Now in its fifth year, the Tavern’s Got Talent is back at The RVT this Thursday (1 Nov) where another batch of contestants compete for the coveted title of winner – all the while raising vital funds for Oxfam with Oxjam Clapham. Organiser Debbieanne explains more.
Hi Debbieanne, in basic terms how would you describe Tavern’s Got Talent?
It’s a one night only variety talent show in the historic RVT, in the true style of the venue. Pretty much anything goes as long as it entertains. There’s a room full of love, support and surprises put together by a dedicated team for charity.
How and when did it come about?
The show actually began back in 2009. The idea came about between friends over drinks; we thought we could do a variety show based on the huge success of the reality TV shows that were happening, but with our own community vibe, at the RVT, for charity. Mike Kear, who was working with the RVT at the time, led the first year and I was part of his team. It went really well but we didn’t continue as an annual event. There seemed to be a real demand among Taverners to bring the show back so in 2014 we did just that and I took the helm of organising the show, bringing in co-producer Howard Turner, the technical brains behind the operation. We’ve been working together as an annual event ever since.
What makes it different from other cabaret talent contests on the scene?
We aim to find great, diverse new talent on the scene and in its peripheries, from singers, drag, dance, musicians, comedians, magicians, whatever entertains a crowd… I guess our main difference is contestants are on a spectrum; from those who want to make a profession in entertainment, those giving it a go for the first time (our panel are great at spotting raw potential whatever stage they may be) and finally we also like to give the opportunity simply for those who have been coming to the RVT or the scene for years, who fancy getting up on a stage and giving a shot at showing off and entertaining by their own personal ambition. We mix filmed interviews from auditions in between the performances too, which adds a great touch.
Who are your previous winners or standout contestants?
Winners include Voodoo Mick, Doctor Woof, Jenny B Side, TVTV and Victoria The Magic Lady… Standouts for me? That is a toughie! I’ve always been taken particularly aback by the guts of people that do the show as a first time performance or for a chance to stand on that legendary stage. It’s scary! Jenny B Side, who won in 2015, stood out for me the second she walked through the door at audition simply by saying hello; I knew she was special and a rare time I secretly thought I knew (and was right) who was going to win.
I feel proud that Roland Saunders, aka TVTV, saw winning in 2016 a turn-point in giving his performance career a real go. He’s had a great run at Edinburgh this summer, so it’s wonderful to think we helped a bit in his journey. Goodness, that sounds soooo X Factor, doesn’t it…?
What will actually happen on the night?
Eight acts perform. Our panel decides their favourite three. Those three perform a different piece again. On entry to The RVT each audience member will have been given a voting coin. The audience decide the winner via ballot at the end of the night. DJs Howard Turner and Rob C will provide tunes before and after the show.
Who’s hosting and who’s judging?
The gorgeous Mzz Kimberley hosts the evening, she’s held the reins since we came back in 2014 and has really made the role hers. Simon Le Vans (25 years as DJ of Sunday Social at The RVT and radio extraordinaire) and Stewart Who? (DJ, journalist, performer and writer) are resident judges, and guest judge this year is Rose Thorne (cabaret producer, burlesque performer and not a stranger to a talent panel).
Anything else we need to know?
The show raises money for Oxjam Clapham, a volunteer-led team organising a calendar of events raising vital funds for Oxfam through music and performance in the local area. Other dates to note are Oxjam Clapham Music Festival in venues across Clapham on Saturday 10 November and Drag Undressed at the Two Brewers on Saturday 12 January. See the website oxjamclapham.com for more details.