Sunday, 23 March 2014
For me a huge change is the return of the buzz I receive after running an Enchanted Burlesque theatre show.
It's no secret that the buzz from running Enchanted Burlesque theatre shows died for me just before our 5th Anniversary show. To call the week leading up to the Enchanted Burlesque 5th Anniversary show emotionally draining would be an understatement. First I was forced to put down one of my beloved cats that I'd had from a kitten, and this was the first time I'd done that in my life. Then Angel became seriously ill and was forced from the show that she had been an instrumental part in running. Sure, the show was indeed incredible, but I was not in a happy place and was also up to my neck in running everything. I had my won dressing room, but the women I'd run every show with from word go was not in that dressing room with me and neither would she be backstage at any point during the night. I was surrounded by people I knew, but I never felt so alone that night.
I was told a long time back by a couple who also promoted shows that this day would come. It happened before, early on when the Silk Stocking Striptease Show featuring Scarlett Fever almost ground to a halt following a plethora of issues, but then as now adversity was overcome.
But my mood was soured. Rather than bouncing back 1 show later as I did with the Silk Stocking Striptease Show I was faced with the longest run ever without that all important buzz. Enchanted Burlesque was a job... just a job...
Enchanted Burlesque Red Hot and Enchanted Burlesque Tribute passed and I felt that I was almost grinding along. The situation was not helped by one audience member at Red Hot complaining about the ethnicity of one of the performers - racism reared it's ugly head and I had to seriously bite my lip rather than publicly rip a bigoted idiots head off. We also had the problem of having to re-book the headline act of Red Hot due to injury, but miraculously we did that in less than 2 1/2 hours. Thankfully the original headliner is now back on her feet and performing.
Enchanted Burlesque Tribute was also a nightmare from the booking front as the bill was booked and then re-booked as one problem after another plagued the line-up. And then after printing thousands of flyers and countless posters another performer cancelled their appearance due to an international residency they'd been offered and couldn't refuse.
Enchanted Burlesque Unwraped certainly improved my mood. For the first time in 4 shows we booked the show once and didn't then have to replace someone on the final poster. But at this point I was feeling exhausted and other external pressures had crushed my enthusiasm.
But this is Enchanted Burlesque. This is the hobby Angel and I created nearly 7 years ago that became a proper company. Neither Angel or I would just stop. You have to handle the bad times and find a way forwards. You can't have it all being happiness and sunshine.
Enchanted Burlesque Tryst was not happiness and sunshine. Show day was a nightmare, things that should have gone smoothly but didn't continued to eat away at my enthusiasm. Stress was the real killer that day, resulting in a brief but very tense and stormy exchange between Angel and I... not good or professional. We're both only human, but it shouldn't have happened and we both know that.
Somehow everything came together, and somehow Angel and I found a way to patch things up between us just before the final curtain. We ended the show with a warm embrace and a kiss just before our curtain calls.
But something magical happened. I started to get back that buzz, and I know the exact moment it happened.
I was backstage for Vicky Butterfly's Belle Epoque (La Lune), her giant mirrored moon. I allowed myself to watch part of the act from behind the stage curtains. I could see the theatre lights reflecting off the moon on the stage wings monitors. I could hear the noise of the moon rocking. I was transported back 1 week to when I'd seen Vicky's moon as an audience member at Joe Black's House of Burlesque. And then I heard the audience take the roof off of the theatre when the act finished. I have never heard the audience give such a huge response before.
The return of the buzz was slow. I had injured my foot during the show and the pain was increasing, the performers all left after the show (even Angel) so I was having the after show party with a few members of the audience instead of the usual performer chat. And then I started to hear their excitement about the show. I limped, very badly, home and went to bed in agony. The next morning I woke up to a Facebook that had exploded with excitement about Enchanted Burlesque Tryst. And then it dawned on me, my buzz was back.
One month later, my foot still in a lot of pain and now my knee on the other leg joining it due to an error in overcompensating, I ran Enchanted Burlesque Spellbound at Steeple Aston. I was in full on buzzing mode. Even a disaster backstage that was solved by creativity and everyone who could pulling together did not derail my enjoyment of the night. Even having to leave early rather than stay behind and chat with the audience couldn't bring me down.
The buzz is back. This is the big reward I get from running Enchanted Burlesque events.This is why I do what I do. And whether I'm in pain or not, whether that buzz has temporarily vanished or not, I have no plans to stop.
So thank you to everyone who has worked for Angel and I over what has been a tough year, thanks to Angel for not poisoning me (yet - but I wouldn't blame her if she did), thank you to the audiences who've stuck appreciated what we do and a huge thank you to Vicky Butterfly who I believe provided the spark I needed to re-ignite my buzz.
Friday, 31 January 2014
Better late than never, although I admit my efforts recently to blog have been utter crap*, it's time to present my less than prestigious joke annual award.
