Timothy Grayson

An outspoken, philosophical, dark and meticulous poet, Timothy Grayson spends equal amounts of time between his home in the red light district of Leicester City and touring European dens of iniquity for 'artistic inspiration'. He is a member of the Decadent Romantics with Steven Silverman and Nathan Lunt, International Representative for the English Poetry Brothel, Literary Editor for FD2D Magazine, Cultural Ambassador for Leicester City and well known for his taste in archaic fashions (often sarcastically referring to Mr. Stephen Fry's praise of his Wilde-like collar as a particular highlight of his literary career).

"I enjoyed reading [The Infamous Nomadica: Part the First] and wish [Mr. Grayson] every success with [his] poetry" - His Grace the Duke of Marlborough

"[The Poetry Brothel] has an edge of the illicit, and it is a wonderful way to enliven the performance aspect of poetry" - Independent.

I drank, and felt the darkness flood
into my mouth; I tasted blood
as I trod on through ash and mud
to gaze upon the wall.

The words that once bled ancient doom
still pierced the veil of choking gloom
that crept, like mist, throughout the room
of Belshazzar’s great ball.

Before the Babel wine was sipped
our Lord did make this feast a crypt;
His mocking otherworldly script
still read “All empires fall.”

And to this wall, I took my pen
and scored a plea for better men:
"Great empires will still rise again
when great minds raise the call.”

T. Grayson

Ben Rogers is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of a great, contemporary lyricist.  His words can be read alone, without musical accompaniment, and yet still manage to remain truthful, jaded and poetic, as if an early Dylan got into a brawl with Tom Waits.  It is my firm belief that this man is one of the world’s finest unsung lyricists, peppering songs with lines such as ‘Whilst those who die for freedom are glorified, those guilty of survival, they don’t seem to mean a thing.’Here are two verses from one of my favourite tracks, the ever-melancholic ‘Easy Street’…

The poet felt more like a prophet, and spoke of a saviour that never came. He just wasted away, slinging ink on a page, tracing shadows of the brightest days, and he went down to the railroad tracks and on the hook that holds the mailbags that are never sent, he tied a slipknot in the ribbon of his typewriter and put it round his neck, and placed a letter in the bag with no address and it said ‘I’m an open book, but there’s no words on the sheet. I’m tired of living with the bums of Easy Street.’

Gypsy boy rides past on a three-speed, with tarot cards snapping in his spokes. He says “I’ll read your palms for no charge at all, if you could just spare a couple of smokes”, and I say “It seems like every time you need a cigarette, everyone else is always on their last one.”  So I take some nicotine and I twist us both a dream and say “Here you go my son. You can read my palms if you like, but don’t tell me what you see. I know I’ll always be a bum of Easy Street.”

In this great age of turbulence
there is a goal for which we strive
and when we see a thing in need,
the order is to stay alive -

but at what cost?  Another’s health?
Would we forsake our honour thus?
Does death breed fear, or fear bring death
when life’s last hope depends on us?

Yet, words are cold; such icy winds
have whipped from many mouths before,
but not this day!  Today, we know
such hollow vows will reign no more.

And if we die (for die we may),
we have not lived to die in vain;
we stood beside our fellow Man
and died so they could live - again.

Then, live or die, our legacy
will slowly move from town to field
and one day, they may think of us
when they decide to raise their shield.

