Soho Estates Change Their Mind: New Madame Jojo’s Will Be “Something Very Different”


Soho Estates have announced that, when the scaffolding around the Madame Jojo’s venue eventually comes down next year, there will be “something very different”.

John James, MD of Soho Estates and Paul Raymond’s son-in-law, exclusively filled us in on the details. “Look, I’ll be honest. When we originally shuttered the place in 2015, we were secretly hoping to turn the whole block into something the area was crying out for: swanky apartments privately sold in roubles or riyads, another hummus restaurant, a sex offender community centre disguised as a sex toy emporium and a cashpoint that charged you either an arm or a leg to take your own money out.”

James has had second thoughts, though. “We brought in a firm of analysts to look at the area and right away they saw a hole in the market. It was staring us in the face the whole time yet we couldn’t see the wood for the trees. Sometimes it takes highly paid consultants with zero in the way of sartorial imagination to point out the bleeding obvious.”

The report by R. Soles favoured a commercial opportunity which had emerged over the last few years and which Soho Estates is keen to capitalise on. James continued, “the consultants pointed out that a number of LGBT venues had closed down and we all know the gays love a singsong and a bit of the old cross-dressing. There are so few places around now that the poor fellows are now resorting to using phone apps like Grindr to find love and companionship.

“Thankfully, so many of our local competitors are going to the wall that, when we get round to finally opening Jojo’s as a cabaret nightclub, it will be something of a novelty in Soho. And where better than a venue which used to have great variety, drag and burlesque nights before it became an expensive and dark drinking den with occasional stage entertainment.”

The new Madame Jojo’s is scheduled to open in 2018.

Who Are The UK’s Top 20 Burlesque Performers?

Industry website 21st Century Burlesque has revealed the results of its latest annual opinion poll sponsored by Sublime Boudoir and announced the top 50 burlesque performers in the world as voted for by their peers and members of the public.

While the final results reflect the site’s largely American readership, extra lists have been produced which reflect how the international artistes fared in their own country. As identified by the site, below are the top twenty  performers from or based in the UK.

1. Betsy Rose (global #12, last year UK #8, above)

2. Vicky Butterfly (global #14, last year UK #2)

3. Velma Von Bon Bon (global #24, last year UK #9)

4. Reuben Kaye (global #32, last year UK #10)

5. Rubyyy Jones (global #35, last year UK #4)

6. Kitty Bang Bang (global # 40, last year UK #3)

7. Lolo Brow (global #42, last year UK #13)

8. Lou Safire (global #43, last year UK #7)

9. Havana Hurricane (global #46, last year UK #5)

10. Cece Sinclair (last year UK #14)

11. Bettsie Bon Bon (last year UK #19)

12. Polly Rae (last year UK #6)

13. Lady Wildflower (last year UK #15)

14. Lilly Snatchdragon (last year UK #11)

15. Felicity Furore (N/A)

16. Aurora Galore (last year UK #1)

17. Tom Harlow (N/A)

18. Eliza DeLite (last year UK #16)

19. Amber Topaz (N/A)

20. Raven Noir (N/A)

Congratulations to Betsy Rose, one-third of the Gin House Burlesque troupe alongside Missy Fatale and Jolie Papillon. Ranking twelfth overall in the 2016 global rankings, she takes over the UK top spot from Aurora Galore who has fallen to #16; the latter may have been affected by her online meltdown to our review of her show Glamorous Weirdo.

Lolo Brow, winner of the top prize at the inaugural Burlesque Awards is joined in the latest poll by her Family Fierce comrade Lilly Snatchdragon. Miss Brow, who delivered our annual Alternative Christmas Message, is one of the fastest climbers up the poll alongside singer and compere Reuben Kaye (who can be seen from this week hosting Seven Sins at Cafe de Paris), his Seven Sins co-star Bettsie Bon Bon, Between The Sheets performer and producer Polly Rae and acrobatic clown Velma Von Bon Bon.

New faces for 2016 include Felicity Furore (part of the House of Q who return with a new show on 18 January), Scottish boylesquer Tom Harlow, Northern songbird Amber Topaz and performer and Burlesque Noir producer Raven Noir.

Image: Franco Milazzo



West London Cabaret Venue The Aeronaut Gutted After NYE Blaze

West Acton cabaret venue The Aeronaut was ablaze last night just half an hour after partygoers saw in the New Year.

The “Circus Spectacular” show featured compere Ria Lina and performers fire burlesquer Aurora Galore, comedy music act Rayguns Look Real Enough, clown Dmitri Hatton and circus artistes Jess Love, Le Renn, Silver Lining’s Niamh O’Reilly and Angeliki Nikolakaki.

