Friday, 31 May 2013

Rats and Pre-Raphaelites

Lashings of Ginger Bee TimerPosted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

Hi, Lashings blog readers!

We're full of amazing busy-ness right now -- running last-minute panto lines, sticking props together with gaffer tape, organising for Edinburgh and painting rat faces on one another -- so we don't have a substantive blog post ready for this week! We're sorry, but we think the show will be worth it. As a token of apology, here's an awesome comic about pre-Raphaelite artist Elizabeth Siddal.

Also, some protesting rats. [We think the source is here.]

A photograph of five rats in a row, 'holding' placards, which read: "I don't have the plague", "I am not a monster", "I'm loveable", "We're NOT vermin!" and "Get to know me: you'll see"
Your regular Lashings blog service will resume soon!

Lots of love,

Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

Monday, 27 May 2013

Linkspam: Doctor Who, Iain Duncan Smith, and not-so-equal marriage

Lashings of Ginger Bee TimerPosted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

What is wrong with Doctor Who? takes a good hard look at inherent sexism, and brushes on the topic of inherent colonialism.

The Work & Pensions Select Committee has launched an inquiry into Iain Duncan Smith's (mis)use of statistics. HURRAY.

The ever-fantastic Jane Fae has written a piece for the New Statesman entitled Gender and consent: trans is not deception.

Bisexual MP - and deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats - has stated that "marriage is between a man and a woman." For shame.

In Avengers comics-'verse, the new Captain Britain is a hijabi lady!

Kameron Hurley: We Have Always Fought: Challenging the 'Women, Cattle and Slaves' Narrative:
I’m going to tell you a story about llamas. It will be like every other story you’ve ever heard about llamas: how they are covered in fine scales; how they eat their young if not raised properly; and how, at the end of their lives, they hurl themselves – lemming-like- over cliffs to drown in the surging sea... Every story you hear about llamas is the same.
Nine Worlds, London's new geeky convention that a few Lashers are involved in running, is coming to the end of its early tickets deadline. They're running full tracks for geeky feminism and queer fandom, and you might even catch Lashings at the queer feminist cabaret! 

Friday, 24 May 2013

Fanny Whittington: Meet the Characters!

Posted by Galatea

We're so close now! It's nearly time to unleash Lashings' second pantomime, Fanny Whittington, upon the world -- and we're so very excited about it. Today, we'd like you to meet a few of the characters who'll (hopefully) be singing, dancing and making terrible puns at you soon. Since we'll be working with rotating casts for both the Oxford and Edinburgh shows, there's no guarantee that the performers in the pictures below are the ones you'll actually see on the night... but we think they're all equally amazing! Since it's just over two weeks until we open in Oxford on Thursday June 6th, the rest of Lashings has very kindly let me steer the blog this week so that I can tell you a little bit about how we wrote the characters, and why we wrote them the way we did.

One thing you'll probably notice straight away is that in addition to being LGBTQ+, this show is unashamedly, unabashedly political. With the way things are at the moment, we didn't feel that we could write it any other way. However, just because you're taking on serious issues doesn't mean you can't fill the script with really puerile puns and tragic innuendo, so first of all I'd like to introduce...


Image caption: A young white woman, Fanny Whittington (played by Cleopatra) sits on the ground laughing while wearing brightly rainbow-coloured clothes. 

Our dashing young orphan lesbian feminist hero, who's come to London to seek her fortune! It's probably obvious that the title Fanny Whittington arrived in my head first, and then the heroine brought the rest of the story -- a queer, left-wing, gender-flipped version of Dick Whittington -- along with her. Now, Dick Whittington is a story that's all about being poor, young, alone, brave and resourceful -- and getting lucky enough to win your fortune and climb to the very top of society. I started to wonder, though: how would the story be different if the main character wasn't concerned with scrambling to the top of the socioeconomc heap, but with trying to make sure that nobody ended up trapped at the bottom? 

