Posted at 16:08 on 25 May 2016
by Pandora / Blake
Since I last blogged about the Sex Workers Opera it has had two years to grow and develop under the direction of Siobhan Knox and Alex Etchart. I watched it last year at the Arcola Theatre; a longer run than its two-night debut in 2014, with new scenes and polish added. Since then, they have crowd-funded the budget for a bigger, better-rehearsed, more ambitious production - and they have also, incredibly, received Arts Council Funding; a fantastic validation by mainstream culture of a marginalised community production, and a useful boost in terms of perceived respectability, as well as being practically useful in providing much-needed extra cash. The cast and crew made incredible use of their budget, and as a result the show has significantly leveled up. Who knew that with adequate funding, artists could produce their best work? It's almost as if money made things easier.
It was, more or less, watching the Sex Worker's Opera - and picking up an invitation to sex worker breakfasts in the ladies loos - that got me involved in the sex worker activist community. Since then, I've organised with the Sex Worker Open University and the English Collective of Prostitutes; I've attended breakfasts and the poledancing class run by the same community enough times to form intimate friendships, although not as much as I would like. So this time, watching the Opera was a much more personal experience. I knew almost everyone on stage (and already had crushes on nearly all of them, which were made all the more acute by watching the sheer talent exhibited during the show) and consider many of them good friends. I felt like a proud sister, beaming with pleasure at the skill of the performance. As a sex workers rights activist I felt included in the solidarity and community that we were invited to witness among the cast members - in fact a clipping of my voice is used at one point in the performance, ranting passionately about the stupidity of the UK porn laws, so I really was, literally included.
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Posted at 22:47 on 29 May 2014
by Pandora / Blake
Tonight I made a last minute decision (prompted by a friend who had a ticket to sell) to go to the Sex Workers' Opera, and I am so glad I did.
Sex workers are often the subjects (or objects) of stories, but are very rarely given the platform to tell their own story on their own terms. There's something profoundly refreshing about watching a sex work narrative unfold without feeling the usual tension; that fear that sex work will be misrepresented, sensationalised, demonised, glamourised; that sex workers will be objectified; that the narrative will hinge around a worker having her (it's always a woman in these stories) professional boundaries broken, or breaking them herself, for lurrrrve. (Show me a mainstream narrative about sex work which is not about this and I will give you a cookie.)
Sitting in the Courtyard Theatre for the Sex Workers' Opera, for the first time I felt that I could trust that whatever stories would be told, they would carry truth, and they would be told respectfully. It was an exhilarating feeling - as was my fizzing excitement to see the venue filling up and know that both nights of this radical new show had sold out. There's something glorious about sitting in a packed theatre knowing that everyone there is either a sex worker or an ally ... and if they weren't the latter already, they probably would be by the end.
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