Creeps on a Train

I don’t live in London.

I like to work in London in glittering cabaret shows, bedecked in sequins and crystals then I gather up my bags and trudge home, make up flaking, at the end of an evening. I take the late night train home, a train regularly character filled. I use those fifty five or so minutes as my decompression chamber. I take my make up off, I listen to audio books or I chat to friends on various social media platforms. It’s nice, it’s relaxing and by the time I step off the train by the seaside, I’m chilled and ready to starfish my way into tomorrow.
Tonight, my routine was interrupted by several gentlemen. Allow me to set the scene…

I stepped on to the train and assumed my usual corner seat, the one right at the front with a little table. Within a minute or so, five chaps of a rather burly description with shaved heads and assorted football wear, had claimed the seats around me.
They tried to strike up conversation but I’m rather taciturn on my homeward journey so I fended off the questions. However, now I feel bad about that, it was bad manners to not want to talk about myself to gents I’d never met, so I thought I might remedy my error and answer them right here.

Where have I been? I’ve been to work.

“You’re beautiful.” Thanks. I wasn’t looking for a late night affirmation from five men I’ve never met. I’m not sure any lone woman would welcome this sort of attention over and over again. Whilst you stare at them in a rather obsessive way. But, you know, thanks.

“Your eyes are blue. I like blue eyes. Blue is my favourite eye colour.”
And a few more times, just in case I hadn’t heard. Not creepy at all.

“Are you naked under your coat?”  No. No I’m not. It’s winter. Who wants to travel home on a train at 11pm wearing nothing but a coat in winter. And you can see my blue dress under my coat. So I’m not sure why you’d ask this question.

Am I a ghost? No. If I were a ghost, I’d certainly haunt somewhere more salubrious than a train.

“Stuck up cunt.” I’m not. I just don’t want to a) fuck you b) make inane conversation with five drunk men I’ve never met before. Who’ve already asked me if I’m naked under my coat.

Am I foreign? No. Would it make all this ok if I was? BTW, your faux-talian accent is dreadful, almost bordering on xenophobically bad.

You want to cum on my face. That’s nice. Really nice. Such a kind offer but, you know, I’m on my way home from work. I’ve done a show this evening, my serotonin and adrenaline have been absorbed by those glorious, happy faces, so I’m kind of tired. It was a Christmas show, so wrangling the audience and persuading them to my will took a lot of energy.
Also, we’ve never met.

Oh, you touched my foot. It’s ok, I can move my foot over here, closer to my other foot and further away from your feet. I’d hate for you to get the wrong idea, like I’m enjoying the taunts, jibes and come-ons from all five of you. I mean, I obviously am, right? You chaps are having a huge giggle. And me? Well, I’m stony silent, staring at my phone with my headphones on (FYI, noise cancelling doesn’t mean total noise blocking), shrinking into the corner whilst you mime something that appears to be me gargling, no not gargling, gobbling your man seed. I wouldn’t go down the mime road, if I were you chaps. Though, it was utterly clear to me so maybe it could be a career path for you once you stop hassling women on trains.

Finally, after 15 minutes of your repeated incursions into my airspace, I feel it is time for me to go and you to go down. I get up. I speak up. I tell you all what I think of you and how ashamed of you I am.

Some of you have the decency to look sheepish, some of you tell me that you were “Only havin’ a laugh, innit”. I suppress the urge to correct your English, I gather my things and stalk up the train.

It’s only when I find safe haven that I notice how much my hands are shaking.

It might not have been me tonight. It might have been someone younger, less assertive, someone who was actually from another country. Someone for whom sexual assault is not just words. Someone for whom it could have been a deeply traumatic experience.

I am someone’s daughter. I am someone’s wife. I am someone’s mother.
If those chaps had stopped for just one second to consider that, maybe they would have stopped, or not even started.

I have the right to travel home in silence.
I have the right to travel home alone.
I have the right to not make small talk with drunk men I’ve never met.
I have the right to not be intimidated

I have the right. Women have the right. Every single woman has the right.

Just take your words and your looks and your, frankly awful, mimes and just go to fucking hell, you pieces of shit.

You are not taking my right to feel safe away from me. I am woman and have the right to exist in space without the fear of unwanted, unasked for attentions.

I was worried. I was scared and I was shaken.

As I left the train, my car keys slipped between my fingers, an older gentleman, his hair in long greying braids, assured me in a lilting Jamaican accent that I had nothing to fear from him. I half smiled, it was a glimpse of something better, something positive.

I got home safely. I called the British Transport Police. I reported it.

Now my hands have stopped shaking but I blaze with a white hot rage that those ‘men’ (and I use that word loosely because there is nothing manly about their behaviour) would dare to insinuate themselves into my personal space.

They are not worth my fear. They are not worth a thing.

The Inevitable Edinburgh Fringe Come Down


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My god, nine months since I wrote a blog? I could have had a baby in that time. I haven’t, of course, I’ve been ridiculously busy trying to juggle six cats, a husband, a toddler and a career! It’s not the easiest thing I’ve ever done.

