Listen to a Londoner: Kerry Hiatt

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Kerry Hiatt

Writer, relationship guru, alfresco sex junkie and sometimes basset hound thief, Kerry Hiatt talks to The Little London Observationist.

LLO: As well as being signed with Penguin and plenty of other work, you’ve written for The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, LOOK and Psychologies and have made a freelance writing career work for you. Any dream clients?
KH: I have an amazing client list. I started writing for the national press when I was 18 and that had always been my dream. With every passing week there’s always another exciting client though. For example, this week, I’ve signed a contract to write a sexy, new board game.

LLO: What’s your favourite unique London discovery?
KH: You would think that I’d seen it all having lived here my whole life but that’s the most amazing thing about London, you can never see it all. One of the great things about editing www.getupandout.com is the plethora of new experiences we discover as a team. Just recently, I’ve tried out performing live stand up comedy, burlesque and zoo keeping in the city; all of which I would absolutely consider as a new career. Although, as my mother constantly reminds me, we’re from a family of travelers so if I were to do a career change, I’d likely end up working in a circus, which sort of combines all three doesn’t it?

LLO: You met your husband in Greenwich. Give us a great Greenwich date idea.
KH: Greenwich is so full of history and culture, I adore it. One of my favourite things to do is evening star gazing from The Royal Observatory. You snuggle up under blankets, sip hot chocolate and watch the incredible night sky. I spend most of my time trying to steal other peoples’ dogs in Greenwich Park though and Joe often has to come and drag me away. If he’d just let me have a basset hound it would save him a whole lot of trouble …

LLO: Your recent Time Out Magazine article on alfresco sex got a lot of attention. Can you share three of the best places to take it outdoors without getting caught?
KH: I love sex. It’s a very natural thing and people feeling inhibited is just silly. Having sex outdoors is a wonderful, primal feeling. Yes the article in Time Out caused a stir but I’ve also received tons of e-mails from couples who have tried it and loved it. As long as you’re safe and discreet of course. Greenwich Park has many a secluded spot to throw down a blanket, a bottle of wine and your three pack of Durex as does St. James Park by night. Personally, I’m keen on those occasional blacked out phone boxes you find around the city. If you see one, go for it.

LLO: As the editor of the newly launched site “Get Up and Out”, tell us what it’s all about and why we should visit immediately.
KH: www.getupandout.com is fab. It’s something that started off as a small blog because I just couldn’t fit all of the amazing date ideas I had into my features in Time Out. Within a month, it’s grown to huge proportions and we’re very proud. It encourages people to shrug off tired and traditional dating. You know, say au revoir to cruising along the River Thames by moonlight – everyone has done it already … twice. And those BOGOF cinema tickets for your local VUE? It’s dull. for a first or second date. Instead, we provide our readers with a plethora of quirk-a-licious date ideas as well as fashion, food and relationship advice. It’s very much a community blog.

LLO: Best thing about living in your postcode?
KH: Greenwich Market. I love how I can whiz over there on a Saturday morning, pick up freshly ground coffee beans (Jack Daniels flavour, natch), warm churros for breakfast and something completely original to wear for the evening. There’s something very special about the camaraderie of the market too. I’ve lived here on and off all my life so it’s lovely to walk into a bar and say hello to familiar faces.

LLO: One of your specialities is writing about relationships. Give us three favourite quirky date ideas for Londoners looking for something out of the ordinary.
KH: There are LOADS of things. Three of my favourites include The Italian Job Experience with smallcarBIGCITY, where you and your date don blue boiler suits, stash gold in the back of a mini and navigate your driver through the twisty backstreets of London to get away from the law. Circus Space also offer circus skills workshops for couples; juggling, unicycling and all that malarky. It’s so much fun, trust me. Simon Drake’s House of Magic is great for the ‘seen it done it’ type too. It’s a secret mansion house in London with haunted cellars, an enchanted garden, fortune tellers and magicians. He does occasionally public nights with drinks and dinner and they are crazy weird.

LLO: One of your loves is karaoke. Where’s the coolest karaoke bar round town?
KH: Without a doubt, it has to be Lucky Voice, which has venues in Soho and Islington. With its bubbly, Japanese kitsch party atmosphere, we often book a private karaoke room for two hours and invite friends down with us. The jukebox is easy to use (there’s even an ‘I’m Thirsty’ button, which sees your drink orders delivered at speed) and every room is equipped with a fancy dress box chock full of 70s sparkles, 80s mullets and, of course, the classic 90s shell suit. Perfect.

LLO: Give us a few ideas from recent book on your favourite childhood literary haunts around the capital.
KH: It’s still top secret but this city is a literary goldmine. Charles Dickens, 101 Dalmations, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan and Harry Potter are just a few covered in the book.

