Friday, 11 January 2013

A Year in the Life of Lashings: “I’m so glad I live here in twenty-twelve...”

Lashings of Ginger Bee Timer
Posted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

Well, the new year is beginning to settle upon us, and the hustle and bustle of the festive season in its various forms has all but slipped away. (And because capitalism is apparently relentless in its pursuit of holiday-based profit, shops are replacing chocolate tree-decorations with the earliest Easter eggs we've ever seen.) Many of us, Lashers old and new, rung in the new year at a party that also celebrated Lashings’ fourth birthday - that’s right, on December 31st 2012, Lashings became exactly four years old. We can hardly believe it! As our gracious host Galatea said, “If it were a human being, it would be old enough to eat bread covered with colourful sprinkles and throw its own tantrums by now...” We’re also fast approaching the second birthday of this blog - January February 18th - so that’s two milestones within a month a month -and-a-half!

So, for our first long-form blog entry this year, and In the spirit of last year’s round-up post, ‘A year in the life of Lashings’, let’s have good long look at the year behind.

Lashings began 2012 with a bang, with two performances of ‘Cinderella: A Queer Sort of Pantomime’ in Oxford and London. Scripted by writer extraordinaire Galatea, positive response to the show was overwhelming! (For those who didn’t manage to see it or get the DVD, we give a synopsis in this interview.) ‘Cinderella’ also marked the Lashings debut of Cleopatra, who has since become invaluable to the collective.

March saw us performing at Linacre College’s queer feminist cabaret ‘Gender Rebels’, where we gave our first airing to an early version of Josie Long-inspired number “80s Tribute Government” as well as a sensual butch/femme dance number set to CN Lester’s cover of “I’m Your Man”. Clearly not at all tired out from our work on the panto, we also announced our plans for another show with an over-arching concept: Alternative Sex Education. An ambitious project riffing off a line from an Edinburgh review - “if only Lashings could end up on the national curriculum” - we set ourselves the task of exploring what we wish we’d been taught about sex and relationships in school (and what we really wish we hadn’t). We began fundraising online for, offering prizes such as mp3s, zines, and the recording of the panto - and surpassed our £1000 target!

In April and May we were busily working behind the scenes - and were also joined by three new Lashers! kaberett and Valentina had encountered Lashings via the London panto and fallen in love with our brand of queer-feminist joy, while long-time Lashfriend Orlando finally took the plunge several months after being invited. The run-up to saw us trialling a new way of organising rehearsals, splitting the show into distinct London and Oxford sections to allow for easier co-ordination before weaving everything back together in a weekend of brainstorming and dress run-throughs.

We premiered at OxFringe in June, featuring a plethora of new songs and sketches. Our energetic opening number, “Twenty-Twelve”, is an impassioned debate (set to the tune of West Side Story’s “America”!) about whether the modern world is a good place to be queer - with a fast group dance that has us all gasping! Carlotta’s “Bad Romance” - a critique of the relationship models in Twilight, in the key of Lady Gaga - has since proved a perennial hit, while Galatea’s hilarious “Kink Scouts” sketch was popular enough for people to request the Scouts as characters for the annual Yuletide fanworks exchange! Other fantastic new acts included Annalytica’s bittersweet satire “Don’t Know Why” (a song about the way sexual (mis)communication is encouraged in popular narratives), the educational and tongue-twisting Professor Galatea’s Eurocentric History of Western Queerdom, and Lilka’s powerfully emotive performance of two Lashings classics (a biting political version of “Acceptable” leading directly on to the dance “Our Daughters Will Never Be Free”).

July brought our second preview showing of Alternative Sex Education at the Pirate Castle in London, with a different set list. The emotional peak of the show came in linked songs about queer youth suicide “It Breaks My Heart” and “It Gets Better (Tomorrow)”, spoken and sung by Lilka and Annalytica, and accompanied by Florestan’s rich and soaring cello. Audience members (and several Lashers) were left in tears, and your correspondent on this blog is choking up just thinking about it. As the Oxford and London showings dealt with some powerful and distressing subject matter, these were the first nights where we provided trigger warnings online and on the door - which we now do for every one of our shows!

