Monday, 30 January 2012

Vintage Events: An interview with Blind Pig Brighton's organiser Carolyn Watt

Hush hush! It’s a Dresscapade exclusive!

Today we have a rather special interview with Carolyn Watt, the lady behind Blind Pig, Brighton’s only burlesque-pole-dancing-speakeasy!

Carolyn is especially welcome here as she is not only a performer but a textiles student with a passion for making her own costumes. I met Carolyn for a chat at the yummy Redwood Coffee House on Trafalgar Street and we had a chat about how she came to be running Blind Pig, her performances and some of her favourite costumes:

FD: So how did you get into organising Blind Pig?
C: Well originally it was as a fundraiser for our final year degree show for textiles that we’re putting on in June. But it was at a time when all of the BA students were still on their placements and it was up to the ten masters students to get started. And in my head I though, this is the only night I know how to put on, mostly due to my experience performing and it’s the kind of night I like.
Unfortunately the other students felt like it wasn’t making quite as much money as we’d hoped so I decided that this event is the first one that’s not going to be a fundraiser, more of a side project for myself.

FD: That’s a quite impressive side project! I guess what I’d like to know is how you got into textiles?
C: I’ve always liked textiles, fashion and costume. I worked on fine art in Edinburgh and started to get more into textiles and applied for Brighton and continued working on it there.

FD: And what about performing and making costumes?
C: I started pole dancing in Edinburgh, doing a course with my friend, then continued when I moved to Brighton. The person that was teaching me here suggested that I should perform at a night that they run (FD: Sirens if you’re interested) so I started doing that and gradually got more and more involved in making my own costumes and making them more dramatic.
Later on I’d did a placement in New York and started working with silks as I didn’t have my pole! From that I became involved with some circus groups in London and got really into it and started helping out with costuming for them. So my work has started heading more towards costume design now. Particularly specialising in aerial costumes. Particularly adapting fabrics and designs for performances to reinforce your clothing and stop it wearing out, all my silk costumes have a little hole on my back where it rubs away. I’ve also been working on adding padding in costumes in certain places as performing can hurt…
Carolyn performing at the O2 in London
FD: It must be quite a work out!
C: Yeah. Laughs

FD: So of the costumes you’ve made for performances do you have any favurites?
C: One of my favourites that I made was for a Black Swan pole dance. So for that I made a basic white tutu with a really beautiful white corset, but underneath I had black tassels and a mini black tutu that was completely hidden. I got my friend to do amazing Black Swan makeup – Its definitely one of my favourites.
Black Swan Pole Performance
I also did a silk rope performance for Greenwich Circus festival where I worked with three other girls dressed as fairies, two good, two bad. This costume was my first real attempt at knitting support panels for body control and extra panelling to stop the costume wearing away. So I really loved those costumes too!
Fellow performer Kirsty wearing the 'evil fairy' costume as part of a show at the Greenwich circus festival
FD: I was also wondering if you had a person or era that inspires you?
C: In terms of Blind Pig I just love flappers! I went to a Charleston day while I was in New York and I think that’s where it all started in my head. Everyone was dressed up and it made me feel like I was in the Great Gatsby or something and I loved reading that when I was younger.
Personally though I just love the 50s, because of the silhouette, that Christian Dior, New Look, hour glass style.
Mad Men's Betty Draper in 'New Look' chic and The Artist's Peppy Miller as a 20s flapper
FD: They're very contrasting looks.
C: Yes I’m torn between the corseted hourglass and the straight up and down flapper look. So yeah, completely contrasting!

FD: The speakeasy nights and electro swing have really taken off, especially in Brighton- but I guess its something you can easily dress the part for.
C: Yeah even if you don’t’ want to go all out you can still get the accessories, the feathers, the pearls and join in. It’s a bit naughty and carefree too.

FD: So do you have any thoughts on what you want to be when you grow up?
C: I do a lot of different things, obviously I run this night but I love performing pole and performing on silk ropes too but I’d love to get into freelance costume design as well, I teach burlesque and pole too… and maybe even silks eventually.

FD: So a bit of a portfolio career then?
C: Yes, while I’ve been at Uni I’ve been trying to do as much free work as possible and hopefully someone will pay me for it eventually (Laughs). I’m also so glad I had the opportunity to work on Blind Pig, it helped a lot to work on it under the fundraising umbrella, it made me feel more secure to just go for it.

FD: Speaking of Blind Pig - You had a mixed line up last time, including a male pole dancer, what can you tell us about the line up this time?
C: Oh yes Ethan (FD: the pole dancer mentioned above) is back! I’m quite excited about the line up this time, I don’t just want to show burlesque but a bigger variety including pole dancing so we can show other ways it can be done. We also have a double pole performance. Which is going to be more acrobatic and a bit more unusual. We have Cherry Bella doing fire again. We have four pole acts and four burlesque acts, one of which is a comedy burlesque husband and wife double act. Then we are going to have a band too - with some upbeat gypsy swing when the acts finish so we can get everyone up dancing. Finally the DJ to take us into the night!

FD: The variety you have is a really entertaining combination!
C: Its good if you don’t really know burlesque, it means there are lots of different things so there’s something for everyone. That’s what makes it exciting. Oh that and the fire…

FD: And the entertainment fits quite well with the Speakeasy theme…
C: Burlesque is linked to the vintage thing so sometimes seeing pole is surprising. Pole has far more of a stigma attached to it, but it can still have that vintage appeal- depending on how its done. But done in the right way it can be quite confidence boosting. I’d recommend it to everyone.

Blind Pig Returns takes place on Friday the 3rd of February at the Proud Brighton Ballroom at 10:30pm.

Tickets are available online or at To Be Worn Again in the North Laines.

You can also follow Blind Pig on Twitter for more updates @BlindPig1920

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