Let me explain something about why I care about the awards. When I’m not skulking at the back of a cabaret gig, I’m usually somewhere out there reviewing theatre, comedy, ballet, opera, music, food, art, cookery, fashion, literature or some other facet of London culture. More relevantly, I’ve attended awards ceremonies and I know just how important they are both to that industry and – just as importantly – to members of the public like myself that buy tickets and help keep the industry afloat.
In a nutshell, I want a London Cabaret Awards we can all be proud of. An awards body that is free of conflicts of interest. That covers the breadth and depth of what this capital offers. That takes into account all twelve months of the year, not just those that happen after the judges are selected (typically some time after the awards ceremony). That is open and honest about the way it conducts itself. That takes responsibility when things go wrong. That isn’t the awards we have now.
I love cabaret. I love the way it innovates at speeds and levels that theatre, comedy and music can only dream about. I love that it contains so many personalities who are as talented as they are diverse. I love that there are so many genres – not least drag, sideshow, musical comedy, songbook, burlesque, magic and circus – that it is impossible to ever get bored. Sure, there are certainly cliques and rivalries but, as seen by the Cabariot videos. the immense sense of community trumps those.
You suggest that my interests tend to the more “alternative and innovative” side of what the cabaret scene offers. Guilty as charged. You can lock me up and throw away the key. That doesn’t mean, though, that This Is Cabaret covers only the quirkier side of what’s out there. I am proud to have on board people like Johnny Fox, the finest songbook critic in the land, one of the country’s leading circus journalists in Katharine Kavanagh and Nicola Rainbow who is as insightful and witty a burlesque writer as any out there.
The responsibility of selecting judges rests with you and you alone. As a comparison with the London Cabaret Awards, you point to the Oscars saying that “lest we forget, (they) are decided by a panel of old white men.” And then I look at the latest panel assembled by you which is 100% white and 80% male.
Public nominations may have helped guide your choices but the membership of the final panel rests in your hands. Which begs the question: how hard is it to find a handful of able men and women in this industry (as is your preference)? And by able, I mean able to read a calendar and work out in which year a show happened. Able to tell the difference between a variety show and a variety act. Able to see a swathe of shows covering the best and brightest of what’s out there and not those which fit, as you say, their “narrow focus”.
I thank you (and those who nominated me) for the offered opportunity to be a London Cabaret Award judge. I was truly humbled that my name should have come up at all, especially considering what I have written. I live my life through the same three rules many people do – don’t be a dick, help others and be true to yourself – and as I’d written on the morning of the 2014 awards, the only way I felt that the awards could progress was if the panel was composed of critics or members of the public, as is the case for almost every other stage awards panel I know of. That idea is not one you favour and – as is your prerogative – you chose for the 2015 awards a panel of industry figures. And look how that worked out. Is it time for a change?