Rhiannon - Fleetwood Mac
The success of "Fleetwood Mac" and "Rumours" showed that the band now had three good songwriters, including two contrasting females: Christine McVie, strong, bluesy, down to earth and Stevie Nicks, a queen of air and darkness, suffused in rich imagery both in the words and in their delivery. The Nicks template was established right from the start of her Mac career, with the strong metaphoric "Landslide" and the witchy, mesmeric "Rhiannon".
As the nineties progressed at Islington Arts and Ents, more and more of our team were women. Over the years there were the Shape workers, Emma and Joan followed by Emma, Teri, an Arts Development Officer, June, the Black Arts Officer, Catherine, Assistant Arts Resources Officer, Kyle, Dance Animateur, as well as the aforementioned Ros, Pru and Helen (see last post). Whenever I was feeling run down, overworked or just generally "low" you could be sure that either Emma or Joan would notice and administer a much needed shoulder massage at my desk or a bunch of flowers thereby breaking down numerous office gender taboos - "why should it be only women who get given flowers?" I remember Emma asking. Joan was also a Director of Strathcona Theatre Company, then a company made up of what were in those days termed "people with learning difficulties", but Joan insisted that all the company members had an equal say in the writing and direction of the plays they staged. When I first saw them perform, she insisted I judge the production as I would any show by any other theatre company. I felt guilty about my harsh verdict on elements of the script and acting as I knew that they would be considering them in their next company meeting but Joan insisted that this was the only way they would get better. And get better they did, their shows swiftly becoming an anticipated pleasure rather than an errand of duty. This was in sharp contrast to certain companies who under the smokescreens of words like "inclusive" and "mixed ability" provided careers to "able-bodied" actors, directors and administrators who might not have succeeded on their own merits. Pioneers including Strathcona, Greaea, Candoco and Project Art Works paved the way for a world in which the disabled participants could hold the reigns of artistic creativity to great affect.
Bizarrely, I put on a host of International Women's Day concerts, mainly because Teri, the officer in charge of these, would go long-term sick from up to anything from six weeks before the event. I am grateful for this as it resulted in me programming (often at short notice) and managing a series of annual sell-out cabarets that remain among the best things I have ever worked on. Among the artists that performed were the wonderful Helen Austin - her rendering of Sade's classic as "Smoother Vibrator" brought the house down, the London Lesbian Choir numbering thirty singers, dressed in all-white US sailor outfits who performed "There's Nothing like a Dame" complete with the very deep bass ending, note perfect, and the punk band Hormone Rage. My friend, poet Bruce Barnes, saw the latter doing a pub gig and recommended them. for our cabaret night, they were on last, and the rest of the programme, being pressed for encore after encore, had overrun so that they only had twenty minutes of their promised 40 minute slot. They were four very punky, angry looking young women, complete with coloured shock hair, tattoos and face jewellery and I dreaded having to break this news to them. I timidly knocked on their changing room door and poked my head in. One was sitting on another one's lap and they were kissing, and the other two paused in the middle of what sounded like a blazing row. I took my life in my hands and said "I'm really sorry, but you're now on at the later time of 10.40 and you've only got 20 minutes." As one they looked at me with dazed expressions on their faces, for a full half minute which seemed much longer. Then one of them said, "That's good, we've only got three numbers".
Their performance, triumphantly ending with the song "Hormone Rage", blew the house down. Everyone went mad, stade close cropped matrons were dancing on tables, willowy hippies were pulling their hair out, women in suits were screaming like banshees and the assorted naval Lesbian choir were turning cartwheels, doing push-ups and playing air guitar. They played their three numbers, and refused to do an encore until I told them they better had, otherwise the audience was going to tear down the building. They played "Hormone Rage" again. Afterwards we herded the audience out on to the street like a riot of wild horses and slammed the doors shut behind them. We later found out that it was only their second gig, the first being the in the pub where Bruce saw them. And this was their last. They were as good as anything I ever heard or saw. A shooting star, fiery and spiky in the night. There was just too much energy there, and they burnt out in a glorious flash. And we were lucky enough to see it.