Oxford is well-known as a city of culture, with everything from classical concerts to the Cowley Road Carnival. Set against this background, Quiltbag Cabaret, a new queer arts night at the East Oxford Community Centre, had an impressive legacy to live up to.
It didn’t just live up to this legacy, it blew it out of the water. On the 8th February 2014 my best friend Em and I tripped along Cowley Road to the community centre and were greeted at the door by one of the volunteer and Bobby the Pronoun Badger, a small fluffy creature who guards a box of colourful and informative badges. After paying our entry and buying two bright green badges that read ‘she/her’, my friend and I went into the bar and lounge, where the cabaret was just about to begin.
The evening opened with poetry readings from two fantastic writers; the compère Lucy Ayrton, and Patti Dale. This was followed by comedy from the brilliant Ann Domoney, who finished her set by singing a reworked version of Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story’…about a lioness.
During the break, Em and I joined a group at the drawing table (yes, the cabaret has arts and crafts tables. Didn’t I tell you it was amazing?). We were promptly told “We’re all drawing our childhood pets, but gay!”, which was just as much fun as it sounded. Another table had a knitting circle, and a third was covered in a bunch of biographical handouts for LGBT history month. I spent a bit of time looking through the papers, and learned about a load of amazing people I’d never heard of before – a fact which in itself made me kind of sad, but then, the whole point of LGBT history month is to focus on people who have been overlooked.
After the break, we went back into the bar to watch a performance from the headline act, the wonderful Lashings of Ginger Beer Time (it took me a shamefully long time to get the name). They poked fun at representations of queer people in media (coining the phrase “You utter Moffat!” to describe people who get it incredibly wrong); sang a song about Willow and Tara; did monologues and short sketches; and performed a slightly naughty version of “You’re the Top!” that I found myself singing on the bus a few days later, which got me some strange looks. (“You’re the top/You’re the potions master/You’re the top/No-one stirs me faster…”)
All in all, we had a brilliant night, and are definitely planning to go along next time – with as many of our friends in tow as we can get. The Quiltbag Cabaret is an exciting new addition to Oxford’s arts and music scene, and I look forward to seeing how it develops.