

“A mere curfew for a misogynist and violent crime such as this is laughable.

“We hope the police will now take uncompromising action against the officer and signal that there is no place for this conduct under any circumstances from their officers.”

Also, if you read the email received from the Police ‘Professional Standards Department’ on 17th February this year and quoted by Sally Homer, you may have noticed they said in writing: “…this matter is no longer Sub Judice as the officer pleaded guilty to assault and he is due to be sentenced on 5thMarch 2020″.

The sentencing was later delayed to 19th March. But police accuracy is somewhat called into question when they think this is 2020 not 2021…. If you want to know the time (or the facts) do not ask a policeman.   

THERE IS A FOLLOW-UP BLOG HERE

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Filed under England, Legal system, Police, sexism

The sinking of a boat in 2020 and the lesbian attack on Miss Canada in 1975

Anna Smith, uncowed by the Fraser River

My last posting here was about Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent. 

Just before Christmas, her boat – her home for the last 20 years – and all her belongings – were destroyed on the Fraser River in British Columbia – Vancouver to you and me.

The boat was destroyed partly because of sexism (as mentioned in my Christmas Day blog) but – whatever – there is currently a crowdfunder to put Anna back on her feet again. In the meantime, she is living, thanks to friends, at the Queen’s Hotel – a former strip club which stands a few blocks away from where her boat used to float.

Yesterday, she updated me on her situation and sent me a photo of herself, holding a turkey enclosed in an infant’s snowsuit.

She wrote:


Anna holding a turkey in a snowsuit

The situation is somewhat static here. The boat is still beached at low tide. Everything is pretty much shut down until Monday, as New Year’s Day was just before the weekend. 

I am still at The Queen’s Hotel in New Westminster. I used to work here for the previous owners, in the coffee shop, when the place was more a motel, and run by a quirky Croation family. 

I used to secretly call it Fawlty Sewers. 

It is now completely renovated. There is a motorcycle in the lobby for people who want to take selfies of themselves with it.

In its glory days, they had a terrific diner-style menu, featuring fresh home made pies every morning… and their famous “Skookum burger”.

Skookum is jargon word originating from the (First Nations) Chinook Language and it is in popular use here, It is one of the few words that made it into working class English-speaking vocabulary here – possibly via fishery workers.

(Skookum means impressive, exceptional or impressively strong.)

In the list of people who have donated to the crowdfunder for my boat disaster I was surprised to see the name of one lady… She is one of my former room mates when I was 18 and living in a house full of radical lesbian feminists. 

My roomate Adrienne started a lesbian courier company to deliver Chinese food for the two biggest Chinese restaurants in downtown Toronto.

The women in the lesbian house (including me – I was the youngest) ‘invaded’ the Miss Canada Pageant in November 1975 (which the U.N. had declared International Year of the Woman).

I guess it would be considered a terrorist act today.

Terry Lynne Meyer, winner of Miss Canada 1975

About twelve of us stormed into the television studio and completely disrupted the pageant which had an audience of a couple hundred people and was being broadcast live across the nation.

We were wrestled from the stage (in front of a row of twelve screaming and sobbing beauty queens) and dragged by our legs out of there.

There were photos of our leader Adrienne, raising her fist in the air, her statuesque blonde girlfriend Helen gazing at her in ecstacy, with the row of shocked beauty queens wearing identical long gowns in the background, looking on in horror, gasping, hands to their mouths…

It was quite a radical act for the time, but most of the participants just got on with their lives after that, so it wasn’t properly recorded in history books… it was before there was ‘Women’s Studies’ in universities. 

I have tried looking for a tape of it, unsucessfully, on YouTube… I think the TV station may have excised it or destroyed it.

I did find a video of the pageant continuing  to its finale, all sign of lesbian interference edited out…

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Andrew Doyle Part 2: “It’s no longer about Left and Right. That’s obsolete.”

In yesterday’s blog, writer/performer Andrew Doyle – who, for three years, co-wrote for the parody TV reporter character Jonathan Pie – talked about his new satire My First Little Book of Intersectional Activism, a faux children’s publication written in character by ‘Titania McGrath’ the ‘woke’ Feminist activist Andrew created for a parody Twitter account. He has described her as “a militant vegan who thinks she is a better poet than William Shakespeare”.

She is named after Titania, queen of the fairies in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Andrew has said “it’s quite appropriate that she is named after the queen of the fairies” because “the people who promote this hyper inclusive culture are fantasists… all of this ‘woke culture’ is an utter fantasy world”.

Andrew Doyle and Titania McGrath – No Left or Right.


JOHN: So Titania McGrath is “an intersectional warrior queen”. I am a simple soul who can’t keep up. What does “intersectional” mean?

ANDREW: Intersectionality is a branch of Feminism that originated last century with a woman called Kimberlé Crenshaw who is a legal scholar.

There was a dispute in court between General Motors and some black female employees… General Motors’ defence in court was “We are not racist, because we can point to our black male employees. And, look, we’re not sexist because we’ve got all these white women employees.”

But, of course, black women fell through the gap. 

So Kimberlé Crenshaw created this analogy of being in the middle of an intersection – a crossroads – where you can be hit by the traffic from more than one direction – in terms of race AND in terms of gender. So a black woman can be subject to racism AND sexism whereas a white woman is only subject to sexism not racism.

As a visual image and an analogy, it is very helpful. But it has now morphed into this kind of religion – a theoretical religion that effectively ends up pitting minority groups against each other – and formulating a kind of hierarchy of grievance. 