LLO: As a born and bred Londoner, what changes have you noticed most over the years? Anything you miss?
KH: London gets more and more exiting as the years roll by so I never feel too nostalgic. I do miss the old pie and mash shops that once littered the streets of the south; they seem to be disappearing. The only thing I truly miss though is busking with my Great Grandfather, Edwin. My family immigrated from Ireland after the war and he made his living by playing the accordion on the streets of London as well as other things. We would go to Portobello Market on Sundays and I’d sit on his case while he played. It’s one of the best memories to have. My love for London started young!

Thanks Kerry!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

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London Art Spot: Alicia Clarke

Photo of Alicia Clarke by Annick Wolfers

It comes as no surprise that Alicia’s dance photography bursts with energy, momentum, movement. Only one who has felt her own body reach its limits this way would be able to portray in a single still shot the flexibility, endurance and perfection of form that are within the body’s capabilities.

Born in Birmingham in 1975, Alicia moved to London nearly a decade ago to pursue her career. She started as an assistant, moved through the ranks as in-house photographer for Northern & Shell publishing followed by a stint as Managing Editor on Happy magazine which eventually led her to become the freelancer she is today.  

For this week’s London Art Spot, Alicia gave up a bit of her time to talk to us about intertwining her passions for dance and photography, how assisting on Page 3 shoots for The Sun has influenced her current photographic study of femininity and tell us when to next catch her performing burlesque as her alter ego Cici Darling.

Audrey Doklan, Dancer

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
AC: 
That depends on whether the sun is shining or not! At its best, London is a hotpot of everything inspiring and influential. I truly believe that whatever you want to do, whoever you want to be, it can happen in London. It’s been my home for nearly 10 years and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I recently moved to Deptford and it’s got such a fantastic arts scene, loads of small galleries, artists’ studios, vintage stores and little cafes, but co-existing with the grungy old crazy Deptford and all its kooky characters! It’s never boring! Sometimes London is just too much though. So much going on, too fast, hard to keep up, I need to take a breather and disappear off to the sea to empty my head. I always want to come home though!

LLO: Favourite place to take your camera in London?
AC: 
I’m not much of a street photographer, always feel I’m intruding on people, so I guess my favourite place to take my camera at the moment is when I go and photograph burlesque nights for my friends. I get in free, get to see lots of acts and get inspiration for my own performance. And I meet interesting people who I might arrange to photograph later for my personal projects.

Beardyman, Beatboxer

LLO: Do you remember the moment you fell in love with photography? How has your style evolved since then?
AC: 
I do remember the exact moment – funny isn’t it? I was 7-years-old at the most and for some reason my Great Uncle handed me a cheap plastic camera and I fell totally in love with it, pottering around my back garden photographing the flowers. I would hope my style has evolved since then! When you put a frame around the world you’re effectively editing out the bits you don’t want, but nowadays I quite like being in the studio and controlling exactly what is put in instead. We’ve all become so image savvy these days that I want to be really careful about what I put into my images, whilst accepting that we all bring our own histories to a reading of an image so I have to relinquish control at some point!

LLO: Favourite London-based artists?
AC: 
I completely love Cecily Brown’s paintings – is she still based in London? Kind of abstract erotic, really thick sensual paint that you really want to jump into and immerse yourself in and then you realise its a picture of an orgy! Different people for different reasons really. I like Anderson & Lowe’s beautiful bodies and their melancholic circus pictures. My friend Rachel Warne does beautiful flower photography – she makes me interested in a genre that normally doesn’t stir me. I’m always jealous of my brother’s travel photography and for over a decade have been wishing I’d taken the pictures that dance photographer Hugo Glendinning takes. Another friend Lottie Davies (who photographed me for the winning image ‘Quints’ at the Taylor Wessing Prize 2008) inspires me in her bravery and certainty in her image-making.

Charlotte Wheeler, Dancer

LLO: In your work for See You Next Tuesday, you’re “using men to enact ‘visualities’…to explore the idea of woman as mask”. Can you explain what this means and how you’re using photography to reach this goal?
AC: 
This is based on a Lacanian psychoanalytic theory that postulates that there is no such thing as ‘woman’ other than what is put on the outside of the body – that there is no essential femininity, it is merely a masquerade. I wanted to explore this hypothesis using men, attempting to locate ‘woman’ through the props we’ve come to associate daily with femininity. You can see from the pictures that they fail, that woman cannot be found through such stereotypical details, however I still can’t find where ‘woman’ might be and how she might be represented. Tricky huh?! I can trace back the origin of this work to being in a tranny bar in San Francisco and realising that all the guys had their labels sticking out of the backs of their dresses, they’d slipped up in the details their masquerade… I also used to work as a photographer’s assistant on shoots for The Sun’s ‘Page 3’ and when the girls went home after the shoot there would be all this left over bits of pretend woman lying around – broken false nails, pulled-out blonde hair extensions, smeared fake tan, false eyelashes and skimpy knickers – it fascinated me. I recently started performing as a burlesque dancer so this reignited the interest in representations of women and their bodies…