So I find myself at home after an amazing season in Edinburgh. A season of really hard work but good hard not bad hard. The sort of work that leaves your muscles aching when you finally slip into bed, buoyed by gin, and surrender yourself to the bone numbing fatigue and, (ignoring your million mile an hour monkey mind!) finally the oblivion of sleep, only to wake up the next day to do it all again. AFVS was a joy to do – an amazing venue staff, sold out houses, hilarious and generous guests and the best team I could ask for.



Edinburgh is a city seemingly built uphill. It doesn’t matter which way you go, you always seem to be going uphill but it is the soundness of one’s mind which goes downhill in Edinburgh! Gradually as the month progresses, your body clock changes, your ability to cook like an adult disappears. I think I ate more chips in this last month than in the rest of my life, put together! You begin to drink more, laugh more, cry more. You become, in equal measure, desensitised and uber-sensitised which leads to the threat of tears which glower behind your eyes like ominous storm clouds! You begin to see your own Fringe madness reflected in the faces of your friends. You treasure the moments of respite when you find yourself away from the Fringe. For me, it was an afternoon leafing through the archives at my tailors. Three hundred years of tailoring history crammed into books, rammed with swatches, drawings and letters. It was heaven. Thank you, Dan Fearn at Stewart Christie, it was more beneficial than you can know. It was an afternoon singing old songs around a piano with dear friends and glorious cocktails. It was sifting through vintage in Armstrong’s.

So then you find yourself at the end, with the sudden and bitter anticlimax that the finale of your final show brings. You chuck out your left over flyers, de-rig your Fringe life, stuff it into bags and wend your weary way home.

And then what?

It’s quiet. There aren’t teenagers howling ‘A Very Happy Un-Birthday’ beneath your bedroom window at an ungodly hour of the early afternoon. There aren’t ticket sales to check, running orders to send out, costumes to fix (who am I kidding? In this house the mending pile is a veritable Everest!), cast and crew to wrangle. There’s a stack of over-stuffed suitcases silently watching me and trying to trip me up as I stumble around, half asleep. They can bloody wait.

First morning home I wake early and alone. I lay in bed watching the grey fingers of the early dawn seep through gaps in my curtains. The crushing, and irrational, post-Fringe loneliness comes scratching at my heart’s door. “What now?” it whispers. “Who are you now?” I lay there, as the fear and depression seeps into my bones. I know it is only a temporary cloud. A week or two at most before real life rhythm is remembered like a familiar tune. Though for those two weeks, every mundane chore in my life is like a personal affront. Washing up? Laundry? Cat litter trays? Nappies? Unpacking? “I’m made for the stage and the glamour and wine and song” my mind thunders like a petulant child. I can’t find my clothes, I don’t remember where I packed them and frankly I don’t care. I find a pair of old harem pants and a discoloured baseball tee. They’ll do, for now.

I reason that I’m not the only one feeling the apres-Fringe blues. Thousands of other people are waking up feeling the same way. Happy to be home, sad to leave; that odd contradictory conundrum. I’m happy to indulge that dusky canine for a while.

I fill my days with work and child. I record an important new track for the Siren album, attend the weddings of several dear friends. The return of a favourite show in London at the weekend. I throw out clothes I don’t like. I spend time with my boys and my menagerie of creatures, all of whom are apparently thrilled to see me.

I ignore the unpacking – maybe I could just leave it packed for next August?







Lili’s Ladies of the Year 2014


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It’s the second Lili’s Ladies of the Year (or the Lili’s as I have affectionately and slightly egotistically named them!) it’s a time when I reflect over the year and give a virtual high-five to women in my circle who are doing amazing, creative or just good old stirling work!

This year has a definite performing lean – this has been my busiest performing year yet and so it only follows that the women I come into contact with are from that world. The list is by no means exhaustive, I’m surrounded by incredible women who are all in charge of their business.
Working in the creative arts sometimes feels as though you are on a boat. Times of flying along with the wind in your sails followed by what feels like tides of doldrums and becalmed non-activity. It’s learning to ride the swell and keep your head down that gets you through. So, women, I give you a round of applause, which admittedly is just me clapping alone in my kitchen whilst a bemused dachshund looks on, however it is a round of applause nonetheless.

So, the Lili’s this year go to:

Aurora Galore
Watching Aurora Galore make waves in her ‘Year of the Weirdo’ has been joyous. From globe-trotting to award-winning, Aurora has been doing awesome things both onstage and off. From her make-up vlogs and her creative costuming to her fierceness and fearlessness onstage, it has been a bumper year for Aurora.

Aurora Galore

A woman of many skills, her fan dancing has to be seen to be believed and this year she has been passing those skills over to other performers in her sold-out fan dance workshops.

Aurora and i in Vegas

In June she won ‘Most Innovative’ at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in Vegas with a performance of such ferocity and kookyness that it left the audience open-mouthed and on their feet.

