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Hussey attends the Fest of Japanese Rope Bondage


[Image: 'Nawashi Murakawa's Salon of Kinbaku' by Armando]


Why in adult life do I occasionally regret not having joined the Scouts? Dank church halls, dribbly children and Arkela out to feel your woggle. When exactly would you regret missing that? I'll tell you when. When the woman you are with gives you a cheeky look in bed before getting up to fetch one of your ties from the wardrobe. What can you say as she holds her hands behind her back? 'Darling I never got my knot tying badge and in truth can barely tie my shoe. I've got this problem with left and right. I tell everyone it's a sign of high IQ but it's probably just spackiness.' No you can't say that. You smile rigidly and then attempt the total and embarrassing sham, failing to execute any kind of knot till eventually it descends into a diplomatic cuddle.

It was this kind of failure in mind that I decided to visit the London Festival of Japanese Rope Bondage. Held in the Resistance Gallery over four days last week, the festival was a celebration of this artistic and highly visual form of 'rope play'. I had never attended a fetish event of any kind and was curious as hell to see what I would find. However on the walk from the bus stop I got more and more nervous, my sense of liberal adventure dissolving with every step. Worse still when I arrived there was a very ancient gent hovering outside. He looked like every stereotype going - dressed in black, camera around his neck, a certain twinkle in his rheumy eye. Most worryingly a dark, leather briefcase dangled from one hand.

'Is this the bondage event?' he asked the young woman who opened the door. He went into the dark space beyond and despite all my pretence of cosmopolitan attitude I stood there and thought do I really want to follow him? Once inside he would certainly produce all sorts of horrors from that bag. I pictured him waving a vast, wobbly double ender in one hand and stropping himself crazily with the other. Eventually though I calmed down and went in.

What I found inside was fascinating. Pictures of tied up women lined the walls, roped up dummies swung from the ceiling and at the front a very normal looking man was standing on stage holding up a rope.


[Images: 'Festishista' by Armando / 'Bonded Arms' by Jamie McCarthy / 'Bondage Chair' by Ben Newman / 'Shibari 1' by Finlay Cowan]

'Can everyone do a basic wrist cuff?' The crowd collectively shook its head. This evidently was the day of workshops I had come for. The festival had kicked off with gallery showings and demonstrations but Saturday was bondage for beginners. Just what I needed. The problem was my rope partner for the day, RR's lovely fashion blogger Naomi Thompson was late. I couldn't believe I had managed to rope her into it (a ha!) so I couldn't complain. So after attempting a few lonesome slipknots I decided to look around.

I inspected those pictures on the walls, pert models covered in spidery, symmetrical ropes. Saucy yes but with an undeniable, rather serious aesthetic of their own. After that I inspected the crowd. Less pert, less symmetrical but what a mixture! Old, young, cool, square, fat, thin, couples, gay, disabled all merrily wrapping each other up and laughing when they got it wrong. It was all rather civilised if not quite sanitised. Occasionally the couples delivered furtive pats, there was a certain charge in the air. It made me realise what an intimate, co-operative affair bondage has to be but it was never in your face.

That is until I went into the back yard. La Thompson still hadn't arrived so I decided to buy a cool beer from the bar and get some air. I ducked through a door at the back of the gallery digging in man-bag to get at my phone. A text had just arrived.

It was Thompson. 'What does one wear to a bondage class?' it said. 'I don't know!' I thumbed back then looked up. The small yard was lined with smokers, their heads turned to the back of the walled space where a frame stood, a metal hook hanging from it. Everyone was silent and the only noise was that of a scratching pencil. A man was sketching the scene. Under the hook was a young , entirely naked woman. She had jet black hair and was chatting away to the wiry fellow who was busily running cord around her hips.

My nice boy training kicked in and somewhat ludicrously I turned my back. After a while though I felt bloody stupid and turned round. Everyone else was looking and gawking was obviously expected. I turned back to find the young lady suspended in the air with her legs forked and a peaceful look on her face.

This, it turned out, was entirely normal. A queue formed, people throwing off robes and being trussed up by expert hands. One young woman even tied herself up. She was a 'self-suspender' she told me as I watched her heave herself into the air. I noticed she had a lot of bruises on her legs.

'Is that from bondage?' I asked.

'No.' she told me, gently swinging from side to side. 'From moving furniture.'

I gazed on until I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard the immortal words 'I've just been to Matalan to buy this outfit. It was upsetting.' Thompson had arrived.

We wondered around. Thompson gamely talked to a number of the punters, one pink haired lady telling her 'rope was a beautiful experience.' Well we thought let's have a go. Readers I tried but I failed so in the end we asked the man who had been taking the class to step in. Zamil has a reputation as 'the best in the West' , that is a man who is even respected in Japan as a master of the rope. When we asked him if he could tie Naomi up he smiled and took her by the hand, leading her to the front of the gallery where he sat her down and asked if she had ever been tied up before. She said no, clearly fibbing. However I doubt if she has experienced anything like what happened next. Master Zamil got up and came back with a vast number of ropes and set about turning Naomi into a living work of art. A crowd formed as rope after rope went on.


[Images: 'La Thompson' by Patrick Hussey]

Eventually the process was finished and Thompson was left looking like a cross between a Henry Moore and a Sunday joint.

After the ropes came off we headed for the back yard again and sat around talking to people. Yes there was nudity, yes there were some extraordinary conversations going on but it all felt remarkably normal by then. Indeed I even had a chat with the very man I'd seen outside, the gent in black. When he opened his bag at one point and I held my breath, but he produced nothing more sinister than sandwiches. After a few more beers and a few more conversations I decided everyone was remarkably normal, they just liked being tied up and shortly after that it was time to leave. Another class had started, a more advanced class and later was the after party, 'The Night of the Rope.' I wasn't sure I was ready for either to be honest. Still all in all it was a fascinating experience and almost certainly a lot less pervy than the Scouts.


[Images: courtesy of Bobette from londonfetishscene.com]


[Images: courtesy of Bobette from londonfetishscene.com]

For more information on Zamil and Kinbaku click here

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