Burlesque festivals are threatened around the world, and the most recent of those to suffer was the London Burlesque Festival which went ahead in May despite losing its major sponsor. Like many other city based burlesque festivals, it’s a huge event, with more than 120 artists taking part, 3,500 tickets on offer and three venues in London.

London Burlesque Festival

So why did it struggle to happen in 2017? Mark Henderson (aka Chaz Royal) the founder of the festival says that Brexit has had a substantial effect on festival attendance because people say they can’t afford London prices and he’s also had emails from people who are less willing to want to go out and spend money until they know how Brexit will affect them. The LBF Kickstarter campaign covered much of the costs but after last year’s festival was affected by being hacked and having its website redirect to pornography, the future of the festival is in some doubt.


Being disowned for burlesque


For most of us, at least in the UK, burlesque is a light-hearted, life-affirming activity or hobby, we buy a gorgeous burlesque costume, we take a few classes, we watch seasoned performers and we feel great. However that’s not true everywhere and in America a series of articles and blog posts has pointed out that while burlesque is a fantastic life for those at the top of the tree, for amateur performers it can be an activity that causes them to be judged and condemned. A San Francisco drama teacher who took up burlesque dancing was told that she could no longer work with children and yet this is a country where most people watch gritty reality TV and are happy to buy tickets for the very burlesque events that they condemn family members for taking part in. Hypocrisy? Well maybe, but it’s a very American response to the challenges of burlesque.


How can we support burlesque?


Actually, burlesque is pretty safe as it’s always been a satirical and irreverent response to circumstances and the more challenging those circumstances become, the more likely burlesque is to thrive. However, for top flight burlesque to be equally available to all, fans of burlesque can do a lot to help. Attending a large burlesque festival doesn’t just help support diversity in the art and give the opportunity for new performers to try out the big stage, it also helps us to hone our burlesque appreciation and develop new skills. Setting up a burlesque class in our own locality is the other end of the spectrum but it’s just as important - finding a small group of like-minded people can be a fantastic support to our own burlesque ambitions and organising a burlesque event can give us an amazing new experience. Setting up a burlesque troupe might even be in our future - and you’d be amazed how cheaply you can costume your burlesque performers!


All these activities give burlesque a robust local basis that can reach up to support the international burlesque landscape as well as giving us a lot of pleasure.