Diva Gigs talks sex

Image Last week I performed my first Diva Gigs collaboration at Concert Ingestre.

Throw Diva Gigs (Sarah-Ann Cromwell) Tenor Lawrence Olsworth-Peter and West End Pianist Ed Bussey into a practice room for a week and after much corpsng, howling with laughter and piano wizadry the winning comedic, operatic, cabaret: Diva and Divo Dating: A comedic chortle at relationships in the UK (8 scenarios from the real world) was born.

The show was an enormous success. The Diva Gigs ethos is to come straight out after a show and chat with our audience (unless someone is experiencing vocal difficulties, see previous blog) There were two 12 year old girls who were full of questions – who were the characters? Why did we miss out Mr Angry from internet dating? Could they see my engagement ring? They were confused and gutted that Lawrence wasn’t my real fiance…it was like admitting I’d shot Santa and cancelled Christmas. The 16-23 years old in the audience told us (eyes to the ceiling) that they’d recognised many of the characters we had performed from their personal dating experiences, which was positive feedback as all our performed characters were based on real people and real relationship stories, only characterised so we couldn’t be sued! At the very end a couple came to thank us for the show and left saying: ‘goodness me, we’re going to have some interesting discussions before bedtime…’

And this started me thinking. Laughter, opera, cabaret, dating, relationships, interaction, discussions….have we hit on something here? This was the most diverse set of conversations I’ve ever had after a Diva Gig. Why did they flow so easily? Can we learn from them. Have we stumbled upon something important? I thought back to my life before opera singing when I was a full time head of secondary music in Walsall (I had a fantastic time)…and remembered….sex education….that’s what this is…so what’s changed, what’s happening now and how does Diva Gigs and Diva/Divo dating fit in?

I googled sex education UK. This was the top hit:

BBC 8 January 2014 Last updated at 00:40 Schools urged to teach about consent in sex education (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-25637566)

Schools are failing to prepare young people for “pleasurable, equal and safe relationships”, according to the Sex Education Forum A third of 900 children and young people aged between 14 and 25 surveyed by the sex education forum said they had not been taught about the notion of consent, and only 43% said they had learned about what was “good and bad about a relationship” in lessons.

I was shocked. Are you trying to tell me that in the age of the internet, mobile phones, social networking, MSM, PING, Catlin Moran, Girls, East Enders, Holly Oaks and the Kardashians, that young people are not having discussion regarding what constitutes a : PLEASURABLE, EQUAL AND SAFE RELATIONSHIP???? I mean…REALLY?

When I was a full time teacher my colleagues hated teaching sex ed. I wondered if anything had changed and so posted the FACEBOOK status:

Any teachers out there prepared to talk to me about sex ed in schools? ie who teaches it, what age groups, do teachers like or dread teaching it?

The speed of which my facebook,  mail and phone went mad was a testimony to how passionately teachers feel about teaching (or not teaching the subject). Many teachers were told about it at the last minute (for example that morning) handed a wad of information but not given time to turn it into a lesson. They were then shoved into a pool of pupils (some of which, thanks to the internet, know more about sexual practices then the teachers) and expected to deliver an OFSTED excellent standard lesson. Not too surprisingly, they hated it. Teachers with more time to prepare concurred that the provided resources were useless so they spent their free time re-writing and preparing their own. They all agree that there is a lack of guidance concerning what they are supposed to be delivering. I perused of some of the resources on offer. There is an astonishing amount of info regarding contraception, STIs, pregnancy, puberty, masturbation, abuse, all of which is reflected in the media, internet and advertising: but I didn’t come across anything that highlighted or promoted discussions about ‘healthy, pleasurable, equal and safe relationships’. 

It seemed I’d stumbled across a big problem but if it wasn’t that high on the political agenda, maybe the Sex Education Forum statistics were just shocking me. A quick Google of this year’s headlines suggested otherwise:

Charlotte Church: “Girls are encouraged to present themselves as hyper-sexualised, unrealistic, cartoonish, as objects, reducing female sexuality to a prize you can win ” (Telegraph Tuesday 25 March 2014 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/music-news/10378821/Charlotte-Church-female-pop-stars-told-take-clothes-off-show-youre-an-adult.html)

Children as young as five are committing thousands of sexual offences as online pornography is warping youngsters’ views of “normal behaviour”, the NSPCC warned today. (The Telegraph 24th March 2014 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/9905727/Children-some-aged-five-commit-thousands-of-child-sex-offences.html)

Thisisabuse campaign: Would you stop if you could see yourself (from 2010 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzDr18UYO18) and:

SEX WITH SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T WANT TO IS RAPE 2014 (I am horrified that this needs to be a campaign in Britain in the 21st Century http://thisisabuse.direct.gov.uk/)

It might have been 2 years ago but even Cameron’s talking about it …

Guardian: David Cameron backs proposals tackling sexualisation of children. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/jun/06/david-cameron-children-sexualisation-commercialisation

In Britain we’re bombarded by sexual, provocative, suggestive images and sexualized stories: adverts, soaps, music videos (there’s also a rise in body image issues but that’s another battle for another blog). How can we challenge a young person’s perception of relationships when sexualised relationships are so heavily glamourised and re-enforced? The government can’t control the enormous fee flow of information without closing down the UK and it’s naive to think we can politely ask multi-billion pound movie, perfume, make up, music, clothes, food, drink, car, technology industries to “please stop using sex to sell products” and expect the response ‘Why of course dear boy!’ Teachers aren’t given the time, training or guidiance to write then teach a relationship programme, and the hierarchy of the ‘teacher’ ‘pupil’ relationship may not be conducive to delivering it effectively. Schools are burdened by the time consuming OFSTED excellent criteria and so relatioship training is way down on the agenda. Parents and carers don’t seem to be having these chats with their children either…maybe they don’t know where to begin? Is it any wonder young people are turning to search engines for knoweldge?

The Sex Education Forum has identified a fault line…and I’m thinking this is a gap which Diva Gigs: Diva and Divo dating could slot into? The show certainly opened a floodgate of questions and people weren’t embarrassed to share their relationship stories with us. I’m looking for advice from real-life qualified people (not just virtual ones!) to discover if our combination of comedy, music and story telling about real people and real relationship situations could fill this gap for schools. Would schools and government be interested in the Diva Effect, which appears to unlock curious minds and create a forum for honest and open questions of young people who are ill informed, pressured and uncomfortable when it comes to talking about respectful relationships….there’s no harm in thinking big?!

I left education for opera, opera lead me to cabaret, cabaret to comedy and now in a nice neat circle, it’s leading me back to school…hopefully to make a difference! And very exciting it is to!

If you have information or advise about the above please see the website and drop me a message


Sarah-Ann: Diva x

Diva and Divo Dating: Speed dating with Sarah-Ann Cromwell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2WotgwHL7U

Internet dating with Lawrence Olsworth-Peter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BU_9Mjaph4





About Sarah-Ann Cromwell

"My name is Sarah-Ann Cromwell Britain's 1st Award Winning Operatic Comedian, 1st Female Singer (in 30 years) of Internationally touring Cantabile -The London Quartet and Awesome Facilitator (unlocking your awesome)! 4 star reviews from the Edinburgh Fringe, WINNER of Buxton Festival Fringe 'Spirit of the Fringe Award', WINNER of February's Cheese 'n' Crackers and Ice breaking, leadership role modelling and confidence coach for the Private and Public sector. Call me 'Diva'!"

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