Put togeth­er Steam­punk bands, cabaret artistes, Elec­troswing and Goth DJs, plus a mys­tery guest. Add tea-duelling com­pe­ti­tions and the out­ra­geous com­pere known as Dis Charge, coax your guests to dress up in suit­ably retro style and you have the ingre­di­ents for a par­ty on a slight­ly dark and deca­dent side. For extra impact, set the event in the fad­ed glam­our of Hornsey Town Hall, a grand Mod­ernist build­ing, moth­balled for a num­ber of years and now tem­porar­i­ly back in active ser­vice as an arts venue. This unique event, named Deco­Danse, is the cre­ation of Sharon Robin­son, and it is hap­pen­ing as part of Crouch End Fes­ti­val which runs from the 5th to 14th of June. The occa­sion promis­es to be grown-up and divine­ly deca­dent, round­ing off the final Fes­ti­val week­end in style. Tick­ets are avail­able at the bot­tom of the page.

I’m not sur­prised Sharon has dreamed up this extrav­a­gan­za as she’s a foun­tain of ideas. Men­tion to her a vague plan you’ve had for an event – any event –  and you can almost see her mind click and whirr into action as ideas tum­ble out, one more fan­ci­ful than the next. Only they’re not pure­ly fan­ta­sy as she’ll whizz into action and make it hap­pen. I asked Sharon about her influ­ences, and what lead to the cre­ation of such an imag­i­na­tive occasion:

For Crouch End Fes­ti­val 2014, you organ­ised a lit­er­ary event – was that the cat­a­lyst for DecoDanse?
Yes. I real­ly enjoyed organ­is­ing the Clock­tow­er Desert Island Book event which I’m repeat­ing this year as part of a lit­er­ary day on Tues­day 9 June (details will be up on the Crouch End Fes­ti­val web­site soon). I got chat­ting in the pub after the first Fes­ti­val meet­ing for this year and the idea for doing a Steampunk/Cabaret event was born. I think all the best ideas start off as con­ver­sa­tions in a pub!
Sharon Robinson
Sharon Robin­son

How did you get involved?  Since vol­un­teer­ing with Crouch End Fes­ti­val last year I’ve met many inter­est­ing local writ­ers, artists, musi­cians, café and venue own­ers, and of course the fes­ti­val direc­tors and vol­un­teers. My back­ground is in com­mu­ni­ca­tions and I’ve organ­ised con­fer­ences and events – deal­ing with politi­cians, authors and com­men­ta­tors. But I’ve nev­er put on a cabaret or music event before. And the love­ly peo­ple at the Hornsey Town Hall Arts Cen­tre where Deco­Danse is being held are super supportive.