But what's that I hear you say? Why has the name changed? Well, it's come to my realisation (about 5 years too late) that the title The Worst burlesque Performer Award is misleading as it's unlikely to ever be unofficially given to the actual worst burlesque performer of that year (even when I gave it jokingly to myself in 2010 - I had seen a performer that year who even made my meagre efforts seem legendary which was scary). So from now onwards I shall name the award...
...drum role please...
THE GOLDEN BURLYTURD
And as is the case for quite some time it is given every year to a person or persons (real or fictional) who I believe have done their utmost to crap on burlesque.
And this years winners wins hands down.
In 2013 the decision was taken to ban a 2014 burlesque show in a council owned venue because “many people feel it is demeaning to women, and raises issues of gender equality”.
Council worries about gender equality didn't seem to even get a look in when male strippers The Chippendales performed in a council owned venue before the ban... perhaps women screaming in excitement at beefcake men is not in the slightest bit demeaning to men, nor does it reduce them to objects.
The message from the council was simple:- women can be objectified and demeaned, therefore a burlesque show is not acceptable. Men cannot be demeaned or objectified, therefore...
PHWOAR! GET YOUR COCK OUT DARLING!
Of course the problem with the argument in favour of the ban was lost instantly. The id(iot)eology behind the ban was to promote equality... by disadvantaging women... and saying it's okay for people to look at naked/nearly naked men but not okay to look at nearly naked women... and that the ban would enforce equality because only men should... be allowed... to use their bodies... to make money...
Oh wait. The ban promotes equality because burlesque is sexual in nature due to the striptease element. Now, as men are visual creatures they are going to objectify female burlesque performers. Hah, safer ground here I think. So if the burlesque show is banned men won't be objectify women anymore and the ills of the world will be cured. I can confirm this is true because not once have I ever heard a man say something like 'fantastic body' or 'I'd sleep with her' when... looking... at a woman... who's fully clothed...
Okay, here we go. Burlesque needs to be banned because if it is women will finally be treated as equal to men and have all the freedom of choices of men... just so long as those who perform burlesque... do as they're told... keep their clothes on... get a respectful job. So if you take away a woman's right to freedom of choice in the working environment... she finally gets equality and empowerment.
Perhaps to gain true equality we need to stop being humans and start being Discworld dwarfs.
Or perhaps to try and achieve some form of equality we have to accept that freedom of choice is the only way forwards, and that when we ban one group from doing something based purely on their sex or some other category because others might find it offencive we are disempowering the banned and creating inequality by empowering the disapproving. Certainly banning a burlesque show at a venue demeans the performers and promoters as it cause a severe loss in the dignity of and respect for those who would be involved for the sake of those who would not be in attendanceThere is no female style of clothing or female pronoun; there are no female names in Dwarfish. Both male Dwarfs and female Dwarfs naturally have beards and it has never occurred to any Dwarf to shave, and thus doing so is considered undwarfish and shameful. The gender of a Dwarf is only revealed to those concerned, during courtship, when the concerned parties are deemed mature enough to handle it without giggling (gender not being considered important by most dwarfs compared to things such as metallurgy and hydraulics). An interesting implication of this custom is that there is no gender discrimination when a Dwarf seeks a job position or tries to make a career or open a business**.
For me personally a more realistic view is that the the concept of equality is great for winning political votes (so long as it's the right groups you're promoting equality for, so potentially not immigrants, meat eaters, those on benefits, bankers, the royal family, Muslims, union bosses, the rich, teenagers, countryside dwellers, burlesque performers or [INSERT YOUR CHOICE HERE]). And that's why I don't have much faith in politicians who talk about equality.
So this years Golden Burlyturd goes to Councillor Susan Press (LAB)*** and her equally repressive cronies on the Hebden Bridge Picture House Committee for attempting to ban the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival from using the Picture House. Well done chumps, your attempts to win votes from the more conservative (oh the irony) thinking members of your constituency have embarrassed you and been exposed as a way to only promote your versions of equality that aren't equal in any way.
And here's a lovely story about Councillor Press from 2009 - http://www.todmordenlist.com/news/hebden-royd-clllr-susan-press-accused-of-dirty-tricks
And here's a picture of Councillor Susan Press.
Ms Press is a freelance journalist, so be careful my fellow burlesquers about leaving any messages on your voice mail. I am of course joking... I hope. I'll skip the imaginary presentation of the golden turd .jpg, politicians have a habit of asking the police to use unethical strong arm tactics against those who point out their flaws and failings. Apparently it's unjustifiable to point out a politician is wrong but completely justified to tell two burlesque promoters they're wrong.
In the end the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival's application to use the Picture House was approved and the ban reversed after being referred back to full council. But a special mention must be given to Councillor James Baker (LibDem)++ for fighting the corner of the burlesque festival and respecting individuals rights to go or not go to the event.
You can read Cllr Press and her supporters views at the Hebden Bridge Forum whilst marvelling at how quickly they lose the argument.
