THE GALLERY: Tom Odell @ O2 Academy 21.10.18

THE GALLERY: Tom Odell @ O2 Academy 21.10.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe




Words by Ed King / Pics by Eleanor Sutcliffe

This is a big gig.

It’s a big room too, as I watch the audience trickle in – from a line that stretches back to the Pagoda island roundabout, the 3009 capacity O2 Academy confidently fills up on a Sunday. No, mean, feat either. Especially in Birmingham. Especially on a Sunday.

But the Tom Odell love fest is in unarguable full swing tonight, as shoulder touches shoulder in the stalls and every polite space gets filled on the balcony. This gig wasn’t presented as ‘sold out’ but it hard to imagine any fire marshal letting another body in this room. This is a rafter packed affair. So I find my THE GALLERY: First support act for Tom Odell @ O2 Academy 21.10.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffecorner, nestle in, and watch the support acts.

First up is Mimi… I want to say ‘croissant’. Which I doubt it is, but I’ll have to Google and cross reference. Singing a mix of her own songs and covers, the ubiquitous ‘Valerie’ getting a non-X Factor audition airing, she delivers her “first gig playing my own songs,” with reputable aplomb. A young vocalist with an older guitar, time will tell. But art gather scars to shine, and only the world will give you them. TBC.

Next up is my happy surprise of the night, well the first one of them anyway, as no other that Max Jury struts on stage as the second support act. ‘Great American Novel’ is always somewhere near the back of my mind and on the tip of my tongue these days, and despite it not getting featured in his set I do get to see a man live on stage I thought I’d need to have passed through LAX security to watch up close in person.

THE GALLERY: Max Jury - supporting Tom Odell @ O2 Academy 21.10.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Jury is great too, and not just because I want him to be, but the slow Americana, blues, and drawl slides from his keyboard and across the room with the right touch of confidence and bliss. Musicians are made to impress, and Max Jury is one to applaud. Plus, I now (after a very subtle pitch) own a copy of his signature – so at worst I’m going to rinse hotel room bills in his name across Washington state until one of us gets noticed.

And now, it is time…

There has been a grand piano covered in black cloth ever since we walked into this room, with one support act playing to its left and the other to its right. But now it’s the main show, with the sleek polished veneer unveiled as the house lights go down and a single spot illuminates the piano and rounded stool. Like a tousled haired shadow, Tom Odell appears at the ivory and throws soft hammers onto hidden strings; we are welcomed with the title track off his new album – ‘Jubilee Road’ saunters in until a sustained vocal, raised hand, full band, and rapturous applause bring the main attraction crystal clear into view.

THE GALLERY: Tom Odell @ O2 Academy 21.10.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeI’ll be honest, I love the piano. I’m a sucker for the piano. But I’m often on my own with such sultry appreciation, as most 88 key diatribes fall short upon the ears of those less bruised. Or those more happy, I’ve never quite worked out which. But for Tom Odell, and the 3k+ that have turned out to see him tonight, this is not a concern, as the set moves without banter from the title track of his new album to the fifth single from his first – more sustained vocals, and the beginning of some simply heart-breaking audience participation, carry us into the main set.  This is a spectacular introduction.

Levels are up, chairs are thrown, and ‘Sparrow’ ends off a phenomenal beginning – as ‘Supposed to Be’ then leads us into an introduction of each band member, delivered like an homage to Robbie Robertson and his long bus riding companions. But this is an ensemble, regardless of the dominant and linchpin, with the ringmaster making every effort to bring his cohorts font and centre, leaving his black and white compadres to stand next to each instrument that accompanies them as he does so. This is a band on stage tonight, and we are firmly told not to forget that.

THE GALLERY: Tom Odell @ O2 Academy 21.10.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeMy notes from the rest of the evening run from sycophantic to spider scrawl, both run induced. But there are a few golden markers that deserve a more sober mention – Tom Odell has the O2 Academy in his palm tonight, from start to finish. He makes a big room feel intimate, with unenforced sing-a-longs washing over us like warm blankets that you just want to weep inside of.

The first, according to my notebook, is with ‘Wrong Crowd’, where the bravest of us both onstage and off try to whistle along. But it continues, throughout, carried by an atmosphere that even this cynical writer can’t help but fall for. I had no idea the O2 Academy would be so full tonight, and I had no idea that the bodies within it would care so much. But by the time ‘Son of an Only Child’ is played, one of my favourites from the new album, I am bunched up with a line of strangers on the balcony – resting our hands on each other’s shoulders and basking in the soft lights of a moment’s unity. This is what music can do, and when it does it in a room of over three thousand people it’s a pretty fucking wonderful occasion.

We end with a good three song encore, which could easily have carried on if the licensing department of the UK’s second city weren’t such a loveless box of frogs. Even the Showsec security guard has left his post to stand and watch this finale.

And as the ensemble eventually leave the stage, to the echoes of ‘Magnetised’ being thrown back at them in an oddly grandiose yet sweet harmony, we all know that we bore witness to something special tonight.




