Last year, Salford Now told the story of how 63-year-old Joy France entered the rap battle scene. Now, she has taken her rap battling onto a new scene.
After taking early retirement from teaching five years ago, the Salford native has challenged her creativity. One of them was exploring the rap battle community.
Since then, she has evolved her rap battling into something more.
“I’ve taken the story of that and turned it into a stand-up comedy piece that I’ve performed around, and I’m getting loads more work to do with that,” says France.
“Yeah, it’s exciting to stretch into another field.”
“There’s not many people like me”
New fields is something France is keen to explore. Every year, she tries to do new things and she started 2019 with a goal of doing 64 new things before she turns 64.
“The motivation is very mixed. It’s not like I got a burning desire to be a stand-up comedian. I’m enjoying it, and other seem to enjoy it. I’m devoloping new skills. Sometimes I get paid for it, so why not? And obviously, there’s not many people like me,” the 63-year old says.
One of France’s gimmicks is her panda mask. She does not use it for the rap battling contests but on the stand-up stage, she is not afraid to pull it on.
The story of how France got into stand-up is one of coincidences. She was invited to a rap event in London, however it got canceled. At that same event was a comedy artist who invited France along to perform. She ended up, after telling the story of the “Rapping Nana Panda”, spending the night drinking with the comedians.
Before performing her first comedy piece, she had a brainstorm:
“What’s the advantages of being a short, fat, white head old lady. There must be some comedy angle,” she thought, before adding:
“For example, I was walking through Piccadilly Gardens and a pigeon shat on my hair, and it was white shit. So, although I got it out of my hair, nobody could see it. These things happen to me all the time, so why not play about with it?”
As well as performing on stages like Frog and Bucket in Manchester, she has also done charity performances of her stand-up piece for mental health and head injury charities across the North West.
“Although everyone is calling it stand-up comedy, it’s me storytelling. That’s all it is, really.”
“Exhausting being bored”
Alongside the rap battling and stand-up comedy performances, she runs the Creative Space in Afflecks. The space in the indoor market on Oldham Street in Manchester originally started out as a four-month project for the pensioner but France has now been in charge of it for four years.
As well, she has done a TedX Talk for University of Manchester about battling prejudice and will be giving out a book with a collection of her poems.
Photo Credit: Lars Magnus Igland Roys
In other words, France’s weeks are never the same. One day she might be on the train to London for a rap battle contest, the next hosting an event in Salford, before performing stand-up in Manchester.
“It’s exhausting being bored. I’m so busy doing all sorts of things. I’ve always had energy. If I’m at a party, I’m the last one standing when the sun comes up, chatting to the last person standing,” she says.
“You know, I don’t need loads of sleep, I don’t need lots of things… I know when to recharge my batteries and when I’m overdoing it. I have to look after myself,” says France.
For the Salfordian pensioner, age is just a number. She thinks it is important to continue living although one get older.
“I think there is this perception, oh, you out all your energy in your 20s and then there’s downhill from there. Nah. Well, it is for some people,” the Salfordian concludes.
Photo Credit: Lars Magnus Igland Roys
Show in the making
So, what’s next for the pensioner?
“I’m in a bit of a reflective mood of where I’m going at the moment,” she says.
“My idea is, maybe by next summer, I want to put it all together and make a show.”
And who would bet against the rapping stand-up panda?