And that’s not helpful for anyone.

When I talk about intersectionality, I’m talking about the current manifestation of it, not how it was originally intended.

JOHN: Is it another word for ‘woke’?

Andrew/TitaniaMcGrath’s 2019 book

ANDREW: The evolution of Woke is really interesting. In the various Black Civil Rights struggles of the 20th century, it had a very positive meaning which was simply to be alert to injustice, especially racialism. Then it was hijacked around 2010/2011 by certain types of very intolerant, illiberal, totalitarian type of Social Justice activists and it started to mean ALL of their causes: LGBT, women, trans, everything… and opposition to freedom of speech.

So to be ‘Woke’ became something completely different.

Then, what happened was that people like me started taking the piss out of the word Woke and I (as Titania McGrath) wrote a book Woke: A Guide to Social Justice and, through Jonathan Pie, we did a live tour where there was a whole section on Woke. So you had people ridiculing Woke.

And then the next evolution was when Guardian columnists and people on the Left who had always used the word to describe themselves started pretending they never had. They did this weird revisionist thing. They started saying “Woke is just a Right Wing fantasy. It’s a word that Right Wing people and conservatives have invented to mock Social Justice and to mock Equality.”

Afua Hirsch wrote a Guardian piece saying the word Woke is only used by Right Wing people. I remember replying on Twitter with some screenshots of lots of Guardian articles where they used Woke to describe themselves.

But because Woke has been ridiculed so much, they have moved away from the word and now what you are left with is just people on the Right and conservatives who use the word as a slur.

In a sense, that’s why the new Titania book doesn’t mention Woke in the title – It’s about ‘Intersectional Activism’.

JOHN: The Contents page of the book is very interesting. It’s very rare to see Torquemada and Nelson Mandela next to Hillary Clinton and Joseph Stalin.

ANDREW: The whole point of the book is that Titania is going through the Woke icons of history: all the people she respects. Not just the obvious Woke people – like Sam Smith, Brie Larson, Greta Thunberg – alongside historical figures like Emeline Pankhurst and Joseph Stalin.

I find it incredible when Leftists do these very contorted leaps of logic in order to try to justify Stalinism.

She also has Mary Whitehouse in there because I believe the Woke movement is the obvious intellectual heir to Mary Whitehouse in terms of their belief that popular culture needs to be censored otherwise the masses will be corrupted. It’s an identical view.

Torquemada, right-on trail-blazer of Cancel Culture?

Torquemada also makes sense, because he would burn heretics at the stake if they had the wrong ideas about the world. That is Cancel Culture. He is the pre-cursor to Cancel Culture. In particular, the Inquisition targeted scientists and people who were trying to make points that didn’t ally with their world view. Nowadays, of course, activists are trying to ‘de-colonise’ science because they believe science is a Western patriarchal, heterosexist construction and the phrase they use is “New ways of knowing”.

We talk about this ‘Post Truth’ Society. If you think about the way Donald Trump will deny something he said last week, when anyone can just go to YouTube and SEE and HEAR that he said it… It’s incredible. And that is exactly what is happening among the Leftist Identitarians.

A few weeks ago, CNN did a report from Kenosha, Wisconsin, saying “These are largely peaceful protests” and, in the background were burning buildings and burning cars.

JOHN: You identify as Left Wing…

ANDREW: I don’t identify as anything, really. Objectively speaking, a lot of my views particularly when it comes to the economy and the Welfare State are on the Left. I suppose I have more culturally conservative ideas about education and the Arts, but then so did George Orwell and no-one accused him of being a rabid Right Winger.

There are some good ideas on the Left, some good ideas on the Right. As long as you’re not enslaved to an ideology, you’ll be able to recognise them. If you ARE enslaved to an ideology, then you are not thinking for yourself. You’re taking your cues from an existing set of rules and I don’t trust that.

JOHN: I blame the French for Left and Right and making it seem like it’s about opposites. I always think of it as a circle.

ANDREW: A lot of my friends on the Left see the Woke movement as a bourgeois luxury. It’s no longer about Left and Right. That argument is obsolete. But people are stuck in this mindset of what Left and Right used to mean about 40 or 50 years ago.

Titania’s latest book… Coming next year will be Andrew’s own Culture War book

JOHN: Why did you stop co-writing Jonathan Pie? An argument?

ANDREW: No. I did it for three years. I don’t believe in doing things for too long. I don’t anticipate Titania McGrath going on for much longer. If it does, it’ll have to develop into something else.

JOHN: So what next that will be intellectually stimulating for you?

ANDREW: Well, at the moment, I’m writing a book about the Culture War. It will be out in Spring 2021. That’s a non-fiction book and it’s my big focus at the moment. Trying to encapsulate what I’ve been writing about for the last five years, really. But where we are now and where we go from here.

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An amoral legend of ITV in the 1980s…

My commented-upon 2011 blog

Back in the mists of 2011, I blogged about Malcolm Leach, a legendary if decidedly amoral figure in the on-screen promotion departments of independent television companies in the 1980s, breaking hearts and making trailers for programmes.

I mentioned his exploits included trying to buy a regional ITV franchise and persuading an existing ITV company to rent him a car, then selling it without telling them.

In 2012, someone called Jamie spotted the blog and commented:


I knew Malcolm Leach in the early 1990s and I have many fond memories of him. I just happened to think of him this afternoon – I don’t know why – and so my Googling has led me here. It would be a shame if he were no more, yet no surprise. 

