That’s a wrap! Goodbye performing

Last night I had a wonderful show with the Cat’s Pyjamas Collective, and it was my last ever show.

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Yep, I am the latest in a long line of performers hanging up their assorted costumes.

There are a lot of reasons why I’m quitting, and here are some of them.

-It’s not making me as happy as it used to. Actually, I started to realise that performing was making me feel bad about myself.  A lot of was the negative competitive side, which nobody likes.  It’s always been there,  but these days I feel less inclined to put up with it and more inclined to leave it behind. Maybe it’s an age thing. I just want a peaceful life!

I’ll never be as good as I want to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, but I’m just not skilled enough to do the things I want to do as a performer. I would need to do some serious performing arts training just to stand a chance. And when it comes down to it, if I have to pile my money and energy into something, it’s going to be the PhD and fiction writing. Long term, I reckon I have more of a future in these things, and stand more of a chance of excelling in these areas.

I’ve done everything I wanted to in burlesque, and more. I’ve achieved my burlesque bucket list and then some, and I just don’t know where else I can go, unless I got a hell of a lot better at performing, which is unlikely.

I want more money. I can earn a living as a full time performer, but it’s not excatly a generous living. Hand to mouth comes to mind. I’m in my 30s now and at some point I want to be able to have holidays, have a car, pay off my debt etc. That aint happening on my performer’s wage.

– I don’t want to be away from home all the time. I think this was when I realised that I was actually getting old; we all know that feeling before going on stage…’why am I doing this? I could just be home watching TV!’. Of course, we never really mean it, because we love performing, Except this year, I started actually meaning it. I wanted to be at home with my wee family, and I didn’t want to be swanning around the country all the time. I’ll be taking up gardening soon, just you wait and see!

So, last night was the last gig!

I’ll still be around; in September my PhD really kicks off and it is about burlesque! There are a lot of you that I would love to interview for it, and will be in touch about that at some point! I’ve also found a renewed enjoyment in watching burly shows; now that I’m not performing I can have fun with it, rather than dissecting it from a professional point of view.

I’m not saying I will never perform again in my life ever, either.  There are some shows that I love and could always tempt me back- but I won’t be actively hunting work or promoting myself in that way anymore.

All in all, I feel quite sad about it, but in a sweet way. Performing has made me who I am, taken me to more wonderful places and given more more amazing experiences that I ever dreamed I  would have.

To end with, here are a tiny few of my burlesque highlights!

2007: First performances ever at the Slippery Belle Burlesque, being part of a troupe, the Sugar Licks, and starting the Sugar Fix Burlesque Social!

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2007: Retro Burlesque, Liverpool: First performance in a theatre (theatre lounge but still) and using a proper mirror with lights!

Royal Court

2008: Hull Rock Soc Ball: First ever paid gig and got put up in a hotel too!


2009: Tease Mafia, Ireland: Flown to Ireland, wonderful folks, b&b with a free Rocky bar!

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2011: Burlesque Garden, Italy: One of the best weekends of my life, this! Two nights in an art deco beach front venue, and riding a float in a the second biggest carnival in the world!

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2011-2013: High Tease, Komedia and Lowry: Cabaret locusts and Schwarzenburgen. The Burlesque Show Tour: Cabaret street picnics, grumpy techs and glorious techs, drunken Glaswegians, terrifying night time drives.

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2014: Crazy shows on ice and on a boat in Switzerland

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Old Acts!

RedRocks date 3    BlackJacksSeptember CandyShack2Careamorgypsy1Powder Room Fire Angel Wings KK


Social Times!

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And finally, this, always this.

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I’m fat- should I hate myself?


Social media is full of body-shaming at the moment. Accusations and insults fly: people are too fat, too thin, unhealthy etc.

Recently, we were treated to this lovely piece of poison, stating that fat people should not be confident in themselves, but should display shame and self-loathing at all times, because they are fat.