T. Grayson

— Susan Sontag, Against intepretation 1964
Here is a recent exchange I had with Franco Milazzo (History graduate, writer, journalist and member of 'The Peacock Lounge' burlesque group on Facebook) a couple of weeks after posting my latest 'Burlesque' article on their wall. Emmanuelle Claire, who appears at the end of this exchange, is a professional burlesque dancer and nominee for the Best Newcomer Crown at the 2012 World Burlesque Games.
Franco Milazzo: Wow. So much to take issue with and so little genuinely worth reading. Who is this "small proportion of this country's population" of which you speak and how are they firing upon burlesque?
Tim Grayson: It's actually a large proportion of this country's population, but I aways prefer to downplay the situation so as not to appear sensationalist. I explain how they're 'firing upon burlesque' within the article, but of course you'll have taken note of this, if only to come to the conclusion that there's 'so little geniunely worth reading'. I'm not going to repeat myself.
Franco Milazzo: Have read it through three times and still not any evidence (e.g. quotes) how anyone, least of all any sized proportion of the population, is firing upon burlesque as such. For someone seeking not to appear sensationalist, that's quite a claim to make without backing it up.
You lean heavily on what you understand to be "the public perception of burlesque" yet (again) provide no facts, figures, links or studies to back this up leading one to wonder if the public really do think that way, whether you are repeating the obvious ("all straight males actively enjoy seeing women with barely any clothes on"...really?) or whether you are projecting your own thoughts under the guise of "public perception".
Worst of all, you cite Salome but completely ignore that the heart (and history) of burlesque lies in parody, subverting the norm, laughing in society's face and telling them where they can shove their public perceptions. That's the difference between stripping and burlesque, in my humble opinion.
Tim Grayson: The thing I find most amusing about this whole situation is that, when I posted this in arts forums not specific to burlesque, the reactions I got (and I did get a lot) were complete opposites to yours - they were coming from the "how could anyone think it's not simply stripping" angle, and 'fired' on me for claiming it's anything but. Now someone belonging to a group which, I must say, represents the institution I aim to stick up for, claims that I need to cite references from people I speak with and hear from every day - in my own article!
Let me be clear, first and foremost, that you are in no position to tell me how to structure an article. Citing quotations from members of the public would serve only to detract from the overall message - ths isn't an essay, and I'm not going to justify my claims to you as they are accurate to my experiences. If you disagree, no-one's stopping you from writing a contrasting article, using your own experiences as fodder.
As for mentioning the parody-element of burlesque, that's actually a good point...and it's true that the history of the art is tied into this, but to claim that the heart of neo-burlesque sits solely in 'parody' negates all the external influences contemporary burlesque dancers are harnessing and is such a Wikipedia-generation answer that it really is quite laughable.
In summary, I wasn't trying to give a complete account of the history - there are books for that kind of thing - I was writing an opinion piece to make an educated statement based on a proportion of public opinions of burlesque. If you don't like it, write your own.
Franco Milazzo: So "public perception" = "people on an art forum". It would be lazy (and sensationalist) of me to suggest that some "real" arts people may be snobby towards burlesque, so I won't...
Two clarifications needed - the first is that I don't belong to the burlesque group (if there is such a thing, and I sincerely doubt it). I'm a huge fan of the scene and I agree with you that the influx of new blood is not necessarily a good thing per se but these are the growing pains of any new branch of the entertainment industry.
Second, let me be clear that, first and foremost, I am in every position to tell you how to structure an article. As well as a degree in History, I am a writer and journalist. If you don't back up your claims, you're no more worth reading than the Daily Star. Pointing to "public perception" relies on us understanding which members of the public you are referring to. In this case, it seems to be members of an arts forum and the other fiery people that Tim Grayson bumps into. Hardly scientific.
Oh, and as for writing a contrasting article on the subject of burlesque- I have done, lots of. Here's the latest for example - [includes link to the review of a local burlesque night on 'The Londonist' web-zine]
Tim Grayson: I am very happy for your degree in history and that you describe yourself as writer and journalist. As for my own background, I am the Literary Editor for an Arts & Culture organisation, Cultural Ambassador for Leicester City and Lecturer at the University of Leicester & New Walk Museum. I have also written for a number of national publications and been published on both sides of the Atlantic.
This said, I do not wish to get into an online flaming war or pissing contest over who's done what, so I will leave this thread after this post, but in the article I did say 'small' proportion of the population...it is only after being asked to clarify that I said 'large' because - in my experiences - most people outside of burlesque circles look upon burlesque in this light. Again, this is in my experiences; I didn't want to quote random members of the public as I thought it would detract from the over-all message. Perhaps I'll put thought into reconsidering this in future.
I congratulate you on your article in the Londonist and sincerely hope you have repeated success in your future endeavors. It's a shame we don't see eye to eye on this matter but I don't hold anything against you. As you've probably figured out, I'm also very opinionated, but I respect others who share a similar stance.
Emmanuelle Claire: I found it a very interesting read and perception of the art. I personally believe there are quite a few other factors which seperate a club stripper from a burlesque stripper other than the creativity of the strip. I personally find some overly creative burlesque performances to be rather boring and missing the tease element of burlesque. Some of the greatest critically acclaimed burlesque performance dance in a way that it is almost entirely about the strip, for example Dita Von Teese is very much about getting her audience to anticipate the reveal rather than a focus on dance or creativity and Dirty Martini performs with a dirty bump and grind raunch but is unquestionably one of the best in burlesque. There are many celebrated burlesque dancers that come from strip joint, sex worker backgrounds. Burlesque is the censorised vintage version of modern striptease which is now more explicit, though you will find that the creative themes and dance is more apparent in modern burlesque than in a lot of the period performances. Also although burlesque performance attracts female performers, there is now a growing demand if not higher demand for male boylesque performers. There are a couple of good books on the politics and history of burlesque which explain in a lot of detail a lot better than i can, I will try any find links. I do find your point of view very interesting though :) x
Tim Grayson: Thank you Emmanuelle for this eloquent, informed critique. I look forward to the links :) x