Tom Odell @ O2 Academy 21.10.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe


For more on Tom Odell, visit 

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FEATURE: Life’s a drag at Birmingham Pride

Nora Virus at Birmingham Pride 26-7.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Words by Eleanor Sutcliffe & Ashleigh Goodwin / Pics by Eleanor Sutcliffe

I am not a very social individual.

Approaching strangers for a conversation has always been a fear of mine; the idea of forcing myself to interact with someone whom I have never met fills me with unspeakable dread. I’m the type of person who crosses the road to avoid conversation. It’s ridiculous. Which is exactly why, as I walk hastily into Birmingham Pride, I wonder if I’ve made a terrible mistake. I’m here to talk all things drag with Pride goers, which involves a lot of approaching strangers. Too much for my liking. But I’m eager to learn more about the drag community and where’s a better place for that than Birmingham’s Gay Village during Pride weekend?

Aside from a handful of shows I’ve covered for Birmingham Review, the drag I’m used to is what you see on the Internet – polished queens posing for photos in their finery, wigs coiffed to perfection, lip-sync routines performed with choreography and backing dancers. Indeed, Ashleigh and I are covering RuPaul’s Werq the World Tour at the Symphony Hall in only a matter of hours. But I suspect there are sides to it I’m missing – a much more intimate layer to drag that, especially if I’m going to start covering it properly, I need to learn. It feels like I’m back at school all over again.

Dixie Normous at Birmingham Pride 26-7.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeWe spot a drag queen posing for photos with the public, towering over them with a purple wig and sparkly dress. For Dixie Normous drag is a form of release, “I had a problem drinking and had to get away from the gay scene and I didn’t know how to get back in,” she explains, adjusting her wig. “Now, I’m eight years sober and it helped me return to it. I don’t perform in Birmingham, I’m not a working performer, but I work for pride events such as these, hostess events, DJ events.

Does she feel that there’s any competition in drag these days? Normous shakes her head, “No. I have friends who do drag as performers, they love performing but there is no competition between them. She pauses momentarily, “I mean, there is competition in the form of lip-syncing but it’s not malicious. I take my hat off to them, they sing for seven days a week and they say the same to me – there is mutual respect, there’s loads of work out there. Work seems to be growing for drag in the UK – are popular programs such as RuPaul’s Drag Race partially to credit for this? “RuPaul’s Drag Race shows a different type of drag from the UK scene – I grew up on different things,” she gestures to her beard. “Like, I don’t want to sacrifice my beard and UK and USA drag can be quite different, drag is quite feminised there. I’d never get away with this and my tattoo. A group of Pride goers run up, cameras in hand, and I know it’s time for us to leave, but not before Normous gives us a hug, a kiss on each cheek, and sees us off with a graceful wave of her hand.

Nora Virus at Birmingham Pride 26-7.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeAlready I’m feeling more confident, and we weave our way through the crowd towards the Main Stage. Towering over everyone in eight-inch red heels and clad in what appears to be a skin-tight interpretation of my grandmother’s chintz curtains, Nora Virus is hard to miss. She’s on her way to perform with Glitter Shit on the Main Stage but is more than happy to stop for a quick chat. Judging by the crowds here at Pride, does she think that Birmingham’s drag scene has grown? “It’s definitely grown, not just in terms of drag but the whole queer scene has within the last five years or so,” she exclaims, posing against a backdrop of apartment buildings while I grab a few photos.

Nora Virus‘s type of drag isn’t what we typically see commercially. I ask how she feels about this and she shrugs, it’s a mixed response, “The media… it only contains certain types of drag… and you can be whoever you want to be, that’s what’s missing. It depends on what viewers get from it. If programs like RuPaul’s Drag Race open the door to drag, then it’s performers like us on the other side who are ready to educate the masses.” I’m aware she’s running out of time and her friend, Liam, directs us to a man behind us who is nursing a pint with a few friends. Paul McAvoy is the general manager for Holy Trannity, one of the biggest drag event organisers in the UK. If anyone is worth talking to, it’s him. We wish Virus luck and off she bounds, a foot taller than the crowd she’s wading through.

Liam’s right – McAvoy is more than happy to talk shop, despite today clearly being a day off. “We organise a lot of the drag queen events across the UK, especially the acts from RuPaul’s drag race,” he explains, sipping on his pint. “Drag’s growing throughout the UK, it’s not the normal kind of thing shown on TV, not the normal hosted stuff, it’s a different type of reality. More exciting and scandalous than what the public are used to.” And he’s right. Watch any episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race and you’ll see what I mean – tensions grow so thick you could cut them with a knife, and tempers flare on the regular between queens and judges. We chat more about drag and he mentions some exciting stuff that we can’t print (yet). We realise he’s working at the Werq the World show later and bid him farewell, promising to catch him at the Symphony Hall – I don’t want to take up any more of his time, especially as he’s been so patient with us.

Paul McAvoy at Birmingham Pride 26-7.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBy now Birmingham Pride is heaving, and the bustling crowd has us feeling knackered. We set off towards the seating area and plonk ourselves down opposite a couple who are in the middle of a heated debate. It seems opinions on drag aren’t reserved to the performers themselves, as we question partners Liam and Chris. “Drag now is mostly RuPaul and that’s not drag!” exclaims Liam, throwing his hands in the air. “If you’re a supporter of drag you know your local acts, not just the famous drag queens. They have a habit of falling into the commercial pit; it’s become an act now where you just have to put a dress on and boom, you’re a drag queen. I push for him to elaborate.

