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Performing at Clams In Their Eyes, I’d never felt more authentically me

Delicious Clam's annual New Year’s Eve extravaganza – a local version of Stars In Their Eyes – makes me happy to be alive, says performer-for-the-night Elaine Robertson.

Elaine as elsa from frozen

Elaine as Elsa from Frozen, for one night only, at Clams In Their Eyes 2022.

Reece Pinches

How much velcro do you need to create a full-length tear-away gown? Is six packs of rhinestones excessive? It’s 27 December and in four days I will be performing at Clams In Their Eyes.

Truth be told this is only the fourth time I’ve been to Sheffield. I’m from Newcastle and visited for the first time in July for Clamlines, Delicious Clam’s fringe event for Tramlines. I was meeting my boyfriend Dan’s pals. His brother Ben and friends Ed, Joseph and a gentleman known as CK Brown (he only ever wears brown) run the DIY gig space. I drank a stupid amount, got up on the karaoke and – in my mind, at least – absolutely destroyed a Britney classic.

Having also experienced Halloween in Sheffield – at which Dan was part of the headline act with the rest of the Delicious Clam gang, a doo wop band featuring all mutant rats – I thought I knew what to expect from Delicious Clam’s annual New Year’s Eve extravaganza.

Each of us submitted an audition tape as part of the application process for Clams In Their Eyes but at no point were any of us asked to demonstrate if we could actually sing. For Dan’s, I filmed him sprinting around Tyneside beach on a summer’s day in little shorts as he ‘trained’ for the show. I recorded mine over me eating a packet of crisps and watching telly because I’m a last-minute queen. We were both shortlisted. Dan booked a rehearsal room in Gateshead so we could practice our singing.

Dan as Joey Ramone

Dan as Joey Ramone.

Reece Pinches

When we arrived at Network on the day, the Delicious Clam lot had already been there setting up for four days and it quickly became clear that this was going to be much bigger and much sillier than Halloween; CK Brown, soon to be the host with the most for the night as Matthew Clammy, was on stage on a hoverboard, informing three of the extensive team of volunteers how a gag about tumbleweed was going to work.

They were expecting 600 people. I was very glad that Dan decided to book that rehearsal room. These guys weren’t here to fuck around. This was elite-level karaoke.

The show opened with Matthew Clammy smashing through a set of fake doors to pyrotechnics and shooting a t-shirt cannon into the crowd. People aptly lost their shit. The performers, including myself, flitted nervously between preparing back stage and watching the show.

First on was Britney (you better believe it’s Britney) Bitch. She was an absolute icon. She told me she’d been practising the ‘Oops I Did It Again’ dance in her bedroom since realising she got through. She was living all our Britney fantasies and watching her live hers made me feel weirdly emotional. In between the acts, Mystic Meg came on and predicted the future.

Next we had The Carpenters, who commanded the stage with their pitch-perfect cover of ‘Please Mr Postman’, featuring about 100 letters cascading onto the audience, a foam finger, a postie strike and an unintentional attack from a flying rubber goose which clean wiped out Karen Carpenter. She continued singing in the most dramatic on-stage recovery I’ve seen.

Dan was up next. We watched the stupid video we made on the beach play out to the Sheffield masses and then it was time for his Q&A with Matthew Clammy, involving a health check with a real nurse, his brother Ben and the tumbleweed gag. I was so proud watching Dan smash his top-rated karaoke classic, The Ramones’ ‘Baby, I Love You’, in front of the most game audience I’ve ever seen, as everyone swayed along and sang backing vocals.

Next up was Delicious Clam man Ed and volunteers Apple and Harry as the Beastie Boys. Ed led the rapping and the routine ended in a fight between an octopus man and a robot which Dan and Bruce said was better than the actual video for ‘Intergalactic’.

Oh shitting hell, it’s my turn! I ran up to the stage to Doja Cat’s ‘Boss Bitch’. I danced a bit with Matthew Clammy and then shot the t-shirt cannon out of my arse to a crowd of 600 people. I’ve never felt more authentically me. Looking out at the crowd, I knew I had made the right choice and that you can never overdo the rhinestones. “Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be Elsa from Frozen.”

The girls and the gays imploded as I waved and ran to get changed. Then the music began and I knew the next few minutes would create a new core memory. I chucked my crown, my cape and about six pints of biodegradable glitter over the audience. I’m very glad to have met Jenn, who with Ben had hand-painted my ice palace stage prop, and I nearly died getting stuck in the tearaway I’d spent a lovely day between Christmas and New Year’s Eve learning how to sew. When it eventually came off and I hit the (or, probably, a) big note at the end, I felt like goddamn Idina Menzel herself.


Gordon Pocket as Meatloaf.

Reece Pinches

My recollection of the rest of the night is light on details, but I danced in my cape to the most elegant and silly Björk, Limp Bizkit (which the audience lost their minds to) and finally Meatloaf. The Delicious Clam team brought the New Year in for us, and we danced and twirled as the Beastie Boys claimed the crown and surfed the crowd.

Clams In Their Eyes is the product of taking ‘wouldn’t it be funny if…’ and then completely committing to it. It’s weird to feel so proud and in awe of a bunch of people, a scene and a place I only encountered four months ago, but there’s something about witnessing six or so adults throw themselves into a stupid project with sheer professionalism that makes me happy to be alive.

Maybe we can all agree that t-shirt cannons will only add to an event and that daft for daft’s sake must be protected at all costs.

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