The art of burlesque, in all its majestic complexity, is currently under fire from a small proportion of this country’s population.  They believe burlesque dancers and strippers to be one and the same, that strippers remove their clothes under the guise of a dance for the enjoyment of paying strangers, and ask the difference between this and the art of burlesque.  It is a question which has fascinated me from the first time I set foot in a darkened establishment to watch my first burlesque performance: is there a difference – and why should we care?

To explore this, I’d like to draw reference from historical and contemporary examples in accordance with the public’s perception of scantily clad women.  I think I’m safe to say that all straight males actively enjoy seeing women with barely any clothes on.  I remember hearing a story of fin-de-siècle Paris, when married men used to go to the circus – sometimes with their wives, other times with friends – as an excuse to see the performers wearing skin-tight clothes, or very little.  The modern perception of burlesque has a similar feel; the punter wants to invite people to watch it with them as it’s usually in a safe environment and can be very entertaining, but (as far as the average person is aware) it’s often still women taking their clothes off.

A lot of these preconceptions can have their blame laid upon amateur burlesque.  I’ve been to a number of shows where the emphasis of certain acts has been heavily on the ‘strip’ and far less on the ‘show’.  I recently attended The Peacock Lounge, a delightfully decadent soiree where the vast proportion of girls were exceptional, but a few of those less experienced seemed to share this ‘more strip than show’ mentality; I noticed that those who simply stripped with little charm or flair received the smallest amount of audience reaction, whereas the ones who actually had an act (and by act I don’t mean a silly backstory or different outfit) received well-deserved adulation.

I understand that burlesque needs new blood, but it seems that a lot of amateurs are getting involved just to strip in front of an audience without the seedy connotations of being a stripper.  This may be for a number of reasons, the most obvious being an element of empowerment and that of improved confidence, but it is my firm belief that simply stripping down to pasties (nipple tassels) and pants to music doesn’t make you a burlesque dancer – it makes you a girl who has stripped. 

The public’s perception of burlesque rests heavily upon the performer, as with every performance-based art, so if they just see a girl stripping as their one and only experience of burlesque, they’ll believe this is all burlesque has to offer.  Luckily, there are many diamonds in the rough who dedicate a lot of time into honing their acts, and do so wonderfully.  I’ve seen some acts when the performer has been so entrancing, so bewitching, that I’ve been totally and irrevocably transfixed to the stage until they walk off - or the red curtain finally falls.  The vast majority of these times, the girls have stripped, but they’ve done it so beautifully, so effortlessly, that you don’t notice or care; the only thing you do care about being the inherent beauty in the dance before you – a dance so delightful that it requests your utmost, unashamed attention.

