Live comedy in Doncaster has made great strides since Cast attracted serious comedy talent for Doncos’ to enjoy, including acts such as Stewart Lee and Ross Noble. Cast’s Comedy Club has brought lesser known comedians for amusement seeker to sample, allowing new talent to hone their craft, and shows a wider appetite for open spot comedy in our Town.
A serendipitous spot on Facebook led me to impatiently depart my Thursday evening meeting, and barrel over St George’s Bridge under a harvest moon to attend the Comedy Circuit at The Establishment. For the uninitiated this is the recently refurbished bar in Lazarus Court which I previously knew as Flares, and younger readers will know as The Priory. Older readers might remember it as the Kings Head.
The venue is something to behold – a basement bar with a stylish industrial copper and mirrored finish, completed with seductive lighting – which dispenses cocktails, craft beers, and freshly made pizzas. Having no time to change I sat with my friends in the front row fully suited and booted, cutting quite the establishment figure, and prepared for a couple of hours of comedy.
The compere was Sully O’Sullivan (@Sully_OSullivan), a Kiwi with a wicked sense of humour who commanded the gig with great crowd work. This ranged from exploring certain proclivities of various nationalities towards livestock, to a Jeremy Kyle-esque intervention with an audience member and their ex. We were treated to the Edinburgh Festival anxieties of comedian Jake Donaldson, and met two very divergent comedy characters from Keith Carter (@KeithCarterUFO) who entertained the audience with impressions of Bob Dylan and two avian-resurrected Beatles that I could never adequately describe.
The evening was extraordinary fun, and for a £5 ticket price (including complimentary pizza) it was great value. Don’t miss it.
Freak Out Ethel was the name of-an Avant-Garde “happening” much akin to those occuring in the big-smoke i.e. London in the Late Sixties. It took place at THE DONCOPOLITAN H.Q. upon the Saturday of the 2017 St. Ledger Weekend. A fantastic and mind-blowing evening, it was organized by Rachel Horne, Craig Manga (New Weird Planet) and myself James Phaily.
The celebration began at 7pm and and ran into the early hours of Sunday Morning; featuring sets from some of the most diverse sounds and brightest lights on the Northern Scene. From Sonic-Art to Sludge Metal, this curious gathering of artists and fanatics managed to turn the easy-going, affable and salubrious atmosphere of the DONCOPOLITAN H.Q into a sonic spacecraft which “by-all accounts,” transported both audience and participants unto the astral realm beyond the sun.
At one point during MANGABROS set, Tom Walsh of KLAGG remarked to me that in all his years of giggin’ and hangin’ out with bands, this was the best concert he’d ever been to…
“Even better than PENTAGRAM?” I asked the staunch Sludge-meister. Tom affirmed that I was quite correct in my assumption. Taken from the horse’s mouth, that’s big shakes from a Doomlord such as Mr. Walsh…
HAWKWIND IN-A TEACUP:
Every saga has a beginning…This was provided most eloquently through the wyrd blessings of a righteous dose of surreality, courtesy of Lincoln’s very own PETER K ROLLINGS and his fantastic “experimental sonic machines.”
Peter’s wonderful performance and intriguing experiments in sonic invention kept us enthralled for over half an hour. His handmade costumes, instruments and analogue machines were not only amusing; they took us to a place far beyond the HQ and into a performative realm that could only belong to the man himself. It was just wonderful to take a sneaky-peek at the magic of Peter’s psychedelic/sonic universe…Think “Hawkwind in a Teacup” and you won’t go wrong…
After the surreality of Peter’s set, we took a voyage/leap across the Abyss, courtesy of the crushingly heavy, stoner slabs of Doom that is KLAGG. These guys are hot-shit/no-messin’ and watching this duo live is somewhat akin to watching the best riffage of Black Sabbath charged up with the aesthetic of Motorhead, the rest of the Speed-Metal entourage and a generous spoonful of the Butthole Surfers.
Absolutely mind-blowing; both magically and musically Tom Walsh (shredding guitar) and Jim Stanley (battle drums) know each other inside-out…To what at first listen can seem like a cacophonous dirge is actually a work of controlled genius/timed to perfection and somewhat akin to painting pictures in the dark. Pure fuckin’ Armageddon and anyone who loves all things metallic should give it a listen…
Next up was your humble reporter James Phaily and his outfit EMPTY SUN. Following on from my successful performance at Supanova Studios in Armthorpe and the release of the Desert Compass (Lazer-Gun Phoenix) EP I performed the record in its entirety.
I can only tell you that it went really well, not just because I didn’t get too leathered before the show but because of the friendly, receptive audience and the amazing sound-design from John Alexander.
My nerves had been building up for a number of weeks as I was preparing the poster and rehearsing. However, I enjoyed and was happy with the performance I gave, mainly due to the cosy surroundings, the proximity of the audience and the happiness I hope all concerned felt at being involved in this shared musical happening. It was clear as we progressed through the night that both audience members and performers shared a sublime equilibrium; a magickal gnosis, created through drink, be merry friendship and camaraderie.
