Edinburgh Fringe Guest Blogger: Chris Coltrane

My name is Chris Coltrane. I’m an activist and a political stand-up comedian. I know what you’re thinking: “A stand-up comedian? In Edinburgh during August? I’ve never heard of such an implausible idea.”


Every year I try to bring a new hour of comedy to the Fringe, mixing cool jokes with stories of the various protests I’ve been on that year. It’s not for everyone (eg: my immediate family, Tories, people who are interested in jokes of a certain “quality” or comedians who have “skill”), but the people who like it really seem to love it. Which is the way it should be, don’t you think?


I also run a comedy club in London, called Lolitics. It’s a new material night for political comedy, but it’s also got a very radical-left ethos. We talk about protests, about the rich and powerful, and how to make the world a better place. Quite frankly, if Lolitics isn’t on the Metropolitan Police’s list of Domestic Extremists, I’ll be bloody furious.


Lolitics isn’t like normal comedy clubs. We’re proudly politically correct, we only go after the big targets, and we try to dumb up. I also encourage the acts to talk for a while without a joke if there’s a political point they want to make. On top of that, there’s rules to the gig. For the audience: no heckling. And for the acts: no picking on anyone in the audience, no homophobia/racism/sexism/transphobia/etc/etc/etc (in short: don’t be a prick), and no rape jokes.


Everyone has their own opinion on what actually constitutes a rape joke. For example, some people will think it’s any joke where the punchline involves laughing at someone being raped. Others will say it’s when rape is used as an analogy; others will say it’s any time the word is even used.


In my experience it’s extremely difficult to actually have a conversation about such jokes, when everyone’s definition is different. It’s a bit like trying to have a conversation about a table, and then halfway through finding out that one of your mates was talking about a chair, and that another one of your mates was talking about a baby with a particularly flat head. They may have a point, but try telling that to the people in Ikea.


Because of this confusion, my rules don’t define exactly what a rape joke is. Instead, my rules define what I’m trying to achieve. I’ve met many women – and indeed, some men – who have said that they don’t like going to live comedy. They’ve explained that they don’t feel safe there. They feel like they might be picked on, they might be bullied, and sometimes they even say that a comedian might tell a joke so nasty that it triggers a horrible memory, perhaps of a sexual assault.


One in five women have been the victim of some kind of sexual assault. Some charities put the number even higher. That means that whenever a comedian tells a rape joke, there’s a chance that a significant percentage of the audience will be reminded of an experience that could be very traumatic. As I learnt about stats like this, I decided that I wanted to create a safe space, a place where people could come and not be worried about being triggered, a place where they wouldn’t feel threatened. I want to make a comedy club for people that love comedy, and love laughing, but who feel that going to live comedy isn’t an option to them.


And so I tell the acts: if you knew that a dear friend had been the victim of rape, and you met them for coffee, would you say the joke to them, face-to-face? If not, don’t bring it to my club. And generally, the rules work. It helps that I only book acts that I’m very good friends with, that I trust, and who I think respect the rules.


(I want to be clear: I’m absolutely not saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to tell rape jokes. All I’m saying is: not in my house. Let’s have one lovely space, a friendly place where people can just bloody relax for once.)


I try to carry this spirit of niceness and safety over into my solo shows. And ultimately, that’s why I’m writing this on Hollaback Edinburgh. I’ve got a new hour of comedy at the Fringe. It’s my third ever show, it’s called There’s No Heroes Left Except All Of Us, and it’s a political comedy show for anyone that hates politicians, and wishes the world was a better place.


I’d wager that an awful lot of people who read this blog regularly fall into that group of people who love laughing, but don’t feel safe at comedy clubs. Well, if that sounds like you, then I’ve got a show that I’ve made especially for you. It’s on from the 2nd to the 24th August at the Banshee Labyrinth, in the Cinema Room. It’s on at 3.30pm, and it’s free! No tickets, just turn up! Get there early though, it’s only a small room and it fills up quickly.


There’s an ever-growing group of us comedians who are trying to fight misogyny, fly the feminist flag, and make comedy with a heart and a soul. If you want a starting place, come and see my show, and the shows of Kate Smurthwaite, Joe Wells and Bridget Christie. We’ll all make sure you have a lovely time.

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New Submission from Miriam

In the past two months on the ten minute walk between my home and my office random men have come up to me and said:

‘Hello. What are you?’
‘Nice Puss’
‘Where are you from?’ ‘Here’ ‘But you have an Asian face?’

