With the cancellation of what would have been the first, fully prepared and planned, House of WhippLash at The Gate venue and the rolling down of the shutters on this endeavour I find myself in an interesting situation: In much the same way that I don't have to write nice things and only nice things about the o&I @ Eureka events... I no longer have to write nice things about HOWL. It, for the foreseeable future, no longer exists and hell I think bridges look better on fire anyway.
So here we go it's what everyone wants, if you're honest, grab a hold of my Staff badge and lets go behind the curtains and poke around. See what dirt we can find, what truths reveal themselves and what barbs we can throw yes? That is why you followed me behind the curtain isn't it?
The First Time.
HOWL used to be known as ClubFEM and if you go here and scroll to the bottom you will see... there we are. That website doesn't get updated very often (despite the (C) 2001 - 2016 bit). ClubFEM (technically ClubFEM-UK or ClubFEM-Kent) was a franchise, they let you use their branding & some advertising spaces for your event and in return you operate under a fairly strict set of rules and allegedly you'd get random inspections of enforcement: probably didn't apply when you'd need to get on a plane for 8 hours to poke your nose in somewhere but you never know, some people are just that bloody minded (I should I know, I'm one of them).
ClubFEM(-UK/Kent/whatever) was also one of those events caught in the drama crossfire over the closure/loss of 'The Factory' venue (and I'm sticking to my story on that whole affair) so after a hiatus and rethink MzWhipplash found another venue and I was added to the roster of staff as my other half would be looking after the music side of stuff and I'd be doing the catering side. This new venue was DV8 in Kent, which hosts amongst others Cruel Huntress & Club-XS so it's not like the idea of a BDSM event appearing was in anyway new or novel for them.
Opening night went really well, we had amazing feedback said to our faces about what we were doing. The food, music and everything else received high praise and those same people told us that they would make coming to us a regular thing and they'd be telling all of their friends about this wonderful new event.
And the rot sets in.
Remember I said that ClubFEM operated as a series of franchises and that those franchises had a lot of rules? As time progressed and more eyes appeared we began to encounter issues with these rules, we didn't think it was fair to fully exclude male Dominants from a female Dominant led event, it presented issues when it came to a male Dom escorting his female slave because she wanted play from a Domme (it's a different take on things) nor were we particularly comfortable with the rule that any Male-to-Female Trans person was to be considered Male for the purposes of these events: so you couldn't be a Trans Domme... and it meant the little F's on both my partners and my own ID couldn't be taken in to consideration.
We had people tell us that these rules, despite our openly lax enforcement of them, were a reason they were not going to be a customer. So the three of us talked about it and decided that people were coming to us because of US not because ClubFEM was a strong and well known brand here in the UK. So rebranding meant we could write our own, more consumer friendly, rules and peoples gender wasn't a matter of debate.
So, and I think I posted it on this very blog, we held the last ClubFEM bid farewell to it with a toast and rebranded as House Of WhippLash or HOWL.
Despite all of this being well announced, well communicated and in general terms well received by people...
Do you know what one of the perennial demands that was made of us, the single largest reason given why people had decided to not buy a ticket to one of our events, a demand that crossed over both ClubFEM & HOWL branding?
"Where's all the money going?"
"What are you doing with all the money?"
This came from all corners and it was fairly relentless, I doubt in the strongest possible terms you can imagine coming from my mouth (up to and including more 'colourful' language choices) that these people demand the same information from any other ticketed event they attend. Do they demand o&I throw open its books and reveal where the money goes? No. Do they demand Pedestal show us the Terms & Conditions of its hiring of the Fire venue and how much money is changing hands for that? Of course they fucking aren't.
Ok, now the dust has settled on HOWL and you've followed me behind the curtains to snoop around I guess I can tell you, exactly, where every last penny of the money went with the singular exception of £40.
IT WENT TO PAY FOR THE VENUE!
Do you really think that DV8 or The Gate were free and you could just phone them up and go "Yeah I want to book for Friday, kthnxbai"? Do you understand we have a special room you use to poop in or do the just squat down anywhere when you need to go? I really have to ask that question because you people are clearly mentally deficient to the point of needing to wear little helmets and have carers if they think that a venue costs nothing to hire for an evening.
It literally ALL WENT TO PAY FOR THE VENUE!
Here is the big, long list, of all the things that were not covered (in part or in whole) by the amount of money we ended up with before the doors opened on a given night:
- Updates to the music library.
- Raw ingredients for food.
- Cost preparing the food (gas, electricity).
- Cost of storing the food.
- Petrol/Diesel used to get to the venue.
- An ex-British Army Mk2 "Norwegian" hot/cold box.
The list goes on all the way down to:
- Laundering tea towels as we used our own (electricity, detergent)
- Dry cleaning of outfits if needed.
We spent the best part of £200 on equipment, each event consumed an additional £20 - £60 in raw ingredients. A grand total of £40 ever went somewhere other than the hand of the person who owned the venue we were using.