Do you go to a lot of events around Lon­don?  I love immer­sive the­atre – Punch­drunk is a favourite. I saw an adap­ta­tion of Philip Pull­man’s Grimm Tales for Young and Old which I thor­ough­ly rec­om­mend and am soon off to see Alice’s Adven­tures Under­ground at the Water­loo Vaults.
There are so many strange and inter­est­ing things to do around Lon­don. I’m try­ing to improve my draw­ing at the moment and go to life draw­ing class­es at the Exo­tique Draw­ing Salon http://www.exotiquesalon.com/ in Shored­itch where famous bur­lesque artists often mod­el. I’ve also learnt a lot about the unusu­al and hid­den his­to­ries of Lon­don at the month­ly Salon for the City http://salonforthecity.blogspot.co.uk/ at the West­min­ster Arts Library. I go to a lot of cabaret – Lon­don Won­der­ground at South Bank, House of Bur­lesque, La Soirée, Black Cat Cabaret, the Boom and Bang Cir­cus and Late Night Shop Cabaret.
Of course Gourmet Gigs wants to know about your musi­cal influences…
Well due to my mum, I’m a big fan of Ray Davies and the Kinks who have their roots in North Lon­don. David Bowie obvi­ous­ly, but I think he is for most peo­ple. And 70s Roxy Music. I recent­ly met Bri­an May from Queen and was lost for words in the pres­ence of a gui­tar legend.
I was quite young when punk start­ed but remem­ber being fas­ci­nat­ed – espe­cial­ly after the Sex Pis­tols swear­ing on Bill Grundy’s Today show (with an ear­ly appear­ance from Siouxsie Sioux though I did­n’t know it at the time). But I’m real­ly a post-punk girl and still main­tain that 1978/79 were the best years for music! Even though the music indus­try was very sex­ist back then, there were some real­ly strong female role mod­els around – Pat­ti Smith, The Slits, Poly Styrene from X‑Ray Specs, Kate Bush, Pauline Black of The Selec­tor, Chrissie Hyn­de, Deb­bie Har­ry and of course Siouxsie. Lat­er on I got into New Roman­tic, goth and Indie music and was obsessed with David Syl­vian and Japan for a while. Oh and I had a rave phase in the 1990s! Though my taste in music is now huge­ly diverse, those ear­ly influ­ences have stayed with me.
What floats your boat at the moment?   I’m into all things goth­ic. A recent hor­ror film course I took has fur­ther spurred my inter­est. I love ear­ly silent movies such as Metrop­o­lis, Dr Mabuse, The Cab­i­net of Dr Cali­gari and Nos­fer­atu (who inci­den­tal­ly is putting in an appear­ance at Deco­Danse cour­tesy of Arran Shurv­in­ton) and my favourite book is The Bloody Cham­ber – fem­i­nist goth­ic fairy­tales by Angela Carter. I like the graph­ic nov­els of Neil Gaiman and also Alan Moore, which led me on to dis­cov­er­ing Steam­punk lit­er­a­ture and I start­ed attend­ing Steam­punk events to see my favourite chap hop stars Pro­fes­sor Ele­men­tal and Mr B the Gen­tle­man Rhymer. I’ve been stand­ing on the periph­ery of the Steam­punk scene for a while now but have decid­ed to jump right in and become more active.
As Deco­Danse is being held in an art deco build­ing and due to my love of 1920s flap­per fash­ions, Tama­ra de Lem­pick­a’s art and Weimar Cabaret – the obvi­ous theme that emerged was fusion Steam­punk and Art Deco. A lit­tle research revealed that Decop­unk already exist­ed! A sleek­er and chrome-plat­ed ver­sion of Dieselpunk. And it also give me the excuse to add Elec­troswing to the pro­gramme (a fusion of jazz age and 40’s swing tunes with elec­tron­ic dance music). There’s a lot of crossover between cabaret, Steam­punk and elec­troswing – it real­ly is a win­ning combination.
Can you reveal one or two acts on the line­up at Deco­Danse who you are extra thrilled about?
We have such a tremen­dous line-up that it’s impos­si­ble to sin­gle any­one out. I have to give a big shout out to Miss Von Trapp who was instru­men­tal in get­ting all the acts on board. It’s also great that Fay from the Mys­te­ri­ous Freak­show grew up here as did Mel Had­land from The Cop­per­field Ensem­ble Project. And Robin Steven­son, who runs the café at Hornsey Library and is a very tal­ent­ed artist, will be DJing and organ­is­ing Tea Duelling competitions.
We’re lucky enough to have the gin-drink­ing dar­ling of dark cabaret, Joe Black as our spe­cial guest. Anoth­er star of the show is the venue itself, The Town Hall which is being restored by the Hornsey Town Hall Arts Cen­tre and being brought back into com­mu­ni­ty use. Deco­Danse is going to be so much fun. I real­ly can’t wait!
Deco­Danse is part of the Crouch End Fes­ti­val, June 2015..
Sat­ur­day 13 June 7pm til late, Hornsey Town Hall
And if you’d like a pre­view of what’s in store, one of Deco­Danse’s stars, Miss Von Trapp will be per­form­ing with The Wat­tingers at Hornsey Town Hall on Sat­ur­day 2 May. Come along and sam­ple this intrigu­ing com­bi­na­tion of dark vaude­ville folk and steam­punk slaugh­ter­house blues:

One thought on “Steampunk bands, Electroswing and Goth DJs: Sharon Robinson’s vision for Crouch End Festival

  1. Reblogged this on minx­thinx and commented:
    A great post about the forth­com­ing cabaret event I’m organ­is­ing for the Crouch End Fes­ti­val from Gourmet Gigs

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