Aurora Galore The Grinch

If you get the chance to see her live in 2015, do, she’ll knock your socks off.
[photo: Aurora Galore]

Joanna Woodward/Coco Dubois
As a host, I rarely get to work with other hosts and I have to watch their careers run parallel to mine on various social media. At the tail end of this year, I got the chance to work with Coco at the Black Cat Salon des Artistes having wanted to work alongside her for ages. We were down an act and she stepped in at the last moment after her show was unexpectedly cancelled and she absolutely killed the audience, who quite rightfully gave her a standing ovation. She is a performer who manages, successfully, to have a foot in both cabaret and musical theatre. As I write this blog, she has just started rehearsals for a new West End production of ‘Beautiful – The Carole King Musical’ having already appeared in the hugely successful revival of Sondheim’s ‘Merrily We Roll Along’.

Coco Dubois

As well as having an astonishing voice, she has also been an outspoken voice for mental health and size issues on her blog, which is both emotional, honest and truly gives a glimpse into the, at times, fragile psyche of an artist. As well as writing, singing and hosting she has also been nominated for a London Cabaret Award this year.

Coco Dubois


So cabaret’s loss is musical theatre’s gain – for a while – I hope she’ll come back!
[photos: Andrew Nash & Lovany Manson]

Amanda Suter
I’m a complete vintage addict and Amanda Suter is one of my favourite vintage dealers. If I had to pick one place to get my fix in 2015, it would be Butchwax Vintage. Her stock is divine, like seriously world-class, A grade, stunning vintage. I’m never more thrilled than when a glorious piece she posts in her Etsy shop is not my size!

Amanda Suter

From gowns made for Persian royalty to frocks from Hawaii and everything in between, she is my go to gal for beautiful pieces that make me smile. She has an amazing eye for vintage that is unusual and rare as well as just downright divine.

Amanda Suter

Looking at her gorgeous clothes really does bring a smile to my face and I’m always enjoy it when she lists her new things and there is an internet scramble for the choicest morsels! Her parcels come beautifully packaged and wrapped with love and I’m always excited when one drops onto my doormat. I urge you to look at her fabulous Etsy shop.
[photos: Amanda Suter]

Sophie Mason
Three years ago, I started my variety show, AFVS, at the Edinburgh Festival. I was in the early stages of being pregnant with my son and I was aware that my lifting, carrying and people organising abilities were slightly compromised! I decided to take on an intern for the Fringe and I put the call out. I sifted through a raft of applications and one caught my eye. It was from a teenager from Dundee.


She didn’t have much experience, she hadn’t worked in cabaret but something kept bringing me back to her email. I decided to interview her and adored her immediately. I was concerned at her age so decided to take on a different chap and offer her work experience for the month. It was the worst decision ever, the chap turned out to be utterly incompetent and Sophie saved the day after day after day! She learned quickly, was efficient and awesome to be around.

Sophie backstage in Edinburgh

She is amazing at organising, wrangling performers and keeping everyone (including me) on the straight and narrow. Since then, she has become a fixture of our team and even though she is now studying stage management at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London, we can’t imagine doing a variety show without her. Once she’s graduated, I’m sure she’ll be fighting off offers of work and I will be thrilled to see her doing amazing shows.

Laura Corcoran/Frisky
Miss Corcoran has had a rather fabulous year, a sell-out season of a brand new Frisky & Mannish show at the Edinburgh Fringe with her partner-in-crime Mannish (Matthew Floyd Jones), followed by a very successful tour and directing the Elaine Paige show and national tour.

Frisky & Mannish and I


I have been lucky enough to work with her regularly at the Cafe Royal for the Salon des Artistes and her powerhouse vocals and inspired interpretations never fail to make me applaud very loudly. Her rendition of Florence & the Machine’s ‘Girl with One Eye’ remains one of my favourite interpretations of 2014. When Frisky goes freaky it’s fricking fabulous.

Frisky in full flight

I look forward to working with her more in 2015 – hurrah for sisterhood.

So those are some of the ladies who inspired me this year. I can’t wait for 2015 and to be inspired again by all the creative, clever and funny ladies with whom I get to pass time. See you next year!

Over and out!

Love Lili. x

Lili’s Life Through a Rosewood Tinted Lens


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There is a huge trend in London at the moment for what has been termed ‘luxury cabaret’. Many of London’s finest hotels boast their own resident cabaret show, including The Savoy and The Cafe Royal Hotel. Now one of London’s most glittering five star hotels has tossed its gilded cap into the ring with ‘Cabaret at Scarfe’s’ which is just starting the second month of its residency under the expert hand of one of London’s finest cabaret singers, and someone of whom I am immensely fond, Mr Dusty Limits.