I care about this art form because, in my experience, burlesque dances have the potential to be quite transcendental (see Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils for the most famous historical example), but with the popularity of the art soaring, its reputation will continue to rest on the shoulders of the amateurs (for it is them the public will likely first encounter) unless more professionals start to host their own shows, educational talks and training programmes.  Only then will burlesque come to be publicly recognised as a structured, adult performance art - and not simply stripping by another name.

This potent document offers advice, encouragement and the tools - building upon the guiding principles of Brothellian Ideology - to achieve your creative ambitions.

"Ultimately, we envisage a society where the quill or the sketchbook holds as much sexual potency as the electric guitar; where the illustrator or poet is as much of a sex symbol as the rock star."

Conceived by Timothy Grayson & Steven Silverman of the English Brothellian Movement, the Brothellian Manifesto was written and edited during the tumultuous year of global revolution (2011). This truly is a product for our time; a lewd body of practical advice for the modern working artist.

US Customers can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Brothellian-Manifesto-The-ebook/dp/B006XXX3OS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326715884&sr=8-1

UK Customers can buy it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brothellian-Manifesto-The-ebook/dp/B006XXX3OS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326715934&sr=8-1

Customers from the EU, please visit your local Amazon website and search for ‘Brothellian Manifesto’.

I wrote the following in response to this article in the Telegraph, in which David Hockney states his disapproval of artists (such as Damien Hirst) employing craftsmen to help construct their work:

True, to an extent. I despise Hirst and hate to make this comparison, but great sculptors and architects of antiquity often had help, and yet we only remember the artist’s name. Why? Because it is them who drew the plan, them who spent time developing the idea, and them who employed the craftsmen to help bring their vision to life. If Hockney’s going to pick on Hirst’s work, at least make it for a noble cause - such as it’s lack of artistic merit - as I think stating such a shallow reason only highlights his need to do basic research. The difference between those great artists and Hirst is that if Hirst were to employ twenty skilled craftsmen to enact HIS vision, they’d still struggle to create a work of great art.

Leicester City, England. 

TUESDAY LECTURES (7th, 14th 21st & 28th February 2012)
11:00 - 12:00

Cultural Ambassador Timothy Grayson will be hosting a series of public lectures (in partnership with his private series at the University of Leicester) to unite artistic dissidents and illuminate the teachings of the Brothellian Movement.

The import and necessity of taste wll be covered, as will historical and contemporary methodology, discussing aesthetic principles and an exploration of the three tenets of great art (as clarified in the Brothellian Manifesto - co-created with Steven Silverman). Each lecture is structured to include audience participation, so attendees are encouraged to think for themselves, make notes and speak up during discussions.

Guest appearances will include speeches and/or discussions with various creative experts from a range of fields - not just artistic! Perfect for creative and philosophic minds, especially those interested in igniting the fires of a new cultural renaissance.

Lectures: £5.00 / Student: £3.00. 


Timothy Grayson will also be hosting a Brothellian Masterclass following each lecture - subject to demand - developed during his US tour and tailored especially for patrons of New Walk Museum. During this time, participants will be given the definitive chance to explore the teachings of the Brothellian Manifesto in depth with meticulous discussion and a wide range of practical techniques. 

Each attendee will aso be awarded with a certificate to prove they have been given a solid introduction to the Brothellian ideal. Please note, these certificates are LIMITED EDITION and will ONLY be available for attendees of Timothy Grayson’s ‘Brothellian Masterclass’ at New Walk Museum.

Masterclass: £10.00 / Student: £8.00.

NYM event listing: http://www.leicester.gov.uk/your-council-services/lc/leicester-city-museums/events/museumsevents/february2012/

Facebook event listing: http://www.facebook.com/events/350018091681939/

— taken from The Honours of Mortality, Alice Meynell.