To me, Fanny embodies that phase that a lot of young radical people go through -- I certainly did, for one -- where you see so much that's wrong with the world, and you just desperately want to FIX EVERYTHING and SAVE EVERYONE, preferably all at once! She's very determined, loyal and tough-minded -- she's pretty much had to be, especially given the number of awful jokes about her name that she probably had to endure while growing up. She's also not above making a terrible pun or two herself! However, Fanny learns throughout the story that just because you want to solve everyone's problems doesn't always mean that you can -- that sometimes people need freedom and space to come up with their own solutions. 


 Image caption: A young white person wearing a cardigan and tie, Ali Chapman (played by Astra) types on a computer while a young white woman in brightly coloured clothes, Fanny Whittington (played by Cleopatra) leans over their shoulder. 

Fanny's love interest, the mysterious and glamorous Ali Chapman, was probably the character who took the longest to fall into place during the writing process -- but they were definitely worth waiting for! Ali is dreamy, artistic, sweet-natured... and they also just happen to be the heir to the TopChap corporation, the clothing chain that's causing terrible [SPOILERS!] to happen.

 I think a lot of us initially found it quite difficult to write a sympathetic character who is so heavily concerned with clothing and style, particularly as most Lashers who are interested in fashion tend to skew much more alternative than Ali does. However, as the writing process went on we realised that for Ali, clothes are a means of self-expression and an important part of their gender identity -- and that Ali's desire to share fashion with other people comes from an incredibly generous, loving place. They've ended up being one of my favourite characters, particularly given their slightly weird, off-the-wall geeky approach to trying to help people (best friend kidnapped by evil Tories? Let's go to THE LIBRARY!).


 Image caption: Dick (played by Fitzy), a white man with a moustache wearing a business suit, top hat and mayoral chain, glares at the camera while holding a folder that reads 'CITY OF LONDON LAWS AND ORDINANCES'. It has been graffitied in purple marker, and now reads 'Dick's CITY OF LONDON LAWS AND ORDINANCES so there!'.

Boo! Our evil pantomime villain, Dick is a sort of horrible composite of All The Tories Ever, with a dash of awful that's all his very own. Dick's aims and goals in life might be scarily familiar to lots of people in our audiences -- together with his evil talking cat Osbourne (yes, really), he rode into power by stigmatising one section of society and promising everyone else that he'd get rid of them. Now he spends his days figuring out new ways to tax bedrooms, cut benefits and kick out immigrants, all the while blaming everyone's problems on the rats of London! When our story opens, Dick has been the Mayor of London for ten long years, and has bullied, threatened and scared the innocent population of the city into believing that the economy is tottering on the brink of collapse and that the only way to avoid total ruination is for everyone to accept Dick into their hearts and vote him in for another term.

Like Sebastienne's Baroness Scratcher in the 2012 Cinderella pantomime, Dick is a larger-than-life figure with plenty of Evil Villain Songs and lots of opportunities to laugh, yell 'boo' and even throw things -- hey, if there's one thing pantomime offers us as an art form, it's the chance to shout back at some of the baddies that we rarely get a chance to respond to in real life.

The Rats

Image caption: The rats (played by Lilka, Nigel Newt and Sebastienne), three people dressed in orange overalls and rat ears, huddle together looking terrified. 

Without wanting to give too much away, whenever you find an exploitative oligarchy, you'll always find people at the bottom -- and in our story, that's the rats, victims of Dick's divide-and-conquer campaign. The rats are the people whom Dick labelled as dirty, lazy, disease-ridden and degenerate and blamed for everyone's problems... until eventually the day came when he was allowed to abuse them as much as he liked. The trio in the picture above are named Sam, Max and Terry (all intentionally gender-ambiguous names -- on any given night, you might see Samuel, Maxwell and Terrence or Samantha, Maxine and Theresa, or any combination of all or none of the above), and they're pretty pissed off about the way they've been treated for the past ten years. They're not going to stand for Dick and Osbourne's nonsense much longer: a Rat Uprising is on the way!

Image caption: Another rat, a young white person dressed in orange overalls and rat ears, 
sits on the ground sewing and smiling sarcastically.

