Warren Dent is a big-hearted East End events organiser who, once discovering this beloved 1960’s working men’s club in 2003, had such an affinity with it he took it upon himself to rescue it from inevitable decline. Dent, currently with assistance from Charlotte West-Williams, is a curator/manager with a lightness of touch that continues to give inventive and eccentric promoters and performers of London their first stab at putting something on.
Mr Teds doing the door and performing at The Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. Portrait by Sarah Ainslie.
The Tournament of Tease was a place where people, many of whom had attended The London Academy of Burlesque with Jo King, could strut their stuff for the very first time in a supportive environment. Jo King continued to nurture London’s emerging burlesquers in the role of host at this much loved night. On the heels of this night came the phenomenally popular ‘Male Tournament of Tease’ which was hosted by the one and only Fred Bear. Both nights took the form of a competition with judges who were established performance artists keen to see that burlesque as an art form continued to be subversive, political, fleshy and thrilling. These included Fancy Chance, Marisa Carnesky, Mat Fraser, Rosie Cooper and Dirty Martini. The artist/photographer Julie Cook captured this unique scene with a series of posed portraits of the contestants for her project ‘Beauties of Today’.
‘Julie Cook’s series Beauties of Today (2007–2010) is a striking, empathetic portrait of London’s stripping and burlesque performers, their fans and the environments in which they work. Although undoubtedly a niche activity, burlesque (however controversially) has become an increasingly mainstream leisure activity. Cook’s work examines the juxtaposition between, the often tawdry environments in which burlesque performances take place and the sense of glamour, excitement, escape (and belonging?) they generate. As she puts it herself “[my work] looks at the physical and psychological pleasures of contrived gesture, referencing a visual format familiar to previous generations in cigarette cards or similar memorabilia.”’
— Matthew Shaul, from ‘All That I Am, New Portrait Photography’ – Departure Lounge Gallery
Hip Hip was a raucous variety night that featured local East End based entertainers such as old school ventriloquists and strippers, dancers, singers musicians wishing to try out new material as well as often surprising special guests. It was hosted by the supremely talented Miss Polly Cupcake.
List of performers includes: Marcella Puppini, Paloma Faith, Bishi, Marawa the Amazing, Polly Rae, Scottee, Vicky Butterfly and the Beaux Belles. Tunes came from DJ Hitman Hearn.