Leeds & Skin Two North & Dasniya & Forests

Dasniya said, “Are we over water? We should be able to see water,” and just then water became the east coast of England and we descended towards the rough black line of the Pennines, landing at Leeds by way of Schiphol. Except it wasn’t Leeds. Well, it was, but we weren’t staying there. We spent most of our time in Stocksbridge, a steel mill town north-west of Sheffield and south-ish of Leeds, except for Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning when we were at Skin Two North in Leeds. And at least some time each day wandering in the hills and heath around the town, usually ending up pottering through Bolsterstone.

Some months ago, Dasniya had been invited to perform MA√ 15 { idiosyncrasy } || sin x = ly – fx²¯ at Skin Two North. Skin Two I knew about, all the latex, rubber, masks, general high fashion perversion and kink that’s been in magazine form since the ’80s, so I thought Dasniya performing there was well special. Leeds, on the other hand, having never been north of London, and not having much sense of the land south of Scotland … Deborah, one of organisers picked us up, suffering a little from our 4am rising, and took us to meet Nemesis, the other main organiser, and together creators of Kit (and fancy attic scale train sets). Kit is what they call the implements of trade they manufacture in Nemesis’ garage workshop, from racks to whipping posts to rotating frames for upside-down bondage, filling at least three rooms of his house.

As the weekend went on, I was more and more impressed and taken by their decades-long dedication to BDSM, the culture, the people and friendships, the equipment, especially on the Saturday afternoon. Following a lazy Friday and somewhat lazy morning, all of us piling into two vans and a car and heading to Leeds for the event, where the space was rapidly converted into two hundred square metres of dungeon, complete with dungeon guards, masses of Kit, and a single ring bound with turquoise rope.

By nine o’clock people were coming in, dressed people, in dress that made me feel scruffy and embarrassed; around 400 people all looking spectacular. Lurking in the back room then, until almost midnight when I bolted out to finish the setup before collecting Dasniya – turquoise hair: on head, between legs and under arms! I think I’m often more anxious than her before starting, this time especially, but once she hit the end of the Guitar Hero Vivaldi music and was swinging upside-down, I relaxed quite a bit; also trying to film with camera on tripod held overhead and cue music distracted me.

This is one of my favourite performances, which I never get tired of seeing, and at under twenty minutes, over too quickly. It’s exceedingly rare that a performer can get the attention of an entire room when the ones up the back are drinking and talking, especially if that performance is mostly in silence, but as she progressed through hanging, tying one ankle, then the next, undoing her hair, removing pointe shoes, all while moving with mesmerising clarity and calmness, the entire room fell towards silence, and something like awestruck emotion, then going bonkers when she finally came to ground.

Later, we came out and watched everyone at play, almost joining in ourselves, then finding it was approaching 3am and time to end. Time to depart, once everything was packed and stowed was closer to 5am and post-return drive and cups of tea saw bedtime closer to 8am.

Breakfast then, around 4pm, a proper English breakfast of bacon, sausages, baked beans, eggs, fried tomatoes, and for me, coffee. Then a wander in the heaths between brooding forest and marshes. Another brutal 3am rising to get to the airport and staggering into home around midday. Some pictures, then. None of the train set, none of the Kit, nor the garden; much of the hills around Stocksbridge.