Dusty and I
The venue is akin to something you may find in one of the stately homes of England, a drawing room from an earlier time. Glitteringly dark, bedecked with velvet and displays of glass-domed butteflies. The fire flickers welcomingly, drawing you in with its soporific glow, inviting you to fill your glass and relax into the bosom of friends. Dusty’s aim was always to create something that felt like the post-supper gathering at a country house weekend. Not a show but a party, a collection of friends. With that in mind, the cast mingles freely before the show, sharing drinks with guests and creating an atmosphere of louche decadence. When Dusty takes to the floor to start the evening’s entertainment, the crowd is already warm and welcoming which makes it very easy to slip into the show.

Curated by Dusty, the performers are plucked from London’s finest; Vicky Butterfly bedecked in downy white feathers, the delicious musculature of Sammy Dinneen, the velvety honey drenched voice of Coco Malone and I; I sing a bit.
In a space not naturally designed for performance, the show emerges from different parts of the room, Sammy upended on a table, me seated on the bar amid glasses and bottles and Vicky Butterfly stalking the aisles in her glowing cloak. I hope that the audience feel included and enveloped by the proximity of the performers. It is quite an astounding thing to have a semi-naked hand balancer mere inches from your face, his toes threatening to dip into your champagne.

As any good party should, the night gradually grows in debauchery and crapulence, with the hosts ending up close to the floor, or on it, indeed whilst the strains of the the Lorde song ‘Royals’ are played by the incredible musicians, Michael Roulston, Jonathon Kitching and Tom Mansi. More recently, I have found that there has been a glorious return to live music in cabaret shows and that is a delightful thing. A backing track can never replace the comradery of having real live people playing real live instruments playing music with you. It would be a wonderful thing if we were to see a complete absence of shows with track, although I realise that this is utter pie in the sky.

The show ends and dancers, beautifully attired in vintage clothing, take to the floor as the band play Irving Berlin. The crowd watches enraptured and transported to another time and place, a place of decadence and debauchery, where echoes of those Bright Young Things resonate still.
Join me at Scarfe’s Bar next Sunday for the next one of these amazing evenings, meet me by the fire, bring champagne.

Love Lili.

Cabaret at Scarfe’s
Rosewood Hotel
Doors 7pm, show 7.30pm
Buy a ticket HERE






Lili Sings Songs at a Sing-along Song Show


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Last month, I had the pleasure of an evening out at Wilton’s Music Hall for a new night called ‘Carradine’s Cockney Sing-A-long’. It’s rare that I get an evening out without working as much of my spare time is given over to child-rearing or sleeping, so it was a complete treat to hop on the train and saunter through the backstreets of the East End to find myself in an alleyway, outside Wilton’s; London’s oldest surviving music hall.


I ducked inside, welcomed in from the Autumn chill by the warm glow and the excited chatter. Seated at the piano was the ever dapper, and beautifully turned out, Tom Carradine, resplendent in a vintage suit with one of the finest handlebar moustaches ever seen in London. Beside him, cabaret’s cheeky charleston chap and co-host, Champagne Charlie perused the song sheet.


I ordered a glass of champagne from the divine bar keep (always a huge plus point for me – lovely bar keeps!) and scanned the song sheets to see what musical delights Mr Carradine had up his well starched sleeve. Like me, he is a connoisseur of vintage and rare songs and his attention to detail is pretty, bloomin’ flawless.


Soon it was time to start and we raised our voices in song. The packed bar made a motley choir of champagne saturated voices singing together in joyful chorus. If you don’t know it, just mumble until you get to the chorus, or take a well-timed glug of your drink. The more you drink, the easier it becomes as the inhibitions with which you are fettered drop away like descending scales. The line up of songs had something for everyone; War Songs, Cockney Classics and no Cockney sing-a-long would be  complete without an obligatory ‘Oliver’ medley and enough “‘Ave a Bananas” to keep enough the most dedicated ‘mockney’ happy!


This is not a show. It’s almost an anti-show. It’s a gathering of friends, in a shabby East End bar, singing songs. In this time encapsulated by the solitude of technology and the reliance on television, it is a tonic for the soul to be transported back to a time of community and such simple pleasures as lifting your voice in song next to a complete stranger, linked only by the shared knowledge of these old melodies that have seeped into our public consciousness.


The singing finished, and I skipped off into the night to catch the train, light of heart and step. To paraphrase and translate from the poem by Schober, ‘An die Musik’, I was indeed transported to a better world.


The next ‘Carradine’s Cockney Sing-a-Long’ is on the 11th of November. I shall be there ready to sing songs and celebrate the joy of community singing – I urge you to join us. Entry is free (although there is gratuitous hat passing – so bring your gold coins!)

Love Lili

Carradine’s Cockney Sing-A-Long
Wilton’s Music Hall
Grace’s Alley

[photos courtesy of Carradine’s Cockney Sing-a-long]

Edinburgh Fringe – Part 2 – The Comedown


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So the Fringe is done and dusted for another year. Edinburgh’s cobbled streets are returned paperless to her residents. Venues are stripped bare, blacks folded and stored and flight cases packed. The Fringe ‘family’ created over the month return to the real world, each of us a man alone.

