DIVE: In their own words
- Kirstyn Smith
- 7 August 2015
This article is from 2015.
The two Annabels from Edinburgh’s LGBT powerhouse explain their festival plans – ‘We're trying to blow a bit of glitter up the arse of the cabaret scene.’
Explain C U Next Tuesday
Annabel C: So it's a cabaret every Tuesday.
Annabel B: C U Next Tuesday is like the parties we do all throughout the year. It's every Tuesday and it’s a bigger sparklier version than our spit and sawdust Woodland Creatures affair, which is going to be a riot. We've got so many performers.
What acts have you got appearing?
AC: We've been cherry picking the queerest pick'n'mix of the Fringe. So there's a lot of artists in there that we've never had on the stage before, simply because they're in town.
AB: And we can stage them. We've got this wonderful space at Summerhall.
AC: So we can have bands and bigger artists and it's very exciting. We've got the likes of Jonny Woo who's coming up from London.
AB: He's gonna be doing our Butt Plugged party, and we've also been working with him and his partner who made the film that's being shown at the Filmhouse, Dressed as a Girl. So Woo's coming up, exciting stuff.
AC: Sarah Franken, who was previously Will Franken, who's just transitioned. Miss Behave, too.
AB: We've got a mixture of cabaret stalwarts. We've got Woo and we've got Frank Sanazi playing both cabarets and we've got new artists … have we got Desiree? She's fabulous.
AC: Yeah, Desiree Burch. Amazing amazing amazing. She's from New York, she's a playwright and performer and also a stand-up so she's gonna be doing this feminist piece called '52 Man Pick-Up'. What a name. And the other one is like really bolshy, brass [adopts NYC accent] fuckin' American stand-up.
AB: We're trying to blow a bit of glitter up the arse of the cabaret scene that's happening here. Even the people at Summerhall have said themselves that we've been a breath of fresh air coming into the musty corridors of Summerhall. It's all very serious this year and then we're here with the pink flamingos. So we're trying to bring a bit of our all-year-round party vibe to Tuesday nights. And Wednesday nights. And Friday nights.
AC: After the Tuesday night we're opening up the doors for a free party.
AB: With DJs and dancing and maybe some of the acts will stay and do something extra, you never know. We're not telling them that. We're just going to trap them in the green room and wave some wine under their nose.
AC: We're thinking it might be a bit of an anarchic pop-up performance.
AB: And conga. We keep promising ourselves every time there'll be a conga. I haven't done one in months.
AC: A vogue conga.
AB: We just wanna have some fun.
AC: Summerhall have been very supportive.
AB: And it's nice to do things for artists, and with Bark as well.
Tell me about Bark
AB: They're a wonderful little production company, they're growing and growing. They made a real scene last year at Woodland Creatures – a festival within the festival and I think they've established themselves a bit and I'm excited to see what will happen this year. It's very performance art-y, very puppet-y, very clown-y and cabaret. It's going to be great.
So that's different from C U Next Tuesday?
AB: Yes, Bark are working with DIVE for their shows at Woodland Creatures. For us it's the idea that we're here all year round, we're doing these wonderful parties. We're not going to stop.
AC: We've got another event. We've got one of our film nights.
AB: That's working with Pout Fest. We’re involved with Dressed as a Girl. I was kind of on that scene, but not in the film. I was at that rolling around drunk somewhere in the corner for the majority of it. I remember people filming [slurs] 'What are you doing?' Anyway, it got turned into this film, which took five years to make and this is the result of it, and they've invited us to do a very short cabaret beforehand. We've got Jonny Woo performing, we've got a wonderful London comedian called David Mills also performing and hopefully Laurie Brown. It'll be nice – we're gonna have two London: one drag, one comedy and hopefully a bit of Scottish drag to mix it up a bit.
You’ve been nominated for the Equality Network’s LGBTI awards
AC: Well. We put the 'dive' in diversity.
AB: That's the fourth time today. I'm practising my 'I've never heard this before' face. It's so exciting. I act all cool, but it's so exciting.