BOYS FROM THE BLACKSTUFF
After EMPTY SUN, ’twas the turn of our headliners; the sublime MANGABROS; who really topped the night off with their particular brand of surreal, avant-garde, electronic goodness…The guys beeped, bopped and cajoled us seemingly effortlessly for easily an hour and a half. It felt as if their sound was entirely organized to celebrate our coming together as a “cosmic-mind”: the satirical aspects of their message willing us to canoodle with pockets of godly laughter and the insane boogie-woogie of Yes Sah! Are we having a good time or what?
Whilst Tim and Craig Manga took care of programming and vocal duties respectively, their very special guest Peter K. Rolling’s led us through a scintillating display of character-based performance art. This added a distinctively progressive influence to the MANGABROS shockingly enriching brand of electronica. What with the shop-window mannequins, the imagery of the MANGABROS package as a whole and the sheer good time feelings between the acts coupled with the invisibility of the threshold between us–the audience: this was the perfect end to a fraught day, which gave way to a highly rewarding evening and night.
It just goes to show what can be achieved when open-minded people and a musical diversity of sounds are gathered together to share each other’s joy and happiness…All Hail MANGABROS: I am a believer–Halleluwah!!!
Huzzah! The Steampunk event at the Mansion House was a roaring triumph for the future of Doncaster events.
With a collaboration between the Doncaster town council, Doncopolitan, and the White Rose Yorkshire Steampunks group, an amazing event unfolded on a sunny Saturday morning. Traders arrived early with wares ranging from Victorian-style clothing to hand-made gadgets for the discerning time-traveller or adventurer (plus myself representing the literary traditions of the expanding subgenre), and filled the upper rooms of the spectacular local building. Beneath the chandeliers, music and entertainment from 1940s songstress Harri Deane and the bardic Captain of the Lost Waves wove the day together with the essential Tea Duelling games becoming a biscuit-dunking hit.
But it wasn’t just for the suited, booted and bonneted Steampunks in their spectacular outfits. The free-to-enter event saw curious local visitors welcomed inside the incredible old building to see what was going on, many leaving with a fun new genre that they could enjoy. I think we might have even had some folks buy their outfits all ready for next year.
The Doncaster events calendar used to be a fluttering candle at best, held together by a few local enthusiasts holding craft fairs, music events and open mics; now it’s a firework display of such variety and scope that the mind runs riot with the possibilities.
It goes to show what can be done around Doncaster when we pull together. With the support of the town council and the great ideas of local people, Doncopolitan Magazine has become a rallying point for the local imagination. Thinking of hosting a food festival? They know who to talk to. Want to hold an event showcasing the weird and wonderful world of Victorian Science Fiction? They’ll make it happen. Good causes, the arts, sports and music; every element of fun and frolics are being represented in our home town right now. This Steampunk event is just the beginning. If we can visit the past, imagine what we can do in the future.
With Doncaster Pride 2017 happening this weekend, we decided to perform some blogging necromancy and raise this interview with Jenny Dewsnap from the depths of the internet.
Right, so let’s get down to the nitty gritty of Pride and how it came about in 2006.
Pride was born out of South Yorkshire Police having a not too great equality & diversity audit. They were pretty desperate for one of the four local authorities to do a Pride. Naturally, back then I suppose the local authorities were a bit ‘nervous’, so they wanted some group to take it up. SY Police gave £1,500 to the first group to come forward. Anyway, a group of Sheffield students jumped at the cash and got on with it, but six weeks before the event gave the money back and said they couldn’t do it. A lady called Rennie Brown
– a civilian within SY Police and the first woman in Donny, I believe, to have a civil partnership on the day the legislation came into force – had a meeting with Martin Winter and he then rang me to help. One meeting, I said. Ha! Ten years later…
How was the first Pride received in Doncaster?
OK, 2007. Drizzly day, small stage, drag queen host Gloria from The Vine dressed as though she was going to a Buckingham Palace garden party. A few acts, a few stalls and some curious straight people. It wasn’t a party atmosphere that year – more a statement.
How did the Pride committee come about and who are they?
Well, it was word of mouth. Martin knew me as I’d worked at the Council in events, Rennie knew Cath as they used to be a couple. Cath was chair of sexual health charity Pathways. It was very much a plea for help on the pretty sparse gay community. Jan Milner was a founder too. Mostly women that first year, but as the day approached we had a few volunteers, including Trevor Jones, who joined the committee immediately after the first Pride. We had reps from Rotherham and Sheffield, and SY Police insisted it was a SY thing. We dropped that after year one, as I was adamant any ‘success’ or progress should reflect on Donny, not the other towns. In 2008 Sheffield hosted the second SY Pride and we broke away as Donny and raised our own funds thereafter.