Finally to the two ladies behind the Hebdem Bridge Burlesque Festival I wish you a rocking 2014 festival, and well done for. May your event give the local economy a financial boost and return for many years to come.
** SOURCE: http://wiki.lspace.org/mediawiki/index.php/Dwarfs
*** LAB stands for Labour, a left wing political party in the UK. It's not an abbreviation for Labia you mucky pup.
+ SOURCE: http://www.leftfutures.org/2010/05/centre-left-bids-for-policy-making-power/
++LibDem stands for Liberal Democrat, another political party in the UK that's centrist, neither left or right wing.
Wednesday, 1 January 2014
This rather amusing image of Mister Meredith by photographer Olivia van der Will sum up my feelings about 2013. So here we go, a bit later than normal.
1. Performers, maids, promoters etc - what has been you favourite night you performed at/promoted/organised/maided/compered/helped out with this year?
To be honest 2013 has been a challenging year. I've been involved in many nights that have been great but also not so great. On balance I think that Enchanted Burlesque Unwrapped takes the crown as it was the first 2013 show that didn't require re-booking.
2. Without naming names - tell us about the worst show you were involved in/watched this year (if there was one!)
Involved in: one of the Enchanted Burlesque shows in 2013 was booked and re-booked several times as a multitude of problems beyond Angel and my control manifested. In the end the show was booked to my and Angel's satisfaction BUT we'd failed to observe our own rules, never book a show to please yourself. All the acts on the stage deserved their bookings, but maybe not all together on the one night. That is my fault, I have accept responsibility for the show and it's perceived shortcomings. Thankfully we bounced back at the very next show with incredible feedback.
Watching: it was a show that just didn't live up to expectations. Considering the talent on the bill and what they're capable of I suspect the promoter miss-booked the show so that the cast couldn't play to their strengths. There was a lot of audience grumbling that night, especially considering the premium price of tickets.
3. What was/is your first and last gig of 2013 (watching or performing)?
First gig watching: Missy Malone & Friends - that resulted in Kitty Ribbons getting a spot on Enchanted Burlesque Unwrapped.
Last gig watching: Très Très Cabaret
First gig promoting: Enchanted Burlesque 5th Anniversary.
Last gig promoting: Enchanted Burlesque Unwrapped
4. Who were your favourite performers to watch this year?
Last gig watching: Très Très Cabaret
First gig promoting: Enchanted Burlesque 5th Anniversary.
Last gig promoting: Enchanted Burlesque Unwrapped
4. Who were your favourite performers to watch this year?
Catherine D'Lish and Abigail Collins.
5. What was the best act you saw this year (and who did it)?
Catherine D'Lish (no idea of the name of the act but it was at the Candy Box and involved some guy from the audience).
*COUGH* me *COUGH*.
Also I sneaked out into the Old Rep Theatre stalls to watch the world debut of Miss Carrie-Ann's Opium Den Dita Von Teese tribute act at Enchanted Burlesque Tribute.
6. What was the best costume you saw this year (and who did it belong to)?
Forget costume, try entire set. Miss Carrie-Ann the Tribute to Dita Von Teese and the Opium Den set.
7. What was the worst thing about being a burlesque fan/performer this year?
8. Who have you met and made friends with this year though burlesque?
Finally got to know local compere Jacques Bruxelles a lot better. Photographer Olivia van der Will is a sweetie and talented with a camera. It was also the year that Angel and I finally got to meet and work with Tom Hyland and the rest of the Electric Swing Circus.
9. What have you achieved/been proud of this year?
Not allowing Enchanted Burlesque 5th Anniversary to degenerate into a disaster after Angel was taken so seriously ill that her role in the show was relegated to sitting in the audience (and even that was difficult for her). The show was also just after I'd had to put one of my cats down, so despite the happy feelings from everyone involved and watching I just couldn't get in the mood for the show. Despite her best efforts Angel was unable to make a satisfactory recovery in time for the show even just to sing the opening song so with less than 48 hours until showtime we asked Heather Drag to step in and sing the lounge version 'Down With The Sickness' whilst Mister Meredith would cover the variety slot.
10. What were your Burly related goals this year, did you achieve them?
Last year my burlesque related goal was a long term plan that could not be achieved in just one year. The fact that Enchanted Burlesque is still running means that I've partially achieved that goal.
Going by the local press burlesque had a great year in Birmingham. Angel LaVey had a mostly accurate article written about herself and Enchanted Burlesque at the beginning of the year which featured in the Birmingham Mail and the Metro whilst local compere Jacques Bruxelles also receive some positive coverage. Finally to cap off the year the Candy Box had a lovely article about how the promoters got into burlesque published before their last ever show.
What people say and what they actually do are two separate things.Sometimes it's better to leave people wanting rather than to indulge them.This is certainly true after we doubled the amount of theatre shows in Birmingham following audience requests only for our audience numbers to reduce. In short, Enchanted Burlesque stopped being a special event.
