Scene from the Sofa – Five minutes with… Spice

Graham Robson April 11, 2020

Before Conchita there was Spice! This gender discombobulator sings a wide range of styles, specialising in divas and showtunes, and is a colossal talent in more ways than one! Here, the original bearded lady talks to Graham Robson about taking Spice online, keeping well during lockdown, and celebrating Pride in 2020…

Hey Spice, how’s tricks? 

I’ve done quite a few live performances. Living in Lanzarote, we went into lockdown about a week before the UK and when we did it was quick and it was strict. Within a couple of days I decided to get online and try to bring people together, so I came up with my viral pub quiz Fact Hunt. It’s now become a regular Friday evening event and between the planning and execution it fills a couple of my days quite nicely! I also presented Spice Takes the Bins Out. I figured if people were bored enough they’d watch it. And so far about a thousand people have – that’s bonkers!

How’s it gone down?

The response has been really wonderful. I only really expected a few friends to join in, but we have people viewing live from all over the world, and my first quiz has been viewed over 1,000 times. It just goes to show how bored people actually are! Seriously though, I like the quiz because it’s interactive. The feed scrolls past and people are chatting to each other, sharing clues and saying hi. We even have people teaming up who are geography apart using WhatsApp video calling… that’s what I wanted. It’s not about people just passively watching me on a screen, we have telly for that, but about feeling part of something social. The response has been positive and quite overwhelming.

How does it compare to performing to a sea of faces? 

The main difference is that there is no live audience, but I’ve never really liked being amongst the general public, so that’s a bonus (jokes!). Seriously though, losing that instant reaction is a bit jarring at first. To finish a song to no applause feels weird, although I’m sure a lot of Queens in Brighton are used to it (jokes again!!). The real bonus has been having the time for genuine interaction with those watching. And to be able to scroll back after the event and reply to comments. That’s been really nice.

Have you had the chance to indulge in other online performances?

So many! It seems to have taken off now, which is just marvellous. Loads of cabaret entertainers, both in the UK and in Lanzarote, have “gone live” so I won’t even try to list them all. What has been surprising is the response from those who don’t usually perform. Marc Edwards (aka Ruffles) has been doing make-up tutorials, Kevin Coyle (Mr Bearvert) teaches us how to cook, and a brand new queen Cherry Bomb hosts Blankety Blank! Billie Gold has been teaching us (and herself) to make banana bread whilst cracking out the 80s tunes. Absolute genius! My personal highlight has been Adam Brooks (Bedford Tavern) taking their infamous Sunday Piano Bingo online. He has somehow managed to recreate the madcap mayhem of the Bedford via Facebook live and it has been really popular. If you only watch one streaming event then this should be it! Contact Adam/Bedford Tavern in advance for your (free) bingo ticket!

Any tips to keep us occupied during lockdown?

Use technology to your advantage. Video call rather than text and play online games with friends and family. And if you are in a position to do so, check on those nearby to see if they need any help. If you can contribute in any way to someone else’s wellbeing then you will lift your own spirits as well as helping others. You can always use the time to learn a new skill. There are plenty of online resources for that and a lot are free. I’ve been learning to juggle. I’m still on balls (ahem!) but am hoping that once this is over I will have worked my way up to juggling knives, so watch this space. And probably don’t sit in the front row at my next show.

What are your plans for when this is all over?

The first thing I will be doing is heading to the beach. I feel the need for wide open space. After that, probably to the pub with everyone else. I’m sure there will be parties all over and I won’t be missing out on that!

We’re really going to miss Brighton & Hove Pride this year… 

It’s very sad but obviously necessary. We will miss the party, but there will be other parties. The real shame is that the funds usually raised through Pride and awarded to so many valuable organisations will not be there either. They will be hit hard and at the time when we need them the most. Perhaps we could go back to the old days of Winter Pride? For those old enough to remember, this was a week of fundraising events for various charities across all LGBTQ+ venues. Something for us all to think about once this is over. I would certainly support it!

Any words of wisdom to get us through?

Turn the news off. In this age of 24 hour rolling news it can become oppressive and overwhelming. Keep up to date once each day, then try and put it to the back of your mind. Do something fun and ridiculous – laugh, dance and sing. It’s impossible to be miserable if you’re dancing around the kitchen in your pants! On a serious note, if you are really struggling then there are people available to help. MindOut offer an online LGBTQ support service for anyone feeling stressed, isolated or uncertain. You can find them at Always remember – you might be on your own but you are not alone. I really want to wish everyone the very best. Stay safe, stay spicey, and stay the f*** at home!