Life Drawing with the East London Stripper Collective

Life Drawing with the East London Stripper Collective

I am a terrible drawer. I have no eye for it, no natural flair. I’m really terrible.

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As you can see from the above, I’m not joking.

I do enjoy life drawing. I first got into it thanks to Miss Louise Challinor and her ‘That’s Life’ life drawing sessions. She was very encouraging and made me see that what I put on the page didn’t have to be perfect, or accurate, or flattering. It was just my impression and I should have fun with it.

I first read about the East London Stripper Collective a few months ago and decided that these women were right up my street. Strippers challenging accepted norms and empowering themselves. Brilliant.

Stripping is one of those professions that comes with a mountain of preconceptions and mythologies. A lot of these are negative, partly because it is not a profession that most of us will at some point in our lives dip in to. We have less empathy and understanding because it is less likely that we, or someone we love, will experience it. The other reason it is a highly loaded term is because it is one of the professions that revolves around female sexuality. There are of course male strippers, I am referring to our stereotype of the term.

It is part of the reason that I was drawn (excuse the pun!) to this class. I love the idea of stripping being put back where it belongs, next to and part of, art. In today’s society it can sadly be seen as something sordid and cheap. Even destructive. However other forms of dance, for instance ballet, are correctly viewed as performance art. I think the main difference between the two is that stripping is titillating, far more so than ballet. This negative view of stripping is backed up by the legislation surrounding it, leading to women being disrespected and a cycle of exploitation.

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The East London Stripper Collective are setting up their own events to help to challenge stereotypes and are hoping to eventually create their own working conditions and make business decisions. A massive undertaking for this group of political activists. It is a huge struggle because female sexuality is something that intimidates a lot of men and women, leading to them attempting to control and suppress it. It is an ocean of psychological power, evoking things in us we do not fully understand and often are not capable of rationalising.

The class was held in the upstairs of the White Horse Pub in Shoreditch. The girl who was posing for us was beautiful (made me regret my beer and burger) and strong looking. The stage area was back lit with a red light, which gave the whole thing a slightly naughty vibe. The class kicks off with some quick poses during a routine, and then as the evening progresses the poses get longer. I loved it. The way everyone there was staring at her, really paying attention to the way she moved, her strength and flexibility. I allowed myself to get caught up in the eroticism of it, and that is part of the magic of the performance.

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The drawing element of the event tinted the actions of the girls’ performance and helped the audience see it in a new light. Incredibly stimulating performance art.

If you are London based, check them out and head down to an event to show some love

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Party in the Park – New Cross

Party in the Park

This year I was involved with the arranging of the local Party in the Park festival in New Cross’ Fordham Park. The experience was very enjoyable and I met lots of interesting people. I also learnt a lot as it was the first time I was involved at the planning stage of a festival of that size. One of the things I particularly liked about it was meeting so many people from local businesses. When I was in Manchester my job was so demanding I never really got to get outside of that particular bubble. Although New Cross does have a somewhat deserved bad reputation there is a real sense of community, of people being proud of where they are from and looking to help each other out and support each other.

The meetings were held at New Cross Learning, which if you are based in New Cross I do recommend you check out. They are a volunteer run library and provide all sorts of useful resources for local people. They also had very nice biscuits.

After a lot of emails, spreadsheets, cups of tea, stressing out, lists and discussions it somehow got to a few days before the event and set up began.

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I was working on the day of the festival but managed to get out early and have a wander round.  The bands were great, I really enjoyed Rhiannon and the Nightmare’s performance. There was a real mix of people as you can see from the pictures.

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The event has its origins in the Deptford Free Music Festival, which started in 1989 and grew into a massive open air party. A lot of the people who help arrange its modern incarnation have memories of this and so it was quite nostalgic. With south-east London being an absolute hotbed of musical activity, it makes sense to have a free festival that is celebrating the local music scene.

There was a deliberate effort to make this event more family friendly and there were traditional games, storytelling and face painting.

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The Bird’s Nest made their presence known with their own stage, as well as cooking up some of their delicious burgers.

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Cally Fest 2014

Cally Fest

I was invited here by Mangoseed, and as they are an absolute pleasure to see live made my way down despite a raging hangover. I don’t see London as a city. I see it as a massive conglomerate of villages joined together by the coloured lines of the underground. Until you’ve visited a place it has no meaning to you, it is just a word on a map. Caledonian Road will now take me back to smoky BBQ chicken clouds, vibrant music and summertime.

Cally Fest is a massive street party down Caledonian Road. There is music, art, performances and so much food. They have managed to create an inviting environment and it is obvious from how respectful and friendly everyone is that this is a massive community effort. It’s well worth it. Being there will be one of the things that most stands out to me from summer 2014.

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We checked out a few bands while we were here, one that particularly stood out for me was Lazytalk. Perfect thing for a summer evening, warm music with a ska-punk base. Their original songs are really well written and seem made for the dance floor. This feeling was further compounded by the fact that I kept getting tunes of theirs in my head weeks after. Carefully crafted for you to have a good time to.

This one especially –

The energy of the whole street party was really positive. Although there were people daytime drinking the presence of children meant that everyone was on their best behaviour. For me, the only break in atmosphere came when local councillors came to speak. This was after Lazytalk and before Mangoseed. My feelings towards my previous local councillors are quite negative, having been involved in a live music venue they tried to shut down repeatedly and having bad experiences dealing with various different departments. I have an instinctive distrust towards people in positions like this. When they came on stage, I felt it was to try and bask in some of the success of the event and make it about them. A lot of people switched off and left the area where they were speaking. I actually felt sorry for them to have such a response. Although I thought it would have been better to be more modest about their involvement, they obviously were some way responsible for the fact that the event went ahead. They were doing something positive and it was a good day for the local community.

The food was amazing, lots of different stalls and I tried as much as I could. I was heartbroken when I made it round to get some pulled pork as I was leaving and they had ran out. I made up for the disappointment by getting my face painted by the lovely girls at Face-My-Paint. It was a two person job as I was giving odd concepts I wanted expressed with the paint without giving any helpful advice (please make me look like my leggings but with more summer and also a unicorn and glittery).  You can tell that by this stage my hangover was being eased and transformed with cider…

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Then we went to see Mangoseed. After the local councillors had cleared out most of the crowd (sorry but it’s true) they had a bit of a challenge on their hands with getting everyone back into  a dancing mood. Fortunately they nailed it. Mangoseed’s music is difficult to define with heavy rock-dub-funk influences, it melts together to create something that is both exploratory and fearless.  Lyrically it is switched on both politically and emotionally, exploring different concepts in a way that is insightful and accessible. More than that, it makes you want to move with it and pulls you in. Their music blended well with an event like Cally Fest, a celebration of community and diversity.

Check out Brix-Tone –

Thanks to everyone involved with Cally Fest for putting the whole day on (local council and all 😉 ) you created something awesome.