The last time I saw Malcolm he was running a pub in Clifton. This would have been around 1993. I went over to visit, with my brother. 

Malcolm knew that I liked a drink back then, and he poured me a pint of cider which, in retrospect, was probably about 12%. An elderly gentleman seated at the bar said to me: “If you drink that, you won’t walk out of here.” 

Malcolm simply said: “Pay no attention to him, Jamie. He has angina and so may die at any moment.”

He cackled with laughter and lit one of his untipped fags. I drank the cider and another one too. And that is the last memory I have of that day and, sadly, of Malcolm.


Malcolm Leach got around, in more ways than one.

In 2014, itinerant voice-over announcer Keith Martin commented on my blog:


I met Malcolm. It could have been at HTV… but was it at Anglia, TVS or Southern?. Could it have been at Rediffusion or Thames or LWT? Perhaps it was at Border, Channel or even ATV? How about Yorkshire, not forgetting BFBS TV? I wish I could remember. Help!


More recently, ex-promo person Simon Kennedy spotted my blog and commented:


I remember from my time at TEN: The Entertainment Network:

The wonderful world of futuristic television channels in 1984

TEN went on air on the night of the 29th of March 1984. The launch party was held at The Kensington Roof Gardens with a feed from the satellite to the screens set up around the room. Industry figures from film and television were on the guest list, as well as our VIP, Superman actor Christopher Reeve. 

Champagne flowed as we headed towards the eight o’clock lift-off. 

Malcolm had prepared a ‘Countdown to TEN’, featuring clips taken from cinema trailers of movies with numbers in their titles. Ten was “10”, and so on, until seven, which used a clip from Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. 

Standing between me and the monitor were a group of executives from Disney. The moment Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs hit the screen, they went into a huddle and left even before the end of the promo. No-one else seemed to notice this departure and a cheer went up from the guests as we headed into the first film. The festivities kept going into the night.

The next morning we were understandably late into the office, but Malcolm was nowhere to be found. It seems that the previous night, even before the party wrapped up, we received a communication from the Walt Disney company. 

Malcolm had not cleared the use of any of the clips assuming that, just because he could rent the trailers from National Screen Service, he could include them. And, with that, he drove another shiny nail into his own coffin. 

Disney now demanded that not only did we have to write a grovelling public letter of apology, we also had to put out an announcement on air that day stating we didn’t have the rights to show the clip, that we would not be showing Snow White, nor would we ever be showing Snow White. The hung-over Malcolm was dispatched to make up the announcement and get it on air as soon as possible.

Malcolm lasted a further month at TEN. 

Still I ate well – and often – at L’Escargot (the very expensive restaurant) on his expenses.


I thought Simon might have more anecdotes about Malcolm, so I Skyped him. Before talking to him, I looked up Malcolm Leach on the internet and there was a letter in The Guardian in 2001 from him.

Ex-Granada person David Liddiment started at their on-screen Promotion Dept in Manchester (where Malcolm had worked), then became executive producer on Coronation Street 1987-1991, Head of Entertainment at the BBC 1993-1995 and ITV Director of Programmes 1997-2002.

In 2001, he criticised BBC TV for not fulfilling its cultural responsibilities, which Malcolm took exception to. He wrote to The Guardian:


David Liddiment’s remarks put me in mind of Tom Lehrer’s observation that satire died the day Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel peace prize.

Having spent my working life in the same medium as David, I have never known him troubled before by such lofty concepts as “soul, individual acts of creation and communication: ideas, scenes and spectacle shared with an entranced and receptive nation”. Having presided over ITV’s slide from the mediocre to the downright pathetic, he is perhaps the last person to start lambasting the BBC.

Malcolm Leach, Bath


So he was alive and thriving in 2001.

And I Skyped Simon Kennedy to see if he knew more…


Simon: “There are a lot of stories you can’t blog about…”

SIMON: The last time you and I talked was about 30 years ago at TVS.

JOHN: I guess… So… Malcolm was a bit of a character…

SIMON: (LAUGHS)

JOHN: What are some of the other Malcolm stories?

SIMON: Well, there are a lot of stories you can’t blog about, because some of the people are still alive. (I HAVE CHANGED ALL THE NAMES IN WHAT FOLLOWS)

Dick Waterstone had employed Malcolm at Granada in Manchester and mistakenly took him under his wing. When Dick got the job as Head of Presentation and Promotion at TEN The Entertainment Network, he took Malcolm down to London. 

Malcolm had a very pretty young wife whom we met once but who was then bundled up back in the train to Manchester and remained there while Malcolm began to pick off the women friends of his younger promo producers.

There were about three of us in our early twenties. Pete Beacham had a friend called Sarah, whom Malcolm took a fancy to and they were a little bit of an item for a time until she discovered about the wife up in Manchester.

We then had screaming phone calls coming into the TEN offices. “No, Sarah, Malcolm isn’t here right now. No, really.”

To go into an edit suite and watch a man swigging wine and chain-smoking Gitanes at eleven in the morning was something in and of itself. But it was the Disney thing which finally did for him.

JOHN: He seemed to be irresistibly attractive to women for some bizarre reason. Maybe it was the ‘bad boy’ image.

SIMON: It must have been that. He was one of the most remarkably ugly men I can ever remember meeting.

JOHN: I just remember him as being a bit chunky and shapeless.