13. What are your Burly related goals for 2014?
After a tough 2013 Angel and I plan to regain the special feeling for our theatre shows. In 2014 Birmingham burlesque lovers will only get two chances to watch an Enchanted Burlesque theatre show, and if they miss it they will be waiting a long time for the next one. For starters keep 15th February 2014 free Enchanted Burlesque Tryst at the Old Rep Theatre.
We're also delighted to be back at Steeple Aston for another show (once every two years). We also have another idea for 2014 but as it's in the concept stage it's far to early to treat it as anything more than a good idea.
Sunday, 22 September 2013
So, you're in the venue. Time to set up. Setting up can be simple - you direct the performers to where they can get changed, tell the compere whose on the bill, give the music to whomever is running it, set up a table to charge people for watching the show and make sure everyone knows what time the show kicks off.
Or it can be overwhelmingly complex. This is if you've decided to leave nothing to chance so created a complex flow chart that covers every eventually including what to do if performers don't turn up, if the sound tech quits, if the compere gets drunk or if the EDL hold a demo in your venue and then get kettled by the local police force whilst the stage hand/maid takes over the show to campaign for Save The Whale.
Somewhere in between is probably better, but more towards the simple side unless you also have OCD.
The next worry you have is an empty dressing room because the talent have all decided not to turn up. This is a potential nightmare for any promoter and I'll be honest with you it can be a real problem. If you've overbooked the bill then losing 1 or 2 performers is not a problem, even losing the maid or compere isn't too problematic as there's bound to be a performer who'll give compereing a bash as a last resort or a couple who'll pick up clothes for each other (or even just resort to picking up their own clothes which whilst not ideal is better than nothing). At one show I saw the compere have to set up and clear the stage which wasn't ideal but it was better than nothing. But if it's a paper thin bill then you need a back-up plan, so now is the time for urgent Facebook postings in the burlesque jobs groups, calling that completely green newbie whose desperate for a gig or throwing a feather boa and pair of gloves at your friend/sister/mother/granny and telling them to do it for the show.
One way to avoid being let down horribly by transport issues is to book local talent, another is to avoid booking performers from the same city (if you've got all your performers coming from London and the trains are on strike whilst the motorway has a pile up then you're screwed).
The other thing to be wary of is booking just a troupe. They might split up and refuse to work together, they may travel together and the car breaks down, they might dump you as a troupe for a better paid gig (unless you've got deep pockets). Obviously that's not true of most troupes, but I'm writing for pessimists so expect the worst to happen if you put all your eggs in the same basket.
As it stands you're dad's the replacement compere (he pretends to be a DJ at embarrassing family get togethers but it will have to do. He also thinks he's a comedian because he laughs at his own jokes.). You're younger brother Paul is the stage hand (you're hoping he finally reveals his laddish behaviour is a cover for the fact he's gay otherwise he may end up arrested and on the sex offenders register by the end of the night), you sister, mother and the weird stalker newbie who thinks you're some major burlesque promoter are all in the ladies toilets getting ready to perform burlesque (by downing multiple shorts at an alarming rate). The pub landlord has already told you it's going to be full tonight (because he's letting all his friends and regulars into the show for free but still charging you full room hire). The sound tech's ready you hope (he's either ignoring everyone or playing with his I-phone). It's 7:30 pm, the doors open and now's the time for the audience to arrive...
Okay, it's 8 pm and with half an hour to go before show time you had 3 people come through the door.
It's now 9 pm. You've pushed back the start to 9:15 pm and slashed the price of tickets from £8 to £5. maybe you shouldn't have posted on Facebook about the show being a potential disaster because you don't know what you're doing and you're thinking of cancelling it.
It's 9:30 pm. You've just been told it's torrential rain outside. You currently have 10 people in the venue, 7 of which have paid £3 to get in and have just told the initial 3 people how much of a discount they got. You've already counted out £15 to give back to those initial 3 and you hope they're not on their mobiles tweeting furiously about how you stiffed them.
It's 9:45 pm. The sound tech has told you he clocks off at 11:00 pm irrespective of whether 'he strippers have got their tits out or not mate'. The sound tech's girlfriend is in the both with him. She keeps looking at you like you're some kind of monster. You signal to your dad and brother to get the show on the road.
It's 9:50 pm. The sound tech has finished arguing with his girlfriend about whether or not he will be ogling the strippers. Finally the compere's microphone has been turned on. In the 5 minutes between starting the show and getting the microphone on your dad has been standing on the stage looking stupid inbetween shouting at you to 'fucking sort it out'.
It's 10 pm and your dad is still waffling on the microphone. You now realise that he's drunk and thinks he's running a strip show for a bunch of horny blokes. Your dad has also told a series of offencive and sexist jokes that aren't funny. So far the couple who came in first have left, everyone else is talking over him.