AC: It’s amazing.
AB: It’s wonderful to be recognised for what we’ve been doing, which started as an idea: ‘we don’t like the party scene up here, let’s have a nice party that we like.’ And it’s grown into the wonderful beast that DIVE is.
AC: It’s really nice because we do keep getting these amazing responses from people, you know: ‘thank you for doing this,’ ‘thank you for being here and creating this space.’
AB: It’s great, it feels really good. I won’t let my voice go wobbly. I could cry. It feels really good. Just the nomination and the shortlisting. I don’t even need to win now. It just means so much, especially as it’s their inaugural award. Any excuse to put on a sparkly top hat and sit at a table guffawing at everyone. WITH. Not at. With.
AC: We’re thinking of going a bit Jarvis Cocker Brit Awards.
AB: I think we should just stick you in leather chaps, just constantly moon them. No need to pull anything down.
AC: Just swivel myself around [mimes panoramic mooning].
When do you find out if you’ve won?
AB: I’ve actually not thought about that.
AC: Do we have to prepare a speech?
AB: Are you gonna cry?
AC: Nah. Steely.
AB: I’ll cry.
AC: If I’m drunk I’ll cry.
AB: I’ll do a Gwyneth. [Mimes ugly crying] It’s so exciting. I don’t know when we find out. We only found out that we got nominated by accident, cos one of the people who nominated us, one of our wonderful people who come to the parties, messaged us saying ‘Equality Network want your email.’ And we were like ‘ohhhhhh…?’
AC: You put two and two together. It’s exciting.
AB: I hope we get it. Even if we don’t, I don’t mind, it’s just amazing that this community is growing and is able to recognise people.
Your nomination is great given that you’ve only been going for two years
AC: Two years. We’re delighted.
AB: It feels like two years and it doesn’t feel like two years. It feels longer and quicker and the same time.
It’s not just your anniversary – I know people who got together after the first DIVE
AC: Any sort of love is welcome.
AB: We’re the Cilla Black of the clubbing world.
AC: We do need to have a Blind Date night. We did a Blind Date segment at the cabaret. It was incredible. Why did we do that? Oh yeah, it’s cos she ditched her bloke.
AB: I ditched my fella.
AC: Do you wanna get that in?
AB: [leaning towards Dictaphone] I am currently single. I swing every way, so man, woman or beast. I’d say age range: 30 upwards.
AB: I wouldn’t go lower. I’ve done the toy boy thing and it was a disaster. What a twit. I would like to swear, but I won’t.
AC: You can swear.
AB: What a cunt. No. I am single. Single and happy at the moment. But always looking. My queer eye is on every waiter and waitress in the place.
AC: You can see how our award acceptance speech would go. [slurred shouting]
AB: You’ll be at the Champagne bar.
AC: [more slurred shouting] What? Where am I supposed to be?
AB: Even though we do like to sprinkle this with silliness and fun, we are very serious about spreading our fun. I think that’s what’s helped us so much.
AC: I think it comes from a very real, honest foundation. We made it cos we wanted it for ourselves.
AB: During my career on the East London drag scene and the cabaret scene in London that was instilled in me, that kind of DIY: do something you really love and people will come. We met through that, didn’t we?
How did you meet?
AB: We met when I came up with a theatre company I used to co-run called Eat Your Heart Out, which was a queer political performance party. We came up to do two years at the Festival. But the first year you were doing your journalism thing.
AC: I was doing stuff for Leith FM.
AB: You said you saw us in the distance coming up the hill.
AC: It was amazing. You know how you do when you’re working for yourself, I was like ‘I wanna see this show, so I’m going to elect to talk about this.’ And they were playing up at the Aquila at the top of the Royal Mile.
AB: In an old masonic hall.
AC: In an old masonic hall. And it was just at the end of the Tattoo.
AB: We had terrible audiences because of that. People would come up and go: [screams] and run away.