SIMON: He was a pain-in-the-ass to work for – he was my boss – because he was so mercurial. ‘Hot and cold’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. 

The last I heard of him must have been in 1984 when he was given the bum’s rush from TEN and we had one very quick drink before he announced he would be leaving us. He didn’t tell us why. He said he was going to go over and meet his good mate Raúl Castro in Cuba, because he was good friends with ‘the Castro boys’. And that was the last I heard of him. Whether he’s still with us, God only knows.

JOHN: Someone definitively told me he was dead. Though maybe he is going to reappear in Cuba, having conned his way into power. Nothing would surprise me.

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Filed under 1980s, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Television

Becky Fury + the creepy clown sex cult

As if she had not suffered enough, Becky risked all by travelling on a rare Thameslink train

So I got an email from Malcolm Hardee Award winning comic Becky Fury. It read:

“Do you want to do a blog about this creepy clown sex cult that I narrowly avoided joining?”

Well, obviously, there is only one answer to a question like that.

I was, to an extent, however, literally laid low with a spinal problem, so the ever-plucky Becky – rather than talk to me over Skype – decided to risk the wild uncertainties of train travel by Thameslink and the physical risks posed by my coughing fits and nose sniffles to come up to my home in Borehamwood.

This is how the conversation went…


JOHN: A clown sex cult?

BECKY: There was a clowning course. All sex cults need a good USP.

JOHN: How did you find them?

BECKY: He found me.

JOHN: Who?

BECKY: The guru.

JOHN: There’s a guru?

BECKY: Of course. All sex cults need a guru.

JOHN: And his selling point as a Messiah is…?

BECKY: That he has a clown school in a European city.

(NOTE TO READERS – THIS IS NOT, REPEAT NOT, IN PARIS)

BECKY: It seemed to have lots of interesting teachers. But I started getting suspicious when he started offering me a very reduced fee. Also I did an interview online and he wanted to re-name me.

JOHN: To what name?

BECKY: (LAUGHS) Miss Behave.

JOHN: (LAUGHS) Did you point out there is already a well-established Miss Behave?

BECKY: I didn’t want to give him any more information.

JOHN: But you wanted to be a clown?

Becky having a happier time in Borehamwood

BECKY: No. That’s the thing. I didn’t want to be a clown and certainly not using the name of someone who was already using that name. I had wanted to learn some techniques. There are always interesting things you can learn from people who are masters of their arts. But he sent me a list of classes that would take place and they included things like ‘Oil Massage’ which I thought maybe should not be on the syllabus for a Clown Course.

JOHN: Maybe all clown courses have it… Maybe Gaulier in Paris has a…

BECKY: No, I don’t think his is a sex cult; more a hate cult.

JOHN: Well, he allegedly breaks you down to build you up. A bit like Charles Manson.

BECKY: Well, this clown cult guy kept re-using the term ‘Family’… and also the word ‘polyamory’. The guy is from the 1960s, so he’s the sort of guy that took a load of acid, ’freaked out’, then became a ‘clown’.

JOHN: I still don’t understand how you got into this. You saw an ad somewhere?

BECKY: No. he found me. He was a Facebook Friend and he contacted me and said he was interested in stuff he had seen I was doing and he thought maybe I would want to attend his course. It all seemed very innocent to start with. But I said I didn’t think I could afford £3,000 for the month’s course. So he said: “What about £1,500? It’s not about the money; it’s about who we get on the course.”

And then he dropped the cost again and I thought: Well, what’s the exchange here? What am I going to have to do? How am I going to be paying?

Becky Fury minting it – but only with chocolate coins

This was just before the Edinburgh Fringe, so I was very distracted. He kept asking me to go on the course, then I got one last message from him and then suddenly I got contacted by another woman who was a clown and it turned out she was his wife. And she was saying: “Well, actually, it’s going to be £3,000.”

So I think I had done something to piss him off. And then there were some other women he was involved with. And then there was an email from another woman basically accusing him of being exactly what I thought he was: that he was this kind of very controlling guru who basically got lots of weak women to come to what was billed as a clown course but basically it was a sex cult.

JOHN: But you are only surmising.

BECKY: Yes.

JOHN: What was the ‘sell’?

BECKY: He said he wanted to direct me in a show and then have me go round Europe saying, “I am the protégée of (HIS NAME),” and all his clown mates would think: That sexy woman? What a fucking man he is! He’s moulded this woman; she’s doing his bidding. It’s a big male ego trip and I’ve had that before. There was another older comedian – a British one. His thing was he wanted me to be his protégée and have everybody saying about him: “Oh! Wow!” 

This recent guy was wanting to change what I was doing. I said: “No. I do comedy… I don’t want to go round Europe doing ‘clowning’. I want to go on the course and learn interesting techniques that I can put into what I do… not be something that you’ve created.”

JOHN: What’s the difference between Comedy and Clowning?

BECKY: Well, you can use aspects of clowning in comedy. It’s just that heightened quality of performance… Well, it’s basically just fucking around, isn’t it?

JOHN: Can I quote that?

Becky knows a thing or two about… erm… messing about…

BECKY: Yeah. That’s all it is. That’s another reason I didn’t go. I’ve done bits of clowning before and really all it is is just fucking about. You need to get yourself in the zone of just fucking about. There are courses on how to be ‘stupid’ and how to ‘uncover your inner fool’. But all of these things are about remembering how to play. And that’s what comedians do. They play – mainly with language a lot of the time.