It’s a common theme. Every time someone fat dares suggest that they are ok with themselves and don’t necessarily hate and loathe their bodies, the “it’s unhealthy” brigade pop up. Apparently, if you appear unhealthy, you cannot display any confidence or sense of self-worth, lest you “glorify” whatever makes you unhealthy.

Fat Bitch

This happens so much, today I suddenly thought…”should I hate myself because I’m fat”?

The answer is definitely no, despite what certain portions of the internet might say.

Fat Shaming

But why not? Why should I still feel a sense of self-worth, happiness and confidence, when I am the most socially repugnant thing a woman can be (except a hooker) – I’m FAT! I should HATE my body and be constantly ASHAMED and UNHAPPY, right? No.

This is why not:

There is more to my body than fat.

I was born in my body. My mam held me as a baby in this body.

I’ve grown up in my body, learned to walk, run, dance, talk, sing.

With my body, I’ve held my loved ones, and they’ve held me.

With my body, I’ve gone all over the world, bounced & gyrated on stage and made people laugh.

My body has given me thoughts, helped me write books and blogs and academic stuff.

My body was with me through the death of my dad, my graduations, and all the big moments.

Me and my body like to get drunk together, have fun and be silly.

My brain is part of my body, and my brain makes me kind, selfish, a bad cook, a bookworm, an animal lover, a friend, a daughter, a rocker, a performer, a writer.

My body is my bum, hips, lips and legs, and I don’t like the way they look. It’s also my hair, skin, feet, back and boobs, and I do like the way they look.

My body is all of those things. Annnnnnnd my body is fat.

I am not one thing. I am a collection of past, present and future, all wrapped up in my body. How could I hate it and my whole self because of one thing- the fat?

Don’t get me wrong, my self-confidence is not great. There are many things about myself, physically, mentally and emotionally, that I don’t like. And I don’t like being this fat. I would like to be slightly slimmer, fitter and stronger, for a number of reasons, one of which is because I still feel I would like to fit in more with that standard idea of “attractive”. What can I say, it’s been drummed into me for 33 years, I can’t lose it entirely. But I don’t, wont, deny myself happiness or confidence because of my figure and I will not measure my worth or my life, according to the amount and shape of the flesh on my bones.

There is more to my body than fat. And that’s why I don’t hate myself.

So there.

Who should teach burlesque and how? Survey Results

A long while ago I did a survey regarding the “teaching problem” in burlesque, and having sat on the info for ages,  here it is!.

We all know the issues with teaching in burlesque:

-Inexperienced performers teaching

-Inexperienced teachers teaching

-Burlesque graduates being too ‘cookie-cutter’ or not trained well enough

-Bad reflection on the credibility and quality of burlesque as an art/industry

And so forth.

Over the years, some experienced performers have looked into setting up a burlesque lesson curriculum of sorts, with the aim to get accredited. After all, other performance arts have levels, exams, and guidelines if not a curriculum. Why not burlesque? This has been quite thoroughly investigated, and the main problem is getting accreditation and who to get it from. We don’t really fit anywhere, not with dance or circus or acting or fitness organisations (although there is a fitness accredited burlesque instructors course, which “qualifies” you to teach burlesque, but more in the fitness realm than in theatre).

There are divided opinions about how teaching is best approached in burlesque, and any effort would need to be informed and supported by the burlesque world.

So I did a survey to find out what you all think: here is a summary of the results (happy to provide full results on request):

Burlesque Teaching Survey: 73 respondents

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Is burlesque sex work?

Recently I was involved in a very interesting conversation about whether burlesque could be legitimately considered as sex work. There were lots of contributions, and I was quite surprised by some of the responses. Here is a paraphrased summary of some of them:

“It depends on how the local government defines sex work

“Sex work has to involve actual sex. Burlesque doesn’t so it’s not”

“It’s not considered sex work by law”

“All stripping is sex work, regardless of semantics”

“The roots of burlesque are in sex work”

“It depends on interpretation; for some people it is, for some people it’s not”

“Denying that burlesque is sex work is shaming sex workers by placing wrongly placing yourselves as better than and different than sex workers, when you aren’t”

“Sex work is not about the taking off of clothes, its about the context and the intent of an action.”

