BREVIEW: Dragpunk’s Ghoul School Grand Final @ The Nightingale Club 20.09.19

Words & illustrations by Emily Doyle

It’s a Friday night in September. The nights are drawing in, but it’s still mild enough to enjoy a cigarette on the balcony of Nightingales and watch life go by on Kent Street. Amber Cadaverous, dressed in white satin lingerie and draped in bandages, ushers the crowd into the venue for the Grand Finale of Dragpunk’s Ghoul School.

In July, Dragpunk opened applications for their contest to crown Birmingham’s first drag supermonster. Encouraging applicants from all backgrounds and styles, they stressed in the call out that this is a contest founded on learning and positivity, under the banner of ‘All Drag Is Valid’. In short, they’ve taken a lot more cues from underground hit Boulet Brothers’ Dragula than from Ru Paul’s Drag Race, in terms of values as well as aesthetic.

Both the heats of Ghoul School were well attended, but tonight it’s standing room only not long after the doors open. Plenty of competitors from previous heats have turned out to show their support. Lucius Blac, whose catholic-gothic aesthetic means he’d just as soon be referred to as ‘Father’ than as ‘Daddy’, is propping up the bar. Blac’s performances in heat two were whirlwinds of suave machismo, whether he was wearing a white suit and priest’s collar or a dishevelled clown costume. Sadly, this wasn’t his year – but most of the audience went home that night with pockets full of stickers proclaiming ‘once you go Blac, you don’t go back’ in an ornate blackletter typeface. Flanking Blac are fellow competitors Abel Valentine and The Vicar’s Daughter. Valentine won hearts in heat two with a playful lipsync to Smashmouth’s ‘All Star’. The Vicar’s Daughter, who’s heartfelt mime performance was a highlight of heat one, has fashioned an outfit for tonight out of one of her dad’s stoles, combining it with a barely-there bodysuit, sunglasses, and a fringed boater.

Waiting for the show to begin, heat one performers Cider Goblin and Frieda Brest are perched on the edge of the stage playing Pokemon Go. Cider lived up to their name and gave perhaps the messiest performance of heat one, scattering the stage with empty tinnies out of a bin bag during their lip sync to The Cramps’ ‘Garbage Man’. Frieda was responsible for a delightful chicken themed performance that same evening, it had a skillfully crafted mix featuring Lizzo’s 2018 hit ‘Boys’, but every time she said the word “boys” it was replaced with “chickens”. Often the simplest ideas are the funniest. Tonight, Frieda is here in their masculine alter-ego, Fred D’Coq, complete with a neon pink suit. Sitting in the front row along from them is Church of Yshee 2019 finalist Misty Fye, eager to show support for their partner in crime Glitter King.

Hosting tonight are Dragpunk’s own Lilith and Tacky Alex, a thoroughly odd couple who’ve got polar opposite dress senses and about a foot in height between them. Lilith, veiled in black lace and with eyeliner so sharp it would make Siouxsie Sioux’s eyes water, towers over Alex, who grins at the audience from under a pair of floppy rabbit’s ears and a smear of pink lipstick. The two heats were hosted by the baby of the group, Amber Cadaverous. After some outdated whispers went around the scene challenging the validity of a young queer woman hosting a drag contest, Paul Aleksandr took the stage at the beginning of heat two to make it very clear that as far as Dragpunk are concerned Amber’s place is on the stage. Beaming, Amber took the mic, ringing in the autumn with an enormous pumpkin costume. Paul, having affirmed his role as kindly-yet-creepy uncle of Birmingham’s queer community, returned to mopping up blood and other fluids between performances with an endless supply of blue roll.

The finalists tonight have been given three performance tasks each to determine the winner, who gets to take home a troubling trophy – one of Paul’s sculptures that makes use of a doll’s head and a liberal coating of glossy red paint. First, they’re invited to show off their skills with a narrative performance. Glaswegian queen Diana Morphine takes queues from Tim Burton’s campy classic Beetlejuice, strutting around in a black-and-white striped suit and flinging plastic cockroaches into the audience. Suzi Looz, who’s heat one striptease to Black Flag’s ‘Nervous Breakdown’ saw her booked for a show in London the following week by judge Mary Poppers, delights the crowd by disemboweling Boris Johnson (played with trademark swagger by Haus of Sauseej’s Christian Gay) before emptying a milkshake over his head.

Glitter King, who’s truly mastered comfy drag, cavorts around the stage in a Grumpy Bear onesie to Eiffel 65’s ‘Blue’. Sissy Punk invites Fred D’Coq to join her on stage for a deeply troubling performance, where dialogue from the episode of Always Sunny in Philidelphia where Frank Reynolds convinces the gang they’re eating human meat segues into ‘Truly Scrumptious’ from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as Sissy appears to carve slices of deli meat of Fred’s glutes with a sadistic flair. It’s a word perfect lip sync that has the crowd in stitches. The most unexpected performance comes from Nottingham queen and cosplayer Wyntir Rose, who’s interpretation of a viral episode of Peppa Pig is inspired.

The Ghoul School contestants are then invited to perform a brief runway performance. Local comedy-drag performer Cosmic Crum takes the opportunity to show off an impressive silicone breastplate, while Diana Morphine keeps it classy in a floor length red ballgown. Sissy slithers out of a latex dress to reveal an acidic yellow bodysuit, a look that’s almost as delightfully trashy as the camo chaps she wore for her heat one lipsync to Vengaboys. The star of this round is undoubtedly Suzi, who gambols onto the stage in a tartan suit and snaps open a fan which bears the legend ‘TIPTON’. She writhes on the floor, fluttering it coquettishly, to delighted chanting from the crowd. At the time of writing, Suzi is listed as a ‘notable resident’ on Tipton’s Wikipedia page.