It's 10:05 pm and the first act is on the stage. It's your sister wandering around on the stage whilst also very drunk. There's a random Christina Aguilera track playing but your sister is possibly dancing to something else in her head and even then she's hopelessly out of time. The landlords mates have now all turned up (getting in for free as agreed by the landlord and no-one else). The comments you hear about your sister from the landlords mates will need industrial bleach to remove from your memory.
1t's 10:15 pm. After an excruciating introduction by your dad that involves him talking about his sex life with your mum she finally takes to the stage for her act. It's to the same Christina Aguilera track which may be down to the sound tech who's now busy talking loudly with one of the landlords free list.
It's 10:19 pm. You can hear your mum demanding that the sound tech restarts the song as she's messed up her act and wants to start again from the beginning. The track ends and kicks into the next song. Eventually the sound tech turns it off midway through. You can hear booing from the audience as your mum rips into them for not cheering her despite the fact that she never finished her act and spent ages shouting at the sound tech.
It's 10:25 pm. Your dad calls an end to the 1st half after punching the bloke who called your mum's act shit. At this point one of the original acts you booked finally arrives after a nightmare journey. She dashes back stage (to the ladies) and gets ready for her performance. She'll headline the show, if you get that far.
It's 10:40 pm. The show was supposed to be over but the 2nd half has only just begun... if you can find your dad and get the show started. The stage lights are on but no-one's on it. You abandon the door and find him out the back chatting with your brother.
It's 10:45 pm. Your dad is back on stage. You've asked him to hurry up and announce the newbie. He does, her music kicks in but she never arrives. After a couple of minutes your dad walks back on stage and tells everyone that she was so nervous she got horribly drunk and is now throwing up in the ladies loo. He then shows everyone a picture of her throwing up on your brothers mobile phone. The image has been tweeted and the your shows twitter account tagged in it.
It's 10:50 pm. The headliner and actual burlesque performer has taken to the stage. Your dad forgets her name during her intro but did call her 'the one my son Paul said has the best arse'. The sound tech fucks up cueing the music but gets it right eventually. The performer, faced with a now hostile and disinterested audience gives it her all and by the end of the act she gets a few whoops and claps.
10:56 pm. Your dad takes to the stage to close the show. He starts by calling the headliner 'the girl with the great arse' before saying 'I bet you'd like to shag that, I would'. You've come to the stage area to announce the next show date that the landlord has bullied you into booking (and paying the hire fee for). The headliner is looking at you like 'this is the worst show I've ever worked, will I get paid or just be lucky to leave alive'. Your brother is now copping off with the drunk newbie in a corner, he's not gay it seems (you hope she sucked on a mint first at least). Your mum and sister are talking loudly about how fat the headliner is despite them both being larger. Finally you get to take the stage and announce the next show when the sound tech kills the power early and heads to the bar...
And then you wake up on the morning of show day in a cold sweat. It was all a nightmare. Surely tonight won't be that bad. you get up, feeling a little shaken but knowing it can't be that bad. You turn on your mobile and get an e-mail from your headliner...
And that ends my 4 part blog on promoting burleque shows for promoters who are also pessimists.
Thursday, 4 July 2013
Relax. Okay, at least contemplate trying to relax now. Despite a break and a completely unrelated blog (that didn't come out as I'd hoped) I'm back to finish the blog on promoting a burlesque show if you're a pessimist.
You've somehow managed to fob off a bunch of performers and a venue owner that you know what you're doing*. Now it's time to convince a paying audience the same.
Every decent poster needs an image of some kind. The first poster for the Silk Stocking Striptease Show repeated a mistake that countless amateur promoters repeat, in some cases show after show. Gil Evgren art is incredible, but it's also still copyrighted, and as I found out when we asked the estate if we could use the image we'd already used for poster artwork they can and will sue you for using it**.
You, the pessimistic promoter are already at an advantage. You'll automatically assume that you'll get sued for using one of the Gil Evgren images, and in thinking that you'll avoid one of the first ad laziest cliches of advertising an event.
Picking an appropriate image can also be a nightmare as you'll be worried about what is an isn't an appropriate image to display. If you picked something like the image above you've probably gone a little too far in worrying about who will display your posters and fliers. But at least you won't be making the mistake the optimists make in selecting images like the one below***.
Like I said, as a pessimist you will at least realise that the image above or images like tat are not going to work.
Sometimes it's a better idea to ask the performers if they have a suitable image you can use. Put your cheque book away, the majority of them are happy to supply an image for free so long as the photographer gets a visible credit on the finished artwork.
Oh yes, the artwork. Unless you're a dab hand at figuring out why Gimp 2 hates you and wants to ruin you by frustration you're either going to have to fork out for a graphic artist, fork out for Photoshop (or at least Photoshop Elements) or run the risk of being locked up forever by downloading an illegal copy of Photoshop from the Internet and inadvertently shovelling enough illegal porn on your computer to kill a pervert through acute wrist failure in the process.
Pay a graphic artist, or if you can find an amateur graphic artist with a love of burlesque and a desire to get some experience under their belt... oh just pay a graphic artist, I know you've already decided that no-one needs you that badly.
