The Firm

Sauce And Swordery

 By now people are getting familiar with the sort of fetish club where latex-clad dancers meet fashion designers meet performance artists. Evenings spent at these places can be thoroughly excellent experiences that will alter your life ever after. But big is not always best. Why not support a brave individual who has dared to be different?

 Ishmael Skyes has been running his alternative club for kinky sex enthusiasts for many years now. The Firm is the diametric opposite of the clubs based on fashion and fleecing the punters. People of all shapes and sizes are welcome here – big, beautiful women abound at these events and although s/m is usually the dish of the day there is room for all known legal forms of kinky sex. There is one serious rule. In the unlikely event you want to wear SS regalia or swastikas you will not be allowed in. Any other uniform is welcome. (Fashion tip; nearly all men look great in Uniforms. They are cheap and easily obtainable. Who needs easily perishable rubber at five hundred quid a go?)

 Ishmael's website contains an exhaustive (and exhausting) dress code guide. Among the many options available are swashbuckling pirate or noble knight – both of which suit your average guy better than being a rubber submissive. And you might well get to rescue a damsel in distress in such a costume. Or see if a fairy tale princess wants to be swept off her feet.

 The Firm is run by Ishmael Skyes and a shadowy gaggle of (gorgeous) witchy women. This unlikely collection of defiantly unfashionable real people provide the best fetish parties available in London. These events are about sex first and fashion second. Dressing up is all very well but surely there have to be times when you get undressed? And at Firm events there are always plenty of people who will help you achieve your wildest desires. The Firm have been running events for sex maniacs for many years now, usually in the East End of London. You may have seen Ishmael on some late night telly show or other designed to present fetishists as bizarre or pitiful freaks. Even under these circumstances he usually presents the argument for tolerance and sexual diversity with gentle humour. He has recently been seen with some lovely ponygirls on UK Raw - the usual shallow telly junk which seeks to exploit salacious imagery while simultaneously deriding its subjects. Some may quibble about Ishmael sporting a beard in the 21st century but The Firm exists outside time and current fashion dogma.

 The name Neverwhere seems especially appropriate for their evenings. Arriving at one of their events really does feel different from any other gathering: anything could happen in this special place. And it usually does. Where else could you see a rubberized Edmund Blackadder boxing with an adult baby? The Firm is undoubtedly the most diverse gathering of kinky people I have ever seen. All adults are welcome (if they play by the rules, which will probably be scrawled on a scrofulous little bit of paper by the door). All kinks are catered for, although fem-dom and corporal punishment enthusiasts tend to predominate. Consensual CP is indulged in whenever and wherever possible although there is usually some theme attached to the evening. People into being doggies, horsies and ponies will also be welcome. Pagans, battle re-enactors and Shakespeare obsessives will also find a home. Ishmael has even written an s/m epic in iambic pentemater for this year's Medieval Fayre. You may need time, as I did, to cope with the sheer insanity of it all. Actually, it could be that the world has become too corporate and fashion oriented and Ishmael is the lone voice of sanity left.

 Like most scene events there is an adequate sufficiency of dominant women around which is probably how it should be. Most blokes look like berks attempting to be hard and cool – even if they actually are. You will probably have a better time as a submissive anyway. Just lay there and let people play with you or do as you're told. It's more fun than strutting about doing all the work.

 Ishmael's unique selling point has to be the weird and wonderful world of Medieval Fetishism. If you have ever been into Sword and Sorcery you might like poncing about in a jerkin and codpiece while interacting with various fair maidens and wicked witches. This is an appropriate atmosphere for Dungeon fantasies, a great deal of scourging, mock sword fights, energetic grappling in leather, feats of derring do and a fair amount of Sauce and Swordery. This rich brew is not to everyone's taste. One of my more refined female friends (my only refined female friend come to think of it) prefers elegant role-play that lasts for days on end. She said, of the Firm's general approach to things, "I'm not criticising it. I'm just not one of the cheerful bum-bashers." I'm afraid I'm guilty as charged here, but you can get tired of supposedly chic doom and gloom. A little silliness can be most refreshing and what could be dafter than Fetish Morris Dancing, another Firm specialty. I originated this as a conceptual gag some years ago – inspired by Whipmaster Alex Jacob – a very funny guy who makes the best whips, floggers and anything else you might need for a roisteringly good evening's entertainment. I didn't expect that a small group of hey-nonny-no perverts would actually still be at it several years later. The Prince Albert Morris wear fetish clothes and hit each other with big sticks. They are completely and utterly serious about the traditional dancing bit, which makes you proud to be British. Incidentally, they are always looking for new members if you can rehearse in the South London area.

 Although The Firm may like a laugh, Ishmael takes sexual politics seriously. Rigorously non-sexist language is insisted upon, although sometimes tongue in cheek (I think it was Ishmael who coined the term Schoolpersons for adult boys and girls in uniform). As at other events, don't even think about hassling the women (or trannies, transsexuals, and those still making their mind up). Don't touch anyone without asking very nicely and, as I have to keep on saying, a really useful dating tip is actually to talk with the object of your desire. Even better, listen while they talk. It works wonders. Dominant women have had enough of the "Here I am. Let's get stuck in." approach (which I was once guilty of myself, like a lot of guys taking their first steps along this sometimes dark and difficult path.)

 The Firm should be cherished for their mix of English Eccentricity and Pagan Magic (some of them pretty serious practitioners of the craft and, thankfully, some who are irresponsible people who just like a laugh.). They like to preserve what is best about our traditions. Burns Night, for instance, is a regular feature of The Firm calendar. I can't drink or stomach haggis so The Goddess alone knows what happens at this event but a fair amount of inebriation is likely and also lots and lots of real food for real people. Stilton, haggis, chilli; the sort of rich and robust grub that would horrify your average clubland poseur. There are other aspects to The Firm I am not privy to, because it also functions as a secret cult bent on world domination (if it ever pulls its pants up long enough to get anything done). Their ultimate aim remains secret – although the return of Doctor Who to British Television remains high on their list of unreasonable demands.