“So, for example, Charlie Hides used to perform at Eden before she went on RuPaul. She was a local queen through Birmingham, London and Bedford and since she has been on RuPaul suddenly she’s charging double. It pushes out the local scene – like, don’t forget where you come from, don’t forget your roots. The queens will throw everything into their fame and they will fizzle out… RuPaul is like the drag equivalent of X Factor, and who remembers the last winner of X Factor?” I can’t even remember the last time I watched it, let alone who won. He nods earnestly, his point proven. “The RuPaul generation, to describe them like that, are keener on watching drag through a screen on TV as opposed to seeing it live. They see a very polished version, not what drag really is.”

So, what does Liam think makes a drag queen? He pauses momentarily, clearly deep in thought. “I think when you look at artists like Myra Dubois, she delivers everything in a political way, she speaks about everything that is going on in the world and it’s how you make the most of your platform. These days anyone will put on a dress and lip-sync for 20 quid, the acts are more in it for the fame. There’s a lot of old school drag that is getting pushed out and people aren’t getting a sense of what it was before.”Liam and Chris at Birmingham Pride 26-7.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe My mind flips back to Normous and I curse myself for being so ignorant. Of course there are different styles of drag, why haven’t I noticed this before? And if the industry is so difficult to break, why are local queens doing it in the first place? “So, some queens will be spending double of what they earn, they’ll be doing back to back shows and it’s the reason why you do anything that you enjoy – you do it because you love it. Despite the long hours and all the misconceptions, you get with it. You love your job, and when you love your job it’s not work.

I think about my job as a photographer, and the nights I spend editing when I could be working a ‘real’ job, and finally I find ground where I can relate. Clearly there’s some real local talent I’m missing – who can Liam recommend me to watch? “So… Sandra, Danny Beard, Mary Mac, Viva Vivacious,” chips in Chris. “I think if you want to discover new drag in Birmingham, you should search for Eden on Facebook – the content they deliver on weekdays, on Thursdays, is great. Garry and Cal really know how to work their venue. I run a venue in Bedford that puts on drag acts called The Barley Mow, so I’m always looking for new talent”. I make a mental note to head to Eden on my next Thursday off, and to organise a road trip to Bedford with a few friends during the summer months.

By now we’ve been talking to the boys for over half an hour and we leave them to their pints before heading back off into the hub of Pride. We pass numerous dance tents filled with barely-clothed individuals performering inverted-apex-god-knows-what on stripper poles, and I can’t help but crack a smile. Pride is where people can be completely at ease. It’s a novel feeling.

Michelle (Umbrella Health) at Birmingham Pride 26-7.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

At this point, Michelle speeds past in rollerskates, flinging rainbow condoms at anyone who will take them. She looks amazing, and I can’t help but snap a photo of her. She’s here with Umbrella Health, who provide free, confidential sexual health services across Birmingham. “We just usually hang around by the entrance, and hand out free stuff, answer questions… everyone is usually chilled out and happy,” she exclaims, filling my arms with pens, lip balms and yet more condoms. “We see a lot of drag queens come through, we always try and get a photo with them. I’m actually going to Werq the World later, I can’t wait!” She flashes a smile and skates off, a woman on a mission. Things to do, condoms to fling.

A trend seems to be emerging here – those who are fans of drag lean towards the commercial side we see on TV, while those who are actively involved in the scene tend to view the commercial side with weariness. The more we speak to people, the more I think that mainstream media is dispelling the truth that drag has roots that run much deeper than the odd TV series. It’s a large, complex community that deserves more recognition and exposure than it’s getting.

I spot local performer, Paul Aleksandr, having his photo taken with a gaggle of visitors. Draped in what looks to be the dismembered corpse of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, I have them pose up against a fire truck while I snap some photos. They’ve just come off tour with Adore Delano with Drag Punk – how did they find it? “I know there is this stereotype of ‘millennials’ and they are given a bad reputation,” explains Aleksandr, “but millennials are passionate people, they shouldn’t be dismissed because of their age. The shows with them were immense… one of the people that was there has come to Pride with us today, she’s only fourteen,” they exclaim, gesturing over to a girl bedecked in a long, pink wig. The fan base for Delano’s shows seems to be much younger than I anticipated. I catch the girls eye and ask to interview her next – she nods with glee before posing for more photos with the public.

Paul Aleksandr at Birmingham Pride 26-7.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Did Aleksandr find approaching members of the pubic hard at shows, or is it a skill that comes naturally? “It’s organic, if you do drag people talk to you – it’s a platform, it’s pushing people to do their thing,” they explain. “It’s not just a lip-sync but making a statement about important topics such as misogyny and empowerment. It’s a form of education, especially when some fans are this young – they can’t go to local shows as they’re all 18+.” Should drag be reserved for certain individuals of a certain age, or should it be open to all? “In the last four or five years, drag has become accessible to everyone. Gender is tied to identity and drag is a way to spearpoint identity. In the 80’s queer identity died for multiple reasons, and now you can build something with drag. Performers are responsible to educate the masses, especially on what we lost back then”.

