Mall Frith

The trans actor, Shakespeare’s muse and trans-activist Mall Frith (born Mary 1584 – died 1659) deserves special focus as the first openly trans activist of history. Before Frith, Trans individuals had for the most part immersed themselves into living their truth, concealing their cis gender even though it had been considered natural to be trans or gay since the dawn of time. This tolerance towards LGBTQs changed after the Reformation in the 1530’s as hard line Puritans focused on various interpretations of Old Testament text, taking an especially strident stance against the ungodliness of Beauty, The Arts and Fun. Sex and gender came under obsessive scrutiny by hardline Puritan groups who classified LGBTQ individuals as deviants.

Under pressure from Wolsey, Henry VIII criminalised sodomy in 1636 and although his daughter Queen Mary decriminalised it in 1553, Queen Elizabeth I was persuaded by the powerful Puritan minority to re-criminalise sodomy in 1559. Whilst there were very few criminal charges ever brought using this law, it became a means of persecution and blackmail, forcing many gay men to hide their truth and enter into marriages of convenience. Likewise trans-individuals shredded all trace of their cis gender and frequently married to avoid the vitriol of the puritan propaganda machine which held disproportionate amount of clout though Puritans constituted only 2-5%  of a mostly Anglican population.

Mall Frith’s determination to be unapologetically himself and cut a line of his own in the way he lived, dressed and thought and his activism on behalf of non-conformist women and trans rights made Frith the first International Celebrity of the Modern Age, a household name throughout the world. He declared; “I please myself and care not who else loves me.” But he was greatly loved for his fame as an actor and his bravery as an activist. Mall Frith gave a voice to the voiceless. It was said: “no blazing star draws more eyes” (than Mall Frith).

Even the Puritan Military Dictator, Oliver Cromwell, who carried out over a decade of genocides on LGBTQs throughout the kingdom, was helpless to silence the Great Mall Frith. As the hero of Londoners, Mall Frith led women and fellow trans activists to taunt and thwart the tyrant throughout Cromwell’s reign. Frith’s funeral in 1659 was far better attended than Cromwell’s the year before which Peter Lely described as “the most joyous funeral, attended only by a few stray dogs and drunken soldiers who spat curses against Cromwell.

Moreover Frith’s legacy remained great before Victorian revisionist historians maligned him as a  pickpocket and whore – absurd claims given he was employed by the Lords of Court as a professional witness and archives describe him as acting for the King in Star Chamber cases. Frith was never charged with any crime. The only court he ever stood before was religious in which was asked to do penance on a Sunday for performing on the public stage as a man dressed as a women dressed as a man, in the play The Roaring Girl in 1611. He died leaving a fortune and a famous mansion on Fleet Street which he left to his niece Francis Edward’s. Moreover Mall Frith was buried under the alter of St Bride’s Church, proof positive that unlike Oliver Cromwell he was valued as one of the Good and The Great of the age.

Tyne in Vogue Scandinavia

The Chosen Ones

Tyne O’Connell – The Matriarch

“She’s held your head while you cried and smiled when you’ve conquered. Mother for those who couldn’t call blood home.” Vogue

A family is meant to love you unconditionally, but what happens when they don’t? In Vogue Scandinavia April 2022 issue, Stockholm-based celebrity stylist Thomas McEntree pens a personal essay about finding a chosen family. The Matriarch in the accompanying photo shoot is none other than Tyne O’Connell.

Here’s a short extract from Thomas’s article:

RuPaul famously says, “As gay people, we get to choose our family.”For so many in the LGBTQIA+ community, our biological family – those who swore to love and protect us from the moment they brought us into this world – fail to fulfil that promise when they find out who we are. Being cast out from one’s homes a trauma that stays with you, and irrevocably changes who you are. For many of us, this trauma also sparks a search for a new, chosen family.

Don’t miss out on your copy of this historic edition of fashion’s bible – Vogue magazine

Tyne O’Connell meets Jean Paul Gaultier

The Chosen Ones

Last night the audience at the roundhouse were privileged to experience an intimate glimpse inside the glorious mind of Jean Paul Gaultier – performed by a diverse array of dancers, actors, singers, circus performers in a mix of live cabaret, theatre and film that took us on an intimate Odyssey from JPG’s birth through his life as an Artist of Fashion, from 1961 to the present moment.

Though a genius couture show of his latest menswear collection was incorporated into the end of the 2 hour event it was unlike any runway show I’ve ever experienced. This was Gaultier The Artist of Fashion unzipped.

His life, his inspirations and his creations were exposed via a streaming biographical can-can through the decades.  It started with JPG the boy and his teddy for whom he created his iconic conical bra that would later make Madonna famous, his mother’s tolerance wisdom and chic, his lavish use of the sexual architectural of corsetry, the joie de vivre, vigour and naughtiness of The Folies Bergère – the inspirations mingled with the romance, the tears, the triumphs, the loss, the tragedy of Gaultier’s life as all were transmuted into Beauty through the Art of Fashion – with that JPG flair for adding a twist of wit and sex.

