Saturday, 22 July 2017


Who Do You Think You Are? Barbara Brownskirt - the debut solo appearance by our favourite "manifestation of bitterness, anger and lesbian cliché, railing against her lot through poetry" - was a marvellous evening out. But what of the question raised by the title itself?

Let's let the "poet laureate of Penge" do the introductions...
I am poet-in-residence at the 197 bus stop on Croydon Road, Penge, which is the epicentre between Peckham and Croydon. I have written 21 volumes of poetry mostly at and around the bus stop or on the bus. So far all the publishers have been ignoring my work, but not for long.

Every day is inspiring and thought-provoking in Penge, usually there's a row in the street outside the Conservative Club or some kind of casual racism down the Wetherspoons, but mostly it's just like any small hamlet of London, there's art being made and discount shopping taking place. Usually someone makes an installation piece outside the Travelodge from found objects which I like to look at when going home to my lodgings.

Is this art? Photo by Barbara Brownskirt.

People say Penge is on the up, but they've been saying this to my mother, Mrs Brownskirt, who was an unfulfilled actress cum lollipop lady, since the famous gold rush in the 1980s. We like it as it is: multi-lingual, multi-sexual, working class and real.

I have noticed people with money want to live here, but I'd rather they just stay up the hill in Crystal Palace, because if they move here where will all us poets of the people go next?

Vive la poetry!
The indefatigable Barbara is, of course, the comic creation of the multi-talented Ms Karen McLeod, former air stewardess, former female drag queen(!), stand-up comedienne, author and Polari stalwart. Through her be-cagouled, uptight, Judi Dench-obsessed eyes, however, a whole new world of pithy (and extremely funny) angst is channelled, to perfect effect, complete with her "Womb Words" and in her "safe spaces".

The audience at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern was (as were Paul, John-John, Madam Arcati and I) in stitches, as she mercilessly sent-up po-faced feminists and talentless "performance poets" alike. Many of her familiar (unpublished) poems were present and correct, including Fabergé Eggs (Between Your Legs), The Publishers Are All Bent (But Not In A Good Way) and her excoriation of "her ex Susan" Cruelty-Free Shoes, plus [after a slideshow paean to her icon] the half-chanted Judi ["from volume 3, Furry Purses"]:

Judi Judi Judi Judi Judi Judi Judi Dench!
10 hours I stood there
You walked past me (on the red carpet)
I was on the pavement not red but grey
I watched you go by with yet another sigh

Judi Judi Judi Judi Judi Judi Judi Dench!
Your smile and crinkly twinkly eyes
Your little hairstyle, high on your head
Sexy Grandma
To me you are wife material

Denchy Denchy Denchy Denchy Denchy Jud-ie
How you make me want to clenchy
And I would like to travel my hand
Over your wobbly belly
To cup the young Denchy, Thirsty Drenchy
A cup full of Dench quenched. Time all spent.

Judi Judi Judi Judi Judi Judi Judi Judi Dench!

Here she is at Polari back in 2013 [with at least one familiar face in the audience...]:

This was a superb show - and it seems that from Penge the world is now Barbara Brownskirt's oyster...

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