The Firm sound like a gang of East End mobsters, and for all we know, the choice of name may be deliberate: what they really are is a team of SMers who produce London’s best play parties, among which is Night of the Cane.
The flyer, with a very fetching picture of a woman in red pvc and fishnets, kicking up a red Doc Marten booted foot as a Black Chastiser cane met her very inviting bottom, listed such attractions as school room, boxing ring, workshops, and the Ivor Gold Caning Competition: How could Josie and I stay away?
We arrived at a sizeable Deptford hostelry at 6pm (which is early for an SM night, though this was a Sunday), to find the party already bubbling away, and our host, Ishmael Skyes, hurriedly directing the finishing touches.
It was fortunate that there were two of us, because The Firm were providing simultaneous entertainments for the first half of the evening: I chose the first workshop – CP with Mistress Raven – while Josie couldn’t resist the opening of the schoolroom.
As I’ve been playing CP games in both roles for quite a while, I thought the workshop might be a bit dull, but I’m pleased to say that I was pleasantly surprised; not only did Mistress Raven cover the basics for beginners very thoroughly, she also explained some very useful tricks of trade, that even I hadn’t heard of. When I later told her how much I’d enjoyed it, she said that in her day job she devised management courses for the IT industry. "What a pity I can’t use my cane there", she added. "It would be great for making them concentrate."
When I saw Josie again, the first school class was over, and she was actually joining the second!
The ‘classroom’ was really only six sets of desks and chairs and a blackboard and easel, all lit in an eerie orange as the pupils took their places. Then, as the teacher turned round, cane in hand, the lights changed to bright white: class had started.
The teacher was a beautiful Indian dominatrix in cap and gown, and I was not at all surprised when a very cheeky blonde girl was the first to misbehave, and to be ordered out to bend, bare-bottomed, over the stool. Flexing the cane, the teacher told the class to watch carefully, and with a very sadistic smile, she took careful aim and ordered "Count!" Then she gave her target three rapid taps with the cane before flicking it back and bringing it down with a loud whack.
The girl looked as if she could take the cane with the naughtiest of them, but the Indian teacher was clearly making her an example, and I could only sympathise as a couple of the boys winced and exchanged worried glances. This was a very real six of the best: Every blow was executed with power and precision, and obviously intended to hurt and be remembered. The poor girl had six bright red stripes by the time her knickers were pulled up, and she resumed her place in class sitting very gingerly.
Shortly afterwards, another teacher, the famous Madame Zak, arrived to take over, and the two worried boys looked quite relieved. She taught French, with a great deal of wit and humour, for half an hour, but however much the onlookers laughed, the class did so at their peril, and all the pupils left class at the end with impressive sets of stripes.
We retired for a drink, and when we returned to watch the high jinks in the classroom, a buxom nun was teaching sex-education, but she was no sister of purity, or of mercy either, as students who sniggered at her awful double-entendres were swiftly treated to a stinging six on the behind.
Josie attended the next workshop, which was ‘Construction and Use of the Birch’ hosted by Miss Prim of the Muir Academy. There is clearly far more to birching than I thought, as Josie returned shiny-eyed, and full of new ideas: Miss Prim had obviously taught her very well. (She related the following from the Indian mistress; "I tell all my victims that if they cum in my presence, it’s six with the birch straight after. I love it when they do, their expression changing from ecstasy to terror, because they know I’m going to do it!")
While this had been going on, I remained where I was to watch the boxing (the classroom had been spirited away). I’m something of a follower of the noble art myself, but I’d never imagined seeing it in an SM club.
The first few matches were knockabout and funny, sometimes with two girls ganging up on one guy and breaking all the rules, but as the 45 minutes of ring time went on, the boxing got more serious with more of the combatants knowing the game. In the last bout, Ishmael was on the recieving end of some very sharp and precise rights from a tall schoolgirl named Poppy, and I’m sure I saw some blood.
Stage blood, no doubt. I asked Ishmael later; why boxing?