Gabriel Prokofiev, composer

LLO: You studied dance for many years. How does this experience influence the way you approach your photography? Do you look at movement of the human body differently as a dance photographer than as a dancer?
AC:
When I’m dancing, I’m feeling movement, its ebb and flow and I can feel the strength and the fragility of my body moving through space.  The job of the dance photographer is to somehow capture and communicate that in a single frozen image, to convey how it might feel to be the dancer.  I love using the possibilities inherent in the camera (long shutter speeds, etc) to show motion in time, but I also like to reveal that moment when the body reaches the perfect point in the movement and freeze it there.  I get so excited when I’m shooting dancers, I want to be them, I want to be able to do what they are doing, I want that relationship with my body.

Mari Frogner at Laban Centre, Dancer

LLO: What kind of camera, lens, kit, etc. do you use?
AC:
 I recently sold my old Hasselblad and it was a very sad moment, but I’m a digital convert. I shoot on a Canon 5d Mark 2, with L series lenses. I use Bowens lighting usually, but for high speed flash for freezing movement, I hire in Profoto lights which have a shorter flash duration. I always shoot RAW to give me the freedom to develop the images creatively later on – like shooting negative film. I found a load of old transparencies I shot of live performance recently. I must have been mad! It was a good learning curve but I want to be thinking about the image itself, not the technicalities when I’m shooting… 

LLO: How did you work your way through the industry to eventually become a freelance photographer?
AC: 
By working very long hours for several years for hardly any money!  I moved to London to work as a full-time photographer’s assistant, and whilst my high earning flatmates lived the high life, I slept on their floor, exhausted by the long hours, getting further into debt. I loved it though – I felt that I was the lucky one! Melvyn Vincent, the guy who employed me, was so supportive, inspiring and nurturing, I had a bit of a shock when I went freelance and realised the industry was so full of divas! I eventually ended up as the in-house photographer for Northern & Shell Publishing, shooting celebrities for them, but it wasn’t really for me. I’m more interested in real life and scratching below the surface. And I’m totally obsessed with dance photography too! 

Marianne, Dancer

LLO: As your alter ego Cici Darling, you have been a burlesque dancer for the past few years. Where are the best places to check out the burlesque scene in London?
AC: 
I started out performing at the Tournament of Tease at Bethnal Green Working Mens Club which is a launch night for new acts – I’d recommend it, they do male and female burlesque.  Volupte, a supperclub in Holborn is well-established and a fun night out, and Proud Cabaret in the city has recently opened to really good reviews. The London Burlesque Week is coming up too in April, organised by Chaz Royal. I’m performing at the VIP awards & closing party at Cafe de Paris – come and see me!

LLO: Which photo are you most proud of and why?
AC:
I don’t know why I like this picture so much, but I do. Isn’t that a great thing about photography? It’s communicating to you beyond words… He’s showing off and performing to the camera, dressed halfway between being Russell and his alter ego Russella, but there’s this sensitivity and vulnerability there. He’s feeling empowered by his make-up and the part transformation, but he’s still the contemplative boy from his real life…

Thanks Alicia!

For more of Alicia’s work, check out her website: www.aliciaclarke.com/

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

London Events: See You Next Tuesday Festival

Today is International Women’s Day, recognising the fabulousness of females around the globe and raising awareness of the plight of some who live their lives in fear and without a voice to stand up for their rights.

Today is also the first day of the See You Next Tuesday Festival, giving women in London a platform for creativity, comedy, theatre, burlesque and cabaret. (Men are, of course, welcome to join in on the fun.)

Running until the 20th of March, there is plenty to see at the New Players Theatre where all of the events are taking place. You can find a calendar of events here.  

If you were looking for the ever-popular Vagina Monologues in February, you’ll be happy to know they are running as part of the festival this month, proceeds as always going to Eve Ensler’s V-Day movement.

The brilliant minds behind See You Next Tuesday are Emma Jane Richards and Annie Saunders, who have run V-Day London since 2008. They describe this new celebration as “cutting-edge theatre, thigh-slapping comedy, film screenings, a variety of workshops, and the best of circus, burlesque and cabaret. Showcasing fantastic feminine and feminist talent for an action-packed two weeks, raising discussion (and eyebrows) in a lavish and experimental playground of fancy, See You Next Tuesday is like nothing you’ve seen before.”

Book tickets for events here.  
Website is here.

(PS – “See You Next Tuesday” = CUNT, if you didn’t know…)