I came across Jill Millard Shapiro first through her rather wonderful book Remembering Revudeville: A Souvenir of the Windmill Theatre, and then through social media. We got talking and she very kindly suggested I we have a face-to-face chat.
Jill was a performer at the Windmill theatre from 1959 to December of 1963 when she left to have her first child so she is a well-placed, as well as eloquent and engaging spokeswoman and expert-in-chief for the theatre that she called home for a short but clearly formative period of what turns out to have been a very eventful life.
The public engagement element of my job is one of my favourite bits of being an academic. So whenever I’m invited to talk I’ll always try and make it, work and life permitting. As a result last night I was very pleased to be guest speaker at the Lincoln WI.
I’ve visited and spoken to a number of Women’s Institute branches in the last few years and I’ve never had a bad experience, but Lincoln WI are certainly one of my favourites. I’d previously spoken at one of their meetings about two years ago, along with my friend and performer Storme Chaser. Our talk had been about the British burlesque community and its feminist roots. They were a really receptive, fun audience with lots of interesting questions and many of them wanted to have a go with the set of oversize, ostrich feather fans I’d taken with me. I’d even got some them to have a go at doing a glove removal routine to the David Rose Orchestra’s ‘The Stripper,’ much to the amusement of the other members.
Following the unveiling of the We Never Clothed exhibition at the Hebden Bridge Burlesque festival, the Windmill Girls exhibition is now available to go on the road.
My first post-Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival exhibition was on the Wednesday after HBBF. I took a scaled down version of the exhibition, a talk about the media representation of women of the Windmill and a fan dance demo to Eagle W.I. in Lincolnshire.
I love giving talks to branches of the W.I. I have been doing it at various branches for a couple of years now and always find it extremely rewarding. Incidentally the Women’s Institute is so much more than just jam making. It’s a fascinating movement which celebrated its centenary in 2015. The Eagle branch is a small but friendly, enthusiastic and engaged group and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them. They were extremely kind and welcoming. Continue reading →
In this podcast, I talk to Heidi Bang Tidy and Lady Wildflower, co-producers of the award-winning Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival. We discuss the politics of burlesque, the history of the festival and this year’s round table discussion I Am Woman, Hear Me Phwoar featuring Myself, Dr Claire Nally and Dr Jacki Willson (and others tbc) on the Sunday of this year’s festival. I also discuss my broader research and engagement project in more detail.
Me outside The Windmill circa 2010 and a selection of Windmill programmes
For those who aren’t familiar, The Windmill Theatre is a little variety theatre nestled in the heart of Soho, just off Shaftesbury Avenue. It is famous for its nude tableau and fan dancing, its careful negotiation of the respectable middlebrow and for giving first breaks to some of British variety’s most celebrated performers. However the theatre is probably best remembered for its steadfast determination to remain open through the compulsory closure of all London theatres and throughout the Blitz, to provide patriotic, upbeat entertainment for war weary troops and civilians. It was and still is, a British institution. Continue reading →