My trip to Manchester’s Alternative & Burlesque Fair

Now in its fifth year, the Alternative & Burlesque Fair is the UK’s largest touring alternative shopping & entertainment event. Promising up to 70 exhibitors selling everything from vintage to steampunk fashion, the Grade II listed 02 Ritz provided a glamorous backdrop for this performer’s Mecca. I was on on mission to be inspired, spend too much money and see plenty of breasts.

Compère Liberty Pink hosted a full programme of entertainments ranging from twisted cabaret to aerial acts providing shoppers with an hourly reprieve as the lights were dimmed.

I was surprised by the pole dancing and a particularly graceful, ballet-like routine. Burlesque performers included the fabulous Raven Noir, who I met as an extra on Hollyoaks. I was so taken by her confidence that I decided then and there to share my solo idea, and I can’t wait to tell her how my first performance goes in June!

Raven Noir

On the subject of burlesque, Verity Grey had the greatest, jiggliest bum I’ve ever seen. At £6 a ticket the entertainment by itself was brilliant value and I felt privileged to watch such respected names in burlesque. On top of that, guests had access to countless independent businesses you often can’t just walk into a store and browse.

When I’d seen enough beautiful naked women, vintage themed dining was provided by Lil’s Parlour which was reasonable at £2.50 for a really special slice of cake so I could eat my feelings and sob.

In terms of exhibitors, the event was a little lacking in products geared towards burlesque; I saw few fabulous pasties, showgirl eyelashes or anything much beyond corsets. I also would have liked to see more rockabilly clothing because there’s not enough Vaseline in the world to slip me into fetishwear.

However, I had a fabulous, enlightening day. Here’s a round up of things to catch my eye.

 Nicola Hebson’s Curiosity Shop Dead Good Jewellery


Nicola Hebson has a deep respect and appreciation for nature, preserving the beauty in things which otherwise would be discarded or left to rot. Her pieces celebrate the loveliness to be found in the great outdoors, and capture the spirit of the great English woodlands.

All specimens seen in her work have died of natural causes or are victims of roadkill accidents, giving them a new lease of life and creating curious one of a kind works of art in the form of jewellery and ethical taxidermy.

Past commissions have included menstrual blood, unmusical cord, kidney stone and a lover’s hair encapsulated into a pendant.

My pal was appalled, but I personally have  a real soft spot for stuffed animals, and not the teddy bear kind. Here are some cute taxidermy pieces…

Whilst others are incorporated into headpieces…


Note: not actual dead baby.

And here is the pièce de résistance, yours for £55. Fascinated, I returned several times throughout the day to convince myself I definitely didn’t need half a dead rat. I think Nicola and I could be friends.


Another interesting brand is Nippleicious, offering piercing-free jewellery for your nips. Run by a vivacious eastern European named Sveta who will insist on demonstrating how to attach the jewellery to your pinkie, there are hundreds of really lovely designs available and I particularly like this piece – so many TITanic puns!


I thought I was pretty clued up on kinky stuff, but basically I was wrong. I didn’t even get the names of some exhibitors because I was flustered and trying hard not to look like I was looking, but I couldn’t ignore The Bondage Man:

‘Awh, candles! I might buy one for Mum!’


…wait, what’s alternative about candles? The Bondage Man helpfully provided photos of how to keep the flame alive with your lover. I am a great fan of UV so this wax would provide a cracking photoshoot if I wasn’t a giant chicken.


Time to leave.

It took a while to figure out what this was, and the more I saw it the more I wanted it:

plugHere are some ultra trashy stripper heels and Taylor Momsen rocking a similar design:



Brooches may no longer be cool but under lights, costume jewellery and accessories are really something. Although this piece by C J Accessories in particular caught my eye, I was after something red for an upcoming performance because I’m not domesticated and can’t sew. I settled on puckered lips for some simple, elegant decoration.



Of everything I saw, it’s this bespoke showgirl costume by performer and designer Daisy Cutter that really stole the show. It’s a shame the whole set isn’t visible, although you can spot it in the background of Raven Noir’s photo. The colours lilac, baby blue and mint are just dreamy and reminiscent of the dress Carrie wore for her junior prom in The Carrie Diaries.

By John Fox Photography


Now, on to what I actually bought. How great is my new hat by Twisted Stitch Designs?


I also got my hands on this gorgeous kimono (£20) by Madams Pinups, a brand I’ve previously written about. My fat bum and lack of ironing skills don’t do it justice, but my pal liked it so much she bought her own then and there.


On a vintage sale rail I found a sequinned crop for just £5 – buzzing! And to blow my last tenner after sprinting to a cash point, an apron I will definitely never wear. Should have bought the raccoon butt plug/feather duster.


And finally, feeling guilty for leaving the boyfriend at home I brought him back a very adult bondage colouring book (£5). However, I hear he’s also keen on the apron…




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