Inspirational AF: Dancing with a Tea Cup

How do they do it?! This is taken from DV8‘s Can We Talk About This?, a physical theatre production looking at freedom of speech, multiculturalism, and Islam, using verbatim interviews and elements of dance and mime. The physical strength of the performers, and the mental strength of this interviewee, Ann Cryer (the first politician to raise issues of forced marriage in the Houses of Parliament) are both inspirational AF. 

Check out more of DV8’s amazing, political, exciting work here.

Quick Review: Everything I Know About Love

Quick: Combining recipes, anecdotes, advice and memories, 15 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About American PieDolly Alderton’s memoir feels like a sisterhood version of ‘The Bible’ from American Pie – if slightly more mature. It’s the kind of book that speaks so eloquently about friendship, about being in your twenties, about being a woman, that it has to be shared. I have already promised my copy to several close friends.

Although the romcom-y title (and the fact that the author used to be a dating columnist) might be initially off-putting, it’s these expectations that Alderton plays off, highlighting our tendency to assume love symbolises romance, sex, a partner, forgetting the many other great loves of our lives. And yet it isn’t as wanky as that sounds.

Each bad date, or bad party, or bad night out is told in a matter-of-fact way that lets the comedy speak for itself. One particularly hilarious story, of mistaking Oxford Circus for Oxford the city, made me genuinely laugh aloud on the night tube (not by a long stretch the weirdest thing someone was doing on that carriage). Equally, the most moving passages are told with a beautiful simplicity. Alderton is great a taking a step back, and allowing the conversations, the events, the people to speak for themselves. What is also impressive is her ability to judge (others, and her own younger self) and yet do so with kindness and understanding – whilst not being one of those annoying people who far too saintly for their own good. Let’s be honest, everyone likes a good moan now and then.

What makes this memoir special is the fierce warmth of Alderton’s descriptions of her closest friends; in particular, her best friend, Farley. It helped that Farley sounds like my clone (short, brunette, fears sharks and swimming in open water); anyone, however, will find this relationship so winning, so powerfully, lovingly, uncompromisingly described, that one cannot but warm to the person describing it.

Although some of more obvious jokes are repeated one too many times (see ‘omg weddings are expensive and the people organising them are crazy’), most of the less serious chapters – the recipes, the parody letters – add a nice touch of lightness. The best bits are the lists of “Everything I Knew About Love At…17/21/25/28”; Alderton hits the nail on the head every time. (I am currently on the 25 year old stage).

Alderton has produced a funny, touching, self-aware memoir that is both incredibly personal, and intensely relatable. If we can’t have an actual female ‘Bible’ (publishers hmu), this is just as good.

Quicker: Are you, or do you know, a woman in her twenties? Do you have a best friend, or a great group of friends? Do you stress about dating and/or feeling alone? Have you had a quarter-life-crisis? If the answer to any (or all) of these is yes, you should read Everything I Know About Love.

Quickest: Like Caitlin Moran? You’ll like this.

Buy it on Amazon here.