Around 340 revellers and 12 staff fled the Aeronaut when the alarm was raised. Online footage obtained by the BBC and The Mirror shows the venue alight as over 70 members of the London Fire Brigade tackled the flames. The LFB rescued six people from a first-floor flat above the pub; the neighbouring police station was evacuated too. Three police officers who assisted in tackling the fire are being treated for smoke inhalation. The London Ambulance Service said it took five patients to hospital suffering from ‘minor injuries’.

The venue has been seriously damaged. An LFB spokesman said, “Half of the ground floor of the building is alight. The first and second floors, including the roof of the three-storey building, have been gutted by the fire.” The blaze was finally brought under control by 5am.

The cause of  the fire is not yet known. The police have said the cause was not believed to be suspicious while the LFB have said it was unknown.

Matt Blair (son of TV celebrity Lionel and part of musical act Rayguns Look Real Enough) wrote on Twitter about the night’s events.

According to The Metro, Blair said that he had heard that ‘some idiot’ used a candle to light a branch on a Christmas tree but he was unable to verify this.

Image: @AbdulYusuf


Compère Dusty Limits In Las Vegas Rape Joke Furore

The most prestigious burlesque industry event of the year has been hit by a “rape joke” storm on its first night.

Held annually in Las Vegas, the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend takes place from Thursday to Sunday on the first weekend of June. Since its inception as Miss Exotic World, it is regarded by many as a showcase for the globe’s finest talent. It hands out a number of awards including Reigning Queen of Burlesque (currently held by Trixie Little) and its male equivalent; two past winners of the latter can be seen this September in Briefs at the London Wonderground.

After the Burlesque Hall of Fame’s opening show on Thursday, an after party produced by Sublime Boudoir featured a number of London-based performers and crew. The event’s compère was Dusty Limits, an Australian artist who won the Best Host prize at the London Cabaret Awards in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Dusty Limits has had a number of solo shows (including Post-Mortem) and launched his debut album Grin last year. When he gets back to the UK, he can be seen at the London Wonderground in Hotel Black Cat and Dr Sketchy before the return of Scarfe’s Bar cabaret at the Rosewood Hotel in the autumn and a new theatrical cabaret project based on Greek tragedy. Together with Benjamin Louche and Rose Thorne, he is a trustee of Cabaret vs Cancer, a not for profit organisation raising money for cancer charities through cabaret and burlesque.

At one point during last night’s proceedings, he apparently was having difficulties making himself heard during which he made his ill-judged jibe. Speaking to industry magazine 21st Century Burlesque, costumier Viv Clicquot provided a witness statement. “(Dusty) was trying to get the crowd to shut up for some announcement he wanted to make,” she said. “His tone from the onset was very demeaning towards the audience. He was trying to pull off that faux abusive brand of comedy that can be funny when executed well, by people like Miss Astrid, for example.”

Clicquot continued, “he was becoming increasingly irritated with his own inability to capture and hold the attention of the audience, and in what was clearly an ill-advised act of desperation, he said, ‘you must all have been raped by your grandfather’.”

Also at the party was Bella Blue, head of the New Orleans School of Burlesque. She said, “it was really a shame that this host seemed so self-centred and really wanted it to be all about him. And when it wasn’t, he lashed out and made some poor decisions in order to get everyone’s attention. It was just in poor taste.”

The response to the incident has been swift. As his social media alter ego Dorian Black, Dusty Limits has remarked on Facebook saying “Last night I fucked up. I wholeheartedly apologise. I won’t say more about this for now.”

Dusty Limits (as his Facebook alter ego Dorian Black) apologises.

Dustin Wax, Executive Director of The Burlesque Hall of Fame, has commented saying “I know the pressure emcees are under and understand that ill-formed decisions happen, but rape jokes are not at all appropriate, least of all in a show dedicated to the celebration of women’s creativity and sexual self-representation.”

In a joint statement, the Burlesque Hall of Fame and Sublime Boudoir have made their apologies: “Sublime Boudoir and the Burlesque Hall of Fame wish to apologize to our guests for inappropriate remarks made by our emcees last night. Both Sublime Boudoir and BHoF strive to create fun, safe and respectful environments for our attendees and deeply regret any upset that these comments may have caused. We have met with our teams to iterate our ongoing commitment to support the art of burlesque and to celebrate and bolster the feminist principles that continue to guide our missions, and assure our attendees that we will do everything we can to ensure an enjoyable experience for all.”

