Tag Archives: Zoe Lyons

Real life in Kenya with Kate Copstick

katecopstick_skype_14oct2016_cutLast Friday, I recorded the weekly Grouchy Club Podcast with Kate Copstick via FaceTime.

She is in Kenya for her charity Mama Biashara.

Mama Biashara gives small grants and advice to individuals and groups so that they can start self-sustaining businesses which will allow them to climb out of abject poverty by their own hard work. 

The charity aims to “give a hand up not a hand out”.

Kate Copstick covers none of her own expenses and 100% of all money collected is spent on the charity’s work. No-one working for Mama Biashara is paid. It survives solely on donations and on sales at the Mama Biashara shop in Shepherd’s Bush, London.

These are edited extracts from Copstick’s diary over the last week.

Mama Biashara logo

THURSDAY

I am meeting Vicky, Our Lady On The Coast, to get an update on our goings-on down there and do some funding. Vicky has with her a young man who was one of our group of rent boys who wanted to ‘reform’. There is plenty of work for a fit lad on the beaches and in the bars and clubs here. But these lads wanted out of the game.

Their chosen new business was renting what they call ‘floaters’ on the beach. Happily, this turned out to be rubber rings and other swimming type floaty things. Phew!

There was a group of fifteen and they were doing incredibly well. Until some of the other boys in the ‘fun in the sea’ business decided to get rid of them. All it took was a few whispers that they were gay and they were regularly attacked and their stuff ripped to shreds.

Finally, they were set upon by a mob and one of the boys was stabbed and another burnt. Fire is huge here as an expression of displeasure. There is an epidemic of school-burnings. Pupils who are upset about anything simply set fire to their dorms and classrooms. Would never have happened at Paisley Grammar. Anyway, at this point six of the boys decided to cut and run. Well, five ran. One was in intensive care. Now they want to start another group along the coast in Watamu. It is a marvellously liberal town by Kenyan standards. They tend not to burn their homosexuals, for example.

FRIDAY

Even when Mama Biashara has no money for funding, our ladies (Vicky, Purity, Fatuma and Vixen) along with Doris, try to find ways to get women work.

For example, we have had news today that a group of our girls are going to get jobs promoting Tusker Beer and Heineken in bars around Nairobi. They get a uniform, giveaways, basic training and 800 bob a day, which is phenomenal money.

Doris had sent a letter to Tusker some weeks ago and the guy had heard about Mama Biashara and so we got in through a sort of back door. Fantastic opportunity which we are hoping will be available in other cities soon. Purity and Doris had also managed to get 18 of our ladies in the Limuru area trained up as vaccination health workers, trained to go out and give polio vaccine as and when it appears. Work like this on their parts keeps Mama Biashara going and punching well, well above her financial weight. Even the baby care in Mombasa – ladies now number in the hundreds – is almost free to run.

Today Purity came with some new groups that want funding. There is a group of ladies who have found a supplier of pepino plants. This is a South American fruit that is purported to have amazing effects on high blood pressure and is much in demand. It is part of the solanum family, grows fast and sells at premium rates. They already have customers keen to buy.

Vixen has also mobilised our groups of sugar cane juice sellers. This has turned into a huge business for us right across Kenya. She has been approached by someone on behalf of a group of fifteen young women – all HIV+ – on a place called Lusinga Island in Lake Victoria. They are sex workers because they know how to do nothing else and because there is not much else to do. But Vixen thinks they could make a really good living from sugar cane juice and has found a good, sturdy second hand machine. The ladies have also asked for as many condoms as I can send.

VIxen is lesbian and has not had an easy time. Like many many lesbian girls, she has been a commercial sex worker. You dare not show your fondness for the flatter shoe (as Zoe Lyons says) or all hell will break loose. And, talking of hell, the current educational trend is interesting…

Across Kenya, girls in their hundreds are being excluded from school, expelled, on the basis that, generally without any substantiation, the Head Teacher denounces them as lesbians and so – as we all know – worshippers of the devil. I kid you not. Worshippers of the devil. They are then expelled with a letter stating their devil-worshipping lesbian tendencies, which ensures that no other school will take them in.