Do they feel Birmingham Pride is inclusive for everyone who wants to explore drag including women? Aleksandr‘s hands fly up in the air animatedly, “Of course! Like, who the fuck cares if you have a clitoris – stop thinking about their genitalia! Out of like 16 venues participating in Pride, there is only one owned by a women. There can be issues within the community such as racism, transphobia and ableism… we should be aware to that.” If there are still issues of exclusion across the community, how does the social hierarchy affect those within it? “If you’re a lesbian you’re sidelined. If you’re bisexual you don’t exist. If you’re anything but white and gay, to fit in you try and be flamboyant, to mould yourself into what is deemed socially acceptable.” I look lost, so Aleksandr simplifies it, “the white cis gay man is in a nice mansion on the top of the hill but if you’re trans black woman then your house is burning down”. Ah, that makes sense. Horribly.

I must be looking slightly crestfallen at the entire thing, so Paul Aleksandr directs me to Rosary Bee and Amber Cadavarous. I recognise Cadavarous from the recent Drag Punk Candyland event at The Nightingale, as well as a Facebook video that went viral a few months ago where she explained her place in drag as a woman – honestly, before I saw it I had no idea women could even do drag. And it seems I’d be easily forgiven for this. “Trans women invented our drag,” explains Rosary Bee, “it’s very Shakespearean and the night life scene contributed to its growth. Women have always been in drag – it just hasn’t been documented.Amber Cadavarous and Rosary Bee at Birmingham Pride 26-7.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe I mean, history was documented and created by guys and they chose what they wanted to be seen.” For a 14 year old Bee is educated beyond her years in drag, and defends her position to the hilt. It’s amazing to see, and that she’s so passionate about it. Bee explains how she looks up to Amber Cadavarous as she is also a woman, and how they met at one of Adore Delano’s shows before meeting back up at Birmingham Pride.

Amber Cadavarous is everything I imagined her to be – from her silver shiny boots, right up to the exaggerated bow in her hair that depicts the phrase DYKE in big, black letters. She’s patient and friendly while I question her on everything drag – especially their decision to bring Bee to Pride in drag. Does she think there should be age limits on it? “I agree there should be age limits, maybe, as there is sometimes a lot of adult content,” explains Cadavarous. “It shouldn’t be mutually exclusive though – there should be a space for young adults and below to explore drag. I used to sneak into clubs to watch drag performances. It helps you figure out who you are in regards to things such as your sexuality and gender – especially for women”. Does she feel that this could be possible in Birmingham?

“The scene is very inclusive in Birmingham in general. It’s welcoming and very diverse and I never felt like I couldn’t do drag here. I never asked for permission and I didn’t feel excluded, I found my family here,” her eyes dart to back Paul Aleksandr and Rosary Bee. “I wanted to educate and uplift women, and use my platform to support them – queer women especially. When we recently supported Adore, a lot of kids came up and said I didn’t realise I could do this, but you can, my love! I received a lot of messages saying this and seeing them realise they could do it was a wonderful feeling”.

We’ve been talking for so long that we fail to notice the sky turn an ominous grey, and rain soon starts to fall heavily. Hastily saying goodbye, Ashleigh and I dart through the crowds, finding refuge in the Main Stage tent with thousands of others. We spot two drag kings sheltering under the eaves of a food van; Adam All is in his trademark purple suit, while fellow performer Oedapussy is dressed like a Viking warrior, adorned in countless blue flowers. They look incredible.

I ask for a brief rundown on drag kings. “So, drag is much bigger than it used to be, the concept of drag king started in 1867 and it started underground with male impersonators on stage”, Adam All explains. “We didn’t have much of an uprising until the early 1980’s and 1990’s, now we have women’s bars and it’s really helped promote it in the last ten years or so. The number of drag queens is around the 100’s in the UK but when I started there was only a handful of us – here in Birmingham, Manchester, Brighton, Cardiff and Edinburgh. Now it’s all over the place in the UK. Drag kings are popping up everywhere and it’s constantly gaining momentum”. What’s to credit for the growth?

Oedapussy and Adam All at Birmingham Pride 26-7.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe“Social media helps,” exclaims Oedapussy, “in London there are mixed shows and we go to see some queens and there is more of a crossover. Also, drag in general is becoming more acceptable, this has never really been covered before, like women doing it”. They’re right too – I was surprised to see women as drag queens. Having now seen two drag kings in the flesh, my mind is blown. I wasn’t wrong about needing a little education.

By now what was a slight trickle of rain has become a monsoon type downpour. Ashleigh wearily eyes my camera, and we realise we must make our way up to the Symphony Hall. We stagger out of Birmingham Pride and I bundle us into an uber, our clothes soaked, laughing at our misfortune. Only we could get caught in a downpour like this before a show.

I imagined leaving the festival with our carefully composed questions all answered. Instead, we’ve now got so many more to ask and clearly it’s going to take longer than a few days at Birmingham Pride to answer them all. But the warm welcome and engaging response we got from the drag artists we talked to, and the crowds buzzing around them, was infections – embracing us into a wonderful and creative world, but one with something serious to say. You couldn’t help but feel part of something. Even to a social recluse like myself.