Now is the time when one finds out whether those amazing friendships, love affairs and chance meetings are something more or simply smoke and mirrors veiled in misty rain.

I had, quite simply, the most wonderful Edinburgh Fringe. A Fringe quite unlike any other.




Another F*cking Variety Show was an epic, joyous and chaotic marathon of variety. We had around sixty acts in over the month, acts of all kinds from the weird and wonderful, to the strange and beautiful, to the uproariously hilarious and mad.

I loved every single second. I had the pleasure of taking my audiences on a rollercoaster journey every night, introducing them to people they had never met or maybe even people they knew very well. We had performance art icons, stars from the fetish scene, many a musical genius, some of the biggest names on the comedy scene and intenational burlesquers who left everyone feeling steamy!



You throw it all together, with a room full of smoke, some wonky sparkly letters, five costume changes, the most divine piano player Tom Barnes and my ‘Girls Friday’ Anna Newton and Sophie Mason and you have ‘Another F*cking Variety Show’; but it couldn’t happen without the audience.




Dave the Bear, Me, Jaz Delorean and Mr B – The Gentleman Rhymer

The audience, that night after night gave us their energy and their applause and sending us out to the bar on a high and often very late! The team at the Pleasance Dome were superb, professional and very understanding of our cabaret cons (glitter, candle wax and champagne…you get the picture!) Let’s hope that they’ll have us back next year!

Outside of the show, life in Edinburgh was really busy, for the first two weeks we had Rafferty up with us so life revolved somewhat around him. The odd kids show, my favourite being ‘Funz and Gamez’ (Rafferty even received a Copstick review in the Scotsman for his cameo). Swing dance Flash Mobs organised by the wonderful Tricity Vogue made me smile.

There were nights of drinking and dancing, those ‘Dixey’ boys are diamonds and one particular afternoon of ‘Ripping Tweed’ for Walker Slater which will remain with me for many memories to come. Gin, dancing and tweed, what could be nicer? I mean, it might have been better if it hadn’t rained but doesn’t that add to the charm? A private courtyard with dripping moss walls, a hidden tweed paradise in the very heart of the Old Town, it was a delight to share a stage with the ever-elegant Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer for an audience of beautifully attired people sipping cocktails. Getting ‘steamy’ with Tigger and Jett Adore and the conversations that went with meant the world to me, just that hour out of the Fringe madness is so very necessary. I found time to visit Studio XIII, my favourite place to get tattooed and had a pirate tattoo on my thigh done by the amazing Jack Peppiette for my JackJack. It’s not quite finished, we need to get more colour in there, but my pain threshold gave up after three hours! I’ll need to go back to Edinburgh next week, (oh how dreadful!)

So now, I find myself at home. How does one decompress from the Fringe experience? Be kind to yourself. Hole up, allow yourself to be a bit down, relive those happy memories, treasure and build on those new friendships. Keep in touch with your friends, let them reach out to you and don’t be afraid to reach out to them. Remember that you are not alone, there are thousands of people feeling exactly like you right now.
If all else fails, just remember that it is less than 365 days until it all starts again. See you there?

Love Lili.

All photos: Melanie Smith, Jack Peppiette, Lili la Scala & Clive Holland

Edinburgh Fringe – Part 1


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So here we are at the biggest Fringe Festival in the world. The Mile is full of, what seem to my eyes to be, twelve year olds who look like they’ve raided a dressing up box. There is the usual assortment of nuns and soldiers, lingerie-clad nubile blondes and buff young chaps wrapped in sheets and enough logo’d sweatshirts to keep a small print shop in business. Strains of ukelele, violin and tambourine waft upwards mingling with the snatched snippets of songs. It’s 10 am and already I have heard a varied programme of songs including, (but not limited to) Brush Up Your Shakespeare, It’s a Long Way to Tipperary and something which may have been in the charts recently but now it is in unaccompanied close harmony sung by American students! The smell of kerosene vapour drifts through my window from the street performer below.

Early morning Mile

We arrived on Monday and after a thorough clean, our flat seems more like home. We have unpacked and cooked enough food for the month, all neatly packaged in the freezer. On Wednesday, I was invited to the preview show of a brand new all male burlesque revue, Dixey. The line up is utterly stellar and crowned burlesque royalty and I was incredibly excited to see them perform. They didn’t disappoint; Tigger, Russell Bruner and the Stage Door Johnnies are a fabulous example of the ‘Boylesque’ genre. I was particularly enamoured with Russell Bruner, (so adorably kooky, he’s like a silent movie villain made real complete with splendid moustache) and Ray Gunn might just be the most hypnotic, sexual being I have ever seen. In short, it’s the only chance you will get to see real Kings of Burlesque (they have all won crowns at Miss Exotic World in Las Vegas) performing together, here in the UK. If you are here in Edinburgh, you must go!


