DIARY OF A PRODUCER: 1st Nov, 2014, Ali Hendry Ballard
Last year Lara suggested we do a tour. How in hell’s teeth could we manage this? Eight women who mostly fit SAGS around their full-time jobs, as well as keeping time for their families and busy social lives.
But I don’t like saying NO. I like saying YES AND?! I like finding answers to the HOWs. And in due course the answers came. Forthwith we are ever thankful for the suggestion to have been made!
How will we fund it? – Fundrazr crowdfunding, selling our old SAGS t-shirts, auctioning the first bell we ever had (Groucho Club gig),
selling merchandise and securing sponsorship from a host of lovely organisations.
How do we get audiences to come? – advertise, link up with some lovely producers, promo, advertise, publicise, flyer, advertise
What about our day jobs? – start saving your annual leave!
And so it came to pass. At a tour meeting, we talked about why we wanted to do it. Some took the meeting more seriously than others… but at least we all got a loom band 😉
The most common themes were because we are fabulous and we should spread that fabulousness across the country, and how great to have a couple of months to concentrate on performing. We currently do a monthly gig in Brighton and regular gigs in London, plus some festivals and private events.
For me it was the challenge of producing something big. By big I meant five or six nights. Somehow big got bigger as I kept saying YES AND we ended up with fifteen shows!
Here is our blog. Some dates are written by myself, some by other Girlies. Please share… laugh… reminisce… but above all, spread the love!
To get you in the mood, here’s our Tour Promo Video!
Friday 6th September, 2014.
It was lovely to kick off our tour here. One of the original SAGS, Mitch lives in Bristol and in July we had a cracking time at the packed Bristol Pride Comedy Night. We relied on her local knowledge and booked the Halo Bar in Bishopston.
At last the day arrived… the tour that we started planning months and months (and months) ago was off and spreading. I picked up the hire car early morning and left home in Brighton with begged, borrowed (but not stolen…) equipment.
First I scooped up Hannah and her keyboard from Hove in the shiny red hire car. Can’t tell you the make, but it was red. And shiny.
We headed for Reading station to scoop up Lara. We were on our way! – assisted by homemade smoked mackerel sandwiches and a flask of redbush tea. Oh yes, we are rock ‘n’ roll.
We arrived at the venue in plenty of time, but parking was a nightmare until Lara accosted a police vehicle so we could park in their space. She runs courses on how to use laughter to influence situations; I think she laughed them out of the parking bay.
An hour and a half later the equipment was set up and we sat finishing off our flask of redbush tea and some cupcakes Kate and our SAG BAB made.
Then Mitch and Samantha arrived! Samantha caught a train in and Mitch scooped her up. We all like a bit of scooping. They arrived with more homemade food supplies plus the performer’s staple – bananas.
Great excitement ensued as Samantha had secured sponsorship from KuSan Accessories and turned up with a bag of very cool hats, legwarmers, gloves and furry pens. Everyone needs a furry pen in their life.
We are doing a #hatsontour photoshoot for them at every venue. Check out pictures on The Short and Girlie Show Facebook. There is also talk of producing a SAGS IN HATS calendar.
Before long the doors were open and the audience poured in, and in, and in! Suddenly it was standing room only with over 70 people packed in.
WE SOLD OUT OUR FIRST GIG!
And what a night! Amazing stories for us to use, like how Jess and Abbie met inside a pantomime horse!
Short & Girlie did their impro, Hannah Brackenbury did her comedy songs and Lara A King did her stand-up. All was received with open arms by the gorgeous Bristolian audience.
Before we knew it the night was over. We had so many lovely comments and lots of new fans. After the show we piled back to Mitch’s house for a bottle of bubbly. We can do rock ‘n’ roll when we put our minds to it.
Suddenly it was 2.30am and so to bed, feeling completely loved up by our first audience. A quick toss of a coin to see who shared a bed with whom… we are hoping that by the end of the tour everyone will have bedded each other. Not like that. Honestly, your mind!
Thank you Bristol, you were a perfect opener for our tour.
Saturday 6th September, 2014.
I really wanted to do this city but was unsure of venues. I knew the band Greymatter had performed here. We’ve met them a few times at various festivals and charity events so I contacted Georgey. We hatched a plan to do a joint gig. Although this would mean our set would be halved, it also meant we could spread SAGS love and Greymatter love to each other’s fan base.
After checking availability of several places, South Street Arts Theatre came up trumps. They were our most expensive hire so it was a high risk. We needn’t have worried as three weeks before the event we sold out!! One swift chat with the venue and we moved to a bigger space, which also sold out on the night.
WE SOLD OUT TWICE ON THE SAME NIGHT, IN THE SAME VENUE!!
This was brilliant news as even with a sell-out in the smaller space we would have only just broken even on account of Greymatter and SAGS members being spread around the country – Bristol, Brighton, Bromley, Bournemouth and a host of other cities (not all beginning with “B”). With travel and accommodation costs, plus extras like posters, flyers and adverts, it all adds up.
My role is to sort logistics and to make things happen as cost-effectively as possible. Like seeing who lives where and getting them to drop off flyers at various venues. Or making small detours at the end of my day job to flyer. This was true for Reading; I happened to be working there a few weeks previously and visited some gay pubs on my way back to the station. I’d also planned way ahead by sorting out flyers and posters for those co-producers who were at L Fest, so they could start distributing early (and it saved on postage). This included Hazel for the Manchester gig and Georgey.
So on the morning of our second show I woke up early, thankful that I’d made the decision to be teetotal for the two months. It would have been so easy to get carried away last night, on a high from our sold out launch night! But no. So after popping out to drop off Samantha to catch her early train back to London, I returned to Mitch’s house where everyone’s dietary needs were busy being catered for. Then Mitch, SAG WAG Jayne and Lara drove in one car from Bristol, Hannah and myself in another with all the equipment. Fuelled by Mitch’s homemade egg sandwiches, we arrived in plenty of time. Christine drove in with her SAG WAG. Getting the travel and accommodation plans right is paramount when you are operating on a shoestring.
To save on accommodation we all travelled home at the end of the gig – Hannah and I got back to Brighton at 2.30am!