I think all of us on the writing team found that the rats were incredibly fun to write -- they're basically a brawling cross between a family of cantankerous siblings, a less trans*faily version of the People's Front of Judea and (shh! whisper it!) occasionally sometimes a little bit of Lashings itself. One thing that I particularly enjoy about the rats is that they encompass a range of personality types -- some are silly and giggly and like to flirt and make jokes and have fun, some are serious and determined and committed to the Rat Uprising...  and it becomes clear as the story works itself out that progressive action needs both types of people. Hell, it needs all types of people -- and in true panto-style happy ending, we find that even those who've been getting it badly wrong can redeem themselves by the end of the hour. 

Is it silly? Is it hokey? Does the script at one point deliver over twenty cheese-related puns in less than two minutes? Yes to all of the above -- but to me, that's one of the great joys of pantomime.

There are even more awesome characters, ridiculous songs and silly sight-gags that I'd love to tell you all about -- but I'd better leave some mystery for Opening Night! Will Dick get his come-uppance and stop tormenting the rats? (BOO!) Will Fanny and Ali find true love, peace and freedom and incredibly sharp tailoring? (HOORAY!) Will the kyriarchy be completely demolished with songs, confetti and sweeties for all by the end of the final number? (HOPEFULLY!). 

You can see Fanny Whittington in Oxford on June 6, 7 and 8: book Oxford tickets here!

You can also see Fanny Whittington in Edinburgh on August 12-24: book Edinburgh tickets here!

(And stay tuned for the possibility of a London show...) 

We can't wait to share this story with you.

All photos used in this post are copyright John Woodworth photography, johnwoodworthphotography.comand are used with grateful permission.  

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Linkspam: vintage photos, the value of diversity, and SCIENCE

Lashings of Ginger Bee TimerPosted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

Here's something to cheer us up: vintage photos of queer couples (no captions; sorry).

Liv has written up notes from a talk on the political context of current health reforms.

George Takei continues his fabulous self with these glorious responses to statements by fans of different-sex marriage [content note: heterosexism].

Author Elizabeth Conall has put together a spreadsheet for randomly generating demographically diverse minor characters!

From the Geek Feminism blog: Structure and Justice: a really valuable post on why ideals of 'structurelessness' and 'authenticity' in the workplace may not work for people who are LGBTQ+, disabled or neurodiverse:
If you are queer, or trans, or have mental illness, or all of the above, you probably know something about the perils of presenting yourself as you really are. Dan-Savage-style coming-out narratives notwithstanding, many of us who are placed socially in these ways find that we cannot be completely authentic in all aspects of our lives. I definitely want to express myself, but I have to balance that against other needs, like being able to make a living in a capitalist society... In my opinion, it takes a lot of privilege to assume either that greater authenticity leads to greater happiness, or that the only reason you would leave who you are at the door when you step or roll into work is the formal, organizational structure of the place where you work.
In "young women of colour doing amazing science" news, this week we bring you 18-year-old Eesha Khare, who's invented a new kind of battery - that takes less than a minute to charge, lasts ten times as long as traditional batteries, will fit inside mobile phones, and is flexible enough to be incorporated in roll-up displays. Yes, please!

Friday, 17 May 2013

This is my real name. This is real.

kaberettPosted by kaberett

As I said recently: hello, my name's kaberett.

And that is absolutely true.

kaberett is not my wallet name - the name in my passport, on my Prescription Pre-payment Certificate, on my various institutional ID cards - but it is no less real for that. I am the only person using "kaberett" as a name; search the Internet and you'll get me, and a bunch of German-speakers using non-standard spellings.

My wallet name isn't the name under which I perform; it's not the name under which I write; it's not the name under which I have formed countless close friendships; it's not the name under which I provide sex education and health advice; but: it is no less real for that. There are two other people with my wallet name living in my area (one has a private pilot's licence; one spends a lot of time on student theatre), and I have at least one relative who (superficially) shares it.

Both names are real. Both names are equally real.

Both names are chosen.

Neither is the name I was given at birth.

I chose "kaberett" before I had settled on "Alex"; I decided on "Alex" because "kaberett" felt right.

Both names are patchwork: of who I am; of who I was; of who I hope to be. They started out too large: I echoed inside them and looked over my shoulder, unable to tell who was calling me. And then: I grew into my names, settled them on my shoulders like a coat, and I got out my scissors and my needles and my thread and I took them in where they were still too large; added in another stripe - another layer of nuance - where they constricted.