 You might be wondering why on earth we are discussing obscure children's television (I can barely bring myself to type the words Blake's Seven here – another feeble Brit attempt at Sci-Fi). But science fiction often contains dominant women, outlandish costumes and cruel and unusual punishments – everything you might find at a typical Firm evening. And if you're into this stuff (duff sci-fi) you need hide this dreadful perversion no longer. There are other people into it. Soon it might even be legal.

 The caning competition is another wizard wheeze which other promoters would probably consider uncool (i.e. it isn't elitist or ludicrously expensive). The Night of the Cane happens every autumn; doing pretty much what you imagine it might. The caning competition aims to discover the most skillful Dominants and Submissives in this area. Mere brutality means instant disqualification: anyone breaking the skin of the buttocks is immediately disqualified. I might be biased here, as I have been asked to be the celebrity (?!) judge at this year's event, but the caning competition combines eroticism, endurance and genuine sporting excitement. Who will triumph? More to the point; will it ever end?

 One year the Mistress of Ceremonies was reduced to disqualifying submissives on extremely dubious grounds, (talking, smiling, fidgeting) otherwise they would probably still be there, still wondering whether these dominants are going to stop mucking about and really get down to it…

 A recent winner – who had taken a monumental thrashing by any standards - decided to celebrate the event with a whipping. Although he had latex shorts on – to protect the skin from cutting and bleeding – his buttocks must surely have been transformed to hard-wearing leather long since but if a thing is worth is worth doing it's obviously worth overdoing. Not that you need to be put off by those at the cutting edge. With a proper warm–up caning, whipping and spanking will be experienced as a vigorous massage – and just where you need it most. Health warning; if you are not warmed up or experienced you can scar or damage yourself. Best advice is to attend a Firm event and find out how to do consensual s/m properly.

 Another event unique to The Firm is Foxy Boxing. This involves a full-size boxing ring and a genuine pugilist close by to make sure that not too many people were stretchered away. The night I saw this there was no shortage of male submissives willing to stand still while strong women with real boxing gloves gave them a sort of percussive massage. If a sound drubbing from an Amazon in shiny shorts and a leather helmet appeals perhaps it might be worth contacting The Firm. You should probably also seek professional help, although a few clouts from a vigorous women may very well be preferable to the sort of expensive mauling you will receive at the hands of a therapist. I should point out that Foxy Boxing does involve a small chance of serious brain damage, and indeed death, but then you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. "It's probably better to be doing the boxing then to be standing there waiting for a boxing glove in the face," said one woman who has experienced both roles. Indeed so. At a recent event Foxy Boxing was just one of the many attractions which kept the house heaving until seven a.m., when some of the revellers could only be separated with buckets of cold water.

 There is of course nothing wrong with the upmarket bit of the scene. If you are a successful professional or have inherited wealth you may wish to form an attachment to a professional dominatrix. She can afford the latest rubber couture and you can bankrupt yourself funding her class A drug habit or her insane shopping splurges. We need never discuss her chronic self-esteem problems. Just keep getting your wallet out. Very nice. Very stylish, I'm sure. Or you could come and meet some real people. Tickets are usually fifteen to twenty quid (much less than you'd pay to see clowns like Madonna miming to someone else's backing track. And dropping her microphone in the process, while the digitally retouched voice whines on regardless.)

 Music at Firm events is an odd mixture of everything from Dance to heavy rock – but never too loud. You will be able to hear an indecent proposal. You will be able to talk to the object of your desire. The loudest sound to be heard at Firm events is usually that of a bewildering array of canes, floggers and paddles on naked flesh and the cackles of mad fetish witches. Perhaps I should have said 'merry pagan women.' But as they have yet to succeed in turning me into a frog perhaps witchcraft isn't quite the right word anyway. Bitchcraft, however, is never in short supply, so be careful.

 Joking apart, anyone into s/m is playing with the most powerful forces that human beings can unleash. These are deep, dark waters. Speaking of things aquatic, the Firm's annual rivertrip - The Boat - provides a once a year opportunity to have an s/m orgy within sight of the Houses of Parliament. If you want to chew gum too fast and dance to post-industrial-death-mutant-beats or whatever-dance-is-called-this-week do not attend this particular event. The tradition is that Madame Zak frustrates a bunch of twitching dance-heads by playing heavy metal from the cobwebbed seventies. I'm with the dancers on this one. Hugging each other is much better than the traditional end to an evening with alcohol – a fight in a kebab shop. But it's all part of the Firm's special charm.

 Keeping it real is so much preferable to having to queue up outside a venue – just to make them look good - then enduring a search by professional criminals before being charged a fortune for your drinks. An evening with The Firm will be eccentric, it will be downright barmy and it will also be whatever you make it. "I want people to think more and join in more," says Ishmael, quite rightly so. He really is doing this for the fun of it; not just to make money (not that realistic an option anyway).

 Has Ishmael invented socialist sex? Perhaps I shouldn't have put those two words together. It conjures up visions of a dirty weekend in Albania. In about 1950. Ishmael's unique vision is probably closer to Anarchy as it was originally dreamed up; ordinary people getting together for mutually beneficial purposes. If they don't hurt anyone else what business is it of the government? Whatever the label, Ishmael Skyes is deadly serious about enabling ordinary people to enjoy kinky sex at a reasonable price in friendly surroundings. So good for him. And long may it continue.

Mark Ramsden (published here by kind permission of Fiesta Digest)