These are all the first things they said to me. They did not happen in a conversation, this is literally me leaving my house to go to my 9 – 5 job and men coming up to me, so close they’re nearly touching me, and sharing their racism/sexism/prejudice with me. If I extend the time scale to the past 6 months, or the location to my entire city rather than a small strecth of street, I’d have enough stories for a chapter of a book. If I extended it to my life so far, I’d have a whole encyclopaedia.

I've got your back!

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Feminist Fringe

We at Hollaback! are super excited for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to kick off in less than three weeks! As we’re tired of sexist, homo/transphobic and racist jokes we thought we’d share some of the shows we hope to check out this August. Write a comment if you have some more tips or have seen any of the shows and want to share your thoughts!


Susie explores how ‘internalised misogyny and patriarchy can affect us all’ while Chris Coltrane smashes the patriarchy with his activist focused political comedy. Bridget Christie won the Foster’s Best Comedy Award for her show ‘A Bic for Her’ at last year’s Fringe and is returning with a new show this August. For fans of Spoken Word, local writing group Appletree Writers is hosting a series of Spoken Word Sundays with events including a panel discussion from poets on women’s writing, with all proceeds going to Edinburgh Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, writers of colour from North East England on identity, love, loss, settlement and migration, a session on writing and feminism, and a session with Appletree Writers’ Writing Mum’s Group. Mary Bourke is joined by three other female comedians each afternoon and Andrew Watts looks into feminism ‘for chaps’.  Amy, a sex worker, and her sister Rosana, a shaven-headed lesbian, explore feminism and choice in their performance act. If you’re up for some feminist musical, the Ruby Dolls create an updated fairytale version of Mansfield Park. Finally Adrienne Truscott delivers comedy satire against rape culture and Kate presents a comedy show which is described as ‘highbrow, left-wing, feminist, atheist and awesome’.


Let us know what you think and we hope you will get an amazing feminist Fringe!


Hollaback Edinburgh at Pride Scotia 2014, by Committee Member Felicity

10497235_707511585982137_776045587983432028_oElli and I met outside the Parliament building on the morning of Pride. We were excited for our first Pride, and our plan was to raise awareness about the work that Hollaback does, while generally showing our support. After soaking in the colourful atmosphere for a while, we managed to take a photo with the Nando’s chicken mascot before setting off up the Royal Mile. There were so many people!! Despite struggling with our big banner and just the two of us, we loved being part of the march. Among so much cheerful noise and so many great costumes, it was difficult to remember that Pride is a protest as well as a celebration. It is important to remember the political impact that events like Pride can have, and how crucial they are to cementing a good future for LGBT people in terms of rights and respect. At the half way point outside the City Chambers we were reminded of how far we have come in terms of LGBT rights even in the last few years! It was great to see so many politicians out in support of Pride, and the pause gave us a chance to look around at all of the banners and signs that had been ahead of us in the march. It felt so good to be representing Hollaback among so many inspiring organisations, and we briefly introduced ourselves to the people from Broken Rainbow UK before the march moved on.  1537475_707511592648803_494003232808090395_o

When we arrived in Bristo Square we had to take time to stop and take in the scene. The square was completely transformed, with a huge stage and lots of stalls. We quickly went to distribute some Holla flyers at the LGBT Youth fair, before heading back out to explore. We spoke to as many different groups as possible, and saw some amazing costumes. It felt great to have people come up to us and say that they were supporters. Inside there were far too many stalls for us to look at, but we went to the Stonewall stall and signed the No Bystanders pledge on behalf of Hollaback. We also got very excited about the rainbow cake.10495032_707609142639048_6431589239606152087_o

Overall, we had an amazing day, and it was inspiring to see so many proud people. I’m glad that I was able to represent Hollaback Edinburgh and show my support. It is up to organisations like Hollaback to keep raising awareness about the issues LGBT people have to face every day as they walk down the street, and street harassment is only one of the manifestations of homophobia that should be eradicated from society. Thank you, Pride Scotia, for organising such a wonderful event!

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Hollaback tote bags for sale!!

Hollaback! Edinburgh have only 28 Holla tote bags left!!

Holla tote bags

The bags have big, bold Hollaback logos on them, lovingly hand printed by our Committee members. If you would like to buy one for only £5 (plus £1.50 P&P) please email us at edinburgh@ihollaback.org.uk. Let’s get our logo out on the street!! 

