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The Sheffield culture guide written by in-the-know locals

Stan Skinny

Photos by George Oliver

Stan Skinny is a treasure of the Sheffield arts scene – whether he's dressed up as an old fisherman and encouraging people to participate in bizarre school fete style games, or as a macho wrestler fetching a small book of earnest poems from within his lycra tights.

Eccentricity, DIY props and sincerity are Stan's stock in trades and he has been turning venues all over Sheffield into alternative cabaret nights for as long I can remember.

We caught up with him ahead of his latest show, Fish Pie, to find out more.

How would you describe your work?
I’d take a great deal of time over it and think about it from many angles, maybe use some clay.

What's your workspace like?
We have a cellar (dungeon) that we had lofty ambitions of being a creative writing den but it mostly stores props and camping equipment and we can’t shift the smell of damp. Most of my writing takes place in pubs or cafes. The naffer the pub the better: sick bleached carpets, sports screens the size of angry bears, a choice of Carling or a smack in the mouth. Great writing fodder.

What, who or where should be better known in Sheffield?
Who: Helen Rice is the best poet I’ve seen in ages; funny, charming and natural – that last quality increasingly rare in poetry and even rarer in life.

Other top hitters on my hit parade are Lois Conlan, another brilliantly funny lady, and Ichabod Wolf, who is an incredible songwriter and wordsmith and if there was any justice in the world he’d have museums or at least a Wikipedia page.

Where: any of the independent venues – Delicious Clam, Hatch, DINA. All good people fighting the good fight.

I’m also now an ardent Sheffield FC fan. They invented the game. The first club, which, at the start, must have been a lonely but very successful period; just playing themselves and winning every week.

What would you change about the city?
The wall paper.

What are you working on at the moment?
It’s been a desire of mine for some time to create an English version of Pee Wee’s Playhouse and I’m making that a reality with Fish Pie. It’s featuring loads of wonderful alternative acts across Yorkshire and is going to be really special mix of clowning, puppetry, music, dance all sorts really.

I’m also working on a musical project called Otis from Reading, a sort of character piece about a frustrated office worker, although the songs are much more personal than my previous work and it’s pushing my writing into new directions, mainly south west.

Of the many characters you play on stage, who are your favourites and why?
Captain the Butcher Reality is always a lot of fun to play because he’s very different to me: loud, fiercely masculine, butch, he’s very liberating while at the same time greatly vulnerable. I also greatly miss playing Bunty and Bodkins, who were a weird white minstrel act that I performed with my twin brother and he’s still the only person who can make me laugh from my nose.

What have been some of your highlights as a performer/producer?
Supporting Roger McGough earlier this year was pretty special. I went to see him the last time he performed in Sheffield ten years ago before I’d even started writing and it was great for me that things had come full circle.

I help run the People’s Kitchen Pitsmoor Project, which aims to renovate Abbeyfield House stables, and these events are always pretty special. If we can make it happen it would really have a big impact on the area, and it’s a wonderful project that celebrates the talented and creative folk that make up Pitsmoor.

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