Drawing: Diane Chorley: The Duchess of Canvey

diane chorley

This is the first time one of my drawings has been kissed! Diane Chorley, the legendary Duchess of Canvey, former owner of the celeb-magnet 80s Essex nightclub The Flick and ex-con had just finished her final performance of a two week run at London’s Soho Theatre on Saturday night.

The place was humming – inside and out – as the streets and establishments throughout Soho were fuelled with revellers after the Pride March earlier in the day.

I stood by the ticket office door for strategic and safety reasons. When Diane, sipping on a lager, came out to take in the sights (one of which was my sketch) she gasped.

“Oh babe… wow! Did you do that? Wonderful,” she signed it and inscribed it and then baptised it with a kiss and beer. Now that’s lip service. A truly unique experience and addition for the collection. Dubbed the Duchess of Canvey by David Bowie, Diane describes her life on her website as:

“I was born in Canvey on the coldest day of the year. Mum said I was steaming when I came out. She was a good woman, hands like iron files, teeth like crackling. My father was a Hodd Carrier. Silent as bread, … never said a word. Turns out he was having an affair with a chiropodist from Billericay. Mum found out and killed him. Literally… Mum got life.”

Left to look after her younger brother, Diane resorted to some drug dealing for survival. She was eventually locked up and the nightclub shut down. Her show is a mixture of music accompanied by her equally famous  band The Buffet, and comic tales recounting her troubled days of infamy and fall from grace.

I read in Time Out that in order to handle being mobbed by insatiable fans, the Soho Theatre did look at the cost of a water cannon for crowd control. It was a toss up between that and a cold spread for The Buffet and they all agreed there was less chance of the venue getting sued over a crudité platter. I was pleased about that.