For more on Birmingham Pride, visit

THE GALLERY: Birmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18

Birmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe




Words by Ashleigh Goodwin / Pics by Eleanor Sutcliffe

Pride returned to the streets of Birmingham celebrating its 21st year, with 2018 being “the biggest Birmingham Gay Pride in our history” reaching ‘record ticket sales for an event that’s set to attract tens of thousands of people’. Birmingham Pride festival director, Lawrence Barton, noted, “it’s incredible to think how far Pride has come since 1997… it was on a single stage with only a few hundred guests”.

The two-day LGBTQ+ event was held over the late May Bank Holiday weekend and stretched across the whole second city; this years’ new additions included a street food court, a beer garden area, new locations for the dance arena and cabaret stage, and the introduction of a Future Stage for upcoming acts at The Nightingale Club.

Birmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeIn traditional Pride fashion, the festival kicked off with the carnival Parade with this year’s theme as ‘Be You’. Although the Parade didn’t start until around noon on Saturday 26th May, many people were packing into Victoria Square – where the Parade began – from much earlier to ensure a good view of the ‘best and most visible procession through the city ever’. Introduced by festival organisers and the Birmingham Lord Mayor, the Birmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade stretched from Victoria Square down New Street, the High Street, Carrs Lane, Smallbrook Queensway, and Hurst Street, before reaching the main Pride Festival site at the Gay Village in the Southside area of Birmingham.

Birmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeShops that lined the High Street hung out LGBTQ+ flags; Second Cup Coffee offered face-paint and glitter in the corner of its crowded coffee shop whilst people roamed up and down selling flags and whistles. As the start time grew closer, the High Street became a multi-coloured sea of glitter, leather and fishnet with people donning LGBTQ+ flags fashioned as capes or dresses. There was a tangible anticipation as a samba band filled the air to signify the start of the Parade, with a diverse array of floats and walking groups coming together in celebration and liberation; this year’s ‘Be You’ theme created an inclusive Parade that was both incredible and empowering to watch.

Corporate giants drove the route on double-decker buses or lorries covered with bunting, blasting upbeat music from their speakers as their staff danced to their hearts content. Amongst these were the likes of HSBC UK (the events’ leading sponsor for 2018), Virgin, Royal Mail, and BT.

Birmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Numerous organisations and charities were also walking the parade, such as African LGBTQ+ activists Out and Proud, Stonewall, and the social welfare charity Samaritans who held signs proudly above their heads reading ‘come out for LGBT’ and ‘I could finally be myself’.

Additionally, there were a range of societies representing minorities groups within the LGBTQ+ community, such as Unmuted – ‘a social and peer support network in Birmingham for people of colour who identify as LGBTQI’, and Bi Pride UK – an organisation that strives to ‘create spaces where people who experience attraction beyond gender can be freely visible and celebrate themselves and their identities’,Birmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe as well as Leicester based social enterprise Pride Without Borders who aim to provide support to those coming to the UK to ‘seek asylum specifically for their LGBT+ identity’.

The walking groups spanned a wide range of individuals, from teachers, doctors, dentists, older members of the LGBTQ+ community, to people living with HIV and those within a number of religious and/or faith groups. There was also a strong core the Birmingham LGBTQ+ community; local drag artists and performers danced atop The Village Inn and The Nightingale Club floats, whilst the Symphony Hall showcased their digital van with a newly commissioned video of the YouTube star the Shirtless Violinist performing on their stage.

Birmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

The whole ‘Be You’ Parade was sound-tracked by unrelenting cheering from attendees, with the atmosphere feeling full of camaraderie, joy and acceptance, welcoming whoever walked past. A couple drove by in an old-fashioned car wearing Prince Harry and Meghan Markle masks accompanied by two shirtless men clad in leather harnesses and short shorts, drag artists in the most elaborate and eye-catching costumes stopped by the barriers to pose for photos and chat, whilst the policemen observing the Parade joined in with their cheeks covered in multi-coloured paint whilst the blue light services in their full uniform (complete with multi-coloured leis and whistles) danced behind their vehicles as their sirens blared in time with the music.Birmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

However, it was the homemade signs that evoked possibly the most emotion and unity, reminding us all of the necessity of events like Pride. Amongst them were placards declaring ‘I deserve a great love story’, ‘love your neighbour as you love yourself’, ‘I have a beating heart, I’m multidimensional, I’m a fully-realised creation’, ‘Black queerness matters’ and ‘Black, queer and beautiful’, whilst one simply stated ‘change your perception towards the LGBTI community’. And a sign celebrating being ‘homosexu-whale’. Say it quickly.

Throughout all of this, I’m grateful to be from Birmingham – as cliché as it sounds. The sheer amount of diversity within the ‘Be You’ Parade alone (before we are even half-way into the main Pride celebrations) is empowering to say the least. The Parade is a testament to Birmingham’s cultural diversity, and although a time for celebration it also serves as a reminder that people are still tirelessly fighting each day for the simple right to exist as themselves. Yet it’s through events such as Birmingham Pride that equality, unity and freedom can be fought for and achieved for so many.