Monday List: Three Worst ‘Classic’ Books

  1. On The Road Jack Kerouac
    An ultimate classic in the worst sense of the word. One of those books celebrated for its ‘authenticity’ and ‘rawness’, whilst sticking to all the cliches of the American male-crisis novel. Although there’s no denying that the rhythm, the juvenile longing of Kerouac’s prose is sometimes exciting, and even electrifying, the flatness of the female characters cannot but make it as a whole feel two-dimensional (see Alice Walsh’s great article on this, as well as The New Yorker’s opinion piece on Kerouac’s popularity). The plot centres around men wildly thrashing out against a female domestic sphere they perceive as closing in around them, choosing escape over security for the sake, they tell themselves, of their ‘souls’. Only when this domesticity is drawn authentically does this idea become interesting; and here it is not. If you want a better book about a desperate desire for something more, then read Zora Neale Hurston‘s amazing novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Same dissatisfaction, same passion, more tenderness, thought, and feeling.
  2. Heart of Darkness Joseph ConradCover Issues: Hesperus Books | Lulu's Bookshelf
    Talking of meaningless talk about ‘souls’, step up Joseph Conrad. Reading a few of Chinua Achebe‘s essays and speeches, makes this choice feel particularly righteous. This is one of those books that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, a faint feeling of disgust or frustration. In 2003, Botswanan scholar Peter Mwikisa concluded the book was “the great lost opportunity to depict dialogue between Africa and Europe; I’m tempted to agree. The depiction of Congo as a place peopled with savages, with “rudimentary souls” is dangerous mythologism. But, to judge aside from the possible/probably racism, the book itself is also just a heavy, dark, intense read that, like both the others on this list, seems self-indulgent and ambiguous to the point of confusion. On the plus side… it’s short?!
  3. Wuthering Heights Emily Brontëcovers for books: Wuthering Heights - The Mill on the ...
    You are either a Brontë or an Austen fan. It’s like Marmite: you can’t be both. I sit firmly on the side of Lizzie Bennett, of Emma Woodhouse, of headstrong heroines with high standards and witty narration. Wuthering Heights is the total opposite of this. If Catherine Earnshaw lived today, she’d be the vampire friend; the one who always finishes a night out weeping at you in a corner, deliberately grinding on strangers to make her possessive partner jealous, or who just leaves you because she’s spotted some much cooler/fitter people.Image result for needy friend meme The extreme emotions are too much for me (in particular love that borders on necrophilia – looking at you here Heathcliff). It’s the categorisation of this as one of literature’s greatest love stories that makes this a disappointment, as with its sister book Jane Eyre. As a critique on Victorian class systems: great. As a romance: awful.

Quick Review: The Dud Avocado

Quick: Nope, it’s not about a millennial brunch gone wrong. Elaine Dundy‘s The Dud Avocado, published in 1958, does, however, feature a young girl trying to find herself and her identity. Think Ladybird vibes, except, unlike Ladybird, Sally Jay Gorce (our heroine) has independence and money to spend. Provided for by her uncle back in America, Sally Jay floats around the Left Bank of Paris with dyed pink hair, constantly dressed in the wrong outfit whatever the occasion, in search of fame, love, and adventure.

Reminiscent of The Catcher in the RyeZuleika Dobson or some Evelyn Waugh/Nancy Mitford books, this is a charming and very funny coming-of-age novel, with just enough bitterness to avoid phoniness. Dundy’s writing is incredibly winning. Sally Jay manages to steer clear of being Zooey Deschanel-level quirky, whilst still being a bit of an odd-ball. The action moves along pacily, particularly towards the end. Sally Jay isn’t one to dwell – and yet Dundy gives her plenty of room in which to ponder her existence and her entertaining thoughts and analysis of other people.

Like any twenty-year-old, Sally Jay’s thoughts are both amusingly naive and surprisingly wise. She rockets along from set to set, from dinner party to cafe to date, noticing her own quirks and those of all the characters she meets along her merry way. Her narrative makes the book what it is, her mixture of confusion and assurance instantly relatable. The plot is random and a bit scattershot, often feeling like a series of comic sketches combined together. There is however an underlying darkness throughout which makes the book slightly more weighty than it might at first seem.

The Dud Avocado won’t change your life. It might not be a book that you’ll remember and cherish forever. Nonetheless, Sally Jay Gorce is a protagonist deserving of some more attention.

Quicker: If you liked Ladybird, Catcher in the Rye, Zuleika Dobson, Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Cold Comfort Farm, this book and it’s coming-of-age narrative is the one for you. Very enjoyable.

Quickest: Pink hair + Paris + coming-of-age novel = great fun.

#tbt: Dorothy Gibson

An ex-Nazi sympathiser who survived the Titanic, made a film about it, was arrested in Italy as an anti-Fascist agitator, and who was also a pioneering silent movie actress, Dorothy Gibson was the definition of living your best life.