The Burlesque Hall of Fame continues until Sunday night.

Image: Dusty Limits, taken exclusively for This Is Cabaret by Guilherme Zuhlke O’Connor.

Burlesque Superstar Immodesty Blaize To Headline Manchester’s Sexhibition

One of the most successful UK burlesque dancers ever will make a rare appearance this August at the Sexhibition weekender.

Of all the burlesque artistes from the UK to have gone to Las Vegas and competed for the highest prize of all, only one has come back victorious. In 2007, Immodesty Blaize became the Reigning Queen of Burlesque at the annual Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend and none from this isle have followed in her footsteps (yet).

The Hertfordshire-born dancer and writer is known for her outsize props, not least a giant telephone (see above) and her signature oversized powder puffs which she used in her BHoF-winning performance. Since walking away with the most prestigious award in burlesque, she has released two books (Ambition and Tease, both set in the modern showgirl world) , debated at the Oxford Union and appeared in only a handful of shows in the UK.

If you want to see her perform, you can catch Immodesty Blaize when she headlines Sexhibition, a weekend-long erotic festival taking part in Manchester from 19 to 21 August. This is the event’s second outing; last year’s debut saw an array of top variety names take part, not least Miss Polly Rae, Lilly Snatchdragon, Joe Black and Marnie Scarlet. While the line-up for this year’s three-day extravaganza is still being finalised, Blaize is confirmed to star in Sexhibition’s burlesque supper club, a soirée which promises to showcase some of the best in burlesque and cabaret in an opulent, decadent setting.

For producer Cheryl Smith, the dancer holds a special place in the creation of Sexhibition. “Immodesty was really my first introduction to the world of burlesque in 2004,” she says. “When I saw her on Channel 4’s Faking It, I was absolutely captivated with her and that is what put me on the path to running events and ultimately creating Sexhibition, so it’s really come full circle for me.”

There’s plenty more apart from the supperclub – over 120 retailers will be on site as well as art, fashion shows, workshops and fetish areas. More names are due to be announced before the curtain goes up so keep an eye on Sexhibition’s website, Facebook or Twitter for further news.

Sexhibition takes place from 19-21 August 2016 in the Victoria Warehouse Manchester. Tickets can be bought for the whole weekend or individual days – see here for more information.

And The Winner Of Alternative Eurovision 2016 Is…

It might be hard to believe but, once again, Alternative Eurovision at the London Wonderground proved to be as good as the real thing.

This weekend, there were no shortage of events in the name of Eurovision held this year is held in the Swedish capital of Stockholm. It is officially described an annual song contest but it is probably better known as a kitsch collision of disco, outre fashion, politics and plain downright weirdness.

And who better to lampoon and laud those self-same qualities than the likes of Frank Sanazi, EastEnd Cabaret and The Ruby Darlings? Hosted by the effervescent Anna Greenwood(above), this year’s Alternative Eurovision saw a star-studded line-up handpicked by ourselves take to the London Wonderground’s Spiegeltent stage on Friday night to demonstrate the power of Eurovision through the magic of musical comedy.

There were many fine performances on the night but the audience eventually plumped for Desmond O’Connor and his song which speaks to our heart, liver and lungs. Reminding us why we will always miss two artists who died very recently and very much before their time, his Ballad Of Prince and Victoria imagines what would happen if the pair met outside the Pearly Gates. Take it away…

For details of other London Wonderground shows, check out the official website.

New Protest To Mark Anniversary Of Black Cap Closure

A year after The Black Cap closed its doors to the public, campaigners are planning a new protest outside the Camden LGBT+ venue to mark the sombre occasion and highlight their efforts to re-open it.

This Saturday, a protest will mark the first anniversary of the closure of The Black Cap, a Camden pub which for decades hosted LGBT+ events.

With a stated motto of “Just Be Fabulous”, the venue owned by Faucet Inns had been on an upturn over the previous year or so with packed out shows featuring homegrown and international drag talent; The Meth Lab, for example, had seen numerous contestants of RuPaul’s Drag Race entertain the Cap faithful.

The Black Cap activists have gathered under the banner of We Are The Black Cap and have put together a detailed plan of action including a vision documentdetails of what they want and a business plan. For this weekend’s event, they have lined up the London Gay Men’s Chorus as well as LGBT Poet Laureate Trudy Howson who will debut a new poem in support of the campaign.

Since its closure, the public house has gone through a number of lessees and been squatted. The current leaseholders Ruth & Robinson have rejected the campaigners’ plans and stated they are planning to turn The Black Cap into “a unique, distinctive and vibrant drinking establishment which is welcoming to the whole community”.