Although I’ve tried before and try again now to properly explain Birmingham Pride, my words always fall short; I think it’s something you have to experience. Barton, however, summarises by stating, “It’s a wonderful celebration of peoples’ right to be whoever they want to be. The parade for me is the most important part of the festival as it shows how we are proud to be a diverse and inclusive city”.




Birmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Birmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeBirmingham Pride ‘Be You’ Parade @ 26.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

For more on Birmingham Pride, visit

Despite wanting to detail all the organisations, societies and companies who participated in Pride this year, the list is too extensive. However, for a list of all LGBTQ+ services within Birmingham visit, 

THE GALLERY: RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18




Words & pics by Eleanor Sutcliffe

It’s 8pm on a Sunday evening and Ashleigh and I are soaked. We’ve worked Birmingham Pride for two days and have just traipsed our way through monsoon rain to the doors of the Symphony Hall for RuPaul’s Werq The World Tour.

Having decided to wear slightly fancier clothing than our usual jeans and t-shirt ensemble for tonight’s occasion, I’m regretting my decision already – dresses were not made with practicality in mind, and this combined with the thunderous weather (and being forced to run in heels) has left us both looking, and feeling, worse for wear.

Lady Bunny - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeIt gets even worse as we descend into the foyer too. Fans are dressed up to the nines in their best clothing, with platform thigh high boots and latex bodysuits seemingly the norm. We didn’t expect anything less, mind – when you’re coming to a show that features some of the biggest names in drag, it’s a given that fans will don themselves in outfits as outlandish as the performance we’re about to witness. Wrestling our way to our seats, we settle in and prepare ourselves for the evening ahead.

The lights go down and a quartet of male dancers make their way onto the stage. On swans Lady Bunny, who opens the show by lip-syncing to Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ to a backdrop of lightning – fitting, considering the weather we traipsed through to get to the show. A departure board flashes up and one by one, each queen does a single lap of the stage before disappearing backstage. They are all present and correct, with each queen garnering more support than the last.

Detox - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Detox flings flowers out to the crowd before swearing at the front row before sauntering off, much to the attendee’s delight. The furor is deafening as Latrice waltzes her way on stage, who laughs and smiles as fans screech and click their fingers back and forth. Finally, they all reappear and dance along to a heavy pop track, the choreography for which Lady Bunny claims is inspired by “the hashish we got from Amsterdam”.

And so begins the show – first up is Kennedy Davenport, who sashays onstage to an upbeat instrumental dance track seemingly inspired by the Rio carnival. Dressed in a black ruffled cloak, this is soon cast away to reveal a fringed green, yellow and blue bodysuit. Her performance includes all the signature drag dance moves includes the painful looking ‘death drop’ (if you don’t know what this is, Google away). The sheer energy that Davenport brings to the stage is incredibly impressive – I’m sweltering under the lights just taking her photo, so how she manages to leap back and forth is beyond me. The crowd’s response is one of sheer delight and Davenport takes a bow before running offstage.

Kennedy Davenport - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeNext, a Seoul backdrop appears as Kim Chi slowly makes her way on stage accompanies by and eerie piano instrumental. The screen shows a dark pink sea and moon which, coupled with her short white skirt and blonde wig, gives away the Sailor Moon inspiration behind the performance. As the backing dancers mimic each character from the anime, Chi twirls out of her costume to reveal a sparkling white ballgown, before launching into a lip sync routine to the Sailor Moon theme tune, which is edited to include a heavy bass line. Though she struggles to lip sync along to the track, she more than makes up for it in after the performance when talking to Lady Bunny.

Forever the comedy queen, Chi claims her favorite part about Drag Race was “free catering” and how the most important lesson she learnt was that life isn’t always about winning – “it’s about losing to black people occasionally”. Kim Chi - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffePersonally, I’ve never felt incredibly comfortable with drag humour as it can seem rather crass and humiliating to me on occasion, however the comments go down a storm with the room so who am I to judge?

To break up the performance, Lady Bunny announces a game rather inventively named ‘Wig in a Box’. The rules are simple – four members of the audience will be selected and will delve into a large cardboard box, emerging with a rather beaten up wig. The aim of the game is to lip-sync along to the accompanying track, and whoever’s performance is best, wins.

Despite my best endeavors to coax fellow writer, Ashleigh, up on stage, she’s not having it in the slightest, and I personally cannot think of anything worse than stepping out onto the Symphony Hall stage only to publicly humiliate myself for the slight chance of winning a free T shirt. Four individuals are selected and make their way on stage, which angers a woman at the back who feels the need to collapse in the aisle while belting out ‘It Should Have Been Me’ by Yvonne Fair. She is gently escorted back to her seat under the seething comments of Lady Bunny, who claims “bitch, I don’t come to your job at Mcdonalds and tell you what to do”. The crowd goes wild. I begin to re-evaluate my life choices.

Lady Bunny's 'Wig in a Box' - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeI am in no place to judge here either, as each competitor who forced their head into one of those wigs clearly has way more balls than I ever will. However, it is the young man who has to lip-sync to P!nk’s ‘So What’ who has me in stitches.