Born today in 1889, in New Jersey, by the age of 20 she began modelling for Harrison Fisher, a famous commercial artist. 220px-Dorothy_by_fisherDorothy soon became Fisher’s favourite muse, and her image was seen regularly on postcards, merchandising products and even on the covers of magazines like Cosmopolitan.

As early as 1911, Dorothy began appearing in movies, starting out as an extra but soon taking the leading roles in a series of films by Éclair Studios. Praised for her natural acting style and comedic flair, she was a huge hit – and arguably the first actress to be promoted as a star in her own right.With contemporary Mary Pickford, Dorothy was the highest paid movie actress in the world at the time of her premature retirement in May 1912, from which time on she focused on her choral career.

The thing she’s most known for today, however, is nothing to do with her talents. On her way back from a holiday with her mother (Pauline) in Italy, Gibson became part of one the most famous events of the twentieth century. As Dorothy and Pauline played bridge in the lounge, their ship, the Titanic, crashed into an iceberg. Along with two of their game partners, they escaped into the first lifeboat launched (Lifeboat #7). After arriving back in New York, Dorothy’s manager persuaded her to appear in a film based on the scenario: the first ever film based on the disaster. Saved From the Titanic came out just one month later. Dorothy starred as herself, and also wrote the scenario, appearing in the same clothes she had actually been wearing on the night of the sinking.

Although Saved From the Titanic was a tremendous success in America, Britain, and France the only known prints were destroyed in a 1914 fire at the Eclair Studios in New Jersey. The loss of the motion picture is considered by film historians to be one of the greatest of the silent era.

But that’s not all…

Like any great actress of that era, naturally Dorothy had her share of salacious backstory, aside from any ship-based disasters. Between 1911-17, Dorothy embarked on a love affair with the married movie tycoon Jules Brulatour (co-founder of Universal Pictures). Brulatour was an advisor and producer for Dorothy’s main film company, Eclair, and backed several of her films, including Saved From the Titanic.

In 1913, while driving in New York, Dorothy struck and killed a pedestrian. So far, so irrelevant, right? But Dorothy was driving Brulatour’s car at the time (serious Great Gatsby vibes). In the court case that followed, then, it was revealed in the press that she was his mistress. Brulatour was actually already separated from his wife. Nonetheless, the humiliation of the scandal made her sue him for divorce, finalised in 1915. Dorothy and Brulatour then married, in 1917,  his fame and political power forcing him into legitimizing his relationship with Dorothy.

Two years later, the marriage’s legal status was challenged, and eventually dissolved as an invalid contract. Dorothy then left NYC for Paris to escape gossip and start a new life.

Fighting Fascism

By the time WW2 started, Dorothy and her mother were in Florence. The reasons for them staying there are hazy… Dorothy claimed it was because they were scared of the journey back to America after the whole Titanic incident. Others claim they stayed there willingly because they were Nazi sympathisers, and potentially even Fascist intelligence operatives!

However, by 1944 Dorothy had renounced her involvement, and was even arrested as an anti-Fascist agitator and jailed in a Nazi prison! She was sent to the Milan prison of San Vittore, from which she then escaped with two other prisoners, journalist Indro Montanelli and General Bartolo Zambon. The trio was aided through the intervention of Cardinal Ildefonso Schuster, Archbishop of Milan, and by a young chaplain of the Milanese resistance group Fiamme Verdi, Father Giovanni Barbareschi.

Living in France, in 1946, Dorothy died of a heart attack in her apartment at the Hôtel Ritz Paris at the age of 56. Gibson’s estate was divided between her lover, with the spectacularly Latin name of Emilio Antonio Ramos, and her mother.

In the fifteen years between the death of Dorothy and herself, Pauline grew increasingly vocal about her criticism of the Allies and her support for the Nazis – we’re still unsure whether Dorothy echoed or challenged these sympathies.

