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Interview: Smoke Weed Eat Pussy Everyday

According to Shelter, child poverty is at a peak. It is estimated that at least 135,000 children in the UK spent last Christmas either homeless or in temporary accommodation with the figure rising to 320,000 when including adults. London has the highest rates of homelessness in the UK and the unpredictability and turmoil of the current political climate suggests this situation is unlikely to improve any time soon.  Writer and performer Chloë Florence became homeless at 17 and quickly discovered a world where she and her peers were treated like the lowest rungs of society. Denied a voice because no-one wanted to listen. Determined to tell her story of being an LGBTQ+ individual in an already oppressive environment, Chloe has written about her experience in the form of her one-woman show Smoke Weed Eat Pussy Everyday. Run-Riot caught up with Chloe to talk about the inspiration and challenges in her creative journey.

Kerenza: What was the inspiration behind Smoke Weed Eat Pussy Everyday? How much of your own life experience influenced Cassie, the protagonist? 
Chloe: Well, me and an ex-friend of mine used to joke that basically ‘smoke weed eat pussy everyday’ was my motto. Smoking Weed everyday and dating women was my entire motive (& identity) at the time. It’s what I lived for. It was the thing that she saw me as, that I hid behind, but there was a lot more going on behind that image. I also used to go out out a lot. 

Cassie is basically my Superhero that I created that came out of those experiences. Her story (and those like her) has influenced me so much - it’s a story I had to tell. My work is definitely inspired by my life but you’d have to see the show to really answer those questions. Ironically, I realised how much of a Political Statement making a show with this name was - the act of being a gay women shouldn’t be so radical (especially when men can be as crude as they like) and underclass voices shouldn’t be dictated by their stereotypes - so I’m here to reclaim that.

Kerenza: How do you define 'rave culture'? Are the widely-perceived dangers of, for example, excessive drug use exaggerated? 

Chloe: I mean a Rave literally means ‘A lively party that usually involves dancing and drinking’. So, pretty much any kind of party can be considered a ‘Rave’. Be that illegal warehouse forest raves or gay clubs.

Throughout time, ‘Raves’ have been seen as a ‘rebellious act’ as they have evolved from groups of people defying the system (often politically, which can include going against ‘the law’ of that land) - and when people think rebellion they think drugs. I know people that attend Raves across the Globe completely sober and have never taken explicit drugs. I know people who only go to Raves to take loads of drugs. I’ve known addicts. I’ve met casual hard drug takers who are CEOs of big companies. I think everyone is different so I can’t speak for everyone. I think everything in the media is exaggerated to some extent. And yes people can do lots of drugs at a Rave: depends on the person, depends on the Rave. But there's also higher drug use in places you wouldn’t expect. I think there needs to be more Education around drugs (& more safe spaces) - miseducation is where the danger is. Because people will do drugs no matter what laws are in place. Drugs might happen at Raves but Raves are deffo not the gateway to doing drugs -  the issues in society are.

Kerenza: What misconceptions does society have about those without a permanent home?

Chloe: THERE ARE SO MANY. The amount of prejudice you receive when you are homeless or living in hostels is insane. Most people I know who live in hostels don’t really want people to know about it. They don’t wanna identify with it as people do just assume you are less than them and don’t understand it. I think some of the main things are to do with being ‘violent’, ‘taking lots of drugs’, ‘addicted’, ‘benefit scrounger’, being a ‘troubled youth’ or ‘it must be your fault you're there.’ Let me tell you now that no-one would be there if they didn’t HAVE to be for whatever reason. They say stereotypes come from truth but honestly, I think it’s society’s perceptions / negativity. The reasons people are in these situations in the first place and the hostel / homeless environment  is what can turn people into their stereotypes. Society's perceptions do just perpetuate the problem. I’m a completely different person now than I was before I became homeless.

Kerenza: Have you always wanted to write and perform? Or is your motivation borne more from a desire to make your voice heard? 

Chloe: Writing - nah. I thought that was for posh people and I didn’t really like the stuff I was forced to do at school. Although, I did once win a writing competition in Year 4 after copying a cute girls hands writing and making up the story to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (WHICH I HADN’T SEEN at the time) so maybe that’s what did it. I wanted to perform but where I’m from, you were a joke of the town if you even thought about anything like that so I supressed it.

I never really thought I was capable of anything like writing or performing, that I could be any good at it or that it was even a possibility, let alone that anyone even cared about me or what I had to say. I have always had dreams though. My late Grandad was the only person to tell me I could do anything when I was younger - so I thank him for planting that seed.