Our new, larger venue was beautiful, with a lovely stage and great sound and lights – the SAGS banner (sponsored by Lesbilicious) took pride of place and had was lit up to make it practically ethereal. We also had the luxury of a dressing room and shower. The very one that Dawn French would have used when she gigged here.
As I stood at the door welcoming the 125 people, I got chatting to the venue’s ticket tearer. A couple of minutes passed. Then she stated there seemed to be an awful lot of same sex couples and it hadn’t mentioned anything about that in the programme. I’m wondering what she would have expected it to say.
She asked me why there were so many. I replied the show was for everyone but that most of the performers are lesbian and we tend to advertise more in the gay media, like on Kathy Caton’s show Out in Brighton on Radio Reverb.
I had thought long and hard about the marketing of our tour. We workshopped a title for the tour by trying to fit it round images from our last photoshoot. No point in commissioning another photoshoot when we had some fantastic images, taken by Hannah Brackenbury. Yes, she is not only our musical director, musician, lyricist, singer, but she is also a photographer, website designer, camera operator and film editor. You think you’re busy, try being Hannah! She also works full-time, manages to maintain a social life with her fiancée and is a mum.
Wondering how Hannah can be the photographer of a photo she is in?! She set up the lighting, framing, positioning, and then handed the button-pressing over to SAG WAG H. – who is apparently very good at button-pressing. According to Christine.
(photo credit: Hannah Brackenbury)
For our publicity I had umm’d and ahh’d about whether to mention the gay thing. Having all performers either gay, bisexual or pansexual is an important part of SAGS’ identity. But so is being all-female. In the end the latter was the focus I took. Those who are interested in our sexual orientation will find clues on our website or work it out from the majority of publications who have reviewed us, and that was enough for me. There’s a fine line between awareness-raising and throat-ramming.
I like audiences of all persuasions. I will never forget our 3-week run at the Ovalhouse 8+ years ago. We often had mainly straight audiences and it was great seeing them realise lesbians can be funny. Funny ha-ha, not funny weird.
I do like producing shows majorly populated by a minority. There is something very community about it. And some parts of the evening, particularly some of Lara’s set and a couple of Hannah’s songs, resonate in a deeper way with those that share our sexuality. That doesn’t mean our show is inaccessible to others, it just means the LGBTQ audience has something that fits. I watch a lot of comedy and most of it defaults to a straight audience.
As at every gig we shake our Diversity Role Models collection tins. We chose this charity for all the wonderful work they do on removing homophobic bullying in schools. In Reading, an early announcement that audience members may wish to donate instead of doing the #icebucketchallenge nomination sitting on their Facebook wall generated a flutter of notes!
Our set went down a storm,
And the evening was full of friends we met over the years at various events and festivals, and therefore another top night of love-spreading!!
Tuesday 9th September, 2014.
I was really looking forward to this event. Ingo and I go back a long way, and have mutual respect for the work we do for the arts and the LGBTQ community.
In line with our Tour-On-A-Budget challenge, SAG WAG Cheryl offered to make the Brighton to London SAGS’ tea. As producer, there is always something to do so during the journey we all spent time sticking “BSL Interpreted” on flyers that were due to be posted to our Manchester and Newcastle gigs the next day.
The lovely team from Ultimate Planet came along and dropped off some flyers promoting their Awards ceremony. For us the timing was perfect as the nominating month was September and the voting month was October so it couldn’t have been better placed for us to gently suggest our audiences voted for us! And guess what…
Again, the audience poured in and Maria, the event manager said it was one of their busiest nights!
Ingo gave us a pre-show talk about the Wotever Manifesto, including not to use offensive stereotypes and not to judge an individual’s gender. Having been at many Wotever World events over the last 13 years I applaud this approach. By highlighting issues in advance it puts the focus firmly on creating an inclusive environment.
Nevertheless Lara has a joke that gently pokes a face at Ls, Bs, Gs and Ts. Other Ali and I sat backstage holding our breath hoping the joke would be taken in the spirit is was intended. We needn’t have worried. From the opening SAGS act, followed by Hannah’s hilarious songs meant the audience were with us from the start!
Obviously we love all our audiences equally. However, from the start there was something different about this audience. They laughed at every single opportunity we gave them. They paid attention throughout the evening. It is usual for cabaret layout audiences to talk later in an evening as they become more drunk, but this audience was with us until the end! Ingo has trained them well 🙂
It feels amazing making people laugh. Laughter is healing. It makes you forget crap going on in your life. It unites an audience in a shared experience.
Thank you Club Wotever, we bow to you and are all a little bit more in love with you than we were before…
Friday 12th September, 2014.
Funny Girls! – Brighton is a monthly comedy night at the Caroline of Brunswick, on the second Friday of the month. It was started by our Hannah five years ago, with the aim of encouraging new female acts to grow their confidence and enable established stand-ups to try out new material. It also gave Hannah a place to do her musical comedy magic. SAGS quickly became regular headliners and enjoyed being in a mixed line-up of funny girls, particularly as we could draw inspiration from the material the earlier acts presented! A few months ago I took over some of the producing and last month local stand-up and mate Julie Jepson started hosting it. Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Funny-Girls-Brighton/134457736618288
SAGS will pop our little heads in every so often, but essentially at the mo it is Julie’s show with a mix of stand-ups, supported behind the scenes by myself and Hannah. Meanwhile, from December we start doing a monthly SAGStastic full-length show at the Verdict, Brighton. Sat 13th Dec at 8.30pm http://www.wegottickets.com/event/293256
(photo credit: Hannah Brackenbury)
One of the main challenges in our industry is finances. Many performers on the fringe comedy circuit end up paying to perform. Depending where you are in the line-up you could get nothing or twenty quid, or more if you’re really lucky! The event could be in your city or hundreds of miles away. For us, add in the fact there are eight performers travelling from Brighton, London, Bristol and Bromley but we are classed as “one act” – £20 divided by eight?! And it is a fallacy that producers cream off the profits, or at least it is for Funny Girls. Unlike some nights, all acts get paid something.
SAGS have never done a Funny Girls gig and taken a performance fee; we might get some of our travel costs refunded and that’s about it. We don’t want to increase ticket prices so it is what it is. The same is true when we perform in London, travel refunds but no performance fees.