So: Model Muse, Silent Movie Star, Titanic Survivor, Mogul Mistress, Nazi Spy, Anti-Fascist Agitator, Prison Camp Escapee. Dorothy Gibbons’s life was legendary.




Monday List: Top Five Eurovision Moments 2018

Having spent Saturday night in Stockholm, complete with a trip to the (excellent) ABBA Museum, I am convinced that Eurovision embodies everything that Cultured AF represents; talented people mixed with undeniable trashiness. Here are our top five moments.

1. SuRie Gets Kanye West-ed

After Brexit, how to make the UK vaguely more likeable to the Europeans? Interrupt their performance with a protester storming onstage to shout about the “Nazis of the UK media”. Surely sympathy vote secured, right?*
*well, no, we still came third from bottom. But still not last.

2. The Man With The Pipe

This guy has not got enough attention. In a turn reminiscent of the Russian grannies, or the Polish butter churner, Serbia brought on an old man with a Serbian flute to accompany their song ‘Nova Deca’. Looking like the crazy professor from Back to the Future, he piped away with aplomb, adding some much needed interest to an otherwise kinda bland performance. Legend.


3. The Whole of the Czech Performance

Pure 100% Dairy-Lea Babybel Cheese. Czech Olly Murs. Bum-wiggling. The lyrics. All of it was classic Eurovision. Genius.


4. All of the Awkward Points-givers

I both love and hate this part. It takes f**king ages wow, but also seeing loads of awkward, over-dressed people in front of green screens, trying to grab every inch of screen-time given them is monotonously joyous.

There was the random attempt to make a Kanye West joke, the La La Land joke that belongs in 2017, the Swedish guy who started facing the wrong way for unknown reasons, the Norwegian dude in a blue LED mask…

Check out Graham Norton’s comments on this mess here.

5. When Finland’s Singer was flipped upside down.

Because why not? It’s Eurovision! Singing on its own is not enough. SPIN YOURSELF ON A GIANT WHEEL WHILST SINGING. That is the level of commitment required.



P.s. Why is RuPaul not a judge of Eurovision? Or Michelle Visage? Get on it for next year Israel.

Costume Ideas: My Dad Wrote a Porno

In honour of my upcoming trip to My Dad Wrote A Porno (Live) and based off of my mad panic today to brainstorm a costume at the last minute, I have compiled a list of ideas for all you Belinkers out there.

  • Alfie, the Smallish Man Dressed in Black.
    Simple. Be small. Dressed entirely in black. Looking vaguely like a tech guy probably helpful – you could hold some wires?
  • The Glee Team
    aka Belinda herself (think business but also wearing as little as humanly possible), plus Giselle (with half her hair ripped out) and who could forget the one and only Bella. Slash Donna. Just wear the sluttiest clothing you can think of, and if you’re Bella act incredibly dumb. Or if you want more of an obvious theme…
  •  The Glee Team on Giselle’s Hen Do
    See above, but add penis memorabilia, sashes, badges, and all that jazz.
  • The Duchess
    Wear riding kit – riding boots, jodhpurs, mole-hair jacket, helmet, and of course a riding crop.
    giphy (1).gif
  • The Chocolate Fountain/Lake
    Cover yourself in melted chocolate/brown paint and look like you’ve just stepped out of the Chocolat™ Chocolate Fountain. Or even dress as a Chocolat™ Chocolate Bar. giphy (2).gif
  • Pomegranate(s)
    The infamous hanging pomegranates. Who can forget them?
    If you have the time and energy to put effort in, this is an amazing how-to video

    If you can’t be bothered, you could simply bring along a few pomegranates, or make a T-Shirt with two of this image on it (you know where)

  • A Bottle of Chilean Chardonnay
    Another iconic image. Dress in green or white, make a cork with a cone hat of brown paper, and stick a big fancy wine label on your shirt.
    giphy (3).gif
  • The Regional Managers
    Go as one or all of Dave Wilcox, Ken Doonesbury, Des Martin or Patrick O’Hamlin. Dress in suits and look slightly insecure whenever a woman with boobs comes near you. Be as stereotypically Irish/Northern etc. as possible.
  • Helga
    Everything woolen. EVERYTHING.
  • A non-stick tin wok.
    Enough said. 