You may already have decided that once you're had your three million fliers printed you'll never offload them****. That's not the case, if you've done your homework and asked around a few shops that carry other events fliers. Of course I'm assuming you've not already mooted the idea of asking shop owners because you're terrified of being called a pervert and being given a life time ban. Sometimes you've got to go out on a limb and be prepared to have people say no to you.
Flyering in the street is also a possibility so long as you're selective where you flier and to whom. Thankfully by now the optimistic promoter who opposes you will have already been locked up for handing out their inappropriate fliers to school children# so you will probably get the street unopposed, just make sure your pessimism gets the better of you when it comes to giving out those fliers##.
Wall posters are better than street advertising, as are fliers in stores so if you can suck it up get them in the shops. Sure, you'll expect your fliers to be thrown away or covered up and your posters to hit the floor as some metal head steals your white tac to advertise Puke Vomit's Album Launch party at the Dog and Duck but that's life. You'll at least be relieved to know that the metal head won't beat you up when you put your burlesque poster next to one for the Metal Up Your Arse Festival (also at the dog and Duck).
Now is not the time to worry that the Dog and Duck is the wrong venue for your burlesque show. Now you've put up and out your posters and fliers show day is only a month or two away...
... what the fuck do you mean 'no, a year away'?
Seriously? And I thought I was a pessimist.
Some promoters use Facebook to advertise their events. Pessimists have turned off so many of their Facebook friends that most will ignore the event invite. There is an option to have paid advertising on Facebook.... ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaa.... how much money do you have to lose?
Next blog - show day, or as I like to call it the rebook the show day, none of the performers have turned up###.
* Your words, not mine.
** We were told that we'd be okay to do it once, but use the art again and if it was reported the estate would sue our arses. We've not used a Gil Evgren image since, but so many other lazy promoters do it time and again at least for now.
*** The optimistic promoter will also try to put posters containing that image up in the local library and on the local infant school noticeboard. That's optimists for you.
**** As a pessimist I estimated that 0.03% of fliers generate audience sales, therefore for my first event I estimated I needed 3,333 fliers approximately to sell out the venue. After looking at my advertising budget I could have cried if I wasn't so busy panicking.
# The optimist will hand his explicit fliers to school children assuming their parents will see them, that's two people seeing 1 flier so the maths adds up. Sadly the optimist has not considered child protection laws and will genuinely think his cell mate has accidentally dropped the soap in the prison shower.
## Finally a victory for pessimism. In Birmingham handing out fliers in the street without a proper licence is illegal and carries a hefty fine.
### So far this has never happened, but I would like to point out that my pessimistic side puts an emphasis on the words so far.
Friday, 21 June 2013
Romeo and Juliet the classic example of two groups fighting each other, and then fighting within themselves because some are progressive and others are too conservative.
This is a problem that goes beyond fictional families, it infiltrates our every day life. Recently I had an interesting encounter where the two warring groups collided.
On one side, three high up members of Equity and Equity member Angel LaVey. All representing the interests of performers.
On the other side, me...
...representing the interests of promoters.
I'm faced by three seasoned professionals and a wife who'll argue with me till the cows come home if we don't agree. I'm horribly outgunned in a discussion that will be about the current Equity standard burlesque performer contracts. The contract in it's current form is, from my perspective as a promoter, flawed and therefore not beneficial to burlesque performers in the long run.
I know that from a common sense point of view Angel is on my side, there are some clauses that Angel knows from experience make the current contract unusable by some promoters. She has also been told the same by other performers. But I also know that Angel does not share all my beliefs. Angel was a performer first and a promoter second, she has an optimistic artistic brain as opposed to my cynical numbers and figures brain, but then I was a performer as such. angel and I clash a lot despite being married and together for 10+ years.
If the current contracts can't or won't be used or signed by promoters then newer burlesque performers will either have to create their own contracts or not have one. To join Equity, worth it for the legal protection and PLI, newer performers need a certain number of past and future contracts. A free standard burlesque performer contract is very very useful, but only if the promoter will agree to sign it.
The meeting starts. I'm aware that I really am surrounded by Equity members, either side of me and opposite me.
At the moment I cannot discuss the clauses of the current contract that I attacked as being far to weighted in the favour of the performer, making the promoters job either more intensive or putting him/her in a situation where they could have a performer walk away from a booking and still be able to successfully sue for full payment without even applying one false eyelash. I the meeting I brought up several problem areas in the contracts, and with a combined effort by Angel and I had them explored, some put forward for changing.
But that;s not the real story, the real purpose of this blog.
At one point one of the Equity union reps looked at me and said quite bluntly that some of the proposed changes seemed to be all about the promoter. I'm a promoter. I'm not an Equity Union member or a serious/professional performer.
So I said quite bluntly that I was invited along to the meeting to represent the promoter side of the contracts. Then I asked everyone in attendance who had asked for any promoters to attend, after a series of no's from everyone in attendance bar Angel I looked at my wife and asked her.