So what on earth are we all doing operating within a business model that is clearly flawed?! Well our mantra has always been “We do it because we love it”.
BUT with this tour one of my main concerns was to ensure we don’t end up personally subsidising it. None of us can afford that.
Fortunately we worked hard on raising funds and had fantastic support from beautiful people via our Fundrazr account, plus a host of lovely businesses. https://shortandgirlie.com/thank-you/ Also, as it turned out, we had twelve of our fifteen shows sell out.
The fundraising side was fun, particularly where we competed with each other! E.g. who could make the most on auctioning our old t-shirts? Kate won with £40, sold during a Verdict gig. Other Ali made the least at £0… she couldn’t find her t-shirt! We also auctioned our first ever bell at a Groucho Club gig (we still miss it but the new owners sent photos of it in its new home, which helped, a bit). We ran a competition at L Fest to see who could sell a limited edition badge for the most – Other Ali redeemed herself by selling one badge for £40! And we all shared the excitement of achieving our Fundrazr target literally hours before the deadline! Without all this we would have been not only up the river without a paddle, but also boatless.
I also spent a lot of time promoting the show through listings on websites and publications, radio interviews and editorial, – ably assisted by the SAGS and our co-producers. True to form in trying to make the most of every second during this tour, after tonight’s show we did an interview with Radio Reverb.
When we do the home crowd (as we call our Brighton audiences, even though only half the team live there) we make an evening of it. Everyone comes round to our house, the resident SAGs couple, for a gorgeous vegetarian meal made by Kate. We catch up and then make our way to the venue, a 5-minute walk. Non-Brighton SAGs make a weekend of it and stay with the Brightonites, which is great. Improv has teamwork at its very heart and all down-time spent together is time well spent. And the more the merrier, whether that’s mates coming back after the show, or having a cup of tea in the garden with mate-babysitters beforehand.
One of the fantastic things about doing the tour has meant many SAGS’ friends and family have attended. Tonight my brother and his partner came along and it was lovely seeing him enjoying the show. His eldest daughter and boyf came to the other Brighton show later in the tour, and again it was fab to show off to them!
As the audience slowly started to arrive we gave them all a warm welcome. It is important we set the tone for the evening and let the punters know we are there to entertain them in warm and friendly ways. We handed out our little forms for people to take part in our free c*raffle (crap raffle). This allows you the unique opportunity to win an unwanted gift from a Short & Girlie. Obviously it’s a cunning way to get your email addy and find out how you heard about the gig.
And so they arrived. And arrived. And arrived! It was like Bristol all over again! SAG WAG Rab kept disappearing and magically re-appearing with more chairs until it was literally standing room only. The audience were queueing down the stairs and spilling into the pub below. We’ve filled that little pub theatre room before, but never packed it to the gunnels in this way!
As a result the show was electric, if squished – not only for the audience but for us on stage as our playing space was reduced by so many bums on seats! What a truly phenomenal night.
The absolute best part of the night was having a wedding proposal slap-bang in the middle of the show!! Congratulations Sam and Aimee! We are available to perform at your wedding reception… Check out the footage here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bxGcQ_epEo
Thank you Brighton, we adore you.xxxxxxxx
Friday 19th September, 2014.
So far on tour this was the only gig that didn’t sell out. Fortunately the “bring-and-share” attitude to catering continued to help with the financial deficit!
It was gutting to not sell out but also very telling that this night wasn’t a true “Spreading the Love” gig involving SAGS, HB and LAK. SAGS did 40-mins of impro, followed by the lovely Music Box doing another 40-mins of a made up musical.
Hoopla have been running these nights for many years and have become an institution. They also run impro workshops which some of us have attended in the past. It is important for us to keep our tools tuned, because although some of us have been working together for ten years, you can get into bad habits and can always learn different ways of doing stuff. We have also attended some great workshops run by the Maydays, plus I also run workshops.
I do love running a workshop. I am currently leading an 8-week Monday nighter in Brighton, ably assisted by Kate and Other Ali. Short & Girlie Impro Workshops Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/252577781616420/?fref=ts I used to run regular workshops in London several years ago and watching participants grow their skills never ceased to delight. I’m toying with the idea of doing a mini “workshop tour” next year – an afternoon improv workshop in the same venue where we’d then perform that night.
For our Hoopla gig, although it is an established event apparently it clashed with another improv event and the organisers apologised for the low turnout. They added their thanks as those that did come were mainly our fan base!
In all it was nice to watch another improv team and compare ourselves to what they do. And it was a joy doing a gig for Hoopla as we have big respect for all the wonderful work they do to support and promote improvisation in London. We’d love to return in the future. But on our tour, by the end of the night we were itching to get back to our regular format!
Friday 26th September, 2014.
Blog entry by Kate.
Brum! Yay! I have so many fond memories of this friendly, genuine and frankly bostin’ city, having trained at Birmingham School of Speech & Drama (as too did SAG Christine). I must say, however, I was a little uncertain what to expect when we arrived at our Kings Heath venue. Would a load of comedy-loving lezzers turn up to a British Legion Memorial Hall in a suburban side street?
(photo credit: Hannah Brackenbury)
Oh she of little faith! Soon my fears were allayed, the staff were lovely and the booze was cheap! What was not to love?! We sorted out our lights and sound checking, then went to get changed for the show.
Our dressing room for the night was snug and multi-purpose, and squeezing our svelte physiques into the gaps between piles of poppy appeal boxes and collection tins, was a Twister-like challenge. After a close encounter with a poppy pin, a bad hair do panic and a lost bra (let’s hope someone pops a little extra in the collection tin for it), we were ready.
While we were taming cleavages and tresses, our gorgeous audience started to arrive… All good things come to she who waits, so they say, but we couldn’t, so we decided to sit outside sporting our snug KuSan woolly hats and grin at the lovely people coming through the door. Actually, we mainly just wanted to take a tour souvenir photo from outside the venue, but our camera kept going on the blink, so we were sitting there rather longer than planned. Cold bums, warm heads. Or whatever the saying is.
We nipped back inside to the poppy room and did some voice exercises in preparation for the performance.