Blooming interesting stuff, and a whole variety of opinions and points of view!

If someone were to think my acts were sex work, I would be astonished! Not insulted, but very surprised! I’m not trying to be sexual or sexy or to turn anyone on, and I don’t. What I do is to use sexual references in a comedic way to create an entertaining act that pushes a few naughty boundaries, and sometimes I remove clothing to partial nudity as part of this.

I don’t believe that any and all clothing removal (paid or unpaid) has to be for the purpose of sexually stimulating someone. Stripping can take many forms. Some of these forms are entirely for the purpose of sexual stimulation, and others are barely for that at all. I also believe that sex and art are not mutually exclusive, and that you can have sexy art without it just being about just for sex (i.e. turning people on). However, I also know that there are people who honestly believe the opposite of that.

For example- if you think that sex (be that in the form of partial nudity, comedy, theatre, or anything else) plus payment = sex work, then I suppose loads of stuff is sex work, even if the intent is not to give a dog a bone. Or if you feel that the presence of sex in any form, erases all artistic or intellectual intent, then anything involving sex will be ONLY about sex. And these points of view are valid, as much as you might disagree. That’s because definitions of sex and art are subjective and differ from person to person.

The burlesque world, in the UK at least, seems somewhat divided in some ways about this. Some people are adamant that “burlesque is not stripping” while others are enthusiastically claiming the term “stripper” as their own badge of honour. We see nights called “tease not sleaze” and media articles entitled “cheeky not erotic”. All these points of view are valid, and have their own difficulties. Where is the line between saying burlesque isn’t sexual entertainment because you genuinely feel it is not, and denying it because you know that most people look down on sexual entertainment and sex work?

Conversely, where is the line between claiming the label “stripper” in a positive way, and getting the plus points of calling yourself a stripper while not having to deal with the same degree of isolation and stigma that can come with being a lap dancer or sex worker? Assuming you think there’s any difference. Many burlesquers are also strippers/sex workers, so it would be interesting to hear what they think about all this.

I personally feel like you can’t take the sex out of burlesque. It is the original sexual art form, and that’s what makes it both popular and controversial. Always has. But there was a time I felt very differently, and argued as such. For me it was partly because I didn’t understand burlesque or it’s history as well as I do now, but it was also partially because my partner at the time had a real issue with anyone but him looking at me sexually. It caused huge arguments and as a result I played down the sex element of burlesque, without realising that’s what I was doing.

It’s really interesting to look at why you might argue to take the sex out of burlesque, and why you would argue that burlesque can’t exist without it.  As some wise soul said “whether you think burlesque can be sex work or not depends on how you interpret it, and also how comfortable you feel with the label of sex worker”.

So what do you think? Are you a sex worker? How would you feel if someone said you were? Or said you weren’t?

All comments and thoughts welcome!


Staying Safe Advice to New Performers

Good Advice on Keeping Safe by Lilly Laudanum

Bluestocking Lounge

As a new performer, the world of burlesque and cabaret is an exciting one… It can open new doors to new pathways in life, it can open you up to new friends and experiences… You might be offered a lot of shows, which is good, as we bet you are keen to get on that stage and perform! But while not wanting to put anyone off by any means, we’ve compiled some advice that will hopefully keep you safe… 

First and foremost – you don’t have to do every show you are offered… 

This might sound ridiculous, especially from people saying do as many shows as you like, but please be choosy and think about the kind of shows you are offered. Make a list of shows you respect and have heard good things about and apply to them and ask other performers their advice on the best shows to…

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Is there a crisis in burlesque?

Today I found out about two more established UK performers who have given up burlesque. Both of these were talented, creative and quirky ladies who worked hard and brought a lot to the stage. And they aren’t the only ones; this year we have already lost more than one long-time performer, and there are rumblings from several others about not feeling it as much, any more; myself included.