Jean-Paul Gaultier and Tyne O'Connell

After the show climaxed Pandamonia and I sat still trilling with how the treasure trove of Gaultier’s experiences and Fashion Art Works have become the heartbeat of generations.

The LGBTQ+ Torchbearers of history

Once described by Prince Philip as Britain’s most eccentric thinker, Tyne O’Connell is no ordinary historian, making it her mission to change the narrative of British history and highlight the queer and LGBTQ+ heroes that helped build this country.

From King James I to Mall Frith and Sir Francis Bacon, Tyne explores the lives of some of the most famous individuals of history, but through a very different lens. Tyne also discussed why Victorian historian’s removed and overlooked these eccentrics and the unknown figures who dared to be different. It was a riveting discussion and an evening unlike any history lesson you’ve ever experienced.

Tyne O’Connell is a British author and LGBTQ historian who focuses on breathing life back into the ghosted LGBTQ Torchbearers of History from 1603-1850.

The rising visibility of women and LGBTQIA Torchbearers in Britain over the past forty years has done little to expand most people’s knowledge of the women and LGBTQIA Torchbearers who shaped British history. History remains stuck in the revisionist narrative of Victorian historians like Sir Thomas Carlyle who stated  “The history of the world is but the biography of Great (straight white) Men”. Yes, that Sir Thomas Carlyle, Father of Modern History!

Victorian historians pink-washed history by using a heteronormative historiography to glorify the deeds of straight white men whilst deliberately ghosting the once famous LGBTQ Torchbearers including the transgender Mall Frith (1584-1659) and Chevalier D’Eon (born France 1728 buried St Pancreas Old Church 1810). Victorian Historians heteronormalised William Shakespeare (1564-1616), trans actor and activist Mall Frith (1584-1659) Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626)  Lady Mary Wroth (1584-1659), Aphra Behn (1640-1689), lesbian opera soprano Arabella Hunt (1662-1705) and thousands more, so as to conform to a heteronormative calvinist narrative.

As a child fascinated by history, my godfather Quentin Crisp presented me with the quest of uncovering the Queer Torchbearers of British History or the Great British Eccentrics as he called them. History is not made by conformists, it is made by eccentrics; original thinkers who cut a line of their own, in the way they think, live and dress. Eccentrics provoke cultural and social progress by inspiring new ideas and art forms. Eccentrics force us to look at the world differently.

The early years of the Modern Age began with the coronation of our first openly gay monarch, King James I following the death of Queen Elizabeth I on the 24th March 1603. The Jacobean marked the end of the Medieval in Britain for unlike Elizabeth, King James I celebrated the new ideas and cultural changes of the Renaissance and embraced the cultural exuberance of the Baroque with an emphasis on individuality and eccentricity.  By abolishing the restrictive legislation and censorship laws which had maintained class and gender barriers the Stuart reign oversaw an era that celebrated The Arts and New Ideas, triggering the birth of modern celebrity culture.

The first celebrities to become household names emerged from the crucible of the reign of our first openly gay monarch King James I (1603-1625) LGBTQIA salons championed by the Stuarts. The transgender actor, Mall Frith inspired many of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays. Several plays were written about Frith’s extraordinary life the most famous of which is ‘The Roaring Girl’ by Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton. It had a hit run at the Fortune Theatre from 1606/7-1612 and is still regularly staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Want to become a member of TROUBLE CUB? Click Here

The Trouble Club is a special society, a talks and dinners club where you can hear some of the finest voices talking on everything from politics to fiction. They all happen to be women. Both men and women are welcome to attend talks. It is led by women, founded by Joy Lo Dico, moonlighting from her day job as a freelancer for the Financial Times and broadcaster at Monocle as well as speaking and presenting. Its mission is to get great women speakers on stage and to build the bonds across the group. Alumni include Gloria Steinem, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Baroness Lady Hale, Elif Shafak, Emma Barnett and Laura Kuenssberg amongst many others.

Love Infinity

It was such an honour to be invited by Oscar Award winner Tim Yip to be included in his remarkable film LOVE INFINITY now streaming on Mubi. It premiered at the National Gallery 24th March which was where I collapsed. Tim Yip Celebrates London’s eccentric artists via a dreamscape in which London’s extraordinary history emerges as a character in its own right. It is an exploration and celebration both of the eccentric artists of London and the extraordinary history of this remarkable City which has attracted eccentrics and artists from around the globe since 1603.

Unlike any city of the world, London was deigned, built and later rebuilt by and for the artists and artisans who have shaped the way we live and who continue to do so.

Even now, London’s real owners are the artists who perpetually defy all attempts to squeeze them out. This remarkable film is available for streaming on MUBI along with an equally compelling documentary about the artists involved in LOVE INFINITY.

