Prior to the event, I knew little about the Awards… mainly that it played host to some of the biggest names in the UK adult scene. It also appeared to be a celebration of the sexual arts, adult work and the protection of sexual freedoms.
It was their 20th Anniversary so I knew it would be a fairly big celebration, the awards was previously named the Erotic Awards. The change came about this year as the event owners felt that the new title better reflects their work and what the event truly stands for.
I was most keen to find out what kind of work advocates, campaigners and activists have been doing to create awareness and fairness. Also to see the performances that had been scheduled to take place. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but I was curious and came with an open mind (as I do).
I met up with Sex and Censorship organisation owner Jerry Barnett as well as have a quick chat with a few familiar faces such as lawyer Myles Jackson, Top of the Babes and Bee Mash. When we gained entry into Bush Hall, I was immediately impressed with the size of the building. It’s elegant plasterwork and framing gave it a theatrical feel. We were greeted by two friendly ladies at the reception desk and were given stickers to indicate that we were happy to be photographed. I thought this was a great idea, as cameras were not permitted; however the event had their own official photographers. Due to the nature of the event and the corporate works attendees may be involved in, it is crucial that the option is given. We grabbed some drinks and were photographed entering the main room. After a quick cigarette on the smoking balcony, we sat down at our table and briefly conversed with a lovely couple we were sharing it with. Inside the main room, it had an enormously high ceiling, all decorated in a vintage style.
The commentator gave a warm introduction to the Sexual Freedom Awards and what the event stood for. I had previously read that it was set up by Dr Tuppy Owens who strongly advocates sexual freedom and sets a platform for performance artists and sex workers to showcase their talents and share their campaign work. Charlotte Rose, Tuppy’s successor played a pivotal role in organising this year’s event and is fundraiser for her charities Outsiders and TLC trust.
The first act was the Sex Workers Opera; a unique blend of opera and sexual theatrics encompassing the thoughts, feelings and day to day obstacles of working in the sex trade. There were some humorous points within the performance and didn’t take it’s self too seriously, however it did give an interesting insight into the psyche of a sex worker. I thought it was a great opener to the event and made me anticipate the performances to come.
The commentator highlighted key members in the community and some of the work they had being carrying out to defend sexual freedom, to speak out for equality and to ensure the safety of sex workers. One of which was Myles Jackson, a lawyer, activist and campaigner. He also advocates for sex workers and offers pro bono work in crime related cases.
The next performance was by Empress Stah: an erotic aerialist and avant garde performer. The performance was called ‘Roses are dead’ where, naturally, her outfit comprised of roses. It was somewhat surreal and serene to watch her sat swinging round slowly on the rope, biting rose petals off a bouquet and blowing them into the crowd. Her performance was a mixture of burlesque style strip-tease performance and aerial acrobatics. Her tremendous strength and skill was evident throughout, what with all the twisting, diving, swinging, tumbling and so on. Such actions combined with the highly sexual soundtrack and almost pornographic gestures commanded the attention of crowd. She also whipped out some anal beads towards the end! I had heard of Empress Stah previously as she has performed for a number of events. If you haven’t seen aerial work before, it is with checking out. It requires a lot of training, strength and skill. Not to mention fearlessness!
Le Snake Fervor is a fire artist and circus / cabaret performer, as noted by the commentator, who has previously opened for Motley Crew. Her metallic outfit reflected the fire and was also, like Empress Stah’s, somewhat detachable. Leaving her in just a silver thong and nipple covers, she not only breathed fire, but placed fire into her mouth where it sat for a good few seconds, also set fire to her arms, legs and torso. I have seen a few fire breathing acts but her balance of skill, showgirl style stances, movement and seductive gaze made her a cut above the masses. I hadn’t heard of this performer previously but she had certainly made an impression on the audience.
Lou Safire performed his rendition of Swan Lake. A broadly built male performing on pointe in a black glittery, outfit with big, black feather burlesque-style fans and dramatic make-up was not what I was expecting to see! I have seen a number of ballet performances previously but I have never seen any quite like this. This talented performer gave Swan Lake a cheeky and erotic twist. Stripping down, burlesque style until all he was wearing was his ‘white swan’ outfit, comprising of white glitter nipple covers and some kind of white glittery C-String. It was both unique and entertaining.
When Rubyyy Jones burst on to the stage, the audience became immediately engaged. Her showgirl like presence and loud and commanding voice took the entertainment value up a notch. She performed a track called ‘I wanna be …… by you’ in a way that was extremely entertaining. Her mixture of burlesque performance and crude humour was a welcomed change of pace. Rubyyy is an excellent stage performer and one who deserves recognition.