And I have worked for these names - for these identities - and they are consistent, solid, whole. I refuse to do either of them a disservice by relegating them to the status of "pseudonym" or "fake"; I refuse to countenance the question "Ah, but what is your real name?" - as if I could, should, have only one; as if my name should not be context-dependent; as if the name chosen for me by people who didn't yet know me is more real than my names.


We are fond of these distinctions, though: between "real life" and "online", as though they can be meaningfully separated; as though through the mediation of technology our actions become fantasy, our selves fantastical. Yes, online we can fly - but the communities we build are no less valid for that.

So then, predictably: we go the other way: with "meatspace", for example, a graphic and unpleasant image. And, yes, for some of us - and I do here include myself - our bodies make unpleasant roommates; and yet - the mind is not purer than the flesh. Embodiment neither corrupts nor tempts me.


And so, in the end, to neutrality: my real name is what I say it is. My real life is what I say it is.

I am here, and I am real - and so are you. So are we all.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Linkspam: why Black dolls matter, spoilers, and Iron Man 3

Lashings of Ginger Bee TimerPosted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

Iron Man 3: neither as subversive or as anti-racist as it likes to think of itself. Two excellent critiques [CONTENT NOTES: racism, spoilers] are provided by crossedwires and wistfuljane. (Content note: The crossedwires article appears to refer to actor Ben Kingsley, who is a multi-ethnic British man, as though he were white -- the analysis of orientalism and racial bait-and-switch in the film is still complex and interesting, though). Elsewhere on the Internet we've also come across a round-up of disabled characters and ableism in Iron Man 3, and a discussion of how difficult it was to get a movie that contained both a woman and a black guy. While we're at it, why not have an essay on how to be a fan of problematic media?
Tumblr wishes you to know that [NSFW] sexism is over... or at least, it doesn't really believe that, but it does consider drawings of male game characters, in the style of female game characters, a good way to illustrate the point. You want pictures of young men in stylised bicep-emphasising armour so huge it's a wonder they can move at all? Tumblr has them for you.

Sociological Images reports on the makeover of Disney's Merida in preparation for her release as a doll. Unfortunately few surprises, here.

... speaking of characters: however careful you are, it's incredibly difficult to avoid spoilers these days - especially if you want to read twitter. 17-year-old Jennie Lamere coded up the solution... and won the Boston hackathon, at which she was the only woman present. Diversity in tech: it's a good thing.

Sophieology takes a look at societal messages given to teenage girls in an article entitled This Trendy “Strong is the New Skinny” Thing (and what it could mean for the next generation of girls) [content notes: dieting, body-policing, disordered eating, weight loss with numbers given, implicit acceptance of "fat is bad"].

This is amazing -- Black is Beautiful: Why Black Dolls Matter tells the story of a new documentary film by Samantha Knowles that will be premièring later this year (trailer below). The article contains interviews from several dollmakers and doll collectors, plus some fascinating photographs.

(video description: Trailer for Samantha Knowles' film 'Why Do You Have Black Dolls?'. A short montage of dollmakers, collectors and historians talking about why it is important to them to have, make and learn about Black dolls, interspersed with images of the dolls themselves).

On the topic of the stories we tell, Indigenous History asks: What if people told European history like they told Native American history?

Researchers at the University of Minnesota are gathering data on LGBTQ people working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields for a report to be published as an academic paper. They are focussing on the US, but respondents from around the world are invited to provide their experiences.

The British Humanist Association is calling for the upcoming marriage bill to permit humanist marriages, in line with Scotland and Wales - in England, humanist ministers are currently unable to perform legally-binding services. Here's an easy way to write to your MP.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

A thank-you, and why we do what we do.

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

Firstly - thank you all so, so much for helping us reach our funding target for Fanny Whittington! We raised £1,419 - our target was £1,250 - and so we can joyfully announce that we will indeed be at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We'll be performing at Gryphon 1, on the 12th-17th and 19th-24th August, 8:15-9:15pm. You can book your tickets here. Everyone who backed us, we'll be in touch about your rewards this weekend!

