Haus: "Tranarchy" is fantastic name. When and how did it emerge?
Niall: The word "Tranarchy" popped into my head during the 2010 Fierce Ruling Divas Ball I was MCing in Glasgow. A queen with a thick Yankee drawl said she thought the ball was "anarchy" and it made me think of the word "tranarchy". It's got a lot of different connotations and we just love the way it sounds.
Haus: So is Tranarchy an organisation or more of a collective?
Niall: There's a central core unit, but beyond that it's more like a loose collective. We've had a lot of people come through the ranks over the years and we've given people a platform or springboard to follow their desires; to express themselves; have an outlaw party; host a live performance/lip sync cabaret; or even just perform in front of a Manchester audience. I genuinely believe that working with Tranarchy has given some of these queens the boost to go and do their own thing, and some of them have been very successful.
Niall: Anyone who wants to be in Tranarchy can be, but we would warn you that not everyone is cut out for it!
Haus: Before the first Vogue Brawl, had Manchester had any kind of night like that before? Or was it a true Tranarchy original?
Niall: Amber Swallows had hosted an alternative beauty pageant for drag queens and Trans* people in Manchester, but there hadn't been a straight up house ball like Vogue Brawl before in the city. As I'd been involved with Menergy and The Fierce Ruling Divas Ball in Glasgow, and I knew that Joe and Pam wanted to put on a vogue ball in Manchester, it made a lot of sense to come together and do it. Me and Joe Spencer had been involved in the Peaches Christ's All About Evil screening at the Cornerhouse in 2010, and that one event lit a fire under our butts to put on exciting, unusual happenings. Vogue Brawl was the first, and it really was the kick in the arse that rejuvenated Manchester's drag scene.
Haus: I was there that night. I was completely blown away by a whole scene that I didn't even know existed beforehand.
Niall: There were all these fabulous people we knew and we'd see out, and we did set up the night for them, but it turned out there were a lot more people just waiting for something like Vogue Brawl to happen. That was beginning of Tranarchy, basically, and from there we expanded to club nights, live performances and film screenings. We'd really like to do a repeat of our dog-biscuit-and-tampon-throwing 2011 screening of Showgirls, at some point, and we will be doing a free screening of Paris Is Burning at Islington Mill in the run up to Vogue Brawl.
Niall: We've never been part of any "scene" per se. Having said that, there's so much great alternative queer nightlife in Manchester just now, and we are proud to be counted amongst that. But Tranarchy is not about catering to the mainstream, or to boring, shallow people. That is the downfall of a club night, I'm afraid, and I see it happening even with great clubs I like. There's a certain faddishness to all that, a novelty aspect, and Tranarchy will still be here long after these kinds of people have lost interest or moved on to something else. Tranarchy is about creating a safe and exciting space away from the mainstream, away from people throwing mucky looks and mumbling "freak", away from people who will judge you on your body shape or clothes label. We are the weirdos, mister, and Tranarchy is our space to bring all the freaks and misfits together for a great time.
Haus: How has the closure of Legends affected where and how you stage your nights?
Niall: With Zombie Pride 2012, we were the first regular Legends night to be hosted in another club (Alter Ego). The reality of Legends literally disappearing into thin air only really hit home about 9-12 months after it was closed. There was a grace period of exploring other options for a few months, and that was exciting, going to other Legends nights in new venues, but after that novelty wore off it became apparent that nothing else could match it. Having said that, we are over the moon to be working with Islington Mill, which we genuinely feel is the closest thing to the camaraderie, uniqueness and anything goes ethos of Legends. Plus they have a 24 hour license!
Niall: Zombie Pride is now at Islington Mill in Salford, who basically let us do whatever the hell we like, and where the party never stops. As usual we put a lot of work into decorating the Mill when we use it, and they're very helpful with that (bearing in mind we have no funding or backing at all, so everything is done on a shoestring budget, which is part of Tranarchy's charm!)
Haus: Aside from your more regular events, Tranarchy have been involved in quite a few more radical events too. How did your Party on the Tram go down with Metrolink authorities? Did anyone try and stop it from happening?
Niall: No, no-one tried to stop it from happening, as I think they understood quite quickly that we were not there to cause trouble but to have a good time. As you can see in the video, they gave us a round of applause from the platform! The point is you have more to fear from the norms and squares whose lives are so boring that they lash out at perceived "threats", than you have form the "freaks". People who have the confidence to look and act different are a threat to the squares who spend their lives trying to fit in. I mean, really, who are you more scared of, the people having a good time in our video, or a bunch of hollering, boozed up, wannabe-alpha-male football causals?
Niall: A lot of different reasons, but the main one being to make a statement about rejecting the commercialisation of our community's flagship social event, and how the charity aspect, the entire reason it was started in the first place, has (pardon my French) been shat on. It's a disgrace, it's right there in the figures they released for last year, and their current monetary and ideological bankruptcy. The barge party was a protest but a fun, colourful protest, and it was to show that there's lots of life in gay Manchester; events and performers that Pride has ignored out of pure complacency and a dash of unadulterated greed.
Haus: Do you think Queer Alt has now established a viable alternative to Pride now?
Niall: To be very clear, Queer Alt Manchester is simply an umbrella group representing a whole bunch of clubs and organisations, and it is those people who have been putting in the groundwork and the graft for opening up viable alternatives in Manchester, during Pride and all year round. Queer Alt Manchester has shone a much needed spotlight on stuff already happening, stuff you may not be aware of, but without all the promoters and event organisers who have been grafting for years now, there would be no Queer Alt! Having said that, maybe the umbrella organisation of Queer Alt is the boost needed to solidify the alt gay scene? I'd be wary of it becoming too fixed, to be honest, but yes, there is a definite viable alternative to Pride in Manchester now.
Niall: Yes, we should be, but we're still in discussions. Keep your eyes and ears peeled…
Haus: Away from the Tranarchy umbrella, a lot of you have your individual projects too (Niallist, Sheela, Joyce D'Vision etc). Tell me about these and how they fit in with the overall Tranarchy group.
Everyone has their own unique powers, and when we come together it makes the overall outfit more powerful. Like Voltron. That may mean we don't appear in the spotlight as regularly as others who are all focussed on one goal or mission, but I think it's very healthy for everyone involved to have their own separate projects and passions. Exploring our own personalities makes us more confident individually and that feeds into the group. For instance, we really do make shit hot promo videos, and that is the result of the individual skill-sets of the core members, from Pam Van Damned shooting it, to Joe conceptualising it, to Sheela Blige dressing and designing it, to me making the music etc. Our upcoming Voguinator promo for Vogue Brawl is the best we have done yet, and we're all very excited to premiere that very very soon…
Niall: Vogue Brawl will be on Saturday 14th June at, again, the Islington Mill, from 11pm to 4am, and it's pay on the door. As ever we will have a cat walk that is open to anyone who comes along to walk, and we have a whole host of categories that people will be judged on. You can check out the categories, and find out more about the guest judges, the hosts and the DJs, on the Facebook event. And after Vogue Brawl, on July 19th, we are very happy to announce the return of Bummer Camp to the Mill, with the return of our extra special guest, the one and only Christeene, who is far and away the best and most exciting drag act in the world right now, and yes, that includes anyone who has ever appeared on Drag Race. She's too extreme for Drag Race, much as I love that show, and she's a TRUE performer; an outsider and a rebel who puts on an amazing show. Her debut last year genuinely felt like seeing the Sex Pistols in 1976, it was mind blowing. But don't take my word for it, ask anyone who was there. And for anyone who wasn't there, now's your chance!