KaleidoScot interviewed me!

Just after Glasgow Pride I was asked to answer a few questions about my perspective on gay life in Glasgow. I identify as bisexual although the article did erroneously label me as straight, which they apologised for and offered to clarify (I thanked them and told them it was fine), but aside that, I really enjoyed talking to Jonathan (new friend alert!) and was absolutely overjoyed to be offered a writing position on the strength of that interview! I’ll link any work I do there here, but I figure I’ll let you see this great interview first, and hopefully introduce some of you to the brilliant work KaleidoScot have done! Let me know what you think!

nicola

My Pride 2014 make up!

Spotlight on: Flaming Tease!

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I first came across Flaming Tease when I was asked to provide cakes for a show. It was in a teeny tiny pub in Stirling called Whistlebinkies and the event was only open to ladies, due to an outdated and silly bylaw that stated burlesque could not be performed in front of mixed gender audiences. It was an intimate and fun show, and I left knowing I would be back! Since that night, Scarlett Flame, performer extraordinaire and organiser of Flaming Tease, smashed through the bylaw and Stirling’s only burlesque show was open to everyone! Today, Flaming Tease has a new, bigger home in 20 Rocks and is growing more popular with every event.

In the meantime, I finally starting performing myself (but that’s another story!) and Flaming Tease is a great favourite of mine to perform! Of course, I still provide cupcakes and cake pops, it’s a long running joke now that I wouldn’t be allowed to come without them! I asked Scarlett, killer of silly bylaws, a few questions about Flaming Tease and what’s next for this fantastic show.

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Why did you want to start Flaming Tease? Was it important to you to host it in Stirling?

I wanted to start my own shows because over the years I have performed at so many – some good, some great- but what was important to me was holding the kind of night I would want to go to, which bring together performers and friends. I wanted to run a show with a happy friendly atmosphere for everyone!
Hosting it in Stirling was always the obvious start, because so little happens here and because I love bringing burlesque to new audiences. We have always wanted to start here and expand, taking the same mix of quality burlesque and a brilliant atmosphere with us. I wanted to do a show in my adopted hometown, and I’m really happy that there is a market for it!

What drives you to hold these nights?

Enjoyment. Its brilliant to see so many wonderful performers on my stage and knowing that I had a hand in making sure that they have a great time. It means a lot to me to bring opportunities to my friends, and people who have become friends through the shows. Its great to get the feedback that we get from our audiences who all love the shows and love the performers involved.

What do you think makes Flaming Tease so successful?

Hard work, and the commitment of everyone involved. All of the performers work incredibly hard to make sure that they do a great job, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate them – the shows wouldn’t happen without that!
Also, we really value the feedback that we get from our audiences, and do make a point of collecting both verbal and written feedback so we can make our shows even better.
Finally I think part of it is that we approach it as a full package – performers, traders, cake, drinkies, its really a proper night out and our audiences throw themselves into it!

What is your favourite story involving Flaming Tease?

There are so many… We’ve done 6 shows in Stirling, and all have been filled with some of the things people assume I make up. Ringmistress dislocating her thumb onstage, Favourite Sin shaving her head, two of our audience members starting a relationship at the show, some of the laughs backstage.. there really are so many, and so many more to come I am sure.

Has there been a time you felt like giving up doing Flaming Tease? Or did difficulty strengthen your resolve?

There are always times when its hard and when it all gets really stressful, but no I have never really thought about quitting. The hardest show was the one I missed when I was in hospital, and that made me so much more determined to make the next show even bigger and better!
Given the amount of obstacles (from venues, to money, to divas) it would be easy to quit, but I think I need to keep doing it to prove I can!

You have a great reputation for encouraging new acts from performers, has there ever been a time you were nervous about or refused a proposal of an act?

I have, and thats a really hard thing to do. I always worry about asking for too many new acts from performers because of the expense and commitment involved for them. There are a few that I have been nervous about, but thankfully almost all seemed to be a hit when they were performed! Its really rare for me to veto an act altogether, usually its a minor tweak that’s needed.
Its fab as well that we can use Flaming Tease as a platform for new performers (students from my classes are offered their debut spot at the show) and for performers who are new to the burlesque scene, perhaps more cabaret or other performance art. Its lovely to see people using it as a chance to network!

Flaming Tease is very obviously a team effort, did this team evolve over time and start with fewer ‘Teasers’, or was the group together from the start?

Team Tease! The Team has really been around over the whole incarnation of Flaming Tease, and again we couldn’t do it without the hard work and dedication of everyone. We have the best stage manager that I know of, and the best soundman in the biz too – he even rearranges his holidays and proper job (he’s sound crewed some of the biggest names in rock and pop) to be with us. Our raffle machine and decorator was the force that got Flaming Tease to happen, she talked me into it!
I am hugely proud of the whole team, performers and crew, they are all a really talented bunch and make Flaming Tease an absolute pleasure to put on!

Burlesque in Scotland is a growing and vital industry, with performers coming from all over to grace our stages. What do you think makes Scotland so attractive to performers?

I like to think its a combination of things; great shows, great performers, great audiences, friendly atmosphere, and a huge amount of variety.

Finally, what’s next for Flaming Tease?

More shows! We have lots of plans afoot… so do keep up with us on Facebook, and through my website. Our next show is the 7th Sept for Stirling, and maybe we’ll arrange something before that too! Flaming Tease is more than just a show, we are all friends too. Under the heading of Flaming Tease events we are booked for other places, and can take a full show to pretty much anywhere! (We are available for hire or reward!)

Anything else you want us to know?

If you have never tried burlesque before Flaming Tease is great, because we have so much variety – you are bound to find something that you like! What our audience think is vital, so please do let us know what you think!
My final thought has to be a big thank you to everyone who has been involved – performers, traders, crew, venues and audiences.

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Homelessness

Yesterday I had a visit from NewArt, a company putting together a DVD for my Housing Association. Basically, they wanted me to talk about how I became homeless, and what led me to apply for the Partick Association. Of course, I wanted to talk about it, because recently, I’ve discovered I actually want to spread the word. Being in the position of having to declare yourself homeless isn’t shameful, and it can lead to the most wonderful things, made all the more wonderful because you can’t quite believe your luck will turn when life has beaten you down so low.

J.R.R. Tolkien called it the eucatastrophe. The sudden change of what seems utterly hopeless to joy, and hope. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse…. they don’t. 

I suppose most of you know the circumstances of my homelessness. In short, eviction, hostel, private let, stayed with a friend, stayed with another friend, stayed with Gof, hostel again, then finally, blessedly, to a flat with my name on the lease. Some friendships were burned so bad, all that’s left is ashes and regret. Some were made, and sealed with love and hope. Mostly though, looking back, it was a real discovery for who I am, and what I can do. I found reserves of strength, eventually, that I didn’t believe I had in me. I accepted help, from anyone willing to offer, from family, friends, organisations – and knew it wasn’t an admission of defeat. I took time, proper time, and found an iron will. I found that even though I sometimes succumbed to despair, I knew, deep inside, that I will not let this beat me.

And it hasn’t. I’ve still a way to go, no doubt for that – but I’m more hopeful than ever. I’m paying my bills, looking for a job, writing, creating a home, and looking after myself again. Of course, we all know by know, I’m even doing one thing I never thought I would – by marrying the man who stuck by me through all this. I’m still scared, sure, but it’s a good fear, the fear that the future I wish for is within my grasp, but I need to work at it to reach it. Not just for me, but for Gof too. For my family. My friends. Everyone who has had a part in the twists and turns so far, and those yet to join me. The fear is knowing I am able to succeed. I would let myself down if I settled for second best.

That’s my story. So far. I’ll continue to tell it, but right now, my thoughts are on homelessness in general. How much, do we, as the general public (how I hate that phrase!), surmise about homeless people, and how much do we stereotype? It’s the runaways, the junkies, alkies, whores of the world who are homeless. 

Maybe the majority are. But where did those people, (and they ARE people) come from? What did they run from? Why are they swallowing, injecting, snorting the memories away? One wrong choice and that might have been you. One moment in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s all it takes. The stories I heard when I was living in these hostels… I related to these women. I seen how it happened. For everyone I spoke to, they all said the same thing – “Don’t end up like me. Don’t give up on yourself”. These women settled for last place, living in a hostel for good, since it was the only security they’d had in years. I’m sitting here typing this with tears streaming. These people should be commended for simply surviving over the odds, not condemned for something most of them had very little say over. This was something that was done to them, for which they lacked the skills to cope.

Even so, more and more people are becoming homeless as a direct result of this so-called credit crunch. Families who bought their home suddenly finding themselves on the street because the bank foreclosed on their mortgage. People who lost their jobs because the company they worked for went tits up. Armed with very little information, there is a scant amount of support for those who have no real understanding of a system that can be scary to navigate alone. 

There’s very little actual statistics on homelessness in Glasgow. I know, I’ve looked. Between homeless charities like Shelter and Crisis publishing fairly general reports like this one and Government trying to “spin” the situation, apparently homelessness has went down according to some reports like this one that states;

“Homelessness presentations by single applicants down by 38% over the years 2002/03 to 2007/08”

 Strategic evaluation of the Glasgow Homelessness Partnership by Blake Stevenson.

But then, we have graphs like this one from the Scottish Government website completely contradicting that!

What to believe? I know I’m not the only casualty of the credit crunch who has ended up homeless. I know I’m not the only person the DWP has let down. So where are the real stories? Where are the success stories? The hopeless cases? Why is no-one asking these questions?