"I know it looks scary", he replied. "It still looks scary when you’re doing it, because however cute your opponent might look in those gloves, they want to hit you with them, and it hurts if they do. It’s really just another SM game: we eroticise punishment, torture, and restriction, so why not fighting? The bottom line, I guess, is that it’s huge fun, we haven’t had anyone hurt, and it’s far less painful than being caned."
Which brings us to the highspot of the evening; with the stage cleared, we were all ready for the Caning Competition, hosted by the brilliant Ivor Dembina, and his glamorous assistant, Ms Bossyboots.
All the contestant couples had filled in a form at the entry desk, and each were summoned by Ms Bossyboots to wow the judges with six of the best, to be marked on accuracy, power, and erotic content.
To The Firm’s credit, they had assembled a triumvirate of the best caners in Britain to adjudicate: Miss Prim of the Muir Academy; Tim Woodward of Skin Two and Group Six; and queen of British dominas, the wonderful Madam Clare.
The quality of competitors was almost invariably high, and the judges must have had a very hard job to decide which of the very impressive performances was the best. Of the twenty contestants, only two mistresses were unworthy of competing, and these seemed to be very inexperienced newbies who rated their own reputations far higher than their ability.
We were treated to two magnificent spectacles before the winners were announced, firstly a Turkish belly dance – complete with bright gold cane - by the lissom Bamba in her school uniform, and then the eulogy for murdered Red Stripe promoter Ivor Gold.
Poppy (who had fought so well in the boxing ring) spoke movingly of Ivor, who she had known well, and then delivered, in his memory, an exemplary caning to her friend Mel (who has an exquisite bottom), with the whole audience counting the strokes.
Then Ishmael Skyes was on stage to present the prize. The winners were a Spanish couple named Ivan and Elisa, who had won the judges approbation with a very powerful caning accompanied by a very husky count "Uno, Gracias Sénor. Duos, Gracias Sénor..." Worthy winners.
After that it was outside for the fireworks (it was November 4th) and a very welcome baked potato – and a word with Ishmael Skyes, the architect of Night of the Cane, who we found sitting at a picnic table, savouring a pint of bitter.
Ishmael came on The Scene in 1986, and co-founded The Firm three years later, which now runs eight such idiosyncratic SM parties a year. Sources tell us that his name was romantically linked to that of a Janus writer in the 80s, and maybe it is that which fired his interest in the CP scene. We asked him where the idea of Night of the Cane came from.
"Pure CP seemed to have a bit of a bad press", he said thoughtfully. "Even some Scene people associated the cane with MPs, prostitutes and voting Tory. That pissed me off because caning is fantastic – both to give and receive – and by both pro and con it was being dressed up as something it wasn’t."
"So what is it?" we asked, ever ready to be told how to suck eggs.
He grinned. "It’s the biggest fucking turn-on in the world – so good that it hurts like hell, and so strong that the erotically-challenged can’t cope with it. Whatever dressing up games and punishment rituals that you build up around being caned (and I love playing them, don’t get me wrong) the point is that it makes you horny – and not being allowed to fuck the person who’s hurt you (if that’s the case) makes it even worse! I’ve heard so many bollocky reasons why people say they need it – good of the soul, assuaging burdens of guilt and such like. The last thing a caning makes me do is behave myself – I just get worse! I love it."
We asked if he thought the night had been a success, and he nodded, glancing around the yard.
"Look at the people we’vegot," he said. "Those guys over there in uniform – the School Scene; then we’ve got serious SMers looking all black and shiny; and the CP club people in their evening dress. Even though they all might think that they’re different, they all come here because their love of the cane unites them. That’s why it’s a success."
Had he plans for an even wider catchment area next year?
"Yeah", he replied, visibly relishing the idea (or was it just the prospect of the cane that Josie was carrying?) "We want to appeal to as many areas as possible; Het, Gay, Dyke, Bi, Dom, Sub – anyone into it, in fact: As far as we’re concerned, the cane is for everyone, that’s what Night of the Cane is all about."
(Reproduced by kind permission of Kane Magazine)
Look at the pictures from the night.