With our tongues limbered up and our vocal chords vibrating in unison, we were ready to leap on stage and take on the women of Birmingham. A physical warm up would probably have been of help too, but hey-ho, tempus fugit and all that.
Our Birmingham, Coventry and Leicester shows were co-produced by Maureen Younger, who regularly hosts comedy nights in the area, and she compered the evening’s show, kicking off with some of her own hilarious stand-up material. It also gave us plenty of information about members of the audience, which we could incorporate into our scenes later on.
Our Hannah went on next with her brilliant comedy songs. I was willing her to do her brand new song ‘Thanks for the Mammaries’ on stage that night, as I had heard it for the first time ever when we were setting up and it made me borderline hysterical. But she refused to get her tits out and that had its stage premier the following evening in Coventry… Instead she treated us to amongst others, my equal fave HB song, ‘Cup of Tea’, which is a rather jolly ditty about her favourite hot beverage. It ends very abruptly leaving me with a warm glow and a yearning for more. Just like all good cuppas.
Then our Lara (award-winning comedian) came on and had a good old tickle of our funny bones. She’s been surveying the country for various euphemisms for being gay, and it never ceases to make me laugh when she explains her own example of being ‘a little bit like [her cousin] Maxine’.
After a good old giggle, then a break in which many cheap drinks were consumed, Lara and Hannah came back into the ShortandGirlie fold, and well, we made the rest of the show up…
The audience were brilliant and came out with plenty of suggestions and ideas for our scenes, as well as sharing sometimes very personal stories! In the break and after the show we had a fab time chatting to some lovely audience members and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
Watch out Brum! We’ll be back!
And now a few words from Mitch on Brum
What a night! We rocked up to the venue to discover it was a time capsule…. I was transported not only to the place of my birth but to all those 70s Sundays, after mass down the Irish club. We had a great stage and the staff were really lovely, plenty of tea and a friendly cheap bar. The wonderfully commanding Maureen started the evening with her rib-tickling routine, that got the audience in fits of laughter and it is thanks to her promoting we had a full house. During the night we saw quite a few happy tears and trickles following from our show. My best bit? – Voiceover at the tuba night class! What a gift. I also got to be nostalgic in the city as we stayed with Danielle, a lovely SAGS fan from the fab band Eek – just 5 minutes from the very hospital I was born in. We even had time to walk around the estuary in Edgbaston with her lovely dogs the cockerdoodles! Thanks Brum for memories and mammaries. Mitch. xx
Saturday 27th September, 2014.
Blog entry by Mitch.
Good things are often disguised as a warehouse! That’s the Ego Performance space – undeniably one of my favourite venues of the whole tour!
(photo credit: Hannah Brackenbury)
From the stage to the lighting to the seating for the audience it was all perfect and fit for our purpose.
We were also treated to a fantastic Green room with our very own Dragon mascot and space to actually get ready, without knocked each other or smudging our mascara.
The staff are absolutely wonderful and made us all feel very special, we had delicious food made for us,
and even had chocolates for after our show.
Such a pleasure to have a lovely big space to do our warm ups and bonding that we always do before a gig.
What a gig it was too! As it was for this whole midlands extravaganza we had the welcome support from Maureen Younger and her brazen wit to fluff up the crowd, we were lucky to have her on side to promote it and we needn’t have worried about the tickets sales….we got a full house! Yey!
What a superb audience they were in Coventry, giving us brilliant suggestions especially for the ‘Boi Band’ qualities (oversexed and wannabe lead singer) and Film and Theatre genres (realism and gothic!)
Loved this night of the tour (and apparently I have a half-sister in Coventry but she didn’t reveal herself to me). We gave good talent and shined up our skills after the lovely food, what else could we do?!
We shall return our egos to EGO fo’sho..boom brwwwp! My best bit? Christine the boi-band sex addict!
Sunday 28th September, 2014.
Blog entry by Mitch.
Who would have thought in a small back room of a Leicester hotel we could entertain the women of the town… but we did and some! We had access to our own bijou bedroom and free tea and coffee, mmm! Our partnership with MY Comedy continued with her ‘honorary black lesbian’ amongst other funnies, as she rallied her regulars and the house was full! – big up to our Maureen! As usual we had the 3 acts and during the tour the extremely talented Hannah Brackenbury wrote a new song which is hilarious about stuffing mammaries! You are truly unique Ms B.
The wonderful comedienne extraordinaire Lara A King set the tone for the crowd to tap their feet and practice a brain teasing spelling song… just so catchy and full of warm innuendo… we were all moist after Lara!
The midland leg of the tour went really well and we learnt a lot about where to go and where to avoid, but in the end, despite some sound issues, Leicester gave us some great suggestions and there were lots of haha’s and also a different fairy tale for Film and Theatre …Red Riding Hood! We recognised some of our fans and got filmed by our BSL interpreter Katie. My best bit? The glorious minefield that is Freeze Tag! Too many funnies to mention.
Ali’s Blog – a weekend summary
I just want to sneak back to the start of our Brum/Cov/Leic weekend. A few weeks before the Brum gig I was doing my day job nearby and had the luxury of a hire car, so at the end of the day I visited 8 venues all across town. How did we ever manage without satnav? Ah yes, I remember… an AA printout, a map and post-it notes stuck all over my steering wheel. I’m a bit directionally challenged, which is a worry when embarking on a 15-date tour across the country – will I be able to distinguish my Bristols from my Brightons and my Birminghams?! So far, so good.
While perambulating around Brum I also went to look at the venue – I had reservations as it sounded like a working men’s club. It was a working men’s club. In a weird location on a residential street. In spite of all that, it had a nice energy and I could picture it full of lovely Brummies. I also had trust in our weekend co-producer Maureen Younger (MY Comedy, formerly Laughing Cows). She had sourced all our venues this weekend and had run regular comedy nights there. As it turned out we had a cracking night here!
It was great having Maureen’s support on the tour. She is a role model in supporting and promoting women in comedy. Maureen also compered each gig which was great to see her in action; the last time we saw her was at a Civil Partnership reception we both performed at. We quickly realised the stage-time wasn’t long enough for four acts but fortunately our audiences lapped it up and didn’t seem to mind the late finishes. It also meant we got a flavour of the audience while Maureen warmed them up for us.