Others have written thoughtful pieces on giving up and/or the reasons for feeling less than happy with burlesque, Millie Dollar, Tiger Tiger,  Ivy Wilde, Dr Lucky, and there were a few commonalities between these writings;

– It’s not what it used to be: people seem to miss the camaraderie and support of the days when burlesque was newer and more personal.

– The competitiveness, reduced fees and reduced opportunities of an over-saturated scene.

– Personal life vs performing life clashes or imbalances

– The privileging of bling, glitz and looks over creativity, DIY and experimental performance (although the two, of course, are not necessarily mutually exclusive!)

While these things may or may not be new problems for burlesque, what gets me wondering is why performers are choosing to step away rather than fight to change what they would like to see change? I can’t answer for anyone but myself, so here is what I currently feel about burlesque and why I am thinking about stepping back.

Burlesque, at the moment, just isn’t the burlesque I started performing for. While there are still people pushing the envelope, the humour, the oddball fun, the random creativity, the “do whatever the flip you want and see what happens”-ness of it has diminished, from my perspective. Of course, you can still do these things, but its not where the money or the prestige is. I am seeing increased admiration (from performers, promoters and audience) of stereotypical beauty, expensive sparkling costumes, and increased amounts of newcomers who aspire to that kind of performance. And while there is still ample room for quirky, character or story-based acts, it is rarer to see these acts at the top of a bill.

Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this, per se, but for me, that isn’t what burlesque should be exclusively or even mainly about. Burlesque should be diverse and subversive and grassroots as well as polished, expensive and celebrating a particular aesthetic. There should be similar amounts of people coming into burlesque who want to be comediennes, clowns, weirdos, experimental artists, story tellers, genderfuckers and boundary pushers, as want to be Swarovski-bedecked queens of burlesque, the next Dita Von Teeses.

So, fight for it, some people say. Make the burlesque you want to be. And I get this, its an admirable sentiment. But to be brutally honest, I don’t know whether that is a fight I want to have. I’m knackered.  And if the experimental side of burlesque is to survive and flourish, it will be led by performers far more talented and creative than me.

So is burlesque in crisis? Is it changing for the worse? I don’t know. Perhaps this is the just the way burlesque is growing, changing, developing. Things can’t stay the same forever. As we get more and more “professional” level shows, the stakes get higher, the pressure increases, and those who can’t make the grade, don’t. But it bothers me when brilliant performers say to me things like:

“I realised if I wanted to get anywhere in burlesque, really, I would have to start doing classic”

“Lots of people weren’t interested in what I did because I wasn’t as beautiful as the other girl I was with, and I was too weird.”

But then we look at the people who are particularly up-and-coming, and we see a fierce, bizarre dancer, a Dita-a-like sylph, a comedienne and circus performer, a showgirl of ample proportions, a bump n grinder, a gender-fucking show boy, so maybe things aren’t always how they seem. That variety is still there, in many ways. I know there are brilliant performers representing all sides of the burlesque coin, and while I yearn for the weird, the crazy, the hilarious and the queer to be as enticing to newcomers as the glamorous, there is still so much life left in the old girl Burlesque, yet.  It will be interesting to see where we go next.

Eight things burlesque couldn’t exist without

Eight things, without which burlesque as we know it would not exist:


Without the Book of Faces, how could we find gigs and tell everyone about our lives? (possible answer: go back to MySpace…)



Without money, how could we buy pretty things to throw on the floor and get stolen by drunk audience members?


3. Music

Without music, how could we do all the ridiculous things we do on a stage, and still look cool?



Without an audience, who would clap and cheer even when we get stuck in our clothes and can’t get out?


5.Rude Body Parts

Without rude body parts, we would really be pushed for material. How would we end our acts?



Without fabric to wave about, look exciting or take off, what would we actually do in our acts? Burlesque strippers need clothes.




Without sex, would people really have kept watching burlesque for over a hundred years? Hmmmm let me think….Image

8.A Sense of Humour

Without a sense of humour, would any of us still be doing this?