Rage, Cowell and the 00s

In today's internet age, this is already an old story but Rage Against The Machine beat X-Factor winner Joe 'nice but dull' McElderry to number one in the pop charts for Christmas 2009. Something I find quite brilliant.

As we end the “noughties”, two things to encapsulate the decade is the prolific use of the internet and reality 'instant fame' TV culture. It's poster boy, Mr Simon Cowell. A man who began the decade orchestrating novelty songs by Robson & Jerome and Zig & Zag and ended it controlling prime time British television and being Americas highest earning TV star by publicising profitable, disposable starlets over talented artists.

Ten years ago, the success of the Facebook campaign to block the X-Factor song would have been unlikely. The internet was in its toddler years and social networking is still a recent phenomenon. Like those who set up the group, I love pop music but fed up with MOR drivel that is so readily lapped up by those easily seduced by the influence of television.
I've nothing against Joe (who I predict will be as popular as Leon Jackson in a year or so and will only look comfortable when he's singing in musicals) and others like him but Killing slaying the dreary Miley Cyrus cover for the coveted number one is a fabulous, en mass statement against manipulated banality.
As for the profit issue, RATM are signed to Epic and Cowell owns Syco. Both are separate subsidiaries of Sony and Cowell won't directly gain anything expect more column inches. Those who have dismissed the campaign as worthless are missing the point.

Killing in the Name is a protest song (about racism) and the songs final pay off “Fuck you I won't do what you tell me” has been reinterpreted as a direct message to Cowells monopoly on popular culture. It's also a bloody good pop song.
Will this event change popular culture? Unlikely, but it’s a warning shot and validates the power of internet social networking (another casualty of the year; the hateful Jan Moir).

RATM scoring the Christmas number one this year is a perfect exclamation to the end to a decade full of bland talent, reality TV shows and vacuous, 15 second fame celebrities.

I'm really looking forward to watching the Christmas number one being announced on Top of the Pops this year.

Merry Christmas etc etc...


Downlow Disco Damage

I have dislocated my patella and screwed up one of the ligaments in my right knee. They are unable to tell which one yet as the swelling is of Joseph Merrick proportions.

I'm sat in my flat after the weekends tranny madness of the Downlow at Glastonbury Festival. Once again, we turned the mother out! My ace crew captured some amazing footage for the film (Ring Them Bells...my film about alternative queer London that I've been raging on about), there were some fierce group numbers, fabulous looks, hilarious moments at the Stone Circle and the Downlow looked absolutely amazing (big up to Block 9). Despite a small minority of homophobic idiots and the hellish journey back to London, it was another successful year for the Downlow at Glastonburgh. (Photos http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/album.php?aid=121401&id=756238486)

Sunday night I was on-stage with Marc with a C and John Sizzle and just as I was going down for the vogue part of the routine, something snapped. I redistributed my weight, whatever it was clicked back and I dragged myself stage right. Was carried off-stage, seen by a medic who then called the paramedics to take me to the on-site hospital. As I was being lifted into the ambulance, some hippy was trying to grab my gas and air, had to slap her to get off. Some people will do anything to get high.

Finally made it to A&E on solid ground last night and had an X-ray. Nothing broken but the ligament is buggered. Its all swollen up (apparently filled with blood) but they wont drain it unless it goes down in a few days. I've got to return in 10 days and there is nothing I can do but rest it.

Apologies to Marc with a C for ruining his number (similar happened to Jonny Woo when I slipped on a banana skin giving myself concussion), thanks to Zakia for coming to hospital with me and everyone who helped pack my stuff up and get me things as I sat with my leg propped up while the Downlow was being dismantled around me.

I live with pain everyday (I suffer from Hyper Mobility Syndrome and take a strong cocktail of drugs daily just to get about) so am used to it but this is a new kind of pain. This is my third day on crutches and its made me realise how much I take walking for granted and how long it takes to go to the loo. Its also fascinating to see how people react when someone is injured. Some have given me a wide berth while others show an incredible nurturing instinct. We are animals after all and when one is lame and separated from the troupe I suppose its better to leave them.

I'm on crutches for the foreseeable future. Can't go anywhere or do anything and desperate to sit in the sunshine. I'm performing at Latitude Festival in a few weeks (and Eat Your Heat Out at Hackney Empire, but luckily its a sit down performance) just hope I can do it (though heels will be out for a while).

If anyone wants to come around and make themselves a cup of tea and give me some company, you're more than welcome.