After cowering in his seat momentarily, he soon launches into a full routine which includes a cartwheel, handsprings, a border line striptease and a death drop that has me flinching in pain. Finishing by grinding on his chair to the cacophony of applause, even Lady Bunny seems to be impressed, or concerned, I’m not sure which one. She crowns him the winner and flings him an official Werq the World t-shirt before carrying on with the show.

Sharon Needles - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeNext is Sharon Needles, who Lady Bunny welcomes by claiming she “puts the gore in gorgeous”. Her style of drag has always been a favourite of mine, as she goes against the grain and puts a horror spin on the art form. Entering the stage clad in a black veil and dress, she stands still as a dancer in a latex devil mask twirls around her, accompanied by text that says, ‘enough of that, let the sacrifice begin’.

‘Marry the Night’ by Lady Gaga soon starts blaring out of the speakers and the veil is cast away in favour of a black latex bodysuit. The lip sync soon morphs into her own 2017 release ‘Black Licorice’, and the screen behind shows images of a rabbit decomposing as she dances across the stage. Closing her performance with the phrase “Happy Halloween, hail Satan, being gay is punk and kill your parents”, Needles strolls off stage without a care in the world as the crowd descends into ecstasy behind her.

Detox - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeThe following performance is most definitely NSFW; Detox has always been known for her rather outlandish antics, however she truly goes to town tonight. Sporting a long black coat and lip-syncing along to what we think is ‘S.E.X’ by Madonna, she reveals a red latex corset and kinky boots as her outfit of choice, accompanied by a long, latex ponytail reminiscent of a whip.

Her dancers are soon stripped down to red latex pants the size of postage stamps as she grinds on each one in turn, much to the joy of the crowd and the embarrassment of the parents present. After attaching a rope to the collars of each dancer she has them walk around her like puppies, further hinting at the dominatrix influences on her performance. It’s clearly the fan’s favourite so far, as a woman runs down the aisle to stuff notes of money into Detox’s thong.

Valentina - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeLady Bunny appears again, this time to perform a rather controversial ditty that mocks each of the major drag queens we have seen throughout RuPaul. Again, this is not my humour, however the crowd seemingly lap it up, squealing at the controversy it may cause. But the whole thing seems shallow and crass to me, with most of the comments focusing on the looks, sizes, or nationalities of the queens. For a show which prides itself in being inclusive to all forms of drag, I find myself uncomfortable during this performance. I occupy myself cleaning my camera lens until the next act comes on.

Violet Chachki - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeAll it takes is the signature twang of a Spanish guitar for me to know that Valentina is soon to perform. Her lip sync and dancing is second to none, however I cannot help but feel fans are growing slightly bored of the continuous references to her nationality. She is an incredibly skilled and talented performer, and I feel she could expand on this considerably if the company were more willing to look outside the box. Regardless, Valentina‘s performance is amazing as per usual, and I marvel at the grace and elegance she brings to the stage. The mariachi style dance goes down a storm with the crowd too, with fans at the front nearly in tears.

Violet Chachki - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeAh, Violet Chachki… If I have a soft spot for any queen, it’s her. Descending upon the blue lit stage in a typical sequined burlesque gown, the aesthetics of her performance are simply stunning. Coupled with her cabaret style dancing and aerial skills, her show tonight is truly breathtaking.Casting the gown aside for a sequined leotard, she hops into the aerial hoop with more grace than I could ever possess, which is then hoisted into the rafters of the Symphony Hall. Spinning and twirling at a speed that would make me vomit on the crowd, Chachki goes through several daring moves, each one riskier than the last. The variety breaks up the night well, and she receives ecstatic applause from the crowd.

And finally, Latrice Royale, saving the best until last. She is introduced clad in theatrical regal gown complete with the biggest ruffled collar I’ve ever seen in my life. Her performance is based around her latest single ‘Excuse the Beauty’, which has the entire audience up out of their seats for the first time this evening. Latrice Royale RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeShe is flung a white and mint flag by one of the dancers which she incorporates into her routine, hurling and spinning it though the air like a baton twirler. Clearly the crowd favourite, fans are in tears at this point, screaming their praise as Royale bows and exits the stage.

As Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ pulses from the speakers, each of the queens emerges from backstage donning silver sequined outfits to take their final bow. At this point, fans begin the crowd the aisles, desperate to make their way to the stage to sing their praises. Even the queens seem slightly surprised at the sheer support that is being shown, as the shake hands with fans and blow kisses.

As we leave the Symphony Hall, I’m slightly speechless. It’s rare I leave a show surprised – on the contrary, I’m usually picking flaws from the moment I’m back out on the street. However, the atmosphere is electric and seeing fans this excited at the performances they have just witnessed warms my soul slightly. I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting for the response from an audience, even to such a high profile to a drag show, to be this strong. But it is. And I love it.




RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Violet Chachki - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe Violet Chachki - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe Violet Chachki - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe Valentina - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe Valentina - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe Valentina - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe Sharon Needles - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe Sharon Needles - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe Kim Chi - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe Kim Chi - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe Kim Chi - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeKennedy Davenport - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe Kennedy Davenport - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe Kennedy Davenport - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe Detox - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeDetox - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeDetox - RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

For more on RuPaul’s Werq the World Tour, visit 

For more both the Symphony and Town Halls, including venue details and further event listings, visit

BPREVIEW: RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18

BPREVIEW: RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18

Words by Eleanor Sutcliffe

On Sunday the 27th May, RuPaul’s Werq the World Tour will be coming to the Symphony Hall – stopping off in Birmingham for the second date out of seven across the UK and Ireland.

The show starts at 9pm, with an exclusive VIP Meet & Greet from 7pm. Tickets are priced from £32 to £128 – as presented by Voss Events, World of Wonder, and VH1. For direct gig information, including venue details and links to online ticket sales, click here.

Also appearing at the Symphony Hall on Sunday 27th May will be Ginger Johnson, the ‘nightmare in nylons’ storyteller who will be reading Glamorous Gran and other Stories – ‘a lively collection of original children’s stories inspired by the lives of LGBTQIA+ people and their experience of the world’.

BPREVIEW: RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour @ Symphony Hall 27.05.18A free event, taking place in the Symphony Hall Level 3 Foyer from 3pm, Ginger Johnson’s Glamorous Gran and Other Stories is suitable for ‘switched on kids’ aged 7 years and up. For direct event information, click here.

Lady Miss Ikea will also be DJing before and after the RuPaul’s Werq the World Tour show in the Symphony Hall Cafe Bar, playing ‘the most glamorous deep, house, disco and wildest pop – as well as tracks that you love from your favourite RuPaul Queens’. Again a free event, Lady Miss Ikea starts her first set at 7:30pm – for direct event information, click here.

Following a string of sold out shows in 2017, the only official tour for the popular reality TV series, Ru Paul’s Drag Race, is making a stop in Birmingham at the tail end of the city’s Pride Festival (how fitting). With a total of 63 shows across the globe, and 36 of those in Europe, Sunday 27th May is Birmingham’s opportunity to see some of drag’s finest queens perform in all their glory on stage. Hosted by fan favorite judge Michelle Visage, the show will feature performances from Kim Chi, Latrice Royale, Sharon Needles, Kennedy Davenport, DetoxValentina, Violet Chachki and a surprise guest from Drag Race Season 10.

RuPaul’s Werq the World Tour is quite possibly one of the most prominent drag shows to ever land in Birmingham, showcasing the TV phenomenon that has helped push drag from underground art to mainstream pop culture. And whilst drag events have become a more prevalent fixture on Birmingham’s event calendar – with national promoters such as Klub Kids and Eat Sleep Drag Repeat selling out shows at both mainstream and LGBT+ venues, alongside ferociously creative new events, showcasing both local and national talent, from collectives such as Dragpunk and Opulence – a show of this size coming to the Symphony Hall is unassailable step further into the limelight.   

RuPaul’s Werq the World Tour line up is diverse enough to give its audience a taste of all manner of drag too. Take Sharon Needles, for example, whose both ‘simply divine’ and ‘ghastly runway look’ won her the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar in 2012 at the end of Drag Race Season 4.

But if macabre isn’t strictly your style, then Kim Chi – who was the first Korean drag queen to appear on American television – offers up her self-described ‘bionic dolly’ aesthetic, celebrating all things ‘cute, fun, weird, and exotic’.

Then there’s Violet Chachki, whose drag, burlesque and acrobatic performances ‘blend strip tease, aerial acrobatics and fetish aesthetics – while also distorting the gender binary’. Chachki’s confidence and ‘indomitable, high self-esteem’ saw her win Drag Race Season 7, as well walk for Moschino in their Fall 2018 Collection at Milan Fashion Week and become one of the first drag artists to represent a major fashion brand for Betty Paige Lingerie.

Also appearing on RuPaul’s Werq the World Tour will be Latrice Royale – a plus sized queen who from Compton who is also an ordained minister, Detox – another LA queen who has appeared in music videos with Ke$ha and Rihanna, Kennedy Devenport – whose numerous pageant titles include Miss D’Elegance International 2013 and Miss Gay Orlando 2016, and Valentina – whose spectacular looks have appeared in Elle Magazine Mexico, Paper Magazine, and as well as being the face of Mexican fashion designer Benito Santos’ latest collection.

From kawaii to couture, RuPaul’s Werq the World Tour presents one of the most impressive drag line ups the city has seen, with each queen having worked their way to drag royalty with grit and determination. Here’s hoping, amongst the undeniable glitz and glamour, we witness some of that fire on stage at the Symphony Hall on 27th May.

RuPaul’s Werq the World Tour comes to the Symphony Hall in Birmingham on Sunday 27th May – as presented by Voss Events, World of Wonder and VH1. For direct show information, including venue details and links to online ticket sales, visit   

Lady Miss Ikea will be DJing before and after the RuPaul’s Werq the World Tour show in the Symphony Hall Cafe Bar – with her first set starting at 7:30pm. For more information visit 

Ginger Johnson will also be reading Glamorous Gran and other Stories for free in the Symphony Hall Level 3 Foyer from 3pm, suitable for children (and adults) aged 7 years and up. For direct event information, visit 

For more both the Symphony and Town Halls, including venue details and further event listings, visit