#tbt The Astor Place Riot

When I say crowd riot, you might think of political protests, student revolution, football hooligans, eager fans. Theatre does not leap automatically to mind. Yet the 10th May 1849, 169 years ago today, saw a deadly riot break out at the Astor Opera House in Manhattan, NYC, killing at least 25 and injuring over 120: the infamous Astor Place Riot. And what provoked this awful event (and the largest number of civilian casualties due to military action in the United States since the American Revolutionary War)? A fight between two actors over who performed Shakespeare better. Talk about divas…

In fact, theatre riots were not an unusual occurrence in the early nineteenth century. Theatre was entertainment for the masses. Actors, and particularly the superstar actor-managers like our protagonists Edwin Forrest and William Charles Macready had legions of hardcore fans ready to defend them on a word (think the Cumberbitches/Directioners on steroids). ea3b8711772038b4ae14fe3220885461--america--break-outs

This came to a head when the Astor Place Opera House invited acclaimed British tragedian Macready to perform Macbeth during his US tour. This pissed the patrons of the Bowery Theater right off, as they were champions of American actor Forrest. Forrest had recently returned from a disappointing European tour where he’d been hissed and booed in London by Macready’s fans. In retaliation, Forrest embarked on a tour of the same cities Macready was playing, doing a rival version of Macbeth. Thus, when Macready was scheduled to appear at the Astor Place Opera House, the Bowery Theater downtown would mount Forrest’s production of Macbeth. As any Shakespeare fan knows, two Scottish plays in one city can surely never lead to good things.

However, this was not simply a fight about Shakespeare. It was rooted in much deeper conflicts; class, nationality, values. Astor Place was seen as a venue for the upper class; the Bowery Theater was not. The pretensions of the Astor Place moneyed patrons had become offensive to an emerging street culture embodied by “B’hoys,” or “Bowery Boys.” Macready and Forrest therefore came to represent upper-class New Yorkers versus lower-class, English versus American values.

On May 7th, things started badly. Macready walked onstage to be greeted by boos, hisses, and pelted rotten eggs and old boots. The performance had to be cancelled. Macready refused to perform for the next two days. It was only on May 10th that he agreed to continue – bravely ignoring, or blissfully unaware, that the Bowery Boys had stuck up posters around the city demanding action from its citizens: SHALL AMERICANS OR ENGLISH RULE THIS CITY?


By the time the performance began a crowd of ten to twenty thousand people surrounded Astor Place, pelting it with bricks and paving stones. New York’s elite militia, the Seventh Regiment, was called in to quell the riot—the first time a military unit had been asked to do so in peacetime. When the crowd did not disburse, the soldiers were given the order to fire. Eighteen died that day, although more would die from their injuries over the next few days. The militia’s actions were widely praised by the city’s elite.

More than just a riot, we can even see this event as creating the stigma around Shakespeare that we see today. The idea that Shakespeare somehow belongs to the elite could come from, or have been furthered by this event and its fall-out. According to Nigel Cliff in The Shakespeare Riots, these riots furthered the process of class alienation and segregation in New York City and America; as part of that process, the entertainment world separated into “respectable” and “working-class” orbits. As professional actors gravitated to respectable theaters and vaudeville houses responded by mounting skits on “serious” Shakespeare, Shakespeare was gradually removed from popular culture into a new category of highbrow entertainment.





Inspirational AF: Love After Love

This poem is filled with beautiful images. The last line, in particular, is one of my absolute favourites; I want it on my wall. The perfect poem to give you a little boost.

Love After Love

Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.