Secondly - the rest of this post was written by a Lashings fan who wants to remain anonymous. They were going to post it on their own web presence, in the context of encouraging their friends to donate to our fundraiser, but ended up feeling uncomfortable with this level of public disclosure about their mental health. They sent it to us and said we could use in our fundraising campaign if we liked. We have decided to post it here as a thank-you to everyone who contributed - this is what you are helping us do.

[Content warnings: bullying, professional negligence, depression, suicidal ideation.]


Portrayals of people like us save lives.

No really.

I was badly bullied at school. Over my accent, my physical appearance, my weight, my ethnicity, my intelligence, my hobbies, my non-native-British vegetarian diet, my not yet apparent to me but apparently very obvious to everyone else non-normative sexuality by which I probably mean my gender presentation... I was emotionally abused on a daily basis for many years, and suffered physical violence on occasion too. I became physically ill, and suicidal.

When I reported this to the school, the teacher responsible for my pastoral care called me into her office, and made me write lists of things I was grateful for and things I was looking forward to. This was an exceptionally painful exercise Things I remember including on the list: 'no one spat at me today'. 'I said something in class and no one laughed'. I know that being thankful for what you have is supposed to be, like, mood-boosting or something, but mostly what it did for me was grinding me down, forcing me into awareness of how tiny the things I was grateful for were. My suicidal ideation dramatically increased. My class mates laughed at me for having to spend time in the pastoral care office, and accused me of fucking the teacher responsible.

And I remember, so, so vividly clearly the week that I wrote in my little book of enforced gratitude that this week, I wasn't going to kill myself because I wanted to see Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer kiss another girl on television that weekend.

I looked forward to that portrayal of those lesbians. I was grateful for it. And I am alive today, because I hung on long enough to see it, and then gradually, bit by bit, things got better.

I was at the Lashings of Ginger Beer Time performances of Cinderella. And I bounced along with everyone else because there they were, on stage, in public, telling stories about people like us. With a happy ending and everything! And I cannot, simply cannot overstate the importance of that. I am alive, today, because once upon a time someone told a story about someone like me, and it came into my life at the right moment.

Finding that there are people like us out there in the big wide scary world is so, so important. Hearing our stories retold is what makes us human. It's what keeps us alive. That's what these guys do. That's what you're paying for.

Plus it'll make you laugh. Make you squee. If you're lucky, make you think. That's what stories are for. And that's worth paying for.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Links round-up: thank you, and more!

Lashings of Ginger Bee TimerPosted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

First of all, thank you all so much, once again. We made our fundraiser target and then some - and this is going to make an enormous difference to how affordable gigging is for us. We're so grateful. ♥

Second up, links!

Doing the rounds this week has been this excellent takedown of awful (and classist) journalism - From the BBC: how not to eat healthily for £1 a day.

Over on dreamwidth, kate_nepveu takes a critical look at the construct of the Mary Sue, via providing text of a talk she gave, entitled An Introduction to Mary Sue and Her Critical Uses and Abuses.

It's apparently the week for it: Wear the Old Coat brings us an interview with Meline Marchetta on writing heroines.

Elsewhere in the blogsophere, the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (#ADBC) is currently running. Over at After Gadget, yesterday's post was about tools for grooming - of relevance to all dog owners, not just service dog partners!

You may have read, this week, about Kiera Wilmot [content note: racism] - a US student expelled from her school, and threatened with being tried as an adult, for conducting an extra-curricular science experiment on school grounds. There's a petition at

At Brute Reason we have a [content note: street harrassment] very patient, very clear, very point-by-point explanation of Why You Shouldn't Tell That Random Girl On The Street That She's Hot.

From the Fandoms and Feminism tumblr following the recent events at Supernatural NewJerseyCon: An open letter to all fandoms - from a bisexual fan. This essay encapsulates a lot of the reasons why we do what we do here at Lashings -- in particular: '[M]edia representation is like a mirror. You see yourself reflected back at you in a thousand spectacular ways. Except, for queer kids, we have no mirrors, we only have windows.'

This week tumblr bring's us polycule's Your Sexual Health Rights, a charter on healthy communication, negotiation, and enthusiastic, informed consent. What do you think? What would you add or remove?