Angel replied that if the contracts were to be of better use to the burlesque community they needed input from everyone, not just performers and union reps. That was why she had invited me and others involved in the scene professionally but not as performers to attend the meeting, to have a balanced approach and discussion.
You could have cut the atmosphere with a knife.
I offered to leave. If there was no interest in balance I was happy to depart and write a much more different blog than the one I'm writing now.
I don't like unions, they are no different to big business, only looking out for the people they care about (union members/shareholders) rather than looking at the bigger picture. The reality is Equity union members need promoters/bookers/agents/venues on side because that benefits their members in the long run.
There is no use in the us and them mentality except in real battle. When the us and the them are trying to achieve a common goal, in the case of burlesque performers and promoters entertain people and make money, then it's better to have the us and the them in mutual agreement rather than fighting each other whilst putting on a fake best friends performance for the paying customer. as a collective we don't, can't and won't all get on, but we have a choice as individuals to do what we can to make it work overall.
Not everything is as it seems. In life we have perceptions, re-inforced by social stereotypes that then become projected reality. If you tell a lie for long enough and to enough people it can end up seen as fact. It takes brave people to make the effort and check the reality.
In this room I gave the unions reps a promoter who wanted to make things work between both parties, inviting them to see different options to the usual us vs them mentality that reared it's ugly head part way through the meeting when a contentious issue was raised in regards to a clause I and the Equity members were in an opposing stance on, with no grounds for compromise. The moment I was told why are you here, you're a promoter. I had a choice to throw my toys out of the pram and keep arguing, instead I said I disagreed with the clause wording but was prepared to move on and deal with the rest of the contract.
Can burlesque promoters do business with Equity? From the people I've met so far the answer is yes, at least to a point. If old dividing lines are adhered too then the answer is no. But if both parties are to work towards a common goal of protecting performers rights whilst taking into consideration the needs of the promoter then everything is good if not perfect.
So, did Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt and Mercutio have to die to make everyone sit up and realise they can achieve more together? Old habits might die hard, but it's better they die before people are sacrificed instead.
Now I'm going to have a go at the people who could have come to the meeting but couldn't be bothered or found an easy excuse not too. Perhaps those of you who did make a piss poor excuse will feel humiliated by the fact that a pole dancer was in attendance because of her active belief in the union and a desire to try and get things right. She, like myself, even travelled across the country at her own expense to do work for you. Only her inexperience in the burlesque scene prevented her from achieving what would have been easy for you to achieve.
The biggest problem of the meeting was attendance. This seems endemic, and has stretched far beyond the meeting in regards to burlesque. It has spread to branch level, forcing some to close, and it affects other meetings resulting in failure to progress. If members are not prepared to engage then Equity's branches and reach will shrink until you'll have no-one to voice your concerns to on a local level. Then a very small group of people will make decisions for those who sit in the silent majority, and those decisions can be wrong because the majority of that minority may treat every subject as the same.
At the meeting for the burlesque contracts and to discuss an online branch for burlesque performers the people involved in burlesque were outnumbered by the Equity members who viewed burlesque through non-burlesque eyes. Misconceptions ruled the day in places that could have been argued by a majority of burlesque performers and promoters, but in this case the 3 non-burlesque members sometimes beat down the 2 burlesque members. Part of the attendance problem is that burlesque is so niche it doesn't lend itself to full time performers/promoters who don't require day jobs. But there must have been some who felt it easier to stay at home or not take a day off from the office to argue for their rights. Angel LaVey, myself and everyone else could do the work for you. At least one performer, stuck in a pickle, made the effort to contact Angel via phone and have his concerns and the concerns of those he'd spoken to relayed to her so that changes could be proposed, and they were with my support because I felt the proposals were sensible. But too many painted their nails, posted bathroom mirror pictures on Facebook, tweeted random 140 character updates, sat at work doing the job they claim to hate and generally looked the other way.
Meanwhile promoters, some of them also burlesque performers, sat at home watching Jeremy Kyle or at the office desk finding more and more ways to avoid working via social networking on their mobiles. Being oblivious or disinterested isn't a legal defence when Equity's legal rep comes knocking, and if you aren't promoting via a limited company it's your actual money and property that's at stake. If you wanted to make sure you didn't fall foul of any legally unenforceable contracts you've created or taken off the Internet you needed to take an interest, I'm not here to spoon feed you everything. Equity's legal team have successfully sued promoters and agents who thought their contracts or lack of contracts would protect them.
Not getting involved with an important issue but bitching about what happens is easy, the laziest people in the world mastered that centuries ago. But taking action to be heard, to engage and get the right result or show your objections to a wrong result in person takes effort. If you want change you've got to do more than whine about the result in the hope that someone else will do the work for you. As it was Angel and I struggled to get across the reality of burlesque at times because of the numbers game. But if you promoters and performers are prepared to work together you'll be able to make things happen because Equity will respect it's members opinions in sufficient numbers and they will listen to some of the needs of reasonable and responsible promoters rather than take a blanket protective stance on performers that is ultimately counterproductive.