Love Infinity

I was hugely honoured to be invited to be part of the Oscar Winning Art Director and Costume Designer, (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) Tim Yip’s latest film, Love Infinity – an exploration and celebration both of the eccentric artists of London and the extraordinary history of this remarkable City which has attracted eccentrics and artists from around the globe since 1603.

Among the eccentrics starring in Love Infinity…. Gilbert & George, Vivienne Westwood, Andrew Logan, Daniel Lismore, Pandemonia, Stephen Jones and Tyne O’Connell.

During the reign of the British Isle’s first openly gay monarch, King James I (1603 – 1625), and his son Charles I (1625-1649), James’s cross-dressing wife Queen Henri, shunned the political and religious spheres to unleash the unique power of The Arts to dissolve barriers of class, gender, sexuality, religion and race to effect change and liberate. Unfortunately the freedoms of the Halcyon Age enraged the Puritans triggering the Puritan Wars led by Oliver Cromwell against The Arts, tolerance, beauty, fun and democracy in 1642.

Lily and Tyne
Lily and Tyne at Love Infinity showing

Cromwell’s tyranny of genocides and oppression criminalised artists artisans and LGBTQs. It ended with his death in 1658.  The Restoration in 1660 reignited the arts but ever since London has been gripped by political and religious debates over the virtues or ungodliness of The Arts.

In LOVE INFINITY Tim Yip steers us deftly on an Odyssey through London’s History in which the city emerges as a lead character whose past present and future flow into each other in a dream scape of artists in a whirligig of splendour.

Sir Kenelm Digby (1603 – 1665) “Father of Champagne”

Sir Kenelm Digby (1603 – 1665) “Father of Champagne” and the man who popularised the Grand Tour and clotted cream would have made headlines in any age sparking wonder and scandal with his eccentric ideas and daring lifestyle. The son of one of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators, King James I welcomed the three year old Digby into the Stuart Royal Court where he received a classical education by the greatest minds and artists of the age. He counted Sir Francis Bacon and Anthony Van Dyck as close friends but he is best known for developing the method champenoise 1618-1633. He also developed the bottle and glasses we use to drink ‘vin anglaise’ as the Europeans sneeringly referrred to the sparkling wine beloved by the Irish and British. The French believed the bubbles spoilt the integrity of the wine.

Kenhelm Digby

In the 1620’s whilst working with his alchemy set, Digby discovered that feeding oxygen through a series of metal pipes inserted into the furnace,  created a toughened glass, capable of withstanding the pressure of the 2nd fermentation process required to ensure the bubbles. Champagne is really English – just don’t tell the French! 

Champagne was so beloved by the British in the 1600s it was referred to as vin anglaise by the French and Germans who detested the bubbles as much as we adored them.

Digby was more than a man of science, he was a famous swashbuckling dandy and epicurean, famed as much for his flamboyant fashions as his swordsmanship and scientific Inventions.

The Baroque celebrated the good life and produced the first celebrity epicurean and fashion icons.

As a teenager Digby popularised the notion of the Grand Tour – a trip around the continent – as a vital component in rounding off a young man’s education. 

But it was his method for the creation of champagne in 1618-1633  that guaranteed his fame  –  In 1633 he dashed round to St James Palace in a sedan chair with a bottle of champagne and a couple of saucers for Queen Henry (Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I)- unfortunately the Queen was entertaining and there weren’t enough glasses to go round provoking Queen Henry to slip off one of her famous ruby and diamond encrusted high-heel shoes as a makeshift glass – making history.

The marriage of King Charles I to Queen Henrietta in 1625 brought even greater liberties and progress. The pint sized fifteen-year old French princess brought enormous wealth and prestige to the kingdom but she also brought the elegance and elan of the French court. Her arrival in London created a fashion sensation. The people’s first sparkling glimpse of their new queen was the appearance of her diamond and ruby encrusted four inch high heeled shoe as she alighted from the sedan chair, sparking a frenzied demand for high heels throughout the kingdom. Even the king began wearing high heels. The higher the heel, the closer to god, became the catch phrase of the age.

Not only did she embody glamour, her Medici lineage gave her access to an underground network of artists, musicians, singers and eccentrics. She poured a fortune into the arts and funded the building of a Modern London while successfully persuading Charles to open up all his Royal Parks for the free enjoyment of his people.  By capturing the hearts and igniting the imaginations of the people, Henri triggered an explosion of hate pamphlets focused on her “wicked” extravagant fashions which they linked to her Catholicism.  No wonder Queen Henri became Oscar Wilde’s icon.

In 1633 the celebrity dandy, scientist and glass-maker, Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-1665) perfected the toughened glass needed for the double fermentation method required for creating champagne. He also designed the champagne saucers and champagne bottle still in use today.