It recently happened to Barbara, the daughter of my lovely friend Janet who died last year. Doris has a pile of letters from parents asking for our help and enclosing the pages of written bile. There is no appeal. We are one step away from flinging the girls, bound, into a river to see if they float. I am not quite sure what to do.

SUNDAY

Currently, the Somalis have taken over almost all the viable farms in Meru, buying them from the older farmers, or, more easily, from their widows. This is the heartland of miraa (khat, jabba, call it what you will) and it is now monoculture.

The Somali growers get the young locals to pick it. But this is picking like no picking since cotton picking in America – complete with bullwhips and sticks with which the pickers are beaten. If any of the pickers is seen eating even one single leaf of the stuff, then the overseer takes that person’s hand off at the elbow. And if it happens again, the other forearm goes. Apparently the idea is that just losing the hand is insufficiently crippling. And the local police and other authorities are simply paid to look the other way.

MONDAY

Julius brings some great news about a boy Mama Biashara set up in a water carrying business in Kawangware about two years ago.

He was bought a wheelbarrow and some jerrycans and he would go to the water point, fill up and then go around houses selling water door to door. He has now given that wheelbarrow to another young bloke and started him in a water business while the first young man now owns and runs two motorbike taxis and is in the process of getting one more. This is huge. And makes me very happy.

CONTINUED HERE


Mama Biashara survives solely on donations and on sales at the Mama Biashara shop in Shepherd’s Bush, London.

You can donate HERE.

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Sexism in comedy + a cripple, a lesbian, two ethnic minorities and a spaceman

Copstick and Faulkner podcast at the Comedy Cafe Theatre

Copstick & Faulkner podcast at Comedy Cafe

Yesterday, I blogged an extract from the latest weekly Grouchy Club Podcast, in which Comedy Cafe Theatre owner Noel Faulkner talked about smuggling 4 tons of marijuana into the US.

In another part of the podcast, this subject came up:

“… and it’s the same with female comics,” said critic Kate Copstick, “They go up on stage and you can see the whole room going: Oh, fuck! It’s going to be tampons and ‘my boyfriend’. And then the comic has got to pull the room back and that is just the way things are. There’s an awful lot of them sit around moaning because there is a type of Oh no! feeling in the room at some clubs at some times. If you’re good, you pull it back and people go: Fantastic!

“But you,” I told Copstick, “notoriously don’t like female comics… it is said.”

“I don’t like bad comics,” argued Copstick.

“I agree with you,” said Noel Faulkner.

“I don’t like obvious comics,” Copstick continued. “Tim Renkow, for example, could do eight hours straight on the cerebral palsy thing, but he doesn’t. He just talks about life, happening to have cerebral palsy.”

“If Zoe Lyons goes on stage,” agreed Noel, “bang!– 2 seconds – I’ve seen her destroy wankers, whereas some comics would say I’m not going on to these bastards. Zoe Lyons? Bang!

“You’re not looking at someone for their sexuality; you’re listening; we’re there to hear the gags. If it’s from a woman’s perspective or a minority’s perspective, that gives it a hook of some sort. It can be funny to hear their perspective. Good comics are good; bad comics are bad.

“The problem is that there’s a scarcity of good female comics, so a lot of weaker female comics get right through to television because they (TV producers) are afraid of being called sexist and, as a result, we see some very weak females on television and that does a lot of damage.”

“This,” I said, “is the Andrew Lawrence argument.”

“There is nothing more sexist,” continued Noel, “than booking someone because of their sex. If I’m booking you because you’re a female and you’re not up to it, then that’s being sexist. But tell that to a lot of people who hate me.”

Kate Copstick at the Comedy Cafe Theatre bar before recording the Grouchy Club podcast

Copstick, relaxing (?) before recording Grouchy Club podcast

“That is absolutely, absolutely right,” said Copstick. “Also, some women who are minorly funny in any way – and THIS is the Andrew Lawrence point – are being booked to go on panel shows now because panel shows are running shit-scared of not having at least one cripple, one lesbian, two ethnic minorities and a spaceman.”