Virgin Xtravaganzah, co-host of the final show there, offered his thoughts on The Black Cap’s premature demise in his end end-of-year roundup for this site:

“Then something terrible happened.  The Black Cap closed in April.  It was a very sad time for the entire cabaret/queer community in London and seemed to be the icing on the cake of London completely going down the shit hole.  I, and many others, had found a home at The Black Cap and its closing felt abrupt, traumatising, and incredibly unfair.  It was there that I really found myself as a cabaret performer, compere, and drag queen. 

“It was the highest honour to co-host the very last night there with Meth, and share the stage with so many cabaret legends who had graced that stage over the many years it was in business.  The battle continues to restore the Cap to what it once was!”

Stephen Fry has lent his support to the campaign, saying:

The Black Cap has been part of London’s – and indeed Britain’s – gay and trans life for generations. Defiant wit and style in the face of oppression and contempt, solidarity and self-belief in the face of abuse and intolerance. It would be a cruel shame to see such a beloved landmark disappear. We can all celebrate the shifting of attitudes, but the need for a joyously affirming space like the Black Cap is a strong as ever. Please do all you can to help keep the old girl going.”

The schedule for Saturday’s events is:

1.15pm Welcome and thanks/messages of support

1.30pm London Gay Mens Chorus

1.45pm Trudy Howson, LGBT Poet Laureate

2pm Speeches from Nigel Harris and Alex Green who will provide an update on the campaign and a call to action for the next steps.

More information can be found on the We Are Black Cap campaign’s website, Facebook or Twitter.

Image (c) Franco Milazzo, exclusively for This Is Cabaret

Why We’re Ridiculously Excited About This Year’s Alternative Eurovision

There are very, very few events we look forward to and the ever-popular Alternative Eurovision is one of them. This year’s could be the best yet.

With the Eurovision Song Contest happening just a few weeks before the UK potentially gives the rest of the EU a one-fingered salute, there is no better time to appreciate the finest contribution our nearest international neighbours have given our country. It may be a kitsch collision of disco, nationalism, bizarre fashion choices and downright weirdness but there’s no denying that it makes for event television.

Glamorous host Anna Greenwood is back to introduce another sparkling set of entrants.
Glamorous host Anna Greenwood is back to introduce another sparkling set of entrants.

Arguably even better than the real thing is Alternative Eurovision, an unmissable annual cabaret spectacular presented by The ProducersUK which will be rocking the the London Wonderground’s Spiegeltent on 13 May. The premise is simple: some of the finest musical talents around to represent a country of their choice. Past victors have included France’s Marcel Lucont with his Merde-Oui and, representing Bethlehem, musical siblings Bourgeois & Maurice‘s Out Outfit You which came with a brilliant video.

Every act is left to their own devices to represent their chosen nation in a style of their choosing. Quite what this will mean is anyone’s guess: who can forget Ophelia Bitz who, on behalf of the Vatican State, stormed the stage accompanied by a phalanx of stripping nuns and hunky disciples passing out condoms while vintage porn played overhead?

For the first time, This Is Cabaret has been asked to held producers TheProducersUk pick the entrants. Many of our favourites will be there, not least deviant trio The Ruby Darlings who were winners of the first This Is Cabaret Award For Best Newcomer). Then there’s Lady Carol who marries one of the most gorgeous voices around with winsome wit, loungemeister Frank Sanazi who wrote what was acclaimed as the funniest gag at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and Sarah-Louise Young’s maudlin madame La Poule Plombèe.

Here’s the full list of who’s appearing and who they are representing:

Desmond O’Connor (UK)
EastEnd Cabaret (Italy/Vatican city)
Frank Sanazi (Russia)
Ida Barr (Belgium)
Kirsty Newton (Malta)
La Poule Plombèe (France)
Lady Carol (Ireland)
Ria Lina (Germany)
Ruby Darlings (Latvia)

Get those flags ready: Alternative Eurovision (supported by This Is Cabaret) is on 13 May and ticket information can be found on the official London Wonderground site.

Exclusive: UK Burlesque Festival Wins Arts Council Funding

The Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival (HBBF) have announced that they have been successful in a bid to secure funding from Arts Council England. Believed to be the first time that ACE has contributed to an event of this kind, the grant will be used to fund this year’s festival which will be held over the weekend of 28 April – 1 May 2016 in venues throughout the Calder Valley.