My show, Another F*cking Variety Show, opened last night. We have new songs, we have a piano player (the amazing Tom Barnes) and we have some very sparkly letters. The heels are high, the dresses are big and the reception was very warm. Added to that, the most killer line up; we had Frisky & Mannish, East End Cabaret, Red Bastard, Mat Ricardo, Sam Wills and Gamarjobat and they took the roof off! There were a couple of hairy moments, the odd forgotten lyric and a nearly finished gown (thank you Miss Cherryfox!) but we open properly tonight and hopefully those little things will be ironed out.

Piano, Costumes & Letters, Oh My!

So good luck to all my fellow cabarati, see you at the bar!

Love Lili.

My Pirate, my JackJack



Every so often, someone comes into your life and makes a mark so irrevocably deep that it burns into your heart and no matter how long they stay, that mark will remain forever.

Captain JackJack 72283_483916738209_3787914_n 72500_483916748209_4047775_n
It is just that way with JackJack and I. I fell absolutely in love with him the moment I saw his very first baby pictures. His good(ish) eye gazing solidly at the camera, cattitude rolling off him in waves. His youth was full of theft; theft of loaves of bread, thefts of earphones and the theft of almost every heart with whom he came in contact. He came to be known as Captain Jack, a pirate, but a lovable one.

When he was a year old, his breeder (Nicola at Misfit Sphynx) who had hand reared him after his mother rejected him, decided it was time for him to find a new home and she asked if we would like to have him. We were thrilled to say yes. When he arrived, he strolled out of his carrier as though he owned the place. He was big in every way, stature and personality alike. He had a purr so loud you could hear it across the room, and would leap upon anything that moved with the agility of a polar bear! He loved to make new friends, and many a confirmed sphynx disliker was converted in the face of JackJack’s unrelenting friendliness. He enchanted vets, builders and postmen alike and even though many thought him to be not conventionally beautiful, to me and to those who knew him he was living proof that inner beauty makes you beautiful. Through sheer force of nature and lovable roguishness, he befriended friend and foe alike.

He was never one to allow his disability to stand in his way and with his unconventional eye and 40% vision, he was an inspiration and testament to the abilities of those whom we write off as disabled. He was an optimist, even when he was very sick, he put on the bravest face. Even at the very end, when his big heart was giving out on him, he still managed to try and purr. His courage in the face of his illness made me so proud of him at the same time as breaking my heart.

He was my friend and I am grateful everyday that he touched my life and also the lives of so many people around us. I count it a privilege to have known him, shared some of the journey with him and I will try to be brave as he was brave in the face of ever increasing ill health. How ironic that the cat with the biggest heart I have ever known should have died from a faulty heart.

Grief is the price we pay for love and although our time together was short, it was joyful and adventure-filled. JackJack deserved many more years, I deserved many more years with him and I will miss him forever. My heart is broken, the tears fall and I fear that life will not be the same here.

So now, JackJack, farewell my heart’s beloved, farewell my Peter Pan cat, death will be an awfully big adventure and although our paths diverge here, you will live in my heart, for always. Thank you for being inspirational. Thank you for being you. Thank you for loving me.


Lili’s Essential Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide


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Every year, a plethora of ‘Fringe Survival Guides’ are written so I thought that I would add what little wisdom I have gathered. I have been to every Edinburgh Fringe since 2005, first as a street performer with a double act with my sister, then as a street performer alone and cabaret/burlesque guester. Then, after I met my husband, we moved indoors. Several solo shows and a variety show further down the line and here we are. Along the way, I have learned some stuff and I thought that today, two weeks before AFVS opens for its third season, I’d share it with you.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to eat and drink. Eat properly, try to have three meals a day. It is a bloody slog doing shows but it isn’t just shows. You’ll be flyering for anything from two to five hours a day, potentially on very little sleep. I’d advise a really good breakfast, a Berocca and at least two litres of water a day, or more if your show is particularly physical. There is plenty of moisture in Edinburgh, generally coming down in stair rods but unfortunately the human body has yet to find a way to drink via osmosis so make that Evian bottle your friend. Hydrate your head – it will keep you sane.

If you are a London performer, don’t think that because it is August you will need your summer wardrobe. Edinburgh has the most delightful way of throwing many seasons at you, sometimes all at once. I tend to take my Autumn wardrobe, so a field of tweeds and tartan wools. I have the most delicious tartan cape which I adore wearing at Fringe time, it’s floor length, warm, it has a Scottish Widows hood and a Sherlock Holmes-esque mini cape. It is also bright yellow. It is actually my favourite thing, I found it at Armstrong’s Vintage three years ago.

Be nice. To everybody; but be especially nice to the doorkeepers of the industry bars. They are the gatekeepers to a world of fabulous networking – and isn’t that really what we are all there for? Occasionally an A-lister might wander in, I remember a few years ago Hugh Grant came in, the Catholic priest I was with offered him a blessing although to be honest, Hugh was so stoned he probably thinks he imagined that! My observation is that Four Weddings was a long, long, long time ago. Ah! The onward march of time. Unkinder to some than others, thank heavens for post production.