Coventry was THE most gorgeous venue, and we were treated brilliantly. The facilities were perfect and I really wanted to transport the venue back to Brighton and perform there for ever more! They even had a resident cat, which Other Ali became rather enamoured with.
On to Leicester. On our way back from L Fest in July this year where we compered, performed and ran workshops (btw. you simply MUST go to this festival, it is amazing and magical and fun and creative and gorgeous!) we popped into this venue to check it out. It’s a room in a hotel. A room. In a hotel. With an unused bar.
But it is used as part of the Leicester Comedy Festival and therefore is well-known. As it turned out, the hotel were amazing with their promo of our show – they tweeted and re-tweeted, they Facebooked, they ran competitions (free accommodation for two of our fans), they gave us a reduction to our food bill and were helpful and friendly throughout. All was good and I left the venue happy.
A few weeks before the gig, I happened to be doing my day job in Melton. I never know where I am going to be week-to-week, so it has been a gift over the last month to be so near to several of our tour locations.
After working in Melton, all I had to look forward to was a Travelodge in Fleet so I took a detour via Leicester. In two hours I visited five venues and got such a gorgeously warm welcome from all of them that I didn’t want to leave!
This was the manager Lewis from the Dover. As it happened we ended up mentioning the Dover in our show – the couple who’s story we re-told had first met there!
Three of the five venues offered us gigs and two offered me a free drink! It would have been rude not to accept… This was a gorgeous coffee from the very cool Bossa Café.I get the impression the LGBT peeps of Leicester crave comedy and the performance stuff seems to be largely drag queen shows.
On the afternoon of the Leicester gig, Hannah and myself arrived to set up the space. The a room. In a hotel. Did I mention that? So we bought everything with us – PA, mics, stage lights, as well as the guitar and keyboard, a hessian sack full of leads and a silver hardcase (not dissimilar to one of the SAGS’ “fun box” at home – you should have seen the face when the SAG WAG first saw the box!! For an instant she thought her SAG had bought it on tour – things were looking up!) But our tour box is full of tekkie stuff compliments of Lara who is a well-travelled Stage Manager, as well as an award-winning stand-up. Lara has toured with Rhona Cameron, Sue Perkins, Fascinating Aida to name but a few. Oh The Stories She Could Tell!!
Early evening, the SAGS started to arrive via car and rail and as with Brum and Coventry, Maureen set up her box office assisted by SAG WAG Jayne. Our lovely audience duly arrived and packed out the room. In the hotel.
Again it was sold out! This was the only gig where all eight SAGS were there, it was magical! Although when we originally discussed touring months and months ago we wanted a full line-up every night, it just wasn’t realistic what with full-time jobs, families and other commitments. Hannah, Lara and I were there every night and we had a mix of SAGS join at each gig.
Maureen did her stand-up and it went down a storm. But when we started our impro I suddenly realised we’d lost the whole back section of the room-in-the-hotel. They weren’t responding to our first game! We don’t use mics during improv as most of the venues are small enough. With bigger venues the venue hires in headset mics which are massively expensive. It was hot and the air con was on. They couldn’t hear! They also couldn’t see very well as we weren’t on a stage. Fortunately it’s improv and we can be adaptable and flexible so a solution was found – PROJECTION and keep the action above the waist (this would be boring in certain contexts; callback to the “fun box”)
That night we met Katie Fenwick, our BSL interpreter for Manchester and Newcastle. Katie came along to the Leicester and the Notts gigs to learn the format. She spent so much time ensuring her interpreting was spot on and was an absolute professional throughout, while also being heaps of fun!
I learnt so much about making reasonable adjustments for our deaf audiences from working with Katie and also Sam who introduced us to Katie. Sam helped promote the night and very kindly put together a BSL interpreted ad for us https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1D4Bp4UhBtQ&feature=youtu.be
Comedy is rarely interpreted. If you are a double-minority (Deaf and LGBT) then the chances of getting an interpreted show are slim. A while ago we were asked to make Manchester and Newcastle accessible and in true form, I answered YES AND. We funded the accessibility from the tour as there was no time to seek potential external funding streams but who cares when you are busy spreading the love to as many people as possible! It has inspired us to ensure as many of our future shows are interpreted.
It ended up being a great night, performing in a room in a hotel. However with so many other offers of venues in Leicester we may switch to a different place in future and hey you even have your own comedy festival – that’s gotta be worth exploring for next year!
One of the bonza things about the weekend was having my SAG WAG-who-is-a-SAG and BAB there too. I had been missing them so much. This was made possible by my fabulous in-laws.
Half the team stayed with some lovely fans (thank you Danielle and Lynne) and half with Kate’s parents AKA my in-laws. They were absolutely brilliant, putting beds in every room, providing a constant stream of food and drink, looking after Molly when we swanned off to the venues every night.
I didn’t realise how much the tour dominates every single waking hour of my life at the moment as at several points various SAGS asked what I was doing on my laptop, instead of playing.
Not much. Just keeping on top of expenses, saving and uploading gig photos onto Facebook, liaising with press/promoters/producers for the next few dates, checking venues, tweeting, retweeting, Facebooking, ensuring the fundrazr perks are posted/skyped/called, liaising with ticket sellers, checking logistics, sending far-too-long emails to the SAGS to keep them updated. And so on. Not much at all.
But I did take some free time this weekend where we went for a lovely countrified walk! It was a little nippy so a perfect opportunity to wear our KuSan hats!
Me being me, I made the most of every second and took the opportunity to post off some of our Perk postcards that people had pledged for via our Fundrazr page.
Other Ali proved herself to be a cat-magnet on tour and the walk was no exception!
Friday 3rd October, 2014.
Blog entry by Other Ali.
It was Southsea that played host to the SAGs next on their tour. As the younger, less salacious sister of Portsmouth, we were prepared for a demure, intellectually acute and well dressed audience. We were not disappointed! Particularly as the She Bar ladies had spent all day rooting for bargains at Gunwharf Quays, successfully acquiring a range of low cost designer items with which they were most pleased. Used to London prices, they were both surprised and delighted to receive change from their £50 notes at the venue as well. All in all having those three spectacular specimens in the audience was a joy and privilege.