I used to write when I was homeless to make sense of my head. I then did a group at Mind Hackney and was invited to do a spoken word course with Roundhouse - which was the first time I had ever performed my own words. Joelle Taylor & Adam Kammerling were really supportive. It was the first time I spoke about those homeless & queer life experiences in such depth to strangers. That empowered me. Then I was encouraged and honestly, once I found my voice, I realised how important it was for me to use it. It’s a huge motivation.

Kerenza: Do you feel that the majority of theatre, even in London, is still relatively conservative and unprogressive?

Chloe: I mean, I’ve realised theatre-makers like to think they are left-wing but do nothing to include the misrepresented people they talk about. Theatre is expensive and has a very conservative audience and even mainstream theatre considered ‘progressive’ seems to just glamorise the Working Class, Underclass, LGBTQ+, BAME, disabled, minority issues and/or plagiarise their stories. It’s the microaggressions, the way people treat you, lack of inclusivity and lack of funding and support for those outside of the white middle class sphere. There are some really great companies and charities out there trying to change that (like Clean Break Theatre Company - who are amazing) which do contribute to making the theatre scene more diverse, inclusive and help platform underrepresented and marginalised stories from their perspective but there's still a long way to go.

Rich, white men still run the industry. The lack of diverse theatre audiences is a big problem because theatre is still seen as a rich person's hobby. Misrepresented and disadvantaged people are still very much excluded from the theatre scene. More needs to happen on a big scale even in London.

Kerenza: Do you think society is still reticent to embrace the idea of female sexuality? 

Chloe: I live in one of the most progressive, diverse places in the world and still receive hate and prejudice because of my sexuality - so yes far from it. Society is still misogynistic and the media is run by rich, white men. Men still don’t understand a world where women have their own power and don’t actually need or want men. Men can be as crude as they like but I can’t say anything without it being sexualised by the male gaze or a man trying to insert themselves into my narrative. People, still see lesbians as ‘other’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘against God’ - so yeah, they are still very reticent to embrace female sexuality, especially the idea that a woman can have sex with a women and its not just for a man's pleasure.

Kerenza: How do you think the LGBTQ+ community will be impacted by the current political climate both in the UK and abroad? 

Chloe: As I mentioned before - if it’s bad here, WTF is it like anywhere else? The main problem is more violence against LGBTQ+ people as the recent rise has shown. I think it’s going to give people more permission and freedom to hate on LGBTQ+ people. I think the community will get even more pulled apart. That there will be more Homeless Queer people. It's the issues within the community we have to look at - it will affect some people more than others and in different ways due to how much privilege / power they have and the communities they live in.

Kerenza: What are the next steps you think we need to take to foster inclusivity and equality towards the LGBTQ+ community in the UK? 

Chloe: Stop closing our spaces, clubs and charities. Give us more Dry Spaces. Educate People. Actually listen to and prosecute people for crimes committed against LGBTQ+ people. Less Homophobia (and biphobia, transphobia, racism, islamophobia, hate on homeless) in Parliament, Corporations and the Media. People need to be sacked and held accountable for their actions. Give Pride back to the LGBTQ+ and the Charities. Stop pitting the community against each other. Listen to BAME & Trans People too. Give them the platform to talk, I can't speak for them. They exist and society is pretty shit at listening to their issues and needs.

Kerenza: Following your run at Camden People's Theatre, what are you setting out to do next?

Chloe: Take the show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe if someone gives me money and Tour it. I’m also working on another theatre play, a screenplay and some other performance projects - but you’ll have to watch this space to find out about those.
You can actually catch me in a play about Women affected by the Criminal Justice System with Clean Break Arcola & Omnibus from 26th-29th February though!
More information is available here: ‘Inside This Box’ - Written by Yasmin Joseph & Directed by Stef O’Driscoll 

Chloe: Take the show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe if someone gives me money and Tour it. I’m also working on another theatre play, a screenplay and some other performance projects - but you’ll have to watch this space to find out about those.

You can actually catch me in a play about Women affected by the Criminal Justice System with Clean Break Arcola & Omnibus from 26th-29th February though! More information is available here: ‘Inside This Box’ - Written by Yasmin Joseph & Directed by Stef O’Driscoll 

 

‘Smoke Weed Eat Pussy Everyday’ at Camden People’s Theatre Mon 20th Jan - Thurs 23rd Jan 2020, 9pm. Tickets are available here

Twitter: @chloenottah | Instagram: @thechloeflorence 

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