I’m kinda fed up with these older men wanting to use me to be some kind of extension of themselves.

JOHN: To create through you.

BECKY: Yeah.

JOHN: Those who can do and those who can’t manipulate.

BECKY: They end up using you as a vessel for their thwarted youth – and they get off on it as well, because it’s a male thing. I’ve had this before. I’ve already had that one guru. He did a lot of stuff that was very manipulative and controlling. A lot of the time with these old men that go out with younger women, the reason they do it is some inadequacy of theirs that they don’t want women of their own age to pick up on. So they’ll go for women that are young and naive who think: Oh, wow! This guy is really sorted! when, actually, he’s just a dickhead.

I’m not making any moral judgment. I think it’s just an interesting aspect of humanity.

JOHN: Randy men?

BECKY: Randy clowns.

JOHN: You could have formed a double act: Randy & Miss Behave 2.

BECKY: In a way I would like to have had time to find out what was actually going  in the clown sex cult.

JOHN: But?

BECKY: Unfortunately we only have a finite amount of time on this planet and I have a new comedy show to write for the Leicester Comedy Festival. Anyway, after all that, I never heard from him again.

JOHN: Perhaps you will. Perhaps, one day, there will be a knock on your door and standing there will be a man in a red nose wearing long floppy shoes and beeping a horn at you.

BECKY: Mmmm… Different type of clown.

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What the Dutch are really like – by a London-based American comic…

London-based American globetrotting comedy and burlesque performer Lynn Ruth Miller, 85, has briefly returned to the UK from Amsterdam where, below, she found time to jot down a few generalisations.

Don’t blame me!

Lynn Ruth in Amsterdam (Photograph by Neil Robinson)


I believe women in the UK are the most advanced thinkers in the world: liberal, open-minded, ambitious and proud of who they are.

But they cannot hold a candle to Dutch women.

The girls in Amsterdam do not take shit from anyone. They ride their bicycles in their fancy dresses and their sensible shoes (no helmets). They pay their own way and do not consider it polite for you to offer to treat them: they call that patronizing.

They are gorgeous, tall, blonde and independent. They tell you exactly what they think. They are NEVER wrong. AND they are loyal to each other. Do not ever try to criticize someone’s friend here; you will be ground to dust. I find that comforting. I am always sticking my foot in my mouth or stumbling into the wrong opinion but I know my buddies here will protect me and stand behind me, even though they might call me later to tell me what an idiot I am.

My generation – fools that we were – believed women’s work is to cook, clean and pick up after men and children. Not the girls in Amsterdam. You cook for yourself here and take responsibility for your own mess… no-one else’s. What a freedom!!!

The Dutch respect individuals’ right to make decisions about their own bodies in this country. My darling friend Nina is an abortion doctor. If you forgot the morning-after pill or the condom broke, she will help you set things right. Euthanasia is legal here as well. It is a comfort to me to know that, if I start getting loopy, one of my friends can ship me over to Amsterdam and, with a little heroin and a lot of wine, I can cross over to the other side. Just like that.  

No lingering around, helpless and drooling, for me.  

Amsterdam is a delightful city, vibrant and filled with interesting things to see and do, but the local food is execrable. These people love fries drenched in mayonnaise and greasy frikandel, a hot dog filled with greasy chicken, pork and veal, deep-fried and smothered in curry ketchup or applesauce. Everyone here loves pancakes with lots of sugar and anything not sweetened is deep-fried. If that isn’t horrifying enough, the Dutch love candy sprinkles on toast for breakfast. No wonder the incidence of diabetes has spiked here and so has obesity.

Dutch parents are known to take their children to an abandoned place like a forest, give them a sandwich and a bottle of water and let them find their own way home. They call this “Dropping” and it is a beloved tradition here. One Dutch woman put it this way: “You are literally dropping your kids into the world. Of course, you make sure they won’t die, but other than that, they have to find their own way.”

I personally have been trying to find my own way for 85 years 11 months now. No luck so far.

Lynn Ruth’s venue for five nights in Amsterdam…

I was in Amsterdam to perform at its famous Comedy Café, where I was to headline for four days and feature for one. On the way there, on my first night, I passed several coffee shops where the smell of pot almost literally knocked me off my feet and, when I looked inside, I realized that the only people there were tourists. The Dutch do not smoke weed. They prefer something stronger like cocaine or meth.

And they aren’t very fond of tourists either. Last year alone there were more tourists in Amsterdam than there are people in all of Holland. They clog the streets and pee in flower boxes. They also spend billions on trinkets and nonsense that boosts the economy and the Dutch love money. The only thing they hate about the Euro is spending it.

My first night was a Tuesday and the audience was sparse and a bit of a challenge. They were from everywhere in the world, but very few had English as their first language. Getting a laugh is not easy when your audience is processing what you say and translating it back into their own tongue. What I do in that situation is talk slowly and pause after my punch lines. Amy Schumer gave me that advice at least twelve years ago: “When you say something funny, WAIT. Then, they will figure out that they are supposed to laugh.”

And, in Amsterdam at least, she has proven right.

The lovely thing about returning here so many times (this is my fifth visit) is that I see the same comedians and each time I see how they have sharpened their jokes and improved their timing. I also hear comedians that have not changed their set in years and I have heard them say the same thing so much I can chime in on their punch lines.