Three Bar was a gem; the management were slick and attentive and they have very obviously poured a lot of love and dedication into creating an inclusive and vibrant venue.
The space was ace and filled up very quickly with some fabulous folks.
Huge thanks goes to Yvonne Dawson who mobilised an enthusiastic crew of ladies who provided us with some top-notch suggestions.
Seeing as the She Bar ladies have made it their lives’ endeavour to ensure Lara is ensnared in the most precarious of improv-scenarios, it is nice to have audience members who are marginally less cruel. I kid! We wholeheartedly encourage all folks to torment Lara.
The games were fantastic fun, in particular ‘How Did You Meet’, where we had the honour of being introduced to Jo and Gem . . . or was it Jen and Gem . . . Jo and Jen? Anyway, the alliterative couple recounted their 5 day long relationship that blossomed amongst the barbells and with much lunging, Lara and Christine performed their protein-enhanced encounter.
Although our dressing room was a galley kitchen, Yvonne provided us with refreshments and the venue filled it with sweets!
We are so grateful to everyone who joined us in Southsea; thank you for being such a warm and generous audience. We also are enormously grateful to Amy, Beth and Rachel from SheBar who are just wonderful, and of course Yvonne for being our Hampshire host and an all round excellent person.
Saturday 11th October, 2014.
Blog entry by Christine.
So in the penultimate weekend of our tour we came home to Brighton! I know technically it’s not all of the SAGs’ home, but it certainly feels like it for me. I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this venue and am so excited that this will be SAGs new regular venue in Brighton, so pleeeease keep an eye out for dates on FB and our website.
Funny Girls is still running to support new and established female stand-ups but it is under temporary new management while we get Short and Girlie up and running at the Verdict.
On to the gig…
We all met at chez Hendry-Ballard’s gaff for the most wonderful veggie curry, courtesy of our Kate…a scrummy meal to set us up for an energetic evening of fun, frolics and giggle box work-out.
We sauntered down to the Verdict, it was another sold out show yey!!
We had a fantastic, creative audience, which included our first canine fan! Yep, you couldn’t make it up! …or could you?
I guess for me this particular gig will go down as having the biggest, longest ‘corpsing’ moment of the tour. Yes, I hold my hands up high as the guilty one, but I blame Kate for pulling the giggle trigger. I will never view lollipops in the same light again! From now on its not just waterproof mascara I need, it’s for the whole face. Tear stained streaked cheeks are so last year! See our website for the post corpse moment snippet… and yes, we are portraying lollipops!
The audience included a large Lara family cohort, who’s eyes were opened to the subtle, light innuendos of her act… well actually she spelt it out, literally, and very, very clearly. Not sure if her mum and dad have recovered, but Google would have been on overload that night and we were all ‘a little like Maxine’!
This piano also became the stage for sporting our KuSan Hats, how terribly grand! Thank you so much for your sponsorship guys xx
The C*raffle (crap raffle), prize of the evening for me had to be the cat that had a pencil sharpener up its ass! And the winning member of the audience clearly went home happy with her versatile trophy!
(photo credit: Cheryl Jenner)
It was a hilarious night, so much fun, but it was most certainly enhanced by the presence of our WAGs (wives and girlfriends). At which point I must give massive thank yous, hugs and snogs to our wonderful SAG WAGS, who are so, so supportive. Here at the Verdict they were schmoozing…..Rab selling our tour merchandise, doing box office, tweeting and schmoozing, Cheryl helping with technicals, box office, photographing us and shcmoozing, Heidi Facebooking, taking photos of us on stage, buying us drinks (getting us ‘loose’?) and schmoozing, Jayne designing our tour flyers, box office and helping with show ideas and schmoozing, Gail with full support up front and personal and schmoozing. And finally did I mention schmoozing? Thank you WAGS, we LOVE YOU!!! XXX
Sunday 12th October, 2014.
MATINEE SHOW: Blog entry by Other Ali.
We couldn’t wait to get back to She Bar – we have been performing here for a while and it is always a pleasure and a joy. I speak from the heart here a little, as an ex-Londoner. Provision for women has traditionally been pretty poor. Since the closure of First Out – which was a rare diamond in the rough, there has been little or nothing that has provided a fun and relaxed quality venue to spend time in. Until She Bar of course. Along came a group of women with genuine passion and drive to make something welcoming and inclusive. Which it is. The staff are warm and friendly and the drinks are strong and delicious. What more could you ask for?
Anyway, back to the tour.
We sold out our evening gig in record time and so Ali, never someone to shy away from extra work, proposed a matinee gig. We thought this was a splendid idea! I was also over the moon as one of my oldest friends (she’s not old, well, I mean, you know what I . . . oh heck) was coming along to support. I am sure I speak on behalf of all the SAGs, but friendly faces in the audience are a huge boost.
We weren’t short of our lovely SAGS family that day, as we were joined by NUMBER ONE ALL TIME BEST ATTENDEE, ANNA. She has come to basically all of our gigs – well at least 5 of them and we love her for it.
Also joining us at the matinee was the glorious Kim who has been such a fantastic support and advocate for us and has also attended so many of our gigs now I lose count. She is a joyous thing and we are grateful for all her help. Interestingly enough, Kim brought along her baby sister ‘Lil Jo’ for whom we performed ‘How Did You Meet’ with her lovely fiancee. ‘Twas love amongst the deck and sparks flew immediately – turns out it was the right job at the right time for Jo!
Diversity Role Models also came to watch and we gave them a signed thank you poster. It’s been brilliant being able to support such an awesome charity. If anyone missed out on getting a poster we have some left – a signed A3 poster is £15 (plus P&P) with all profits going to DRM. Email email@example.com for details.
True to form, the She Bar ladies carefully ensured that Lara was given the very toughest of suggestions, including this time, a severe form of tourettes. BRAVO!
After the gig all us SAGS grabbed a bite to eat after Samantha used her powerful skills of persuasion to get an extremely good deal at the Italian place round the corner from the venue. Strong work SL!
EVENING SHOW: Blog entry by Christine.