The Festival was launched in 2013 by burlesque performers and producers Heidi Bang Tidy (above left) and Lady Wildflower (above right). Acclaimed by the industry media, it has become the burlesque festival to see and be seen at in the UK. This year’s event sees a number of British and international stars including Perle Noire, Scotty The Blue Bunny, Kitty Bang Bang, Abi Collins, Velma Von Bon Bon, Kiki Lovechild and Rubyyy Jones.

The Arts Council funding comes on the back of a trio of successful HBBF festivals. “We spent the first three years of the Festival working hard to establish our reputation,” said Heidi Bang Tidy, “but it was always our plan to use that as a platform to do more innovative programming, particularly in terms of highlighting and showcasing diversity within burlesque. One of the main reasons we launched the Festival was because we wanted to reach new audiences and promote the fact that burlesque is a progressive and inclusive art form.”

Lady Wildflower added that “getting this funding is a massive deal for us, because it has allowed us to fund 4 new shows this year and fly in international headliner Perle Noire. To our knowledge, we are the first festival dedicated exclusively to burlesque to receive Arts Council support and we are delighted that we are leading the field in that regard. It’s like a stamp of approval for the whole industry. It is also one in the eye for the vocal objectors in the town who have spent the last three years attacking burlesque, saying that it is ‘demeaning to women’.”

Heidi Bang Tidy continued, “We had come to a place with the Festival where we had grown it as much as we were able by self-funding the activity and relying on sponsors and sell out shows in order to break even. This funding has basically secured the future of the Festival by enabling us to stage this year’s event with less concern for commercial success and a greater focus on artistic quality. Basically, it meant we could take a few more risks with our programming – without it the Festival couldn’t continue to grow.”

Lady Wildflower has spoken about the problems faced by this year’s Festival. “This year’s budget was already stretched to the max when all four of our venues were flooded on Boxing Day. We were faced not only with having to secure new homes for several events but also a fairly sizeable hole in our budget due to the increased costs and reduced capacity in our replacement venues. We knew our programme was strong and we knew that we could make a case for artistic excellence and supporting artists in the development of new work. We also knew that this year’s event was doing something new in programming a show specifically showcasing the work of artists who define as LGBTQ, non-white or disabled.”

Heidi Bang Tidy added that “I don’t think a lot of people fully understand what it takes to stage an event like ours. They see full houses and do a bit of rudimentary mental arithmetic and they make the assumption that somewhere someone is raking it in. The truth is that for the first two years we didn’t even break even. Our tiny team do this for love of our art form, not because it makes any of us rich and every single person on the Festival team goes above and beyond to make sure the event is a success. Our volunteers especially, we would be lost without them.”

“When we started the Festival in 2013,” Lady Wildflower said, “we were really clear that we would pay decent artists fees and our budget has always been spent on our talent before anything else. We save like mad throughout the year, banking profit from our other events to fund the Festival but we always knew that, as the Festival grew, that wouldn’t be sustainable in the long-term. We are ambitious in that we want Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival to raise the profile of burlesque and alternative cabaret, whilst showcasing artistic excellence and celebrating diversity, and that’s why we applied for Arts Council funding.”

Applying for Arts Council funding was an intense process according to Heidi Bang Tidy. “It was a very steep learning curve for us. We spent a week in a darkened room crunching numbers and writing and re-writing our application, a week when we weren’t able to focus on selling tickets. We are really glad we did, though, if only because without it we know that we couldn’t continue to grow. We would definitely recommend other festivals consider doing the same. If it means that more festivals can use Arts Council Funding to support innovative programming, that can only be a good thing for the UK burlesque scene.”

More information can be found on the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival website.

Image: James Lynch Photography

Gypsy Gets 8 Olivier Awards Nods But La Soirée Misses Out

La Soirée, twice winner of an Olivier Award, has missed out on a nomination this year but the barnstorming burlesque musical Gypsy could clean up.

Currently appearing Down Under, La Soirée won their second Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and Family last April. Despite another critically-acclaimed run on London’s South Bank in 2015, the touring production has not made the latest shortlist which includes Showstoppers! The Musical.

One show looking to win big is the mother of all burlesque musicals Gypsy. Telling the story of one of the art form’s most famous proponents, it has garnered 8 nominations with four alone for actors Imelda Staunton, Lara Pulver, Dan Burton and Peter Davidson.

Mrs Henderson Presents about the West End’s Windmill Theatre is in the running for 4 awards. It will be competing in the Best New Musical category with another mediocre production, the drag-themed Kinky Boots which has picked up 7 nominations.

The winners of the Olivier Awards will be announced next month.

Image: The English Gents appearing in La Soirée.