Welcome to The Downlow

After the NYC Downlow being road blocked, one in one out, loved by straight and gay alike for the last two years at Glastonbury and Lovebox Festivals, I've decided to produce a film about it. A Paris is Burning for the British queer, disco and drag scene.

I've no budget but a belief in my modest crew and the amazing subject matter. Tomorrow, Bistrotheque host a Fun-Raising Party to raise funds for the film. If you cant make it down, please send us a few quid via paypal and I'll be your best friend.
All info http://welcometothedownlow.webs.com/

Tranny trek around South West India

So.... I'm just back from India........Started off in Goa with Colin in Palolem where every hotel hustler, seeing our pasty ‘straight off the plane’ skin jumped on us. Stayed there for five days (stunning beach but a bit touristy) where we went to Silent Noise, one of those headphone parties (Goan Council cutting the sound for parties at 10.30 these days so only way around it). We didn’t get the headphones and propped the bar up for most of the night and met Hannah and Sarah who I ended up staying in Fort Cochin with.
We moved up north to Vagator and went to a Goan Trance rave at the Hilltop (famous apparently) where we met with Verity and Brett. Oddly enough, Brett travelled around Kerela with my partner around Christmas time. The world is very very small. Now my parents seem to think that the music I like all sounds the same but they could have played the same three tracks throughout and nobody would have known the difference. Its just monotonous base with the a few blips and a voice that talks about adrenaline or the physical effects of ecstasy (how very ‘92) every now and then. We got suitably mashed, got shouted at by the women who had little chai stalls as we weren’t buying their over priced brew and met some horribly annoying posh British people who seemed to talk inane shit at us, not to us.

For the rest of the trip, here are things I jotted during the journey;

