I was quite intrigued when we were invited to Storyville, an event organised by the Nightjar bar. I was even more intrigued by the theme and dress code, “a hot-blooded tribute to New Orleans” and Bordello Chic, respectively. Storyville was the name given to the red light district operating in New Orleans between 1897-1917, so I was expecting a certain amount of debauchery - think America’s answer to Bohemian Monmartre with added creole, voodoo and a few southern belles thrown in.
The dress code was going to be a bit of a problem. You see, I’ve just moved house (I’ll be posting later on my new abode, the architecture round here is so beautiful it needs its own post) and as such only had one dress at my new flat. Luckily, it was a handmade 1930s day dress in a wonderful ditsy-printed lime green artificial silk, so I thought I may be able to get away with it.
The odd fan pose is due to the big blue ink stamp on my arm
(I think I confused the doorman by wearing gloves)
Anyway, back to the event. The venue (Factory 7 in Shoreditch) was very well decorated, with ivy-draped street signs, two opulent four poster beds, atmospheric lighting in reds and greens as well as three bars (one of which was a dedicated to the green fairy). One original element I really liked was the presence of the actors and performers walking around the venue. More impressively, most of these vagrants, madams and courtesans had hidden talents; among them a breakdancer, an opera singer, and aerial and fire artists.
I had a quick chat with Natalie Fern who was the costume designer responsible for dressing these performers. Based in Manchester, Natalie sourced a lot of the costumes from the Royal Exchange. She had to adapt some of the looks, particularly the prostitutes, to fit in more with the modern expectations of what a courtesan should look like. She talked of how voodoo was also an influence, as were the performers’ particular skills; with the fire act wearing blacks and reds, and the aerialist looking ethereal in white.
Natalie also spoke of how she found it difficult dressing the men due the fact that changes in men’s fashions throughout the 20th century were rather subtle - the width of a lapel or the size of the turn-ups perhaps altering the look by decades. She wanted to make the ‘Gentleman Jack’ figure to look slightly more roguish to differentiate him from your ordinary seersucker clad southern gentleman. It was refreshing to hear that most of her inspiration came from google (and also an unlikely source in ‘The Princess and the Frog’).
Beforehand, I had seen that Swing Patrol would be there, but rather than a performance or lesson, I think they were just populating the dance floor (not that I minded - I got quite a few dances in Scott, thethe chap behind Swing Patrol who we interviewed last year).
Although £25 may seem a bit pricey, you were getting a lot for your money. The night ran from 7pm-4am and there seemed to be some form of entertainment for most of that time. Apart from the aforementioned wandering performers, there was a pianist, four bands (we were only able to stay long enough to see the brilliant Basin Street Brawlers– the joys of having to catch the last train) and a free tasting lesson over at the absinthe bar (courtesy of Enigma absinthe). We tried some of the Jambalaya (which was rather expensive and a little disappointing) and a couple of glasses of New Orleans punch (a refreshing cocktail of Southern Comfort, Ameretto, apple and rhubarb, root beer and nectarines) which although very tasty, could’ve done with being a little ‘punchier’.
It is an event I would definitely go to again, and hopefully be able to enjoy more before having to leave. I would say that if it were made slightly shorter to bring down the price, it may have been even more popular. I must add that I am indebted to my dear friend Caroline for accompanying me and providing some of the photos on here (she is the resident N’awlins expert of my friends).
|Caroline with our new friend Gentleman Jack|
Natalie Fern can be conatcted at Natalie.firstname.lastname@example.org