Between 2009 and 2013, I was Time Out London’s cabaret editor, a position that gave me a ringside seat to the city’s most dynamic creative scene and unparalleled access to those shaping it. Since 2014, I’ve reviewed cabaret as part of the Scotsman’s team of Edinburgh Fringe critics.
I’ve covered also cabaret for the Guardian, Evening Standard and the Today Programme, chaired the judging panel for the inaugural London Cabaret Awards and co-created TO&ST, the Time Out & Soho Theatre Edinburgh Cabaret Award, which ran in 2012 and 2013.
In 2014, I began AHRC-funded PhD research in partnership with Duckie into social applications of cabaret and related performance – or how to do things with queer fun – working at Queen Mary, University of London, supervised by Catherine Silverstone. As part of my research, I programmed Queer Fun, an ivory-tower vaudeville at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, in 2017. I have also taught a module on cabaret performance alongside Marisa Carnesky at Central School of Speech & Drama.
I’m engaged in activism around the threat to queer spaces in London. As a member of RVT Future, I wrote the successful application to make the Royal Vauxhall Tavern the UK’s first building to be listed in recognition of its LGBTQ+ heritage. I’m also a director of the Black Cap Foundation, which seeks to reopen the iconic venue, and chair of the Queer Spaces Network, which works with community groups, UCL Urban Lab and City Hall to develop policy to protect and promote LGBTQ+ spaces.
In 2015, I conceived, produced and directed The Prime of Ms David Hoyle, an evening of thrilling pedagogy at Chelsea Theatre that returned in 2016 for a two-week run funded by Arts Council England. In 2014, also at Chelsea Theatre, I produced and presented two editions of a cabaret night called Come With Me If You Want To Live, and a weekend-long Not Television Festival of interactive performance (or ‘shows that love you back’). Performers at these included Barb Jungr, Jonny Woo, the LipSinkers, Lady Rizo and Miss Behave.
In 2010, I created BURN, the platform for moving images by cabaret artists. Showcasing standalone video and video-interactive live work by performers from the cabaret scene – including Jonny Woo, Scottee, Dickie Beau, A Man to Pet, Fancy Chance, Alp Haydar, Lorraine Bowen – BURN has taken place at the RVT at Hackney Attic and as part of BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival, MIX NYC, the East End Film Festival, the Hot August Fringe, Mimetic, Mother’s Ruin and others.
With Professor Gavin Butt, I co-directed the feature documentary This Is Not a Dream, about queer and alternative artists and performers using moving image since Warhol, incorporating video performances by Dickie Beau. Created as part of the AHRC-funded Performance Matters research project between Goldsmiths, University of Roehampton and the Live Art Development Agency, TINAD screened at BFI Flare, Dirty Looks NYC, Outfest Los Angeles, MIX Copenhagen and GAZE Dublin among others. It is available on DVD.
I also co-directed with Ed Lawrenson the short observational documentary Vinegar to Jam (2013), about the final performances by Jonny Woo and the LipSinkers at Bistrotheque’s cabaret room in east London, which premiered as part of the London Short Film Festival. And I directed Cut To (2014), a short film about the time Tricity Vogue got her hair cut in public and became a boy. Both screened as part of BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival and internationally.
In July 2014, my first ebook was published as part of the Guardian Shorts 60-Minute Masterclasses range. Critical Writing evolved from the in-person masterclasses I’ve given at the Guardian and looks at the changing role of the critic in the digital era, arguing for the role to be conceived less as a career than a vocation.
As a film critic, I have contributed regularly to Sight & Sound, Film Quarterly, the Guardian, Time Out (where I was deputy film editor from 2005 to 2007), BBC Radio and other outlets. My books include a short biography of Orson Welles, the BFI TV Classic on The Office and, with JM Tyree, the BFI Classic on The Big Lebowski. I have programmed seasons for BFI Southbank on Orson Welles, the Coen brothers and Bernard Herrmann. In 2012, I curated Swede Dreams, a two-day celebration of homemade (or ‘sweded’) versions of Hollywood movies, at the Roxy Bar and Screen.
Between 2007 and 2009, I lived in New York, writing about subjects such as the Kuchar brothers, Kenneth Anger, John Waters, Ken Jacob, Quentin Crisp and Penny Arcade, as well as Joe E Jeffreys’ Drag Show Video Vérité archival project, for various outlets, including a weekly column on NY film culture for the Guardian and pieces for Time Out New York, the Advocate and the New York Post. In 2008, I took a Masters in arts and culture journalism from Columbia University, New York.
I also hold a Masters in the history of film and visual media from Birkbeck, University of London, and took a double first in English at Trinity College, Cambridge. I got my silver swimming certificate on the first attempt, grade five piano on the second and a driving licence on the third.