June and July were also months of travelling beyond our usual haunts -  we performed at two more Cutlery Drawer fundraisers in Cambridge and Brighton, as well as the Trans Tent at Nottinghamshire Pride. We were lucky enough to be alongside the fabulous CN Lester for the first two, and Nottinghamshire was the first time we performed with trans-feminist punk band Not Right. Not Right were due to play at Cambridge too, but unfortunately they had to drop out - which, on the plus side, led to our now-somewhat-legendary extra set MC’d by Sebastienne as Margaret Thatcher, and the best complaint we’ve ever received (“creating an unsafe space for Tories”)! New Lasher Sasha Rocket also performed for the first time when Lashings appeared at Gendered Intelligence’s fundraiser, CampOUT at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

We took to Edinburgh Fringe festival, in a long run of 3rd-17th August, performing at the now ex-Bongo Club on Holyrood Road, and spending most of our spare time advertising the show on the High Street (or “Royal Mile”). We kept the format, but played with the content. Some new things which started in Edinburgh were:
- Debuting Rob & Zim’s “Bad Touch”, which turns a filthy tune by the Bloodhound Gang into a duet about the joys of asexual relationships. (“You and me baby we’re both asexual / when I invite you up for coffee there is nothing subtextual”)
- Re-focussing “Vagina Dentata” to open the show. We removed the Disney rant and instead talked about the kind of people who say “I don’t need feminism, I have equality now”.
- After we moved that to the beginning of the show, we needed something else for our puritanical stage-invaders to object to; Sebastienne came to the rescue with two-and-a-half verses of “Wanking at Lunchtime” (to the tune of - you guessed it - “Walking on Sunshine”), a filthy-funny song about a relationship between two people with mismatched sex drives.

We lived in a top-floor flat (I don’t understand the spatial geography, but somehow, in Edinburgh, all flats seem to be top-floor-flats), 10-15 of us a night spread across 4 rooms. We were round the corner from an amazing alt pub where we ate a lot of veggie nachos, drank a lot of plum sake, and stroked a lot of dogs.

We were so excited when Galatea came to visit - she’d been responsible for kick-starting the format, and writing the first through-scripts, and we are so grateful to her for that. However, she was really ill for the duration of her stay, and was not able to perform with us once. Despite this, and despite midnight hospital trips, she managed to write us a whole new through-script for our final five shows!

Alternative Sex Education was also the last run for two of our beloved long-standing Lashers, as both Florestan and Annalytica parted ways with us to focus on their own projects. Florestan has been incredibly active in the world of music: arranging the score for the 
Better Strangers Feminist Opera Collective production of Dido (and playing Aeneas in it!), conducting a number of choirs including British Humanist Association Choir, singing with Diversity (an LGBT chamber choir), teaching music in private lessons and workshops for children, and still having time to write and arrange music for concert, theatre, and film! Annalytica has set up incredibly useful website Feminist Performers, which provides reviews, recommendations, and a calendar of feminist performance events. She has also been developing a solo stand-up act, which debuts very soon in London on January 29th at the Progressive Women Funny Fundraiser. We wish both of them the very best, and should they choose to work with us again, they will of course be welcomed with open arms! “Once a king or queen sovereign in Narnia, always a king or queen sovereign in Narnia...”

At our September AGM, we resolved on a first for Lashings: an active recruitment drive! We ran three taster sessions in different cities where we invited potential Lashers to come and meet us for some drama games, friendly conversation, and a chance to learn more about what it’s like to work with Lashings. The response was enthusiastic, and we began training up a new crop of Apprentice Lashers - some of whom are already making their mark on this very blog!

In October Lashings headed over to Revolt, a punk / riot grrl night in Coventry, organised by Ruth of the above-mentioned Not Right - we lampshaded our totally non-punk sound by beginning with acoustic happy-clappy number “Join The Fight With Me”, but ended on as loud a note as we could muster with “80s Tribute Government” (video here - sorry about the missing sound in the first verse!).

November 29th was the first gig for many of our Apprentice Lashers (affectionately nicknamed “the Lashlings”), as we led an acoustic sing-along set at a protest organised by Save The Women’s Library - featured in this video of the night.

Our final gig of the year, Lashings of Afternoon Tea Time, was a cosy and friendly Sunday at our much-loved East Oxford Community Centre, with (as you might expected) lots of tea and home-made cakes, and a chance for many of the Lashlings to show off their skills. Debut numbers included “Wannabe” (a Spice Girls parody - never let it be said that Lashings aren’t topical...) and new government-policy-themed songs “Bare Necessities” and “A Spoonful of Bullshit” (examinations from Patch and kaberett on how the welfare state is being attacked, and how those in power make such cuts palatable in the media, respectively). We also added an Avengers section to our Sci-Fi Skits, and premiered new version of “Everyone’s A Little Bit Privileged” which replaced Stephen Fry with Amanda Palmer in the position of “person we love(d) and admire(d) who failed to apologise for a hurtful privileged statement/act”.

So that was our 2012! We have a very exciting 2013 ahead, with work behind the scenes on loads of new acts, plus another big project that you’ll hopefully be hearing about very soon! We at Lashings wish you all the best for the coming year, and look forward to sharing it with you. :)

- Orlando and Sebastienne

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