Thursday 11 February 2010

Skinheads, Ball(s) and lesbians in love...

We had another great Polari evening in the lovely St Paul's Pavilion on the roof of the Royal Festival Hall.

Opening with a few "in-jokes" for the regulars, Paul Burston was thrilled to be playing to a packed house with loads of new faces. Of course John-John and I now count as regulars and we were very happy to have a table near the centre of the action. We shared a couple of bottles of wine with the lovely Celine, whose friends were on the adjacent table, and tried (unsuccessfully) to eavesdrop on the gossip from journalist Johann Hari's table.

After an opening poem by the winner of the recent Write Queer London competition, we were stunned into silence by author Max Schaefer, reading some unsettling passages from his new novel Children of the Sun. Centred around the difficult subject of homosexuality in the skinhead/Nazi movement in the 70s and more recently the 90s, his lead characters are an unsympathetically racist gay teenager and a modern writer and researcher obsessed by a vile character by the name of Nicky Crane, who apparently became a gay porn star before dying of AIDS. Challenging stuff, but brilliant.

After the break Celine performed a couple of upbeat electro numbers with collaborator Dave Ball, taken from her forthcoming album - a remixed version of her legendary Polari song, and a newer dancy number, which was fab. She has loads of stuff going on this year, but I particularly look forward to this release!

Our headliner Mia Farlane read some very funny pieces from her novel Footnotes to Sex, accurately and pithily capturing the day-to-day lives and mundane conversations of two women in a long-term (and ironically given the title, sexless) relationship. I could hear me and Madame Arcati played out in miniature in much of the pre-sleep chit-chat...

In its new home, it seems that Polari is really carving a niche for itself in the world of artiness - for it to be "sold out" is remarkable, and Paul deserves huge congratulations for continuing to make it such a varied and entertaining event. Roll on next month with headliner Jake Arnott, and I look forward to tonight's evening with Rupert Smith launching his new novel Man's World (a tale that covers 50 years of gay life in London). So literary, dahhhhling!

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