Saturday, 25 January 2014

Central Line reverie, ex-pat fetishism, Big Sister, angry poet standing and a movie stars' petting zoo

With a little nod to its past, Polari was relocated to a previous home (the Weston Pavilion) at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, last night, and we (Paul, little Tony, Jane, Emma, Toby, Wayne, Alex and I) were somewhat hemmed in by the crowd - we had forgotten how spoiled we have been in the capacious surroundings of our regular room on Level Five - but (inevitably) the heat of the smaller room gave our host Paul Burston the perfect excuse (as if ever he needs one!) to strip down to his beach-wear to show off his tan from his recent trip to Brazil (with hubby Paulo). And so it was with envy we looked on, pasty white and umbrella-bearing, as he opened proceedings for the first Polari of 2014...

Without further ado Paul introduced our first reader to the stage - Anya Nyx, novelist, writer, poet and artist, and proud wearer of wildly psychedelic tops.

Her new work in progress, which she is writing under the name Tanith Nyx, is described as "a lesbian-fantasy-adventure novel dealing with love, death, time travel and unicorns" (with a working title Palace of the Butterfly Bird). The extract she read for us delved into a mysterious time-travelling fantasy-world, in which women appear to be in charge of a "Big Sister"-dominated type of society, controlled from the top by regular uploads to a government computer of the dreams of its population. Entangled within this eerie dominatrix matriarchy, our lesbian heroine flirts with the powerful High Priestess... Anya's mainstream work is in teenage fiction, and it will be interesting to see if this novel with its gay theme, when finished, will capture that same audience.

Next to the podium was the very cute performance poet, fiction writer and educator Keith Jarrett - not to be confused with the American jazz pianist and composer, as he explained in his first poem about identity; other poems he read covered such diverse subjects as the country of his roots the Dominican Republic, race, language, and the Central Line(!)...and then there was this brilliantly funny one - A Gay Poem:

We loved it!

However, a treat of the highest campery was in store next when the marvellous former rock singer, collaborator with The Smiths and winner of the Polari First Book Prize in 2011 (none other than Julie Burchill described his memoir Autofellatio as "think Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard finally finding Mr DeMille on her doorstep and you've got it. But with better shoes.") Mr James Maker - hot-foot from his home in Valencia in Spain - took the mike, to première a passage from his new work Axed Pat, due to be published this autumn.

A marvellous insight into the secrets of ex-pat suburbia, his tale (read in his customary deadpan Mancunian manner) involved the hypocritical scorn of a woman about the nudism of her gay neighbours in their Spanish settlement - yet the woman and her husband's excessive propriety conceals a lie that tells the truth; for in fact, their entire relationship has involved pandering to hubby's kinky fetish for her wearing a succession of plastic macs as a sexual kick! Hilariously funny and insightful, I can't wait to read it... [I did say to Mr Maker I thought his reading was akin to the "reincarnation of Elsie Tanner", and he seemed overjoyed at the compliment.]

Meanwhile, as an adjunct while we wait, here's Mr Maker's latest musical effort - a cover of an old Spanish torch song, Un Año De Amor:

After suitably sufficient break for a fag, a trip to the bar and a bit of a catch-up with some of the regulars (DJ, VG, Paul, Bryanne, Simon, Anni, Suzi and the rest) and the evening's readers, it was time to return to our seats for part two.

Opening the show was another "newbie", and a complete wake-up call, the angry "slam" poetry of Joelle Taylor, who, in addition to performing also co-ordinates numerous educational programmes and young poetry networks, working with some of the UK's most disadvantaged communities. The video for her Last Poet Standing (which was among the poems she read for us) has even been circulated to schools as a teaching aid. And here is is:

All very in-yer-face. I did feel - uncomfortably at times - however, that some of her polemic may have actually been directed at us, the decidedly non-"street" audience at the Southbank..

Finishing up with customary aplomb, I was delighted at the return of Mr Christopher Fowler to our stage - a writer whose work I have always admired (his blog alone is a joy to read). He is the multi award-winning author of over 30 novels and 12 short story collections, and his latest work includes the War of the Worlds video game with Sir Patrick Stewart, a graphic novel, a Hammer Horror radio play, the memoir Film Freak and the comedy-thriller Plastic, which took six years to get published.

It was from the latter two that he read extracts for us - the first, some wonderfully gossipy moments from his earlier career in the back-of-house end of the British movie industry, including the embarrassment of badly thought-out premières:
Film premières in the UK are much slicker affairs than they used to be.

Never ones to go in for subtlety, distribution companies once staged embarrassingly literal publicity stunts for their films until Hollywood executives stopped them. During the première for ‘Hair’ at the Dominion Tottenham Court Road the unimpressed audience was pelted with flowers, while the ushers were made to wear beads and long wigs that made them look like crazy old tramp-women. For the megaflop ‘Can’t Stop The Music’ we were encouraged to attend on roller skates, but the theatre had a steeply raked floor and everyone fell over. The distributors thought carefully about the latter, putting ‘music’ and ‘England’ together and coming up with a Morris dancing display outside the cinema.

The première of the killer-rodent movie ‘Willard’ was preceded by a giant red-eyed rat being driven about London on the roof of a window-cleaner’s van, while the vomit-inducing ‘Mark Of The Devil’ had its logo printed on sick-bags. More recently, the ‘Sex And The City’ première party housed its four leads in mocked-up movie sets separated by white picket fencing, like a kind of movie stars’ petting zoo. ‘Come on, we’ve stroked Sarah Jessica Parker, let’s go and feed Carrie-Ann Moss now!’
Hilarious stuff - but his second reading was a somewhat darker affair. When one gets a line in a novel like "My name is June Cryer, and I am a dead housewife", one just has to sit up and take notice! A tale of domestic infidelity, shopping obsession and art theft, Plastic sounds fantastic! [You can read the full intro to the novel that Mr Fowler read for us on his blog.]

With the customary photo line-up (everyone was encouraged to take photos - most done (brilliantly) by the lovely DJ (Diane) Connell - as our regular photographer Krys was unwell), that was, unfortunately it for another month. But what a bloody good start to another Year of Polari!

Next month's outing (on 28th February) is an LGBT History Month special, and features VG Lee, Rose Collis, Musa Okwonga, Jonathan Broughton and Colin Bell. It will be fantabulosa, and I can't wait!



  1. It was a great start to the weekend, I really enjoyed it as ever - the friends/audience is as much of a pleasure as the readers and poets, can't wait for James Maker's novel to be published and I purchased Keith Jarrett's book of poetry "Hainault, via Newbury Park and other Broken Tracks" on the night.

    1. I was tempted by Mr Jarrett's poetry (and indeed by him, but that's another conversation entirely) but at that moment I didn't have any cash on me. I will also be looking out for Mr Maker's final publication later this year - it sounds a hoot! Jx

    2. PS Great to see you, too!

  2. As ever, Dolores sums up the evening perfectly. She doesn't miss a trick! x

    1. Praise indeed, my dear, from the archest of wordsmiths! Thanks, sweetie... Jx


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