In future will Angel and I have your undivided attentions fellow burlesque performers and promoters? Or will we have to work with Equity union misconceptions that you may all whinge about but, like so many other problems in the burlesque circuit, do nothing else about.
Wednesday, 19 June 2013
You've been awfully brave so far. After dealing with the nightmare process of becoming a promoter you've got the venue booked*. Now is the time to overcome the next nightmare that has your pessimistic self wishing you'd never started, you've just climbed to the top of a huge mountain only to find that another huge mountain has sprouted out of the top**.
You have to find performers for your show. Oh God, have you given yourself enough time to book the show?***
For optimists this is the easy part. An optimist will e-mail Vicky Butterfly, Diva Hollywood, Kitty Bang Bang and Beatrix von Bourbon offering each of them a share of the door profits and a drink at the bar. The pessimist wouldn't even consider approaching any of the 4 performers named for fear of being exposed as a fraud, because how can a brand new promoter expect to have performers that huge on the bill. The problem with the pessimist is that he'll expect EVERY performer to see him as a clueless fraud or a johnny come lately. Worse still the pessimist promoter will imagine that his e-mail offering work will somehow come out looking like a desperate bloke looking for casual sex, and then the performer will gather all the other female burlesque performer in the country and laugh at the e-mail universally. Then the countries female performers will mount a campaign to have pessimist promoter publicly flogged, or at least featured on the front page of The Sun.
Yes, I know that's not helpful. But unless your e-mail/Facebook message to the performer is asking for sex or you've managed to be really unspecific about what you want from them you shouldn't have much to fear bar a lack of an e-mail/Facebook message response.
That's right, now you've got the fear of being ignored running through your veins. Everyone will ignore you. You're probably being a bit over the top if you expect an instant reply to your e-mail requests, sometimes it can take a day or two to get a reply (longer if they're out of the country with no Internet and roaming mobile****) so try not to panic straight away. and I can reassure you that some performers are so good at performing that their admin and organisational skills have gone to shit (although they could just be too busy laughing at my communications too them before feeling guilty and taking the booking#).
Unless you've got a lot of cash stacked away somewhere your best bet is to look towards the newcomers, amateurs and hobbyists side of the burlesque circuit to fill your stage. If there are plenty of smaller shows in your area that may be problematic because those people will be working for them as well, but at least they'll work for a smaller fee (or in some cases no fee) than the bigger, more established performers. If you're struggling to even find the local performers you'll just have to try Facebook groups like Burlesque - Unpaid Jobs UK. Just be clear on everything you are offering and try not to look too shocked or scared when performers actually respond to your offer.
If you've got money and are prepared to discuss fees then a similar post in the Facebook group Burlesque - Jobs UK is a much better idea. Now you'll have access to the performers who can command a fee, and a few performers who'll try and take you for a ride if you're inexperienced. So if you do have money now will be the moment you start to panic that you've booked all the wrong performers and have opened the flood gates to people who'll see you as a cash cow.
And if you're not flush for cash but believe you'll generate a lot of money in advance sales and on the night purchases then you just need to fuck off. This blog is for pessimists who wouldn't dare think that way.
The good news is that you won't need to shell out the equivalent of your life savings for an expensive lawyer to create the contracts, so stop looking on Gumtree for a person to buy your spare kidney. A variety of contracts already exist on line that will suffice if you aren't capable of creating your own for fear of leaving loopholes that will have your home reposed and your children sent to a secret government workhouse##. So if you need contracts for fear of being screwed for £1,000,000 + expenses by the burlesque performers you booked get Googling right now.
Eventually, after countless sleepless nights and at least one day in which you don't feel like jacking it all in and giving up on ever seeing the venue deposit again, you'll have the cast for your show sorted out.
Hope you figured out how long the show was going to be on for and booked enough burlesque performers. have you got a compere? Whose working the door for you? Who'll be picking the clothes up off the stage in between acts? You look very pale, have you come over sick all of a sudden?
In my next blog I shall discus advertising your show for those of you who haven't given up yet###.
*This is purely theoretical. If you're a real pessimist you wouldn't dare book a venue without reading every blog and then weighing up the options before somehow miraculously deciding to run a burlesque show.
**And you'll find another mountain at the top of the next one. Spotted the theme yet?
***Real pessimists will have given themselves plenty of time and still won't think they have enough time.
****This has happened to me. An inexperienced promoter pessimist could have bankrupted their show making bigger and better fee offers. Luckily for me I'd assumed they didn't want the gig and had unsuccessfully tried to find someone else before the original performer came back to the UK and accept my first offer.
#I keep telling myself they don't do this.
###This bit is probably more paranoia than pessimism.
###So 1 view for this blog and 0 for the next.