We weren't raking it in! By any metric you want to use we were operating at a substantial loss. And all three of us not only said this repeatedly, we also, always said:
ALL THE MONEY GOES TO THE VENUE
Guess what? It actually did all go to the venue.
The best of the rest.
Don't think for a second that the only thing these malicious entities were spreading is that we were being less than honest about our takings, ohh hell no. It might have been the most damaging slight but it wasn't the only one.
For example, did you know that despite their being photographic evidence of me stood over a cooker, with a time stamp that says 3am and gives the date of a ClubFEM/HOWL event that apparently none of the food was cooked by me? Yep, we've heard other events telling people their food is home cooked unlike ours.
It was home cooked, I know this because I FUCKING cooked it.
Did you know that we had two overseers attached to us at DV8 and one of the reasons stated by them was "we've heard all about you" (the other being the blatantly obvious 'in case our shit breaks') and trust me this was not said in a good way, this was not a compliment on my capabilities.
So I can surmise that, having being attacked on two separate occasions at another club (o&I), having my partner attacked at that same club and it suddenly becoming a little less humerus when I had to defend myself, that a person or group of people who go to both venues had 'warned' them about me and probably 'for their own protection'.
How long until Keith, who runs The Gate, would also be 'warned' for 'his own protection'?
It should be noted that I'm not the only person to have been attacked at that event either. I'm just the only one to stick my head up and actually talk about what happened. As far as I can tell it's me not being happy to be assaulted that's the issue. Yes, Assault. Actual Bodily Harm was inflicted upon me.
Despite having a very experienced team of people running the event any of whom were not only happy to but on several occasions DID help novices out we've heard several people telling our potential customers not to buy tickets to us because we weren't for the novice to experience.
Considering we've also heard people telling others the reverse... yeah, enough said.
Where'd they go
Of course the nay sayers were one thing and I'm sure their damage will be revealing itself for quite some time to come but the real problem? The problem that no matter how hard we worked we just couldn't overcome?
All those people who told us they'd support us, said what a wonderful night they had, promised they be back and they were most certainly going to tell all of their friends about us?
On our opening night we sold a grand total of 15 tickets. We considered that a good place to start, especially considering all the praise that was being said to our faces about what we were doing and how we were going about it.
After that opening event the numbers didn't just drop, they leapt lemming like off a cliff to the point where the three of us would celebrate a grand total of 10 sales (with several 'cash on door' requests being honoured despite our better judgement, none of those people ever showed up though) until eventually we would struggle to sell 10 tickets.
To be clear the minimum amount of sales for "going live" was 10 that was the minimum we had to set. It took 10 tickets to pay for the venue hire and we had to confirm, with the venue, on a Wednesday evening that we were using the booking and going live. This is why those "Cancelled due to low numbers" messages appeared on a Wednesday evening, it wasn't us being arbitrary it was the deadline set by the venue!
Lets also be clear that our timetable of events was public knowledge, it was posted up on Fetlife in all of the various groups you'd expect to see event adverts. It was on various peoples profiles, it was even something any of us would have been happy to tell you if you'd asked us directly. The general rule of thumb is that the next event will be two months from the previous one, final Friday of that month. Bosh, done.
So why was it that the vast majority of time we'd have less than 10 sales only hours before we had to confirm with the venue? Why was it that consistently people, who had professed how much they enjoyed coming to us, would be so god damn reticent to actually buy the damn tickets? It's not like we only opened sales for an event a few days before the cut off or something else equally dumb: you could buy tickets to the next event from quite literally the second the previous one finished.
Am I the only one who finds that quite odd? You have a group of people who are telling you one thing (how much they love your event and how much they're going to tell their friends about this) and yet you're struggling, month on month, to sell enough tickets to even cover the hire of the venue let alone even begin to become fully self sufficient.
My Final Thoughts
HoWL failed whilst riding the wings of praise. I never heard anyone who actually came to our events criticise what we were doing, a few things were mentioned as "nice to haves" but beyond that I never heard one word of complaint from the punters. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the three of us who were running the event were far more critical of our respective performances than those who came through the door were.
That doesn't mean to say I'm not really rather annoyed by all of this. Every HoWL I diligently cooked and created stuff, only to see, every damn time nobody eating it. Making the two crinoline cakes that have adorned HoWL (once at DV8 and once at The Gate) took a lot of time & effort, it involved other people helping me as well and not one slice of those cakes was ever eaten by a customer.
It isn't, despite what people may think, about the money. It's about the effort and how much of it was wasted doing this whilst out there someone was making themselves busy undermining all of this effort and work we were putting in.
Why did HoWL fail? We were blackballed, don't know by who, don't know why (but the three of us can take guesses) it's either that or everyone who came... lied to our faces.
And in closing...
That's everything, is it what you were expecting? Do you see the bridges on fire, the barbs you can use to throw back at us? I suspect... in fact I know you're already busy constructing your own, cherry picking this article and dreaming up new ways to misquote and twist what was said.
Because you already have and you already did.