Art and Culture
In response to Soho’s social, physical and cultural transformations over the last year, Madame Soho decided to recreate a fetish scene and shoot it in the heart of the area. As we trod through her humble streets with models Gary and Kat, we sparked a fire of mixed emotion, most of which was positive, but some of it, not so. Her tourists seemed excited by our project, but some of her new residents cast a condescending eye over us.
The gentrification that is spreading throughout Soho has led to many of her prolific and world renowned nightclubs being shut down. Madame Jojo’s, for instance was a hub spilling over with creativity and was favoured by members of London and the UK’s Trans and Fetish communities; two collectives that helped to radically redefine what society perceives as ‘normal’ in terms of gender, identity and ways of being, and two social groups that have played a key role in London’s fashion for decades.
So why are so many cultural hotspots being closed down throughout Soho?
One way of viewing it is that the foreign investors buying up chunks of Soho to sell off and rent out are not in the slightest bit interested in our real heritage. Some of the people who are moving into the area presumably want to be, amongst other things, a part of Soho’s cool, countercultural image, but are not really in touch with her historical and social significance.
One of our models, Gary explains his motivation for shooting the project: ‘I run a studio in Bethnal Green called the Resistance Gallery. We are part of a greater community of artists that cover a range of shows and events from caberet to fetish nights. I wanted to come and get involved in shooting this project to show my disdain for what has happened in Soho and other parts of London in the last year. Madame Jojo’s has been closed down, as well the Joiners Arms in Hackney, and other places across London. The problem with what they’re doing is that they’re just pushing us further out into the suburbs. Lot’s of people come into Soho to experience the different vibes, it’s diversity and different cultural events. It’s a real shame that all our rich culture is vanishing. That’s why I wanted to get involved. I wanted to participate in some direct action.’
We asked Gary’s girlfriend, Kat about her artistic interests and reasons for partaking in the shoot: ‘I studied fashion history at the University of San Francisco. That’s where I became interested in fetishism. Fetish looks and clothes go way back historically and I became fascinated with the whole thing. I’m an artist and I’m concerned about the way our society is going in terms of demonising certain groups of people. Thats partly why I wanted to do this shoot out in the open in Soho. To show people that we are still here, and we aren’t going anywhere.’
Soho’s unique, vibrant nightlife and artistic community is fading like the red lights in her houses. But with Gary, Kat and the hundreds of encouraging smiles and winks we recieved during the shoot, we managed to reclaim the spirit of Soho – even if it was just for one night.
Words by Ray Kinsella Photos by Ki Price
Models Gary and Kat