So, after the amazing matinee gig we had earlier at the fabulous She, we had all of 40 minutes to grab a bite and get back again for the evening performance. It’s very rare we all actually get an opportunity to all sit down together in a restaurant and eat, but we managed it. Well, sort of….we mainly just had time for a starter, a quick drink and ask the waitress for the bill before the food even got to the table!
The simply marvellous thing about having a gig at She is we have such gorgeous people looking after us, Bex and Amy. These girls are amazing and are now, as you’ve probably heard, the proud owners of the Ultimate Planet LBQ Focused Venue of the Year (London) Award…yey! They made sure we were suitably hydrated throughout the whole day…bless you both, we love you! Speaking of hydration….Amy and Bex developed a Spreading the Love cocktail specially for the two shows hic!
The evening gig was another sold out affair, this time weeks in advance, how cool and very exciting! We also had such an international audience. With people from France, Germany and Canada. So we truly were Spreading the Love!
There were lots of new and familiar faces in the crowd including our very own SAG, Samantha’s family….her dad…what a handsome man (ala Adam Faith) and her gorgeous mum (ala Jackie Collins). Now we know where Samantha gets her good looks from!
It was also very exciting that celesbian Nikki Lambourn, and Catherine ‘Been’ Feeney of the fantastically talented Never the Bride band came along to see us. A stroke of luck as this led to us performing at Nikki’s Birthday bash two weeks later…..another amazing show!
KuSan Hats, one of our fantabulos sponsors also brought their smiley faces along and joined our evening……so here’s a warm fuzzy hug to you all!
One of my favourite moments of the show had to be our ‘How did you meet game’. Two lovely ladies from Canada, Marilyn and Marlene, shared their story with us. I think we all could have listened to them all night they were SO cute! M & M were also very kind and sent a lovely email to us once they were back in their home town. We’ve posted their quote from them on our SAGS wall, so please take a look. Big loves to you M & M.
This gig had a great buzz about it, so funny, great audience suggestions (some incredibly blue….naughty audience!) and it flew by! We all wished we had more time to share a drink and chat to everyone afterwards. But, in order to make sure we all got back to our homes before we turned in pumpkins our taxi awaited, we flew out of She and sped across town to Victoria Station to catch our trains home. I sat back on the train and all of a sudden realised I had this huge grin on my face….it really was a fun, fun show.
Friday 17th October, 2014.
Blog post by Hannah.
Nottingham was the tour date I was looking forward to the most, having lived in nearby Derby for 12 years I knew the city quite well and was hopeful that I would see a few old faces in the crowd. I used to run a women’s acoustic music night called the ‘Lipstick Lounge’ at a bar called Niche (now a karaoke bar I am told). Our monthly show used to attract some brilliant local LGBT musicians such as Grace Petrie, Leni Ward and April Elizabeth, and one month we even hosted the fantastic Greymatter!
So it was with great excitement that I was to return to that familiar city, a very different performer these days (silly songs about cups of tea and taxidermy, rather than depressing songs of unrequited lesbian love). And best of all I now had my wonderful troupe of SAGS in tow to show off to the Midlands crowds!
The gig was co-produced by the fabulous folks at Lesbilicious, who we had worked with previously in Newcastle and whom Other Ali had also compered for at a gig in Nottingham last year. We were also looking forward to seeing Claire Henson of Claire’s Events who put on a fantastic fundraising show in 2012 for Diversity Role Models that the SAGS were also involved in.
Myself and Ali left Brighton at around 9.30am in what can only be described as a small spacecraft of a hire car, and picked up an excited Lara A King from her North London home along the way.
A steady run up the M1 brought us to Robin Hood’s fair city and we touched down at the venue with plenty of time to spare.
The staff at the Canal House were wonderful from the moment we arrived, plying us with much needed cups of tea and allowing us the use of a very handy (yet slightly scary) service lift which saved us from lugging our equipment up the stairs to the lovely function room.
Shortly more SAGS and WAGS arrived by car and train, and we were soon set up, sound-checked and ready to tickle some Nottingham funny bones.
As the audience began to arrive I soon recognised some old friends, including a crowd of 10 ladies who had made their way over from Derby for the evening. Best surprise of all was my good friend Laura who came all the way over from Birmingham to see the show!! Little did she realise that we had done a show in actual Birmingham a couple of weeks beforehand, but she didn’t seem to mind the unnecessary journey, and brought her sister and a family friend along who were all in high spirits ready for the show.
In the end we had an all-female audience (plus lovely female bar staff) which made for a very warm atmosphere, and the show got off to a great start with the usual ‘Freeze Tag’ game, culminating in a jazz-style song about Arnold Schwarzenegger wearing a kimono, as you do.
Myself and Lara performed our solo sets to close the first half of the show. Things got ever sillier in the second half as our ‘How Did You Meet?’ game featured two of my Derby crew, Jane and Kaye (a management consultant and medical photographer). The song included references to the couple’s three dogs, and Jane’s oddest photographic subject – her friend’s father-in-law’s haemorrhoids.
Other highlights of the show included Other Ali in the guise of a 12th century bin woman who eventually decided to invade Derbyshire, and who could forget the children’s book The Gruffalo, performed partly in the style of a burlesque show by Lara and Mitch.
My friend Laura, who bravely took one of the front row seats, took great pleasure in shouting out some bizarre objects during our ‘Hesitation’ game blow torch, hammer-head shark, etc. This final game featured a supermarket managed by Lara’s Australian version of Kaye (the management consultant) with Other Ali interjecting with various problematic customer characters and more than a few ‘bing-bongs’ over the supermarket tannoy.
We were over the moon to be called back to the stage for an encore, and the whole atmosphere of the night was incredibly warm and enjoyable. We stayed for one or two ‘lemonades’ (our Travel Lodge was within walking distance) and the girls from Brum hung around to help us celebrate what had been another great show.
(How many SAGS and WAGS can you fit in a Travelodge lift?)
All in all a great start to the final weekend of our ‘Spreading The Love’ tour. Thank you ladies of Nottingham for welcoming me back, and I hope you enjoyed seeing what I do now, as much as I bloody well enjoy doing it!!
Saturday 18th October 2014.
Blog by Samantha.