I get the problem. It is really difficult to carve out a never-fail joke and, when you finally get one and get the timing just right, you are loathe to let it go. It is exactly the same philosophy as allowing your child to make his own mistakes. He will often make a bit of a mess at first but eventually he figures it all out.  

A new joke needs understanding, love and persistence. You have to prune it and rearrange the words. You have to figure out the pauses and the emphases. But for most of us the agony of a silent audience, if we don’t get it right, is too painful. We are terrified to take a chance. So we stick to the winners for years and years and years.

Dutch audiences are very forgiving and very kind. They do not follow a particular comedian unless is he is wildly famous and I do not play in those big name expensive clubs that feature TV stars. In the places I perform, the audience come to have an affordable night out and a good laugh. The line-up means nothing to them and they rarely remember you from one show to another.

Next week, I am in Farfa, Italy, where I will stay in a monastery and show the nuns what they are missing.


(NOTE: Euthanasia is currently only legal in Holland in cases of “hopeless and unbearable” suffering.)

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Some sexual and sectarian attacks on female comics at the Edinburgh Fringe

Performing at the Edinburgh Fringe is an emotional strain on all performers but, in one way, perhaps more for female performers.

Yesterday’s blog mentioned Samantha Pressdee and her show Covered (in PQA Venues @ Riddle’s Court), which is largely about mental health.

Last night, she posted this on her Facebook page:


My night has ended with the police. I’m very grateful to the transport police. As I was entering Waverley Station to get my train back to where I am staying a man touched me.

I was just walking past and he grabbed my hand which was on my breast because I was holding my backpack straps. I just screamed at him “WHAT THE FUCK, YOU DON’T TOUCH WOMEN AT NIGHT!” (Or in the day. I was in distress. It’s scarier at night on my own.)

Some station staff asked me if I was OK and I said: “It’s fine, he just touched my hand.” Then I realise he is following me, cocky in his body language and pouting his lips suggestively. I just started screaming at him that he was a disgusting pervert and, thankfully, the police were there and went after him. I thought, based on previous experience, There is no point making a statement, but they said the laws are different in Scotland. He could be charged with threatening behaviour. So I will make a statement.

It is not OK to just randomly touch a woman in the street anywhere on her body, EVER. It is this kind of entitlement some people seem to think they have to our bodies that drove me to become a free the nipple activist. My body is not for male gratification. My body is mine.


Meanwhile, it was a fairly normal day for Janey Godley.

In her bestselling 2005 autobiography Handstands in the Dark, she wrote about how her uncle sexually abused her from the age of 5 to 13. She successfully got him prosecuted and jailed 30 years later.

Janey was brought up in a Protestant family. Her uncle was a member of the Orange Order. She faces endless ongoing online sectarian and sexual attacks with occasional death and rape threats from men – often supporters of the Rangers football team (Rangers is traditionally a Protestant team; Celtic is traditionally a Catholic team). 

Given that Janey was brought up Protestant and is, as far as I know, an atheist, the sectarian attacks on her as a Catholic are particularly bizarre.

The example below is a fairly mild version of what she gets.

Yesterday, she Tweeted a 1920 photo of the Edinburgh street where she is currently living during the Fringe and got a response.

Janey’s response?

“A Rangers fan is angry at a street and thinks I am a Catholic. Poor Blair Muircroft. Imagine being this angry on a Sunday morning.”

The last laugh (if that is the correct word) goes to Janey.

Because, also yesterday, her Fringe show at The Counting House got a 4-star review from Broadway World which ended:

“As ever, her show is completely free to attend and filled on a first-come-first-served basis. Many are turned away each day, so early queueing is strongly advised – up to an hour before being guaranteed entry.”

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In Edinburgh, Becky Fury finds the Spirit of Comedy may have Alzheimer’s

This year’s Edinburgh Fringe started on Wednesday – or yesterday – or possibly today – depending who you are and with whom you are performing.

I am not going to be in Edinburgh for the Fringe but, already, people are telling me what is happening up there. For example, Malcolm Hardee Award winning Becky Fury, who is up there 3rd-25th August performing Becky Fury’s One Hour to Save the World (in 55 Minutes)

This is her Diary so far…


THURSDAY

I arrive in Leith.

I am sitting outside the digs waiting for my host to arrive.

An elderly neighbour pops outside to enquire as to ‘who I am’. An existential question with infinite answers but in this instance I choose to tell him I’m performing at the Festival and I’m waiting for a friend to let me in to the house where I’m staying. 

He seems more than satisfied with this explanation and tells me there is a key hidden under the mat and I can let myself in. I decide this is poor etiquette and decide to wait for my friend. 

It turns out that was the right decision as, when she arrives and I tell her about the friendly elderly neighbour, she tells me she does not have an elderly neighbour and it turns out I was sitting in front of the wrong house.

The old man either has Alzheimer’s or is an arch prankster. 

I would like to think, as I am at a comedy festival, that it is the latter and I have just been welcomed into my new home by the Spirit of Comedy, an archetypal trickster greeting me with all the possibly comic chaos that could ensue.


FRIDAY

Arriving at the venue – Upstairs at the Waverley Bar – we are informed we have to fetch some chairs. We are part of PBH’s Free Fringe.

An interesting discussion ensues with me telling the boys, as banter, that they should carry more chairs than the girls. They look quite hurt. 

I am guessing they are aware of the current bias towards female comics and are feeling that, if they are going to take second place to them, they don’t want to carry all the chairs for their audience to sit on too.

