For Beyonce, drag is not about being a 'female impersonator', but more about trying to "harness my own femininity rather than impersonating stereotypes or appropriating anyone else's identity." And this attitude is what has propagated Manchester's scene with such a unique and continually growing cast of inimitable performers. She says "Drag is me making a statement: this queer body is beautiful, and it's unique, and it's mine. It doesn't look like you expected, and that's exactly the point. (My drag) ...is a very real expression of who I am and what stories I want to tell about myself."
From this revival of cabaret drag came Timberlina, who became instrumental in the foundation of Mother's Ruin in Manchester, a theatrical and drag-oriented performance night that saw the emergence and creation of many of the scene's current stars. Meanwhile, the emergence of the drag collective Tranarchy and their popular quasi-anarchic events established the bedrock that would lead to Manchester's hunger for alternative drag.
But while Manchester has grown this truly authentic scene by itself, others have been following suit. Leeds, Newcastle and Birmingham have all seen a recent resurgence of their own alternative drag, while other cities have welcomed Manchester's queens with open arms. Beyonce says "Other cities are feeling that energy too, and often I think they look to Manchester for how it can be done in a way that doesn't just pastiche femininity or rely on bitchy comments."
Though cabaret drag has long been popular in London, there is real heart to the drag that has sprung from Manchester. Manchester's is a drag community that supports, nurtures and cherishes its performers, with Cha Cha Boudoir and the Cake Tin Foundation becoming development programmes for aspiring young performers. And this atmosphere is what has made Manchester's scene so unique, so enduringly successful and a model for an alternative scene that other cities want to emulate. And some already have.
Sheffield is taking its first baby steps in creating a scene like Manchester's. Earlier this year, the strength of the #ManchesterQueens was really felt during the hunt for RuPaul's Drag Race UK Ambassador. The queens here grouped together in visible support for one another and as a result, Manchester felt like a drag powerhouse. While London's scene appeared disparate and incongruent, other cities were represented by independent and autonomous figures. But Manchester is about community interdependence leading to artistic growth. And that's a model that we would love to share.
For more details about Sheffield's Cabaret Re:VOLTAIRE, click here
- Dressed As A Girl - Haus of Phag Review
- #ManchesterQueens are SLAYING this (drag) race
- 'Project Drag Race' by Glenn Jones
- Mother's Ruin - Roadhouse Rehab
- Who's YOUR icon? - Drunk At Vogue
- "We are the weirdos, mister." - Tranarchy
- Mother's Meltdown
- One year on and Manchester is Ga Ga for Cha Cha
- "WOMEN are my biggest inspiration." Violet Blonde & Liquorice Black
- Manchester and its drag EXPLOSION