Manchester. The penultimate Spreading The Love Tour gig. ;0(
I was travelling up to Manchester from London alone as the other SAGs were already there so, having spent the week knee deep in mud in the middle of Regent’s Park, I skived off work early, grabbed my wheelie case & hot-footed it to Euston. I was on a tight schedule.
Euston station, Virgin Pendolino, eat salad, spritz deo, trowel on slap, hour’s nap, savour luxury chocs, cloud of perfume, Manchester Piccadilly, neck espresso, grab cab, Salford, fall out of cab, venue, aaaand enter.
The Short & Girlie Show had been invited to perform at the Women In Comedy Festival at the renowned King’s Arms & what an amazing venue that is. Lots of steps, stairs & doors going hither & nither & the spirits weren’t just the alcoholic kind….
Lara & Hannah performed independently prior to the Spreading The Love Tour gig which really warmed the audience up & SAG WAGs Cheryl & Rab handled the box office for our sell out show. We really couldn’t cope without the SAG WAGs <3.
I love Manchester & I had some friends in so I was really looking forward to this gig & it did not disappoint! We had KT, a BSL interpreter, interpret for us that evening which was great, made the show really inclusive & added a whole other dimension.
The audience were incredibly lively & gave us some very random suggestions for our games whish was great fun & the standing ovation they gave us at the end of the evening was very well received, thank you very much ‘Madchester’!
& so to bed. But who’s bed? & with whom? You know how us SAGs like to bed-hop. Well, 5 went to crash at a friend’s & we had 3 rooms booked at the Travelodge (So Rock & Roll). One couple in one room, one in another & 3 bods in a family room but then 3 became 4 which was too many so 2 went & sofa surfed elsewhere so 3 became 2 in a family room but then the door key wouldn’t work so if we left the room we couldn’t get back in so the Travelodge, which had previously said it was full, found 2 empty double rooms so 2 became 2 ones & the family room was empty so the one that became 2 & were sofa surfing could’ve stayed at the Travelodge after all & the 2 that became 2 ones got free breakfast for the inconvenience.
Manchester, it has been a pleasure. Samantha. xx
Just a quick bloggette from Ali
I was soooo looking forward to this gig as it was for my mate Hazel O’Keefe’s Women in Comedy Festival. This was the second year she has run it and we were honoured to take part. But not just SAGS, Lara and Hannah doing their solo shows too.
Hazel and I go way back. She produced a comedy and music night at the (now gone) GAY Astoria to raise money for Short & Girlie Productions, when we took a play up to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2001. I will never forget her selfless commitment to this event. It was a high risk as we needed to sell at least 100 tickets to cover the costs and double that to make any kind of indent into the mahoosive cost of taking a show to the festival. And we bloody did it!
Then when the improvisation part of Short & Girlie Productions started in 2004, we showcased at several of Hazel’s Laughing Cows London events and she had always been immensely supportive.
So it was a very busy day and night. Two cars and a train brought the precious SAGS and WAGS to the venue.
We also had Katie our BSL interpreter working her magic and we filmed a charity single for mental health charity CLASP.
I was also excited about staying with my mate of over thirty years, Ali.
Yes there were three people named Ali in their house that night – very confusing!
Hannah talks about her Manchester Solo Show
It had been quite some time since I had performed such a long set (a full hour!!) but it was lovely to be able to put together a setlist of 13 songs featuring old classics, a couple of newbies, and a handful of parodies for good measure.
As the show was part of the Women In Comedy festival I thought it was only right to pay tribute to my comedy hero, Victoria Wood, so included a couple of her genius songs in my set too.
A small audience gathered for the 5pm show and I very much enjoyed playing in such a wonderful performance space.
Highlights for me were a couple of songs I hadn’t performed for a long time a parody of an Elton John classic, renamed Your Pong (about breaking wind and blaming it on somebody else) and Grounds For Divorce¹ (a song about garlic featuring SAG Christine’s favourite line… I’m not a vampire, I just don’t like it. At the end of the show I had some lovely comments from audience members and sold a couple of CDs to boot. A good confidence boost for our final couple of shows. Hannah B.
Sunday 19th October 2014.
Blog entry by Lara.
I am ‘scooped up’ by Hannah Brackenbury from underneath a statue of white doves and bundled into a car containing a large amount of lesbians, an awful lot of luggage and a considerable stash of road snacks.
Samantha is riding shotgun and we are travelling with our BSL Interpreter; the delightful Katie Fenwick, her girlfriend Paula and lovely WAG Cheryl. All of whom seem unnaturally chirpy for 8.30am.
The journey whizzes by in the only way that it can with a driver who pays constant, thorough attention to the speed limit. We chat about last night’s gig, sign language and straw bale houses and munch on vegetarian pork pies. A big fat pastry covered oxymoron if ever there was one.
Arriving at The Stand is always a buzz. It’s just one of those venues that has a real sense of history and charisma and playing on a stage that has been a platform for so many great comics is an honour and a delight. Especially after possibly the best roast beef dinner ever, a pint of full fat coke and a snooze on Mitch’s lap.
The staff are very cool and consummately professional, dealing extremely well with our childish excitement at having reached the end of our tour, having sold over 100 tickets for the matinee and at having to wear head mics. Yes, there were a few Madonna impressions. Not me though. I was an airline pilot.
The gig was a real scream and had a fantastic atmosphere. It was a joy to see Katie signing for us, to see Hannah rock her solo gig, and to see Ali H play the part of a stuffed terrier so convincingly. Lovely also to have some chaps in (the real kind, not just the cowgirl trousers) and to have a male oriented “How Did We Meet?”. We had a lot of fun with accents – some of them vaguely recognisable – and I managed to get Katie to perform the sign for “she’s gonna get laid” a record six times on the trot. Result.
Just a quick moment to give everyone a quick hug, listen to the sound technician’s umpteenth explanation for a short cut to the station and Samantha and I were on the 6.35pm to Kings Cross to pack away our Short and Girlie shirts until the next time; to indulge ourselves in enjoyable recollections from the tour and to see if we could get away with sitting in First Class again.
Ah, life on the road.
Next we bring a summary of how each SAG felt the tour went. Then a list of all the lovely peeps that made the tour possible. Finally we will post some quirky tour stats and some more behind-the-scenes photos!