“I am still,” said Noel, “waiting to get booked for the lesbian spot.”

“Well,” said Copstick, “you can play the Tourette’s card (Noel has Tourette’s syndrome) – Oh, mind you, they’d be terrified of that as well, in case you say Fuck in the wrong place.”

“That,” said Noel, “would only be when they tell me what they’re paying me.”

“But,” continued Copstick, “they say: This person of the female persuasion has once written something vaguely funny in a column somewhere. Let’s call her a female comic and we’ll get her on Have I Got The Buzzcocks For Eight Out of Ten Cats.”

“Yeah,” said Noel, “there’s a lot of good female comics… I’ve seen a lot of bitterness from comics on all sides, but I’ve had more run-ins with females than males. Because the males think: Well, I’ve got to let it go because, if I tell the guy where it’s at, then he’s never going to book me. Who is going to book someone who argues?

“And I’ve had people twist my words. I said to one girl: You should be more feminine. You’re an attractive woman. Be more feminine on stage. Of course, it was thrown back in my face later in an e-mail, when I wasn’t giving her a 20-minute booking, that I had told her she had to be ‘sexier’. Think I’m that fucking stupid? In the last three years, I’ve had three really rude females and I’ve only had one nutter guy who never even got to the club because his e-mail was so rude.”

“What is the difference,” I asked, “between being sexually attractive and being feminine?”

“Oh John!” gasped Copstick. “Wash your mouth out!… You’re just saying that to be provocative.”

“That’s a matter of taste,” answered Noel.

“What is?” I asked.

“Well,” said Noel, “you asked the question What’s the difference between sexually attractive and feminine?”

“You,” I said, “were saying Be more feminine. She was complaining about being told to be more sexually attractive.”

“Some girls,” explained Noel, “that are very attractive, dress down and say: Well, I don’t want men looking at me for my body; I want them to hear my voice.

“Well do radio,” suggested Copstick.

The successfully diversified yet slightly grumpy Noel Faulkner

The successfully diversified yet slightly grouchy Noel Faulkner

“But,” continued Noel, “I said the same thing to a guy. I said: You look like the guy who just delivered the ice! Could you, like, wear a clean shirt? It’s show-business, folks! The business of showing. When you’re on stage, it’s 90% show, 10% business. When you’re off-stage, it’s 90% business, 10% show. Get that into your thick skulls and, if you wonder why I haven’t asked you back when you come here in a dirty, smelly tee-shirt and greasy hair… Everybody in the audience has dressed themselves up for the night, they’re all looking beautiful and you put on this greasy guy. Are you charging me £15 to see this guy?

“Yes,” agreed Copstick, “because it also looks like they don’t give a shit. It’s the register of your attitude to the people you’re going to see. If you’re going to see prospective in-laws, you’d presumably smarten yourself up a bit. If you’re going to a business meeting, you’d wear…”

“If you’re from Liverpool,” Noel prompted., “and you’re going to court…”

“Exactly,” said Copstick. “What do you call a man in a shirt and tie?… The Accused… But the other thing that irritates me and you get it a lot – I don’t know why I’m on Facebook, because it just irritates me – is this thing of… Oh, somebody said (a venue said) they had two female comics on the bill and didn’t want a third. Well, if you’re doing a really mixed bill, if you already had two very heavily political comics, you probably wouldn’t book a third. If you had two guys who only do puns…”

“Yeah,” agreed Noel. “That’s why (as a booker) you always have to see the material. You mix it up. It’s like making a bloody salad. You say: How many colours have I got in this salad and…

“I’m not sure,” Copstick interrupted, “that you’re allowed to say ‘colour’ now..”

You can hear the full 36 minute podcast HERE.

And you can see the video  of a 3-minute conversation Copstick had with Noel AFTER the podcast recording ended, on YouTube HERE.

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