Lost on Trial with Howard Marks, The Sex Workers’ Opera and grime MC Prince Rapid

If any of you had known me during my raucous youth, it might surprise you that last week was the first time I’d received a court summons. Ok, you caught me red-handed [har har]; I’m not half as bad-ass as I like to /hyperbolically make myself sound from time to time. In fact this was the tamest of summons; it was to Lost on Trial, the latest edition in the Lost Lectures series (read my reviews of their previous events here, here and here).

The Lost Lectures are a series of talks held in secret locations. There’s a theme each time, and the subjects and venue are brought together. I think my favourite was Lost at Sea, a maritime adventure themed evening held in a lighthouse in East London. We sat on rubber rings, ate street food and listened to adventurers and marine biologists, it was all terribly hip. It takes interest and intrigue down from the upper echelons and lofty lecture halls and spreads ideas far and wide. And this time, I was lucky enough to go to both nights (bit keen, I know; but perhaps you underestimate the depths of my geekery).

So on both nights, a few hundred jurors piled into the courtroom to pass judgement on six speakers, including…

 

Howard Marks

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What a guy. I’m staunchly anti-drugs (homely bore that I am), but it’s testament to his charisma that I was eating out of the palm of his hand for the entire night. Having spent a significant chunk of his life incarcerated for running the biggest drugs ring ever, he now campaigns (perhaps unsurprisingly, considering so many of his chums remain behind lock and key) for the legalisation of cannabis.

So seriously does he take his campaigning (or so not-seriously does he take politics), that he stood for parliament in four separate constituencies simultaneously, har har. “Obviously I didn’t get in,” he said. “I mean, have you ever tried getting a bunch of stoners to even register to vote? What the fuck would I have done if I’d got in, anyway; skin up during Question Time? Trip balls at the House of Lords and have it turn into a perpetual rave?”

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Undeterred from not being voted in in any of his constituencies, he applied for the position of Tony Blair’s Drugs Csar, ‘to eradicate illegal drug trafficking in the UK’. “Well I could do that in a single fucking second,” he said. “Just make them all legal.” He ran us through each of the role’s requirements and although not in the expected sense, he fit right in (I think there’s a metaphor for his wider existence in that, but let’s not get too pretentious).

  • Ability to converse with young people? Check
  • Experience running a large organisation? Check
  • Reputation in the drugs industry? Check, check and check mate.

 

The Sex Workers’ Opera

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Well hello ladies! I ran into two scantily clad and not-so-scantily made up women in the toilets during the end of one of the presentations and they were clearly just loving life, prancing around and shaking that thing.

For obvious reasons, only half of the Sex Workers’ Opera are actually sex workers, and they don’t tell you who’s who. Anni and I had a guess, and I’m pretty sure the one I developed a big gay crush on was one. During the interval, they got up on stage and made full use of the backlit canopy, doing the sexiest shadow dance ever. It was actually better than their rehearsed performance to be honest.

I was all over the idea; challenging preconceptions about sex workers, throwing in a little bit of feminism for good measure. Unfortunately, something didn’t quite come together in the message, and it seemed at times to trivialize the darker, much more prominent side of the sex worker industry.

But hey, who doesn’t love it when ladies own that.

 

Some narrow-minded comedienne

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The guys at the Lost Lectures arrange an awesome panoply of progressive minds with every event, but I’ve gotta admit I don’t love absolutely every speaker every time. I’m not entirely sure what one of the speakers was actually talking about (allegedly her charity, but even that had to do with being ‘on trial’). She spent most of the time passing some pretty clichéd, not-backed up political opinion – the kind of thing I would have thoughtlessly spouted as a teenager – and then refusing to answer any questions that were against her politics. Bit cringe.

 

Ewen Spencer and Prince Rapid, joined by Dirty Danger and Roachee

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I wasn’t sure what to expect with these guys. I’m a big fan of near-mainstream grime (meaning I listen to a lot of BBK) but couldn’t tell you about the up-and-coming names. Plus I’m aware I’m fairly middle class, so I try not to be too ‘rah’ about the whole thing, which I’m pretty sure I fail at.

They started with going through Ewen Spencer’s long, long coverage of the garage and grime scenes. He’s put together a couple of photography books and a documentary, Brandy & Coke, which I’m desperate to get my eyes on – I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing a couple of bits of his work…

'They take you back to the real thing' … a shot from UKG, a photo book about the UK garage scene by

ewen spencer2

So with Dirty Danger and Roachee, Prince Rapid played an anatomical analysis of his new track, Pepper Riddim. He started with the drums, adding various sounds one after the other. It was intense to see the way each sound brings something new to the final song, and I was loving it by the end. Check out the rest of his stuff on iTunes here, and follow the boys out on Twitter: Prince Rapid, Dirty Danger, and Roachee.

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