Last weekend I went to the circus in the 1930s. I’m clever like that. I had heard that the Roundhouse theatre was having a ‘Circusfest‘ during a previous London jaunt, and when I saw an ad for Professor Vanessa’s Wondershow – where the main stage would be transformed into a travelling circus on a village green – I got a ticket before asking if anyone else was free. I’m always assured of good conversation when I’m alone anyway.
So…after skipping around Brick Lane and Camden Lock, where the colourful clothes live, I found myself in the theatre main space breathing in the sickly smell of candyfloss and popcorn. On the way in I passed penny arcades and lurid posters, and was greeted with a row of tents lining the perimeter. I was excited!
In the middle of the floor was a small stage and here I watched a French, juggling tight-rope walker (I nearly proposed marriage there and then), a girl hula hooping with fire, aero-rope girls up above and… giant wasp taming. Everyone was free to wander and visit whichever tent they wanted, though its a lot to get through in only two hours.
Though I was at first concerned I would be having a ‘genuine’ sideshow experience (blockheads etc I love, but I’m really not sure about ogling a disabled person), I was quickly reassured that most acts were a mirror show. For example, ‘the Mummy’ featured a woman in Egyptian regalia transform into a centuries old mummy ” before our very eyes,” before she chased us out of the tent. Another showed early film clips and, being such a fan, it meant a lot to see them how they would have been at the very start of the twentieth century.
It was good fun; the tent shows were surreal entertainment and some of the stage acts in the middle were beautiful to watch. I always like a trip to the circus and if there are any French, tightrope walking jugglers out there come and find me.
I’ve just read two of my stories aloud to a dictaphone, which made me feel a bit silly. Hopefully it’ll help me memorise them as I’ll be performing them this summer as one of my Braintree Ways characters, possibly at the Brighton Fringe, the Camden fringe and a smaller venue in Edinburgh (the paperwork has been arduous).
It reminds me of the ancient way of storytelling by the aborigines or the Saxons or American Indians. I like to think of them sitting around a fire passing on tales they heard from their grandfathers – about pimp trolls and trains that take people to Hell.
I watched a rather peculiar documentary today called Party Monster, The Shockumentary. It’s quite a deliberately bad taste film about the Club Kids in late 80s New York – young people who dressed outlandishly and included fashion designer James St. James– and their party organiser Michael Alig who ended up murdering someone and putting the chopped up body in a trunk. Obviously it got me thinking about fashion. And murder I suppose but that’s no change.
I love art from Francis Bacon to Lempicka to photographers of the unusual like Diane Arbus, but I also love fashion. The outfits at the Bizarre Magazine Ball for example are truly bizarre and great, so here I shall include some of the things that make me weep with joy and perhaps you will find something of interest.
Most people complain that catwalks are full of designs people would never wear in the street, but to be honest that’s the thing I enjoy seeing, mainstream or underground. Regular fashion bores me but anything a bit fantastical, gothic, odd or grunge I love.
First off I have to include my favourite online shop, Joe Brown’s, as its something people will actually be able to afford. There’s some regular stuff but look around, you’ll be very pleasantly surprised.
The fashion pics of artist Man Ray are beautiful – as shown here on author Matthew Revert’s blog. They’re very imaginative of course.
Newish designer Jared Gold’s gothic and historical clothes are great, they have a similar Alice in Wonderland feel to Bill Gibb.
Tokyo is known for its ‘avant garde’ fashion and I’d love to go there. I particularly like the punk and Gothic Lolita styles.
Keeping in the fantastical realm I definitely recommend looking out for alternative models/designers out there such as Ophelia Overdose and Audrey Kitching. Also have a look at Bizarre magazine’s alternative model website Ultra Vixens for more ladies of the odd and artistic variety, or become one of them if you like. Plus Spitalfields market in London is host to the annual Alternative Fashion Week (presented by Alternative Arts), 16-21st April. Exciting! Colourful! Imaginative!
I have a book I love containing alt glamour/pin up pictures (piercings, tattoos etc) taken by Octavio Winkytiki and Lithium Picnic (my favourite). They’re pretty and unusual, but be warned, some of the content on their sites is not for children’s eyes.
My good friend Emma Bailey is a photographer in Brighton and has done a number of burlesque shoots. Burlesque is fun, the women often have normal sized bodies and I love vintage glamour. Fancy Chance is very funny to watch live and Banbury Cross is lovely too.
I’m also drawn to the pictures of a model known as Scar, they’re creative and apparently she makes headresses too, which is nice. Another artistic model is Allison Harvard, who reminds me of a Tim Burton character, and gothic model Apnea is jolly too.
Finally, I know it’s such a cliche that a person who likes Neil Gaiman and alternative models such as the Suicide Girls would also like the outfits in Tim Burton films but I do, so there. I’m not a goth but Alice in Wonderland and the White Queen had me searching for my dark lipstick, as did Lilly Cole in Terry Gilliam’s Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
Here’s a video of a creepy mechanical doll themed photo shoot by Tim Walker for Vogue Italia 2011
Here’s a video of a Jared Gold fashion show in 2008: