Ruby Blues Scrapyard Queen


Written by Heydon Prowse
20 Thursday 20th September 2007

In a generation universally profient in Microsoft Office, but utterly incapable of changing a tyre, Ruby Blues is a welcome break from the norm. When she's not hanging out on her Torpedo Boat on the Thames, she builds outlandish machines from scrap metal with her boyfriend Joe Rush of the legendary Mutoid Waste Co and puts together Glastonbury's Trash City.

Hello Ruby please introduce yourself and tell us what you do.

My name is Ruby Blues and I'm the co-creative director of Glastonbury festival's red-light district: Trash City. I am also the front woman with evil Electro outfit Hooligan Night, a moonlighting neo-burlesque and cabaret performer, event organiser and a general sticker of fingers into various pies the rest of the time!

Ruby riding one of her boyfriend's creations

Trash City was without-doubt the place to be at this year's Glastonbury. Tell us a little about how it came to be and the work involved in creating it.

Trash City was basically the manifestation of the fantasy city that has been living inside my mind for some time, which ended up being somewhere between a 2000AD comic strip, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdrome and Soho on a Saturday night. How it came into being is quite a long and twisted tale, but the short(ish) version is that it's the culmination of a long-term creative partnership between myself and my partner Joe Rush, the founder of legendary scrap-pile art and party collective Mutoid Waste Co.

Ruby and Joe Rush riding one of Joe's creations (called Ruby Baby) at Glastonbury

We met in 2002 and have been working together on projects ever since, which have included the construction of a giant mobile pirate ship in 2004 and an all-girl mutant freak show with giant metal props in 2005. It was around this time that I got invited by the late, great Arabella Churchill to run my own corner of the Circus and Theatre fields at Glastonbury festival.

Trash City

Joe already had a long history with Glastonbury and we combined forces to create our first festival environment: Midnight's Carnival - an apocalyptic Victorian fairground - in collaboration with Marisa Carnesky's Ghost Train. We went back for more in 2007 and out of the mud, on one of the wettest, shittiest years Glastonbury has ever known, Trash City was born!

Trash City itself is made up of a series of interactive venues created by some of our insanely talented friends - giant sculptures, robots and mutant vehicles by Mutoid Waste with the whole thing brought to life by a huge crew of lunatic performers, freaks and other animals. It's a MASSIVE set-up which takes about six months planning, four months construction and almost a month spent setting-up on site. I think what we do is a kind of modern-day equivalent of the old travelling carnivals. We roll in, everything goes mad for a weekend and then we roll out again and onto the next thing...

Another Mutoid Waste creation

Tell us about your Burning Man project and some highlights from the festival.

This year we decided to take on Burning Man for the first time - the temptation of doing Glastonbury, FujiRock festival in Japan and then the big BM was too much to resist. The theme was American Dream, so me and Joe cooked up the idea of building a giant metal war-horse called Rustang Sally, pulling a punked-out covered wagon - kind of Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse-meets-Little House On The Prairie.

Burning Man festival

We flew over to the US at the beginning of August with Wreckage (another Mutoid artist) and Fancy Chance (a fabulous Burlesque performer) and the four of us built the whole thing in under three weeks (including sourcing all the materials) which already now seems completely insane. It was like Scrap Heap Challenge on crystal meth.

Rustang Sally

Then about 20 of our London party crew descended on the funny little hick town where we were staying in a warehouse. We loaded everything onto trailers and hauled out to the Nevada desert to embark on our own deranged week-long parody of a Spaghetti Western.

There were so many highlights from the experience but my favourite would have to be riding into the sunrise one morning, with myself, Fancy and Empress Stah all dressed in our Magikal Sex Horse costumes, with the rig blasting out an acid-house mash-up of Riding Through The Desert On A Horse With No Name! It was a truly sublime party moment and one I'm not going to forget.

And what antics at FujiRock?

We've been doing FujiRock since 2002 and I can honestly say it's one of my favourite festivals in the world - it's in the most beautiful location right up in the mountains east of Tokyo, with snow monkeys in the trees, a gorgeous river running through it and we get taken out for sushi every night during the build. It's my idea of heaven.

I spent most of the run-up building a giant monkey and got to party my socks off during the festival. So it was a lot less pressurized than doing Trash City! Highlights were having Gogol Bordello play in our tiny Speigel tent venue on the Saturday night and the floor nearly collapsing, dancing like a fool to Princess Superstar, watching the wonder that is Seasick Steve play three times, having a vogue-off with CSS backstage at Primal Scream and being invited to be a dancer on their tour when they come over in November!

How did you get into this line of work?

I often try and work out how I've ended up doing what I do. Generally I make my choices in life based on what my current obsession is at the time, be it freak shows, travelling carnivals, 80's cock rock or whatever. I think a lot of it has to do with an attraction to a certain kind of lifestyle - I love to roam around the world, getting trashy in fields with great people and being on stage pretending I'm in Jem and The Holograms. So I've pretty much built my 'career' around what makes me happiest.

I live in a complete fantasy world most of the time, but I'm lucky enough to have somehow managed to make my fantasies reality. It might also have something to do with the fact I've been fired from every 'normal job' I ever attempted within a month - I'm basically unemployable.

You live on a boat, is that right? What kind of boat? Where is it moored?

I live on a WWII Motor Torpedo Boat on the Thames. I've had her since 2005 (I moved in on Halloween) and she's my pride and joy. I rent out three of the cabins to friends, who call me "Cap'n" which I love and we all live together in drunken disharmony with an emphasis on BBQ's and piratical behaviour. It's a great life and I wouldn't change a thing, although it can be quite bad for your liver!

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