Vagator; lovely beaches, hiking over rocks and up a hill through bushes to get to Anjuna; a hippy cliché full of white people with dreadlocks (a pet hate)…… Colin gets hit by the Goa Ear Wax Scam (or is it a scam?)…… Baga; tourist hell hole…… Arambol; nice. Sweet Water Lake; stunning…… Mud bath for a quid on the beach…… Colin and Verity doing glamour shots in the sea.…… Talking to the girls on the beach, one saying “Don’t forget to buy some of my expensive rubbish”.…… Susie Strong is possibly the most rude, loud and obnoxious person I’ve met.…… Cows are the cats of Goa.…… You are hassled everywhere for cabs but when you have food poisoning and desperate to get back to your hotel, it’s a bit tricky.…… Spending the night with both ends blazing isn’t fun.…… Colin leaves for Mumbai.…… Trying to sleep food poisoning off on a 20 hour journey on a lower bunk in second class with people sitting on me.…… Hannah and Sarah on bunks above me and spend next 5 days with them.…… I love Kathakali, it goes on a bit but a truly wonderful art form. They study for a minimum of 6 years before hitting the stage. Shame I can’t do it as it’s just for the boys.…… Indian Coffee House does great poached eggs.…… Having to battle a family of cockroaches with a can of fly spray. The fuckers take forever to die.…… Our host Mary has the potential to turn scary.…… Getting used to blackouts and different times of the day in different parts of the country.…… Ferry’s are very cheap.…… Feel very safe.…… You can have a good nights sleep in a room smaller than a toilet on a metal camp bed with birds in the room.…… Indian women and children are beautiful, the men less so with their funny moustaches and boot cut trousers.…… Massala tea is divine, as is Bharathanatyam.…… Local bus journeys are sound tracked by high energy party music.…… Kottayam is vile. The hotel receptionist keeps coming to my room, asking me questions about my ‘husband’ then someone tries to force my door around midnight.…… Amazing curried chicken and parrota for about 70p in skanky café.…… Being stalked in the hotel bar for an hour buy a creepy git then sharing a bed with bugs and fleas in Allapey.…… 8 hour boat trip down the Back Waters is stunning but can then gets a bit arduous.…… I can’t throw pens or bouncy balls to kids from a moving boat.…… I still burn despite Factor 30.…… Kollom dump so get on the next bus out of there and end up in Varkala.…… Would the person playing Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ on the beach, on a loop, on a recorder please choose another cliché.…… Sod Goa, Varkala much nicer.…… Can’t seem to shake dodgy tummy. Toilet paper is relatively expensive, I go through a lot.…… I can hear the Arabian Sea from my room in Varkala. I can see it if I pop my head out of the door.…… Big flying fish flew right past me!…… Americans are loud.…… I could murder a spliff. And the twat banging next door.…… Sitting under a palm tree, watching dolphins swim really close to the shore and reading Joan Collins’ ‘Past Imperfect’…heaven.…… Having a very painful tooth clean and polish.…… Watching a woman carry a baby in one arm, toddler in another and freshly washed clothes balanced on her head proves we don’t need all the crap we buy for kids in the west.…… Swimming in the fresh spring water tank.…… Despite my problems, feel very lucky and privileged.…… The price difference on buses depends on the ticket conductor.…… Indian boys dance like big gays.…… Meeting Melvin, David and Rianra at yoga to discover they live around the corner.…… I don’t like Trivandrum. One hotel wouldn’t let me stay for being a lone woman.…… Overheard by two middle aged British ladies; “You’d think they’d put have subtitles” during the Hindi bits while watching Slumdog Millionare in the biggest cinema I’ve seen. Probably forgot they were in India.…… When Indian men stay en masse in a hotel, they bitch like girls throughout the night.…… 32 degrees while it snows back in London.…… Mosquitoes love me despite lashings of repellent.…… Being a woman travelling on your own means some men will talk to you like shit.…… You can watch a film in Tamil and follow what’s going on.…… Gallery attendants are grumpy sods the world over.…… I seem to prefer the vibe of Hindu states than Christian ones.…… Constant curb crawling from rickshaw drivers who will try and double the fare even though they‘re already getting over double the regular fare.…… Kanniyakamari is amazing but a bit like the Blackpool of India with its abundance of cheap crap on sale.…… Stuff the power and corruption vibe of the Vatican, The Stanunathaswami Temple in Suchindram is the most incredible religious building I‘ve been to, even more so when the puja begins. Made me a bit emotional.…… Volunteering at S.I.S.P. Doing a creative drama workshop, first thing on a Monday morning with no prep and kids who hardly speak English ends up being a lot of fun. Some of the kids and their Mothers are beaten by their alcoholic Fathers. Makes me very angry that it is accepted and there is little to be done about it.…… Teaching Group F ‘The Rainbow Song’ and ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ takes a while to get right but they can’t stop once they know it.…… Taught some of the older boys the ‘Electric Slide’, but vogueing didn’t get off the ground.…… Mentally challenged kids can dance and play the sitar remarkably well. Government Minister arrives late to give a speech and spends most of it talking about the rough day he’s had, problems with his family and his busy schedule instead of the performing kids. Poor lamb.…… Sometimes it is worth paying travel agents the commission to book train tickets.…… Leaving the kids at S.I.S.P. was hard.…… 15 hour train journey to Mangalore a doddle on 10 mg of valium. Had to be kicked off the train.…… I love talking to Hindu pilgrims on holiday for the Shivarati Festival in Gokarna.…… Going for a “bucket” when you’re cold and tired wakes you up no end.…… It is very hard to find a good tailor who listens and follows measurements.…… Mosquitoes are miniature vampires.…… Gokarn is full of unwashed, dreadlock sporting, so-called traveller types wearing ‘Om’ t-shirts who push past Indian pilgrims as if they aren’t there.…… Monkeys jumping around on roof tops.…… Swapping a small radio for a drum with a guy on the beach.…… Waking sharply after a coconut landed on the roof of small cell like room.…… Some Indian families make their children shake my hand.…… Giving an elephant a rupee who tucks it under the end of its trunk, then blesses you by whacking its trunk on your head is a tourist novelty but I do it about 7 times.…… Ignorant hippies doing fire poi next to main stage during Shivarati get busted-heh.…… Sat on the beach and suddenly surrounded by 40 school girls curious by my being there.…… When the lock on the hotel door is knackered, it will take 5 men one hour, a lot of head scratching and a rusty saw to get it open.…… If I see one more hippy not say thank you or treat an Indian with distain again, I swear I’ll slap them. We’re guests in their country for Vishnu’s sake.…… A beggar asks for money for food but refuses the bananas I buy him.…… Trek to Kootle Beach, tough. Trek onto Om beach, more so.…… Sleeping in a bamboo hut by the sea is nice but noisy.…… A rooster strutting around indicates you will wake to a lot of cock-a-doo-da-doodling at the first sign of light.…… I have sat on a tropical beach, eaten a purpose bought Bounty and truly tasted paradise.…… I tried not showering for 2 days but couldn’t bear it, don’t know how hippies do it.…… Picked up someone else’s flip-flops by mistake, now stuck with smaller flip-flops……. Explaining to a 17 year old boy how periods work and that people do indeed have same sex partners is enlightening.…… Glad I came to Agonda for my last few days.…… Frustrating to see western girls walking around the streets in bikinis and topless on the beach. Spoke to both Indian women and men who find this very offensive. Again, we’re guests in someone else’s country for Shiva’s sake, put em away.…… Masseur refused to massage me as he said I has a skin disease when in fact its mosquito bites you could play dot to dot with.…… Playing Uno with two Indian girls who tell me that if I need colonic irrigation, to contact their Father. The younger of the two thinks I’m a boy.…… Being repeatedly lectured by Mathew (the night watchman who patrols his watch with a big torch and even bigger stick) that I shouldn’t drink milk, only eats beans and pulses; on the way to the bathroom, outside the bathroom, on the way back to my shack, outside the shack, when I closed the door…. He claims to be an expert in homosexual activity, gave me a steel plate, massage oil, a card with Congratulations written on the front addressed to Miss Holestar and told me to get married and study the bible daily.…… Very scary cab ride to airport at 3 in the morning on back roads that look like crime scenes with awful Akon album on full blast.…… Seeing package tour Brits at airport make me realise the trip is really over.