I am in the mood for banter rather than feminist hectoring but I mine the latter for comedic potential and point out that men are physically stronger than women and should accept and capitalise on that or risk becoming a completely obsolete technology and they need to carve some kind of niche for themselves in a world where jars come with a vacuum seal.

To illustrate my point, I say I am carrying three chairs, so the biggest of the lads should take at least four chairs. I size up the smallest guy and offer to carry his chairs for him and give him a piggy back.

Later at the venue a competition ensues with another comedian about who has had the most threesomes; I win, without even needing to resort to the less salubrious back catalogue of tales I have collected. 

The discussion then returns to walking to the venue with the chairs. 

He informs me he did it with six chairs. 

My metaphorical dick is very tired from all the swinging it has been doing this morning, so I allow him that victory. 

I love all the comedians in my venue.

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Jewish comic Lynn Ruth Miller on Hanukkah in Germany and #MeToo

London-based American comedian Lynn Ruth Miller continues to guest-blog here as she tours the world. Last week, she was in Germany…


Manuel Wolff invited Lynn Ruth to his Boing Club in Cologne

I flew to Cologne to perform at Manuel Wolff’s Boing Comedy Club.

75 years ago, to say the very name ‘Germany’ made my family cringe.

Now, in 2018. I was celebrating my version of Chanukah in that very country and loving it. It is a new world isn’t it?

Lisa, Manuel’s assistant, and I walked the lovely, clean streets sparkling with holiday lights… December in Cologne is alight with Christmas though, to my surprise, I didn’t see a menorah anywhere. Are the Jews still in hiding there?

Since Lisa and I are liberated, modern women, our conversation crept to the big issue women are facing today: the #metoo movement. Our concerns were women’s status in the arts and how we can achieve a level playing field in our professions. Our conversation was especially interesting to me because Cologne was the start of the outrage that blossomed into #metoo. Remember?

New Year’s Eve 2016 in this city, hordes of North African men assaulted white women who were out on the town, celebrating. The press blamed it on the discrepancy between western cultural mores and those in Africa.

“The relationship with a woman, so fundamental to Western modernity, will long remain incomprehensible to the average [refugee or migrant] man,” declared Algerian author Kamel Daoud in Le Monde.

But the #metoo movement has confirmed that it isn’t men of color or rich men or poor men; it is MEN who use women as toys. And that sweeping statement is the root of everyone’s uncertainty about the validity of this plethora of women who have accused men of sexual assault in their past. Every rational person knows that it is only the attitudes of  SOME men, but certainly not ALL of them.

“The fact that sixty years separate us made no difference”

Lisa and I discussed the opportunities for woman to achieve prestige and affluence as easily and quickly as men in Germany and the UK. Both of us are in fields where inequality of opportunity is most apparent. The fact that sixty years separate us made no difference. We two were fighting the same anger. We both have experienced gross injustice in the system, limiting the progress we were trying to make in our careers.

I often wonder if these glass ceilings are more excuses we make for people simply not appreciating our talents. The answer is that it is impossible to be sure.

Statistics certainly support the theory that women have less of a chance to progress in any field or earn as much income for the same work. To me, just being aware of this and talking about the insult that creates is a huge step forward. In my day, this dichotomy was simply accepted. It was a man’s world.

After we finished trying to fix society, I went to my hotel, took a nap and tarted-up for my headline performance at Manuel’s Boing Comedy Club.

The show Manuel creates is fast-paced, professional and funny. He is a superb host and knows just how much to involve his audience, who are mostly German but fluent in English with a mixture of English-speaking students and a smattering of people from all over the globe. The comedians made a point of coming up to me and introducing themselves to me. The audience loved to laugh and the comedian who preceded me was so professional I was terrified to have to follow him His name was David Deeblew. He finished his act by juggling plastic bags in the air while he spoke. I am someone who can barely walk in a straight line when I am sober. You can imagine how intimidated I felt.

Headlining at a show with two intervals means that I must amuse a pretty drunk and very tired audience. Thank goodness it worked and everyone laughed (or I THINK they did. My hearing is definitely NOT what it used to be).

The best part of the evening, though, was afterwards.  

Lynn Ruth and the godfather of stand-up comedy in Germany

All the comedians stayed afterwards to drink and talk about anything and everything. One of the people who stayed was Johnny ‘Hollywood’ Rotnem, an American who is the so-called godfather of English stand-up comedy in Germany. He was the one who started the clubs that are now all over the country. Comedy in German has really taken off here despite the fact that everyone thinks Germans do not have a sense of humor. The number of successful clubs in the country proves that stereotype wrong.

I will be back in Germany soon to do Andy Valvur’s club at Fiddlers Pub in Bonn. Andy is a former San Francisco comedian who knows all the people who were the big names in comedy when I was there.  

We had a place called The Holy City Zoo where Robin Williams among many others cut their teeth on stand-up comedy. Famous people like Will Durst, Johnny Steele, Larry Bubbles Brown, Michael Meehan… all of them began there.

Andy came to my show at Boing Comedy and I felt like I was experiencing a bit of comedic history when I spoke to him about how comedy has expanded, improved and changed.  

Comedians today no longer stick to the rigid set-up/punch-line formula.  I think that is a mistake. Too many words spoil the joke just as too many cooks spoil the broth.

The next morning, I had to get up early to catch the plane to Frankfurt for my two-day comedy workshop and show.

