Words & photos by Dave Jones.
The second edition of Sexhibition promised a weekend of empowerment and (sexual) self-expression. The sex industry in the UK alone is estimated to be worth billions and the participation in sexual matters exceeds even angling, but one form of dangling your rod still seems entrapped in hushed Victorian tones. It’s difficult to comprehend at times, so does Sexhibition provide release from such attitudes?
Well, yes and no. Judging by the congregation, it’s preaching to the converted – those who are unshackled by conventions and feel comfortable in an accepting environment – but something seemed lacking. The crowd went from latex clad couples released from the confines of their own private spaces to S&M kinksters, with the obligatory voyeuristic folks checking out the scantily clad, but the mood was at times subdued, as if nerves had multiplied.
The venue was the Victoria Warehouse in Trafford Park, former temporary home of the Warehouse Project. It’s a great space, full of character, just slightly out of the way of the mainstream. The main room worked really well with a stage for the many fashion shows, burlesque performances and even a gig by Republica singer Saffron, plus an area of stalls displaying and selling all manner of dress, toys, furniture and more.
However, the building did then show its failings as most of the exhibitors were dotted around various spaces over two floors – and at times challenging to find. It wasn’t all bad, but some visitors and exhibitors alike favoured the previous space, Event City’s dull Exhibox.
Back to the show, much was made of the many workshops, which included classes in wax play, sexpowerment, audiences with performers from the world of burlesque and of course porn. The opportunity to indulge in rope play and S&M was also provided in a fully equipped dungeon, while readings by erotic writers and photo shoots were well-attended.
The variety of merchandise available was also comprehensive to say the least, covering most bases from extreme pain infliction to haute couture kinky fashion, via home furnishings and all manner of potion and lotions – usually very slippery.
I was accompanied on my research by one of the North’s more sensual burlesque performers, whose eyes gave another perspective, and as we explored and spoke to all manner of people, we were left in two minds about the whole thing. On the one hand it was well staged in many areas – the entertainment was good, the idea is splendid – but it suffered from a collective uptight patronage, who clearly wanted to, and in some cases did, throw off the shackles of real life and suburbia, but most were still hemmed in by the last remnants of convention.
Would I attend again? Hell yeah. And I hope that as the show progresses and we all ease out of our little cocoons to stop worrying about the perceptions of others, we can grow into the most natural of our many functions.
Sexhibition 2016 took place on Friday 19-Sunday 21 August, and returns next year from Friday 1-Sunday 3 September, 2017.