The committee today is Trevor Jones, John and Kevin Dorlin-Wagstaff, Cath Fox, Jill Jenkinson, Rob Clayton and me. Three members over 60. We are the oldest committee in the world!
What are the biggest challenges? How much does Pride cost to put on and how do you raise the funds?
Unfortunately, our decision to move coincided with Peter Davies’ election pledge to cut funding. We had an interesting meeting with him, when I said, ‘You don’t actually bloody fund it anyway,’ but the public thought he forced the move.
We always have a crisis in planning. Year three, 48 hours before the event, our stage was repossessed and impounded by customs abroad somewhere. Anyone that’s tried to book a stage like that 48 hours before a show knows it’s bloody impossible, but we constructed a stage and finally got our deposit back on the other one. It’s a tradition now to top the crisis each year.
Since we came back to SNG square, we target ourselves with £20,000. We can run with less but that’s a nice figure. We do all the fundraising and historically this has been through events, some grants, some smaller sponsorships, but it’s all changed this year. Business sponsorship and advertising has seen huge increases. We’ve always argued we have a positive impact on the local economy and massive positive PR for Donny, but this year people bought into that. We have a long list of corporate sponsors now and it’s growing. We’ve already had three emails since the weekend asking about sponsorship for 2017. Unheard of!
Can you explain to our readers what happened in 2015 with LGSM – an activist group from London known as Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners – and why ex-miners and trade unions get behind Pride?
Yeah, I went to see Pride the movie, and it’s back to my roots, my passion for Donny. I sat in the cinema and said to my kids at the end of the film, ‘I want to do that here in Donny, 30 years on.’ So I set about asking questions and ended up at Edlo Top Club in a bizarre meeting with Frank and a group of 70-year-old ex-miners who’d “never met a lesbian before”. It should have been filmed. It was so funny.
I guess in a funny way I thought about the hardship of the strike – the families I knew, the proud miners who kept fighting even till after they were broke, my grandad, everything. I had to do it. I had to see the banners at the head of the Pride parade, because I was in a position to make that happen, see those still proud but ‘old’ men smiling as they marched again. My proudest moment, I think, of all the Prides. How daft is that? It’s more about Donny than anything LGBT. But it’s not – it’s me being proud of who I am, where I’m from and the unlikely coming together of the communities who had the same common feelings as inspired the LGSM 30 years ago.
One of our favourite parts of Miss Money Penny’s opening speech was that Pride isn’t about difference, it’s about equality, so via creating an event that let’s Doncaster ‘be itself’, we are allowing our town to express its true spirit.
Yes, it’s all about pride: in yourself, your town, your life, your values, your ability to help others live their life and see positives. Family, community and strength.
How is Pride linked to the regeneration of Doncaster and how visitors see our town?
We are Doncaster. I’m fiercely protective of how the corporate influence takes us a different way. We stick to who we are and our beliefs as a committee. Others are welcome – yes, come see how great the event is and how great the town is. We treat guests, visitors and performers with respect, as we want them to go away with a positive feel for us.
Regeneration… well, it’s about positive perception. How many people know where Donny is? Is it some random northern town with no heart and no spirit, where we all still have flat caps on? I joke, but we must show we’re a competitor. We are a phoenix. We’ve come out of the decimation of our industry and communities and we can now be a real, serious city – work, jobs, aspirations, great events that put positive images in people’s minds.
What’s on the cards for 2017?
We’ll build on the success of this year. Bring in sponsors, but do it on terms that gives us what we want yet satisfy their commercial aspirations. We treat our sponsors well. We respect and are grateful of their involvement, because it’s not a financial transaction alone. It’s a relationship with mutual benefits.
We will grow the infrastructure, listen to our audience and try to give them a Pride to be proud of.
How did you feel on the day, seeing all 12,000 people there?
Overwhelmed. You kind of plan in a bubble, not really thinking numbers. We were amazed, to be honest. I guess we still have a little bit of us that actually doesn’t realise how great this thing is and how we’ve made it happen. Kind of surreal to think, standing there, that we did this, even after ten events.
We want to be the best we can be. We aren’t competing with anyone. We do what we do and we believe people come because we do things right. Acts are often regulars on the Pride circuit and tell us nobody looks after them like Donny. My feeling is if they go away and tell other people about it then we’re doing a good thing for ourselves, our event and our town.
We know people travel for our Pride now and they wouldn’t if it wasn’t a great day out. Taking a step back from the planning and the surreal bubble we live in for a few days after the event, we must be doing something right.
I started off feeling that if I could help just one person come to terms with their sexuality in a way I couldn’t as a teenager, then I did a good thing. Now it’s thousands. Yes, loads now come to party, but we always have that serious side, because I guess as a committee of ‘older’ gay folk, we’ve all know how it was. We all are so pleased times are different, but we’ll never forget those struggles, the early days of the gay rights movement. I think that gives us a different driving force, a different reality and understanding, as well as a gratefulness that we can demonstrate our individuality in a way we couldn’t years ago.