So that’s my 6 weeks in India. I’ll definitely be returning and spend more time there. There‘s so much more of the country to see. Probably won’t return to Goa though. Its ok but preferred Varkala and Gonkarn.
I met some ace people but many of the traveller types I found quite boring with nothing to talk about but travelling, played their instruments badly at all hours and strutted around like they own the place. I met a few who wouldn’t eat at restaurants unless other Westerners did which seems a little ignorant. I got food poisoning from a western restaurant so go figure.
The poor school at Kovalam (horrible package tourist place) was an eye opener and wish more travellers would take even a tiny amount of time out of their trip to do a little volunteer work. Giving money is all good and well but giving people your time is invaluable.

I remember when I was younger saying to a friend that the only way I would consider travelling India would be 1st class in fancy hotels. What a precocious little twerp I was. I may be a show girl but was happy to leave the glamour behind and travelled on less than a shoe string, slept in dirty tiny rooms (the single duvet cover I took was a god send), ate in rusty old shacks by the road and met some incredible people. I loved it and wouldn’t travel India any other way.

All my photos are on my facebook profile

Be grateful for what you've got..my little bit of charity work in India

So as you may or may not know….I’ve been traveling around Southern India for the past month or so. I’m currently in Kovalam (a bit Costa Del Kerela …..full of plump middle aged westerners on package holidays whose only interaction with Indians are in restaurants) and I’m trying to put things in to perspective (albeit for a short time) and do a little charity work.
As much as I love London, its nice to get away from all the faux arse kissing/oh you must come to my fabulous party/I’ll book you soon, honest bullshit that goes with this business we so lovingly call show.

I’m teaching the youngest class (aged 6-8) at SISP (Sebastian Indian Social Projects)
I’ve never been a particular fan of children but these kids are funny, adorable and seem to like that my lessons consist of jumping on tables and rolling around on the floor singing.

Yesterday, one boy in the class slept nearly the whole day as his father had beaten him the night before. Two sisters are forced to go begging on the beach to buy booze for their alcoholic father who beats their mother. One of the girls always goes back for as much food as she can get at meal times as she doesnt get fed at home. I met these kids (who don't even have shoes) on the road back to my cockroach ridden digs and the youngest girl and boy held my hand tightly all the way back. I didn’t want to leave them to go home where they aren’t given much materially or emotionaly.

There is a very poor structure of child welfare in India. Women and children are frequently abused and it’s accepted as the norm. There are few girls in the school as from the age of 12, they are expected to stay at home, tend to the house and in many cases, also work.
I guess I can’t come over here with my western values, stomping around demanding that things change. Feminism in the west is still a recent phenomena and India is still a third world country. Hopefully, time will tell but its going to have to be the women of India themselves to revolt. A Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women is a start in the right direction (a reaction against Hindu Fundamentalists who beat up women drinking in a bar).

SISP try and give these children something positive. Their parents are paid for the kids to attend the school (as so many are forced to work from a young age), they are fed throughout the day and receive a lot of care and attention from the teachers and volunteers. There is also a department that employs and educates women who make bags, earrings and placemats out of recycled materials.
SISP runs on donations alone and receives no government support. If anyone wants to sponsor a child, donate or volunteer you can find everything on the website.

SISP (Sebastian Indian Social Projects)