Science, art and a sprinkling of fairy dust

Conan Doyle, fan fiction and the severed ear

I challenge anyone to meet Rufus Moonshine and not fall a little bit in love with him. He combines gentle charm with a viciously sharp mind, and has a brain full of obscure and fascinating facts. Talking to Rufus is like wandering through the backroom of a museum that hasn’t been touched for years and is hiding endless wonderful treasures. He’s uploaded the text for the talk he did in the Forest of Thoughts entitled  Conan Doyle, Fan Fiction and the Severed Ear. Enjoy.

Spliff Richard at FoT

Spliff Richard won the Hammer and Tongue Poetry Slam at Forest of Thoughts. Tom Hume captured him on video. Go with the flow…

Paul to Paul

The wonderful Paul Zenon sprinkled his fairy dust over the Forest of Thoughts, amazing people with fantastic tricks. He’s now off in Edinburgh, and has used his magical powers to persuade Paul Daniels to do a chat show with him on Monday afternoon as a fundraiser for the Wonderbus (a wonderful charity that I strongly […]

FoTography by Tom Hume

Children of the revolution

Without Playgroup Festival, the Forest of Thoughts would have remained a thicket in my head. However, the lovely Playgroup team asked me to put together a cabaret tent and it spiralled from there. 140 performers and crew, 200 vintage photographs (thanks, mum), assorted bizarre props and many, many, many hours work later, the idea had turned from a bag of tiny acorns into, well, a Forest of Thoughts.

The entire Playgroup Festival was magical, with incredible decor (so good that I’ll be posting separately about the amazing team who created it) festival-goers dressed as woodland creatures, silly games, incredible walkabout performers, and delicious food and drink (again, more on the individuals behind that in a later post).

And that’s before we even get onto the utterly inspired musical line-up featuring the hottest new acts. This is not hyperbole. Having known the Playgroup team for a year, I’ve already seen several of their featured artists go on to become massively succesful. Quite how the team are so good at A&R, I don’t know – I used to work in the music industry and had an effortless knack for loving and supporting bands who went on to have a staggering lack of success. As such, I think anyone who’s a good A&R must have been dipped in fairy dust that gave them magical powers.

But, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. As such, the above video from Latest TV is worth about 1000,000 words. Watch it and judge the festival for yourself (it’s particularly lovely to see the amazing NGP Security get the praise they deserve. If you’re arranging an event and need security, NGP are by far the best I’ve ever worked with and I’ve heard rave reviews of them from many seasoned promoters.)

Playgroup Festival tickets are now on sale, and if you get in quick, you can take advantage of the Early Early Bird price of £65 (plus booking fee) – but buy now. I have it on good authority that the 100 tickets are moving at an extremely rapid pace so you’ll miss out if you don’t act now.

The ultimate cunning linguists

If you like words and have never encountered Hammer and Tongue then you haven’t been trying hard enough. This phenomenal organisation stormed it in the Forest of Thoughts on Friday 5th August, packing out the tent to such an extent that I couldn’t get in, and had to make do with hiding behind the tent and listening from afar.

Performance poets included Ray Antrobus, Spliff Richard, Ros Barber, Paul Stones, Robin LawleyChristian Watson, Chris Parkinson, Lucas Howard, Ash French, Rosy Carrick (who was also the wonderfully efficient organiser and charismatic host of the night) and featured artist, Adam Kammerling. The crowd clapped, whooped, cheered and generally lapped up every word that dripped from the hammering tongues on stage, finally deeming Spliff Richard to be the winner. If you think poetry is dull, check out some of the above links and you’ll see quite how exciting it can be.

You can see Hammer and Tongue on 1st September at Komedia – book your tickets now as it’s sure to be a sell-out show.

Vavavavoom! More dazzling than a countryside starry sky

Knowing which artists to commend first on the site was a tough challenge. With so many amazing performers lending their support to the Forest of Thoughts, I’d hate to rank them. To avoid this issue, I’ll instead be posting about the performers based on how soon you can see them again – and, you lucky people, the first opportunity comes tomorrow, with the incredible Vavavavoom!

As anyone who saw their burlesque show – which had to operate a one-in-one-out policy due to its immense popularity – will know, Vavavoom! drip with witty glamour, offering some of the best burlesque I’ve ever seen. I first got into burlesque about 15 years ago and have seen some of the most acclaimed artists in the world, so this is no mean feat. 

Coco Deville by Tasha Marks (tashamarks.com)

Vavavavoom! joined forces with the equally incredible Wunderlich Revue (of whom more in a later post) to produce a show that included the hilarious Budgielicious with her six foot budgie, the utterly gorgeous Coco Deville who had everyone, male and female and regardless of sexuality, lusting after her (Oh, that bum! Oh, the boobs! Oh, the lovely happy nature!) and of course, the incredible Stella Starr who proved her Brighton legend status is totally deserved by working with Mick Wunderlich to produce the show.  I’ll never forget seeing her play the drums with her breasts, and bring the house down with whoops and cheers of admiration.

It was particularly impressive that Vavavoom! and Wunderlich Revue managed to produce such a fantastic show with so many complex props in a festival environment – and handled the few inevitable hiccups with charm and grace. If you are a promoter and are looking for a show that is not only brilliant but also run by amazing people who are a joy to work with, I strongly urge you to talk to Stella Starr and Mick Wunderlich. And if you are a cabaret fan – or have never seen a burlesque show before and want to see the best – get along to their show tomorrow.

Taking place at Brighton’s Latest Music Bar, Vavavavoom! has joined forces with Frockabilly to bring you an ‘Out of this World’ evening of space-age rock ‘n’ roll. Relive the 1950s space race with jet-propelled vintage tunes, burlesque performances, a Sailor Jerry style tattoo parlour, vintage clothes stall, two dance floors, and a cornucopia of visual delight. Launch your Brighton Pride weekend with this rocket of an event, raising money directly for MindOut (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Mental Health Project).

Burlesque cabaret features a rockin’ set from Stella Starr & The All Stars – a hot little combo version of the UK’s No.1 burlesque big band – playing a cosmic collection of far out tunes that will zoom with more than enough rocket fuel. Add in extraterrestrial exotica, alien show-girls, and a galaxy of GoGo Dancers; earthlings DJ Lonesome M and special guest Citizen Lane spinning vintage rockabilly and rhythm & blues; and, beaming in from the heart of the Milky Way, Dusty Groove Jukebox Show will entertain with a kaleidoscope of visuals and ‘flyin’ saucer rock ‘n’ roll’.

Oh, and if Playgroup Festival left you with a craving for more dressing up, look no further: there’s a prize for the best-dressed person (think astronaut/intergalactic explorer/space-babe/alien/​robot).

Running order

8 – Doors open
9-10 Stella Starr and the Allstars
11 – Burlesque exotica all night long. DJs for your dancing pleasure

“This could be the best £10 (£8 in advance) you spend in this galaxy, during this Pride weekend.”
Flash Gordon

“What a treat!”
The Source

“…a guaranteed good time.”
Curve Magazine

‘Pick of the Week”
The Guardian Guide

For more information and to book your tickets visit www.frockabilly.co.uk

Step into the Forest of Thoughts

 

Illustration: Kate Shields

Thinking is nice. This was the idea that spurred the creation of the Forest of Thoughts: a place where creative people can come to share their ideas, find collaborative partners, promote their events and find out about events that stimulate the grey matter, whether scientifically, artistically or, better yet, both.

The seedlings for the Forest of Thoughts were planted at Playgroup Festival: if you haven’t heard of it, read the reviews.

Over 140 artists were involved in the Forest of Thoughts alone. As such, rather than listing them in the first post, we’ll be posting profiles of the various individuals and groups involved over time, to help show the amazing diversity of clever, witty, interesting, challenging and creative people, groups and collectives out there. Most of them run regular events which are well worth attending (the rest are individuals who might be persuaded to talk about their given subject if you ask them nicely. Particularly if they have a book to promote or an offer of coffee/cocktails/beer).

However, there are a few people that deserve a particular mention.

Richard Robinson of Brighton Science Festival was a true hero, entertaining the crowd by turning them into a giant brain, delivering science magic galore, and explaining gravity, ably assisted by Ruby DeMure’s lovely pivot.

The glamorous Ruby forms one half of The Flirtinis and, along with the glorious Infinity Favour, provided a sparkling array of entertainment, with a shimmy, a wink and an in-depth understanding of philosophy, comedy and generally interesting ideas.

Miss Hinchliffe (top pic above) and Miss Murgatroyd (immediately above) helped by the amazing Foxy (aka Penny Howe) added even more class to the Forest of Thoughts with their fine tea blend challenge, in which people had to see if they could spot their oolong from their lapsang; ensured everyone on site could stay groomed courtesy of make do and mend workshops; and showed a wonderful selection of vintage  film clips to take the audience back to another, more innocent time. 

Baba, the life-size fortune-telling gypsy puppet, dispensed love voodoo and levitation, before stunning the crowd in the dance tent late at night when the lovely Ellen de Vries took her dancing.

And the Flavour Tripping Edible Garden saw people ingest miracle berries, before sucking on lemons and limes that tasted miraculously sweet as a result. Animal, Vegetable, Mineral (the creators of the installation) sold 120 berries in their first hour, such was the experience. Follow them on Facebook to find out when they’re next around.

And then there were the amazing stage managers and decor team, who I won’t name here as it will mean nothing to most readers and I’d hate to bore you. However, if you’re after recommendations for the most efficient, charming, intelligent and all-round amazing crew it’s possible to get, please get in touch. The team were truly incredible, providing talent, backbone and heart in equal measure.

Come back for more detailed info on all the wonderful performers who added their branch of wisdom to the Forest of Thoughts, and details of their latest events. I’d love to list everyone here but given the number of people involved in the Forest of Thoughts, this would be an unfeasibly long post, so it seems fairest to let them speak for themselves about their wonderful organisations.

If you were at Playgroup Festival and happened to enjoy a stroll in the forest, we’d love your feedback, photos and videos. If not, let us know about any intelligent events that are worthy of mention – and if they have a sense of humour, so much the better.

Come back soon to help us string fairy lights in the trees so that everyone can see things a little more clearly, without destroying any of the magic of discovery.  In the meantime, here’s a video made by the lovely Dan Doherty, which gives a mere taster of the path ahead.