Remember that Edinburgh, the City, doesn’t owe you anything, you are but a mere visitor grubbing around the hem of her tartan gown. Treat her with courtesy, please don’t piss in her alleyways, throw up in her gutters or leave your sexual detritus littered in her nooks. Aside from anything else, you never know who you might see and do you really want that casting director, song writer or future spouse’s first image of you to be a piss-soaked, vomit-sprayed huddle? Unless that is what you are going for.

You will be tempted to be drunk for days, we’ve all done it in that 24/7 melee that is Edinburgh Fringe. By all means get so wasted you forget your own name but remember that Edinburgh Fringe is a marathon not a sprint, so don’t spend the rest of the month broke and hungover. Save it for that final week when the reviews are done, the audiences steady and the pressure is lessened.

Someone once told me that Edinburgh is a dance not a race (I believe it was the gorgeous Mr Stuart Goldsmith). It will be tempting to compare yourself to your friends and compatriots. This is a one way street to absolute sure-fire self destruction and self-doubt. Everyone has their own Fringe, have yours. It might be your year to sell out a huge venue and get a galaxy of five star reviews, it probably won’t. Don’t crow if you are doing well, be humble because the very next person you come across might be having the hardest month of their life.

Whilst we are talking about reviews, I would always say DON’T READ THEM! It is simply one person’s opinion and it will give you a false sense of where you are at; even if you get a five star from the Scotsman, I’d still say don’t read it (maybe read it when you get home in September). Just enjoy your journey and don’t buy into the press that surrounds you, or anyone else for that matter. It makes me feel incredibly old to say I remember a time when social media and online blogs didn’t exist at the Fringe, it was a happier, less pressurised time. Now, as you check in every ten minutes, blog, tumblr and tweet, try to find time to not; live in the moment you are in right now without checking to see who is watching from afar. It is no longer a case of ‘what happens at the Fringe stays at the Fringe’ but more likely ‘what happens at the Fringe is watched, commented on and liked by your mother’s neighbour’s cat in a multi-platform way’. So keep that in mind when you meet the sexual partner of your dreams whilst your partner is dog-sitting at home.

Picture by Mat Ricardo in Walker Slater

I will leave you on a piece of advice that will keep you sane. Take time out from the Fringe. Yes, it is an amazing month, a creative, fabulous, social and professional trade show whirl, but it can be draining, exhausting and depressing. Take a day, or half a day to get out. Go eat in a restaurant that has real cutlery (I recommend Ondine or The Dogs), climb Arthur’s Seat, try on/buy suits at Walker Slater (that’s mine) or jump on a train to somewhere else entirely. You step outside of the Edinburgh Fringe bubble and suddenly the biggest Fringe in the world seems so very tiny.

To those about to Edinburgh Fringe – I salute you.

Love Lili.

PS. In all seriousness, if the Fringe does start to overwhelm you – seek help. Fringe Central have heaps of amazing performer services so don’t be afraid; they literally have seen it all before.

Another F*cking Variety Show – 31st July – 23rd August – Queen Dome, Pleasance Dome, 11pm



Burlesque Hall of Fame – final installment!


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I do apologise for the radio silence, it is getting very close to Edinburgh and my hands have been full of plans and programming for my variety show – Another F*cking Variety Show! I have a little time now, so I thought I would sit down and tell you all about Vegas.

So, the day of ‘The Big Show’ arrived. For those of you unfamiliar with the Burlesque Hall of Fame ‘Miss Exotic World’ Competition, it is like the Superbowl of burlesque. Performers from all over the world compete for titles in categories of ‘Best Debut’, ‘Best Troupe’, ‘Best Group’, ‘Best Boylesque – The King of Burlesque’ and the most coveted title ‘Miss Exotic World – Reigning Queen of Burlesque’.

Showgirl Detritus

I arrived in the empty theatre at quarter to eleven in the morning, with coffees in hand for my co-host, Kingfish from San Francisco, and I. I was early and the theatre was peaceful with the technical staff setting lights and the crew discussing the show details. I sat on the edge of the enormous stage and just took in the space. Gradually, burlesquers from all around the world began to drift in with fans and heels. Kingfish arrived and we sat down at the front of the auditorium and began to watch every single tech, we’d never met before, so it was a great chance for us to get to know each other a little before hosting a show together. I really love watching ‘mime burlesque’, that is, the burlesque that performers do when they are running through their routine in rehearsal so the tech wasn’t a chore. It also gave me the chance to see every routine that I’d be introducing, so I could get a feel for their style and intro them appropriately. It was really fantastic to see everyone do their thing before the audience that evening, and the tension was palpable even when everyone was in rehearsal clothes. My darling friend Aurora Galore was there and Bonnie Fox too, both competing for Best Debut.


