Last night I had my hysteria diagnosed (worst case the doctor had seen apparently), helped stitch an abortion tapestry, created a perfume that smelled like my mum (dried roses, lavender, and freshly baked bread, if you’re wondering), observed a nipple casting (in chocolate), and visited a lipstick museum featuring the various lip stains of Lady Di, Eva Braun, and Mother Teresa. Oh Gay Shame, we’ve only just met but I’m going to miss you forever.
Gay Shame was originally created by Duckie – incidentally one of my favourite places to dance – as an Arts Council-funded alternative to the corporate overkill of Gay Pride. Now Pride is “a nice little community celebration run by volunteers,” said producer Simon Casson in last week’s Boyz magazine, “we don’t really have any big problem with it, and therefore there’s nothing really to kick against. I think the theme has run its course.”
Going out with a busty bang, this last hurrah was a glorious celebration of femininity. Brixton Academy was transformed into an Alice in Wonderland funfare of sideshows, music, magic and mischief. The inimitable Readers Wifes provided the soundtrack, local dance group Stylinquents impressed on stage and headliners Saint Etienne took us all on a nostalgia trip. Only love can break your heart indeed.
The real stars of the show, however, were the artists and performers running the lovingly created sideshows. Each one was a work of art in itself, an intricately detailed bubble of exploration and adventure. The lines between performer and observer blurred at every turn, each stall inviting participation in spontaneous and unscripted bursts of group theatre. Not that it felt anything as definable as that. What did it feel like? Freeing, actually. Pure play instead of the tired daily roles and routines we ascribe ourselves. Duckie, I salute you.