Actually, let's make that broader: what are your thoughts on the above? And what have you been reading this week?

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Fanny Whittington: why we need your help


Posted by Orlando and Galatea

Our editorial blog post is coming out a little early this week, but it’s for a very good reason: we need your help.

As you hopefully already know, we’re trying to raise the money to take our panto Fanny Whittington to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. To make this happen, we need you.

I [Orlando] am still a relatively new Lasher, but I’m a long-time fan. I first saw a Lashings show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2010 - and I loved it so much I came back the next night. It was one of the first times I’d ever seen people talking on stage, in real life about things like consensual kink, heteronormativity, fat-shaming, and the stereotyping of queer women. It grabbed me by the gut and pulled me in. Lashings spoke to me in ways nothing else had. And I know for sure that I wasn’t the only one. At Lashings we get so much feedback saying how much what we do matters to you - how important it is for you to see people like you on stage, and remind you that you’re not alone. How important it is that we’re bringing our politics to people who haven’t thought about this stuff before, or haven’t been able to find the words for it. How important it is that we’re representing queer people, poly people, trans people, ace people, kinky people - and representing them as real and human, not just ciphers for an issue. Reading the reviews of our last pantomime still makes us a little teary-eyed.

Illustration by Marguerite; design by D. Gopal
And this time around, the show's concerns don't stop at sexuality and gender. By inverting the traditional story of 'Dick Whittington', by making our heroes the rats of London - the creatures that we're always told are dirty, dangerous and deviant - we've hit on some powerful ways of talking about what's going on in this country at the moment; about the ways in which some of us are scapegoated, exploited and blamed. The only problem we ran into while writing the show was that whenever we thought of something particularly egregious for the villainous Mayor to do, it usually turned out that the current government had already done it. Making jokes about anti-immigrant policies, bedroom taxes and DLA cuts is hard, but it's important too: as Max and Terry the pun-making, joke-cracking, 'Les-Mis'-filk singing rats point out to one another, if you don't laugh about this stuff, you just end up crying about it.

But to be able to keep doing this - we need your help. Everything that Sebastienne wrote last year is still true - more true than it ever was. Keeping Lashings going is really important, and keeping Lashings going is really hard. We’ve gone from being a tiny Oxford-based troupe doing shows in Oxford to an expanding collective with over 20 members, doing shows across the country. Almost every single show we do leaves us out of pocket, both as a collective and as individual members - charity gigs, student gigs, and academic gigs are never venues we make money. (Even with shows where the organisers are able to contribute to our travel expenses, we don’t turn a profit.) The two recent exceptions have been Lashings of Afternoon Tea Time in Oxford and Pirate Cabaret in London - both shows put together with the express aim of raising money for our Edinburgh run. This isn’t a complaint: we voluntarily do gigs in far-off cities for little-to-no expenses, because it’s important, and wonderful, and we love performing, and we love reaching new people. But also? It is hard, and draining, and it skews our shows towards being put together by those of us who can afford the time and money to travel all over.

Edinburgh is a different beast from all these shows. It’s somewhere where we can reach hundreds of new people - we can and do gain scores of fans, friends, and eventual collective members with every Edinburgh run. We rent a flat, and as many of us as possible spend a few weeks living in a blissful-yet-stressful queer-feminist bubble of singing and acting and flyering. The cost of Edinburgh is significantly higher than anything else we do, and it involves serious financial outlay. Currently, most of this is money that a few of us have been able to lend to the collective - there are Lashers who have put in several hundred pounds, such is their faith in the show. The only funding we have is us, and you.

We know times are hard, and money is tighter than ever with the government’s cuts that push marginalised people into further desperation. But now is the also the time that unapologetically angry, intersectional, feminist, queer, and left-wing voices need to be heard. We want to take vital political theatre to the Fringe this year. We want to skewer the austerity programme, make a show with real queer characters played by real queer people, and we want to make terrible puns while doing it. We hope you want us to do that too.

So - if Lashings' work has ever given you hope, or helped you feel less alone, or been there for you in whatever way - here is how you can be here for us: share this post, share the link to our IndieGogo, and donate if you can.