I dragged my case backstage and the stage manager, the completely adorable Nikki Knickers, showed me to my dressing room which I was sharing with Lou Lou D’vil, Kingfish and Melody Sweets. I had five costume changes for the five hour show as well as the corresponding heels, sparkles, gloves and headdresses.

After the tech, late in the afternoon, I went upstairs to my room and gave myself ten minutes of peace, then I threw my face on and having seen the size of the venue made sure to drag up even more than usual. I literally had all the eyes and enough contouring to make RuPaul proud! I headed down to the theatre and slipped backstage where what seemed like 5000 burlesquers were buzzing around conversing in many different languages. There were more Swarovski’s per capita than I had ever seen. In fact, I’m sure that Burlesque Hall is solely responsible for keeping Swarovski afloat!

The show started with a troupe of dancing girls and semi-nude Kingfish. I was behind the curtain and my heart was in my mouth. Just get out onstage, don’t trip over your gown. Remember not to breathe and swallow at the same time, (you’d be surprised how much I do that!) The curtains opened and there were 800 people staring at me. Famous faces from the world of burlesque; producers, performers, teachers and legends. I sang an opening number – something short and sweet – no time for soliloquies! And then with a clap, a cheer and a “Lili, who’s your daddy” we were into the show.

First out of the blocks were the ladies competing for “Best Debut”. I was blown away time after time by the uniqueness and style of all the different performers. The UK performers, Aurora Galore and Bonnie Fox knocked it out of the park. Bonnie Fox’s Charleston-based routine was so slick and stylish that she made everyone else who attempted Charleston for the rest of the night look like beginners, (as well she should as she is one of the best Charleston dancers in the world!!). Aurora Galore was the final Debut and she was an astounding ball of wild energy. Dance-based and frenetic, Aurora managed to cram so much into her four minutes. Her poi-style fan work is astoundingly fast and she has the most awesome curves too, a tiny waist and a peachy ba-donk-a-donk. She has to be seen to be believed and although she is often imitated in the UK, she is never bettered for sheer out there weirdo-ness which stood out a mile amongst so much classic beauty. We all need a little weirdo in our lives and Aurora is more than a little!

As the night rattled on through amazing act after amazing act, the audience managed to stay focussed and enthralled even thought the show was easily the longest show I have ever hosted. As we made it to the potential Queens, I was in my second to last costume, my feet were killing me, my make up was still looking on point – but only because I was wearing so damn much of it and I had sprayed my face liberally with hairspray. I think I would still have been wearing it today if I had left it to fall off naturally! The Queens-to-be were all absolutely beautiful. Stylish, classy and elegant. I adored Medianoche, her routine was beautifully old-school and she has a very Catherine Delish-esque poise. Her sea-green and blue gown was literally heaven to me and the Swarovski’s on her nails caught the light and flashed most hypnotically.

We came to the end of the show and whilst the judges deliberated, Loulou D’vil, the Reigning Queen 2013 performed her outgoing dance. She was astounding. The glorious mix of utter sex and devastating glamour is a heady combination and Loulou has charisma in bucketloads. And did I mention that she might be the most beautiful woman I have ever seen?

The moment came to announce the winners. We announced the adjectives first (‘Most Innovative’, ‘Most Dazzling’ etc) and as I glimpsed in to the envelopes, I saw that both Aurora and Bonnie had won ‘Most Innovative’ and ‘Most Dazzling’, respectively. I was so proud of the both of them but I was especially thrilled for Aurora, she works so so so damn hard to create look that is so out of the norm, especially in the sea of beauty that is Vegas, and she is a fearless performer. It was the icing on the cake when Bonnie won ‘Best Debut’. We announced the other winners, Mr Gorgeous won the King’s crown and with it, a deliciously saucy kiss from the outgoing King Ray Gun and Boylesque legend Tigger! I’ve popped all the winners below for you. I would have loved to see Medianoche win but it was Midnite Martini who took the crown and deservedly so, as her routine had ladders, silks and some fascinating stocking work.


  • Miss Exotic World 2014, Reigning Queen of Burlesque: Midnite Martini (Denver, CO)

    • 1st Runner Up: Medianoche (New York, NY)

    • 2nd Runner Up: Ginger Valentine (Dallas, TX)

  • Best Boylesque: Mr Gorgeous (New York, NY)

  • Best Debut: Bonnie Fox (London, United Kingdom)

  • Best Group: Land of the Sweets (Seattle, WA)

  • Best Troupe: The Ruby Revue (Dallas, TX)

  • Most Classic: Missy Lisa (Dallas, TX)

  • Most Comedic: Kitten & Lou (Seattle, WA/New York, NY)

  • Most Dazzling: Bonnie Fox (London, UK)

  • Most Innovative: Aurora Galore (London, UK)

So that was my weekend in Vegas. The following day, we lounged by the pool at the BHOF pool party

– you have never seen so many incredible people – with what a gloriously diverse community the burlesque world is blessed.

Now onward…to Edinburgh.