Mister Meredith’s act blended cabaret style performance with elements of striptease… in cross dress. He performed a self –written song about his adventures whilst in an open relationship. It was witty, humorous and at times gave some very graphic mental imagery. His showmanship was superb; he had excellent stage presence, a great command over his vocal range and moved across the stage effortlessly. His choice of outfit was umm… interesting! He wore a black pvc body with suspenders attached and lace hold ups. That’s right, no ball coverage. His penis was hanging out for the most part, which was somewhat distracting but his act was too engaging for it become an issue. During his performance he whipped out some anal beads so quickly that I had not even noticed them leave his backside. I had only realised what had happened when I saw them dangling from his hand! This is the first time I had encountered Mister Meredith’s performance but I have just learned that he has performed (a more family friendly) act on Britain’s Got Talent back in 2012. After watching him live, I think it is fair to say there is more to come from this performer.
Miss Cairo was a Drag act that performed the track ‘Why Don’t You Do Right?’ as Jessica Rabbit. When Miss Cairo came on Stage I thought the outfit was pretty accurate, she donned the infamous red sequined strapless gown, purple silk gloves and big flowing red hair. Her attitude and movements were slow and graceful like Jessica Rabbit’s would be. The only thing I felt really need some work was the vocals; at times it sounded off key and poorly executed but all in all it was a fairly good performance.
There was another act whose name I could not source, which could only be described as shocking. A male performer dressed in a black fetish / PVC outfit with a unicorn horn, black eye make-up and lipstick arrived on stage trotting like a unicorn. I realised after a moment or two he had a tail… one of those my little pony unicorn tail butt plugs. As soon as the track kicked in, which I think was ‘smack my bitch up’ by the Prodigy, he whipped out the butt plug, which shocked several audience members, including myself. He then proceeded to jump into a little pool of water, place carrots into his asshole and shoot them out, placed a carrot in his ass and threw glow stick hoops into the crowd for audience members to throw onto the carrot, as well as squirt water from his ass. I had seen a similar act previously performed at Torture Garden but with a female performer. It was entertaining but I don’t think I could say I ‘enjoyed’ it.
MiSsa Blue is a fetish / avant garde stage performer, who I had seen previously at torture garden. She pushes the boundaries of her artistic performance with some masochistic actions. This performance, named ‘The Bride’ started off with her entering the stage to ‘My Baby Shot Me Down’ by Nancy Sinatra. She wore a bridal gown and veil with glittery eye make-up. She looked fantastic as always. She danced and began to go through a series of stances and actions with a katana. The track changed to something upbeat and she burst into a high-energy dance where she gradually proceeded to remove the gown. She had some huge coven-style candles that she used for her wax performance; pouring hot wax down her body, over her ass and into her mouth. MiSsa Blue is an excellent performer; she always has such a strong presence, excellent movement and an act linked to a theme. If you haven’t seen MiSsa Blue perform, she is definitely one to watch.
The last performance I caught was by Mouse. She is a well-established erotic performer who has been circulating events and club venues for over 10 years. She entered the stage to a DnB track. I was told that she always performs to Drum’n’bass as she is an avid fan. She wore a bright blonde, pigtailed wig, vivid make-up and little else! Her act was high energy moving from one part of the stage to the next, jumping into a tiny pool of water, placing her fist inside herself, shooting water from her ass (she was considerate enough to give the front row of the audience some transparent umbrellas beforehand), smoking a cigarette from her vagina and so on. Between these explicitly daring acts she would blow on her orange rave horn and have a dance. The whole thing was pretty surreal but fun, comical yet shocking. Again, I found this performance very entertaining and playful.
Unfortunately I was unable to stick around for the handing out of the awards themselves, they were given out much later than I had expected. I have seen some announcements via twitter of some of the winners. They received a golden cock with colourful wings. A photographer I had previously worked with had won one of these awards for his erotic photography, so I had seen them previously. Some of the winners included Laura Lee for Sex Worker of the Year, National Ugly Mugs for Support Professional / Ally and Sex Workers Opera for Pioneer Nomination. For the full list of winners, contact either Tuppy or Charlotte Rose.
During the next interval I said my goodbyes before leaving the establishment. I was exhausted but had an enjoyable evening. The performances were great, the venue was full of character, the commentator did an excellent job and so did the event organisers. Apart from a couple of technique issues at Bush Hall, all in all I felt the event was superb and look forward to seeing what next year’s has in store.
Photography by Bee Marsh.