Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Cami-knickered rent boys, women-only poetry, melon slices, bad movies and Shakespeare's slut sister

[Photo courtesy of DJ (Diane) Connell]

Our usual gang was somewhat depleted last night (which meant less of a struggle to grab space), as little Tony, Emma, Toby and I took our places for "London's peerless gay literary salon" Polari. John-John had the "dreaded lurgy", our Paul was celebrating his 60th birthday in Berlin (as you do) with Jim, and Ange had some serious family matters to deal with.

Blinking in the daylight that illuminated the beautiful landmarks of the South Bank, we nevertheless looked forward (as always) to a cracking evening's entertainment. And (as always - see my earlier blog) we were not disappointed...

Hosting the show with his usual multi-costumed flair, Mr Paul Burston introduced our first reader - a newbie to Polari (although very much a regular in the audience), and her first time "reading for a mixed audience" (she is a stalwart of women-only socials hosted by Kenric lesbian group and the like) - Anny Knight.

She read for us a plethora of her short poems in a seamless stream - some personal, some emotional, most acutely observational and often very funny - but none (frustratingly) to be found anywhere on the web. We thoroughly enjoyed being taken along for the ride, however, and look forward to more when the publishers come knocking (which they surely will).

Next up was a man who Paul introduced as "actor, dancer, escort, porn star and tantric masseur - and now, author" Greg Mitchell. Whew, what a CV! Another newbie to the literary world, Mr Mitchell read from his as-yet-unpublished work, telling (a semi-autobiographical?) tale about a rather kinky punter, his preoccupation with silky underwear, the rent boy he hires to fulfil his fantasies - and a cute taxi driver who shows rather an interest in the whole fetish, much to the protagonist's delight.

Hot stuff - he must get a publisher soon! Visit Greg's blog.

Completing the entertainment for the first half, it was the long-overdue and very welcome return of the lovely Miss Sophia Blackwell - who we hadn't seen here since March 2012!

Darling of the stubbornly individual, maquillage-loving alternative lesbian world, Miss Blackwell was described by no less a luminary than Stella Duffy thus: "Some of Sophia Blackwell's poems read like Nico should be singing them to John Cale's viola, some as if Shakespeare's slut sister taught him all he knew, others are as new as the next dawn. Dirty, juicy, knowing, open - works for me.". She launched into a few of her best "performance poetry" pieces, including this rather lovely one, written for the wedding of two friends - When It Finds You:

And this pithy number - Tell Me:

I adore her - visit Sophia's website for more.

[Photo courtesy of krysphotos]

After the break, it was the turn of our fave VG (Val) Lee to take to the stand.

A trouper of the highest order (Val has recently added stand-up comedy to her long list of achievements, that also includes a regular column in the aristo magazine The Lady), she entertained us to two of her cherished works, her first (and possibly only) entry into world of erotica A Slice of Melon, and the hilarious Shush (both of which she read for the LGBT History Month audience at Islington Waterstones in February).

Fabulously entertaining, as always - Val inevitably always has her audience in the palm of her hand. And as such, she's a difficult act to follow...

However our headliner, the utterly charming Christopher Fowler, is certainly up to that challenge. Reading some insightful pieces from his "scurrilous memoir about his career in the British film industry", Film Freak, he soon had the packed house engrossed.

Often hilariously funny (his "Pied Piper" poster for Michael Jackson understandably never saw the light of day, coming as it did in the middle of accusations of child molestation against the megastar), poignant (the sad, slow decline of the British film industry and its original home in Soho's Wardour Street - all restaurants and bars these days) and really moving (the emotions surrounding the death of Chris's partner Jim Sturgeon), the book is indeed an engrossing and unique insight into the sordid stories behind the tricky art of making movies in grim, depressed and depressing 1970s Britain.

You can listen to Mr Fowler talking about Film Freak, in conversation with reviewer Tim Haigh, in this podcast:

Read more of Mr Fowler's incredibly imaginative writing - and order a copy of the book - via his blog.

[Photo courtesy of krysphotos]

Another grand night out, loads of laughs, a lovely (and very mixed - not just in the sense to which Ms Knight refers) audience, much schmoozing and camaraderie - I love it!

Can't wait for the next one - on Wednesday 26th June 2013 - at which the UK's most famous gay soldier Lance Corporal James Wharton is our headline reader. Also announced is historical horror writer Jack Wolf. Others to be confirmed in due course, no doubt.



  1. Sounds great! Sorry to have missed this one. A great write-up, as always, Jon.

    1. It is a shame you missed it - it was another marvellous evening! See you at the next one? Jx

  2. It is a great blog, widely re-posted on FaceBook by the way, and it was a great evening - every month we think this will be hard to better and every month we laugh, gasp and chuckle all over again.

    I shall miss next month's Polari due to an earlier booked event, so will look forward to next month's blog even more than usual as reading these essays is the next best thing to actually being there


    1. Such a shame your event clashes next month - I'm sure we'd "laugh, gasp and chuckle" all over again.

      ...and we have the military there, so you could add "stand to attention" to the list :-)


    2. front table, lots of pictures, please

  3. As ever, your blog with photos and film clips comes as near to capturing the essence of a Polari evening possible outside of being there! Brilliant.X

    1. Thank you again, my darling - lovely to see you again, and I loved your reading! Jx


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