After I arrived in Frankfurt, I crashed until 3.00 pm, then set out for the comedy class. This was a group of ten people who had tried comedy before and wanted a boot-camp kind of refresher. They were from a variety of countries and only two of them spoke English as their first language.  

It must be unbelievably difficult to do humor in a different language from your own, but these people were up for it and all their jokes had huge potential. The two hour class actually lasted four hours but I am satisfied that we gave everyone the personal attention they needed.  

The next day, their assignment was to bring in five minutes of material to practice for a show that night. I thought these people had huge potential and I was very excited to see what the result would be of our intensive joke analysis.

Four of the students joined me for dinner after the show and I got to know them a bit better.  

“It felt like a meeting of the United Nations all drinking beer”

In the group was Tom from Finland, Pedro from Portugal, Julian from Germany, Clem, a lovely woman from France, Kirthy from India and me from America. It felt like a meeting of the United Nations all drinking beer together and talking about comedy as a profession even though all of the others work at other jobs. We drank a lot of alcohol. It helped.

The next day was our final class and then the show. We all critiqued each other and, to my delight, all the criticisms incorporated what I had taught: short set ups, strong punches, direct sentences.

The group not only had to master language differences but they had to let go of material they loved that wasn’t working well. They did it and the show was great.  We all went out for dinner afterwards to celebrate.

I had a 7.00am flight back to London and had to battle the German version of Ryanair. For some unknown reason, my backpack registered something lethal and not only did they keep me standing for a half hour waiting for the police to come but, when the officious inspector went through the backpack, he just tossed everything in a pile and let me put everything back together. Of course, there was nothing in the bag but a notebook of jokes, a lot of tissues (just in case) and an American passport.

That might have been what set the detector off. America is not popular these days.

The incident was truly minor, but I was terribly upset and couldn’t seem to regain my equilibrium.

I suspect this is why psychological warfare is so effective. I had done nothing but was made to feel like a dangerous criminal.  

The good news is that the rest of the trip home was lovely and I managed to get through UK passport control relatively quickly and home to bed because I had to get to Top Secret Comedy Club that night.

Which I did.

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Kate Copstick in Kenya on news you tend not to see reported on BBC TV

Kate Copstick, as seen by Joanne Fagan

Comedy critic and journalist Kate Copstick flew to Nairobi last Wednesday to work with her Kenya-based charity Mama Biashara.

These are her first diary entries from there. I have edited them. Full versions on her Facebook page.


THURSDAY

The market is not busy and my chums there are variously exercised by 

  1. the new fuel tax – 16% – which is having catastrophic effects for them 
  2. the ghastly goings on in Kisumu (see below) 
  3. the riots/killings/house burnings in various areas across the country – all tribal related 
  4. the Chinese and the fact that Kenya is now up to and past its nipples in debt to them. Hence the 16% fuel tax to help Uhuru pay off the 122 billion Kenya shillings that he owes them (payable by 2021) 

The telly is on and the news is covering the hideous rape and murder of a seven months pregnant student in Kisumu. Who just happened to be having an affair with the Governor of Kisumu. After having an affair with his son. She got pregnant and eventually, for various reasons, she forwarded all their texts to his wife and was going to go public with all the gossip when she was kidnapped in a car belonging to said Governor, raped and stabbed multiple times by three goons. 

Now this is bad enough. But as we watch, Mama Bishara helper David voices the opinion of (as helper Felista confirms) “Kenyan men”. 

“She made her cross,” he says forcefully. “How can a woman have sex with a man and then another man and then go to another man? She has brought this on herself. This is what happens.” 

The man at the next table is nodding. 

FRIDAY

I fail miserably to get up early and do lots of sorting out. But I do some and then head off to town to meet Doris and a load of lady hawkers with problems. No one chooses to be a hawker. But 60% of the Nairobi population – SIXTY PER CENT – live in what the government choose to call ‘the informal sector’. Slums. Some worse than others. They cannot afford a shop, or a stall so they hawk.

Now that used to be difficult enough but the new Governor of Nairobi, Mike Sonko, elected very much on a “man of the people” ticket, has turned out to be a man of very different people from the huddled masses he claimed to represent. 

Mike is a man of Big Business People.

So it frequently goes like this … 

I have a tiny stall at a roadside in my area. Two things can happen: the government demolishes it to make space for widening a road or making another highway and adding to the Chinese debt OR Mike’s men demolish it because we are not liking the look of the small businesses cluttering the roadsides with their thoughtless attempts at fending off starvation and keeping a roof over their family’s heads.

So, because I cannot trade up and get a formal stall or shop, I trade down and hawk… walking around with my wares (and my young children) or putting my stuff (and my young children) on a sack on a pavement. 

The best prices and highest demand are in the City Centre. Where Mike has just banned hawking. Cue the City Council goons scenting blood and prisons full of old ladies who have been selling carrots or tea at the roadside. 

We are meeting fifteen lady hawkers in town. We start to assemble at the top of Tom Mboya Street in a tiny area which has been deemed safe for hawkers as long as they pay an ‘informal fee’ to the City Council collectors. 

However, it seems that today is a ‘swoop’ day and shrieks from around the corner and a rush of running hawkers tells us the City Council have decided that the informal fee does not work right now and are arresting, confiscating and beating at will. So we run and reassemble across the road. 

I say run. The old lady on crutches goes as fast as she can, the two carrying toddlers waddle and the heavily pregnant girl trots. But, outside, the women are still frightened. So we go to a little cafe. We are safe inside.

… CONTINUED HERE

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