AC: So all I could see was old folk coming back from the Tattoo and then these guys. It was beautiful. So then I saw that Annabel had moved to Edinburgh after that and I really wanted to work with this person. Then this opportunity came up when Lach wanted to run a Sunday night gay night. And people have just come.
It’s good having seen it go from Henry’s Cellar Bar to bigger venues and it’s remained the same, still totally DIY
AC: I think that’s the key. Stay true.
AB: Whether you’re in a broom cupboard or Carnegie Hall, it’s the same thing.
AC: We’ve always approached it in the same way. It’s always been as much effort and as much fun.
AB: It needs to be as much fun – we try to put that across. I think you can see that we’re having a great time. There’s nothing worse than serious clubbing, is there? I hate that. I hate that. That’s what put me off clubbing in London. Then I couldn’t find places up here that I wanted to go to.
Tell me about the drag scene in Scotland
AB: Between you and me I think lately – I don’t want to go blowing any trumpets – but I think DIVE has helped a little bit in making it happen. Since we’ve come along, in the last three or four months, whether it’s coincidence or what, I don’t know. But suddenly there are three or four drag nights happening. There’s the one at Electric Circus, Chalky’s, CC’s had The Church of High Kicks anyway, but now I hear from a little bird that there’ll be a lot more happening.
AC: Obviously there’s the trickledown effect from the visibility of RuPaul and whatnot.
AB: Absolutely and the Glasgow scene is so linked with World of Wonder and the whole RuPaul thing, which is amazing. It has its negative sides too. I think we want to try and share that there’s history before RuPaul. That’s not to say RuPaul isn’t brilliant. It’s a huge catalyst for people to start thinking about it and for it to be on the mainstream. I think the drag scene is super exciting and it’s beginning to be something that could begin to rival Glasgow. It’s an amazing scene over there.
AC: Something that is lacking is the drag king scene.
AB: But that’s not just up here, that’s country-wide, world-wide. It’s exploding in London now, the drag king scene. We’re trying to get Adam All who’s doing really well in London with BOi Box. It’s starting to mushroom down in London, which is fabulous, but these things take time. It’s been years of getting that scene to grow and for people to feel comfortable to go and perform.
At the last DIVE I met a drag king who said it was his first time doing drag. It’s cool that DIVE was the first place he felt comfortable doing drag
AC: She shaved her head and then stuck the stubble to her face. Amazing. She’s awesome. We have done that for people. So many times I’ve heard someone say: ‘I’ve never done this before, but I’m going to try it here because I feel safe to do it. It’s fucking amazing. And equally for me. This is the first time for me. I wanna perform. I’m gonna vogue.
AB: We know Pollyanna who performs at the Scratch Performance night happening over at Paradise Palms. And I like to think that we had a little push in that, cos he was one of the people who’d come every time to our party, dressed up in beautiful gowns. I hope that we gave him a bit of a: ‘right, go on, you can do it.’ I love that. I’m not one of those people who gets worried by competition. I think ‘fabulous.’
AC: That’s something to mention: within the Fringe programme this year there’s an amazing spread of LGBT stuff.
AB: It’s exciting. The drag scene is exciting. Just the performance scene in general – there’s so much happening. That’s half the reason I moved up here – to see what Edinburgh was like outwith the Fringe.
AC: That’s the one thing we keep hearing about, though, which is really lovely, that people are welcoming what we’re doing as something that you might expect to see in London or Birmingham, something a bit more potentially culturally diverse. But for me, Edinburgh has always represented massive diversity – why is that only happening during the Fringe?
AB: It makes me mad because it’s a massive reason why I moved up here: ‘It can’t be that one month a year. There must be other stuff.’ And there is.
AC: And being somewhere like Summerhall as well just shows that ethos of experimentalness. And mentalness actually. We’re putting the ‘mental’ in ‘experimental’.
AB: The ‘dive’ in ‘diversity’.
AC: The ‘cunt’ in ‘Scunthorpe’.
AB: The ‘urgh’ in ‘Edinburgh’.
AC: I’ve just worked out my opening speech, thank you.