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New submission from Aoife

9:30am, a few seconds of street harassment:

Having a serious day-dreaming session while walking to work, I walked up a short, slightly darker street (under a bridge) when I hear a friendly ‘morning!’ so I look up with a surprised smile. A tall, older grey-haired guy is coming towards me on the outside of the same narrow path. I meet his blue eyes and he says ‘gorgeous’ with a smirk and gives me a slow top-to-bottom-to-top inspection. My skin crawls and I look away quickly in dismay, thinking ‘oh damn, I shouldn’t have smiled’.

He slows down now as he gets close to me, partially blocking my way. Surprised, I tense up, wondering ‘what is he going to do?’ I scan around quickly, can’t see anybody else, and realise with a fright that I have only a small space now to squeeze past him on the inside of the path. It will be harder to get away if he reaches for me. I speed up, my head down and shoulders up, a dose of adrenaline prepares me to push him away if he touches me. He grunts and leers as I pass him and from behind me I hear him give a sleezy shout, ‘well you’re up for it! Yeaaah’ and grunts a few more times. I keep going and don’t look back. He’s so gross, I feel a bit sick. I think again ‘I shouldn’t have met his eyes or smiled.’

Walking away I was so frustrated, wishing I could have thought of something to say. I couldn’t remember any clever response, but I should have at least shouted back at him to ‘fuck off’. Any response would be better than none!

Then I was very annoyed with myself for thinking that I shouldn’t have smiled… I have studied sexuality, gender relations and violence for years now, and my immediate reaction is still to blame myself, to police whether I smile or meet someone’s eyes when they say hello to me?! It’s ridiculous that I have to estimate some guy’s arm length and the space between him and the wall in case he gets physical with me at 9:30am! I shouldn’t have to worry about my safety on a street that I use all the time. That is how a simple comment connects directly with objectification and gender-based violence.

I’m so annoyed I can’t focus on my work when I get to the office, so I write this for Hollaback instead.

I've got your back!

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New submission from S.Kate

So I love skateboarding but I am no lover of harassment.
The male dominated skate park comes with its challenge, that said, it is mostly a supportive, fun environment.
I say mostly as the other week not long after I introduced myself to a guy there, he asked for my number. It was awkward and frustrating to be so quickly turned into a conquest instead of a skater there to skate.
I politely informed him that I have a boyfriend (not that that should be relevant) and that I wasn’t interested but if it was to go a skate then fair enough.
The conversation ended.

The next time I saw him he quickly apologized for being ‘too quick off the mark’, I was surprised but it didn’t last long.
Every few sentences he’d drop it in.. “so if you gave me your number…” among him remarking how girls can look “slutty” when dressed in revealing clothes…* Who’d of guessed its hot in summer in Scotland when you are out exercising!

I’d lost hope but I thought he may at least get the picture.

The third time I attempted to be civil and he asked again.
This time I pretty much went “ahhhh!” aloud. Couldn’t I make myself clearer?
He continued to persist saying “ill only text you to arrange a skate”
I replied “if thats all it is, why be so persistent, no, I dont want to give you it”
“I promise to just text you about skating” he replied as if he didn’t filter what I’d been saying.

That was the last time I’ve spoken to him, I’m a warm person but this really affected how I felt at the park.

It is really bringing me to challenge to many issues, some I may not even challenge because I simply don’t know what to do yet.

It is difficult because while the guys skate shirtless and free I am bound by the worries of people thinking [ about how] I look.*

No thank you very much, I am here because I love skating, now move over, you are blocking my line!


ps. I would love to see more girls delving into male dominated sports if that’s what they want to do, attitudes can be changed, progress can be made!

*edited, Hollaback! Edinburgh admin.

I've got your back!

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Meet Karin


One of our newer members explains her view on street harassment, and her reasons for joining Hollaback! Edinburgh.


It is simple to me; street harassment has to stop.


And the idea that it is a trivial compliment should be challenged. I feel this strongly – not just because catcalls make me furious but because street harassment is part of a bigger picture. There is a web of norms and structures encouraging objectification, gender based violence and rape which street harassment and the acceptance of it as normal are part of.


That said, the harassment that, for example, a LGBTI individual faces is often completely different from that which a disabled person can experience.


The complexity of street harassment became obvious to me when working with homeless and socially marginalised women last summer. Physical and verbal threats based on the ignorant assumption that living on the street is a choice based on laziness and unwillingness to work is very different from what I – a student – experience in my everyday life. It is striking that street harassment expresses itself in very many ways and that it also ties in to other types of oppression.


It is simple – I want to live in an Edinburgh where everyone can walk down the street without the fear of being harrassed. That is why I joined the Hollaback! Edinburgh team and its work to end street harassment.

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