With the irrepressible Beth Ditto
Lovebox 2011 - Sunday poster

East London, as well as being notorious for gang culture, also has become the San Francisco of London - the gay and lesbian hang out zone. So Sunday's Lovebox has an implicit subtext when the line-up is read: Marc Almond - check, Beth Ditto - check, Peaches - check, Kelis - check, Scissor Sisters - double check, The Monarchy...'What is it? It's Gay Day! What is it? It is our day!' Ditto declares to the thousands in front of her.

So, in the midst of mud and the debris of the past two days' fervent dancing and pogoing, strut near naked queens, butches, freaks and the fearless, all here to enjoy their music and their culture. I know I should say music is music - it doesn't have a sexuality agenda. But it would appear it does as the crowd today is undisputedly a gay majority.

But, in between thunderstorms and the lashings of rain which have so far claimed most of the weekend, there's sunshine and an abundance of excitement around.

The whole Lovebox site has now turned into a flamboyant circus times fifty; backstage is full of queens, elaborate costumes and more drama than CSI, Gossip Girl and Shameless put together. I feel more square than a rubix sitting on the grass, drinking a cup of tea. Someone from OPI offers to give me a manicure but I think it's really a strategy to 'clear out the boring people'. I take the stool in the Placement Boutique tent only to be told how MTV's wacky Christian has just had his nails done - one hand blue, the other silver. But I decide to deal with having my nails painted a tame mauve; if nothing else, it gives me an excuse to sit and stare at the parade a bit longer.

Finally, I'm persuaded to brace myself for the crowd. And who can resist the forceful charisma of the warm Southern punk belle, Beth Ditto? As nonchalant as if performing in her neighbour's backyard, she saunters in the artists' area barefoot with mud-splattered calves, hungrily dragging on the end of cigarette before donning what can only be described as an emerald green marquee. I don't THINK she's a Celtic fan and she is wearing a Pucci style body con dress beneath. Still, it does make for a remarkable entrance along with her troupe of camp male dancers.

After five minutes of banter with the audience declaring how they should all love their mothers because their mother had created them and other informal chit-chat warming them to her, she remembers she's here to do a 'concert' and rips out with that amazing voice, belting out from some gospel gut. Her warm Southern nature and accent burst out of every pore and she has the thousands of the teatime crowd bouncing as she bustles and prances about the stage to various variations and adaptations of anthems and dance music.

At one point, having declared: 'It is my pleasure. I love you all so much!' she disappears. The music keeps building up a raunchy sexy rhythm while backstage we see her strip off into a black bra and huge spotty black knickers. She wriggles about on the steps (much to the legion of photographers behind her), waiting for the tension to build, totally in her element before returning to the crowd's rapturous roar and applause. She wriggles and sexily struts her near-naked stuff across the stage. Well, if someone has to teach people to enjoy their body as it is, it might as well be the unstoppable Beth Ditto. Gok Kwan, eat your heart out. She then closes with her version of 'En Vogue' - with far more camp conviction than Madonna. The tight songs of 'Gossip' are gone but Ditto's larger-than-life personality is obviously here to stay. Still, her voice and outrageous behaviour deserve proper songs if she wants to truly become a gay icon.

Later, she enters the Placement Boutique for her free giftings. Instead of rushing to the freebies, she announces, 'Hey, everybody, what you up to? It sounds scary as fuck in here.' Admittedly, there is some rather dark music going on. She then makes a beeline for Danny Daniels, a tall lean transsexual from Peaches' camp flaunting his bare plastic breasts to the world and the hairdresser's mirror. Ditto chatters at him encouragingly with her trademark ebullience before being shown the goodies. She receives each as if it's a specific present: 'Oh for me! Oh my gosh. Thanks. I'm so happy. Is that a camera? It's just like Christmas.'
Ditto is a charmer and it really is extremely hard to dislike her. But she needs to get some new songs done to do her justice.

Words by Jaime Scrivener

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