Posted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time
A week ago on Tuesday, Lashings performed at the NUS Women's Conference in York - a night we also chose to officially launch our crowdfunder for taking Fanny Whittington to Edinburgh this year! Valentina, Astra, and Cleopatra share their feelings on the gig.
We were utterly overwhelmed at the reception - 200+ noisy, enthusiastic, fast-tweeting, colourfully dressed and well-informed feminist activists, fresh from a long day of discussion and planning, looked absolutely delighted to see us. They cheered and laughed from the moment three Tories jumped onto the stage, a little rushed and flustered from a start time earlier than we'd been expecting, and by the time we'd resurrected Thatcher to tell them all about spin, they were cheering and clapping along in earnest.
Spirits stayed high throughout our 45-minute set, which took in performance poetry, stand-up comedy and singing numbers and covered discussion of straight and queer relationship models in the media, the policing of normative beauty standards, the failyness of transphobic feminists and lots more besides. It was fabulous to hear different sections of the crowd cheer the start of several songs as they recognised them - music inspiration came from Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Wicked, RENT, Mary Poppins and the Buffy musical - and laugh at small asides in the lyrics. (Playing several villains, I found it rather difficult to keep a straight - or brooding, or evil, or patronising - face when standing before such enthusiasm.)
We were helped along by the fantastic techie power of feminist DJ extraordinaire and long-time Lashfriend Ruth Pearce, who ran an excellent dancing set soon after the entertainment. As the NUS had provided hotel rooms, we were able to stick around after our set - it was unusual to not be scrambling to clear away and catch a train afterwards, and we greatly enjoyed being able to chat and dance with our audience into the night. Several people invited us to perform at their student unions, and we even had an offer of publicity help in Edinburgh. The next morning, tired out from dancing and full of hotel breakfast, we returned south still glowing happily over the gig.
The NUS Women's Conference marked my third gig since joining Lashings as part of their recruitment drive last autumn. And this time, I was doing more acts in front of a lot more people than before.
But the inevitable stage fright beforehand proved totally worth it, as I had a fantastic time. Playing to a crowd that we knew were on our wavelength was a huge amount of fun. The moment they started clapping along to Spoonful of Bullshit, clearly just as delighted by the juxtaposition of Mary Poppins + Tories as we are, I stopped panicking and started performing.
For me it was a particular pleasure to sing 'Dead Girlfriend' for the first time, an act that's meant a lot to me since I first saw it at a Lashings gig two years ago.
It was wonderful to watch other Lashers perform so brilliantly - each poem, song and piece of compering or standup came together to create a very exciting and entertaining set. Ending the gig with a rousing audience participation chorus of 'join the fight with me against hetero-patriarchy' was a delight, and I have no doubt that the activists sat at tables at front of us intend to go on and do just that.
I can safely say I've almost never had a Lashings gig like Tuesday's at the NUS Women's Conference in York before. Probably not since I joined up last minute to help with last year's Cinderella Panto. It certainly marked a first for me in that I've never felt so unconstricted by stage fright in my performance. (If you've ever spoken to me before, after, or during a gig, you've probably found me quite short, irritable, and/or aloof. Rather overpowering stage fright at work.) I'm hoping it's a lasting change rather than a one-off thanks to a fabulous audience!
The gig did get off to a bit of an inauspicious start, my entrance was slightly late, due to an earlier start time than we were expecting. The others covered for me like pros, however, and I don't think the audience even noticed the change. Like Astra, I noticed how much they enjoyed Margaret Thatcher giving lessons on how to improve the deficit to the tune of Mary Poppins, laughing and clapping in time to the music. This was an incredible boost and spurred us on through the rest of the set, full of Lashings staples I've loved both as performer and audience member. It was wonderful to be able to focus on performing, rather than doing an adequate job through a haze of nerves.
It also made a lovely change not having to pack up at top speed and clear the venue or make a mad dash for the train. We had a great time afterwards at the feminist disco.
In contrast to Astra's experience as a newer Lasher, if you had told me when I joined that just over a year later I would be the most experienced Lasher at a gig, I would have told you you were dreaming. I've loved so much about my time with Lashings and this gig felt like a real milestone for me in terms of how far I've come as a performer.
We spent a very enjoyable night drawing each others' attention to various tweets from our audience - one Lasher has put these together into a Storify, stored here if you'd like to have a gander.