For the final act of the night, performers are simply given the brief ‘freakshow’ – surely an invitation for chaos from Dragpunk. Cosmic Crum steps up to the plate with a wonderfully hairy striptease which must have been the final fate of at least three purple wigs. Diana Morphine is a picture of android glamour, glitching and death dropping her way through a slick mix of electronic pop and looking like Barbarella turned up to 11.

Sissy Punk gives one of the night’s most heartfelt and political performances about her trans experience, culminating in some defiant, full frontal nudity to the sound of ‘Sweet Transvestite’ to the adulation of the judges and the crowd. Horror queen Melancholy, who in the last heat stapled a rubber mask directly onto her face and subsequently bled so much her false lashes melted off, takes the stage as the evening’s final act to hushed anticipation, before engaging in some neon clad needle play that is enough to turn even the strongest stomach. Judges China, Ruby Wednesday and Misty Monique retire to deliberate, and at this point it genuinely feels like anyone could win it.

After a short break, Diana Morphine is crowned the winner of Ghoul School 2019 to much deserved applause. Her consistency and variety won the judges over, so she now has the honor of taking the baby head trophy back to Glasgow – as well as hundreds of pounds worth of drag supplies from Give Face Cosmetics, What A Drag, Offend My Eyes, Morphe and Urban Decay and a paid performance spots with Dragpunk in the future. So, look out as this won’t be Diana’s last time in Birmingham…

For more on the Dragpunk Collective, visit 

For more from The Nightingale Club, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit 

‘I pick my way through the dressing room, stepping over debris from previous performances – a toy guitar, a picked-over sheet of stick-on moustaches, and a slowly deflating blow up doll. The front of my shirt is damp from where I tried to sponge out a pale purple stain from the Dark Fruits. I slip on my coat, grab my umbrella, and make for the stage with what I hope is an air of masculine confidence.’

Watch out for Emily Doyle’s Diary of a Short Lived Drag King, a 24 page A4 ‘zine recanting her own experiences of when she manned up and got on stage – with illustrations from Emily and photography from Eleanor Sutcliffe. 

Diary of a Short Lived Drag King will be available through Review Publishing from 30th September, click here for more details.


NOT NORMAL NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To learn more about the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues surrounding sexual violence – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL NOT OK website.

BPREVIEW: Opulence Presents: Mother’s Meeting – featuring Virgin Xtravaganzah, Mickey Taylor, Twiggy @ The Nightingale Club 20.07.18

Opulence Presents: Mother’s Meeting @ The Nightingale Club 20.07.18

Words by Eleanor Sutcliffe

On Friday 20th July, Opulence Presents: Mother’s Meeting – featuring Virgin XtravaganzahMickey Taylor, and Twiggy at The Nightingale Club in Birmingham. Doors are open from 9pm, and whilst all Early Bird tickets have sold out you can still get advance tickets for £6 – click here for online ticket sales.

N.B. A limited number of tickets will be also available on the door for £7, but these cannot be reserved and are expected to go early. For direct event information visit the Opulence Presents: Mother’s Meeting Facebook Event Page by clicking here.

Opulence are one of Birmingham’s leading drag collectives, who strive to host fun and safe events for Birmingham’s ever growing drag scene. Their debut Mother’s Meeting at Jesters Bar back in April was a rousing success, and this month’s event looks to be even bigger –with Opulence moving the event to the larger Nightingale Club, and three artists schedules to perform as well as Opulence’s resident drag queens.

First up is Virgin Xtravaganzah, a London based queen who has been coined the ‘Mother of Gawd’. Mixing high fashion imagery, comedy and witty song parodies, Xtravaganzah is no stranger to the stage having performed at The Underbelly Festival and can be found hosting London’s infamous Torture Garden fetish parties.

Not exactly where you’d expect to find the Holy Mother, however Xtravaganzah’s interpretation of the Virgin Mary couldn’t be further from what we’re used to – think latex, leather corsets and towering heels as opposed to linen robes and rosary beads.

Next is Mickey Taylor, a singer songwriter who to date has two solo albums and an international tour under his belt. His music is ethereal, dance type tracks – for fans of artists such as Halsey, Lana Del Ray and Troye Sivan.

Taylor has an impressive fan base, having built his reputation through the adult entertainment industry and scooping numerous awards at the British Prowler Porn Awards. His latest album, Midnight Palace, shows a much more refined style in comparison to his gay-pop debut, Puppets Lament, back in 2016.

Finally, Birmingham’s very own lip-sync darling, Twiggy, will also be featured at Mother’s Meeting; Twiggy is one of the Midlands’ best-known drag artists, having honed their craft as a performer back in the 1980s.

Describing their life as “one long fancy dress party”, Twiggy’s signature outrageous club kid style (and headdress) has made them a cult figure of the UK’s drag scene, whilst also becoming the glamorous face of many Birmingham clubs from Miss Moneypenny’s to S.L.A.G. and Sundissential. Having performed at Birmingham’s very first Pride back in 1982, Twiggy is seen as one of the founding mothers of Brum’s gay village and drag scene.

With three headliners plus Opulence’s very own drag entourage, expect to see the likes of Yshee Black, Nora Virus, Elliot Barnicle, and drag duo Cocktail Sausage (Petite and Pork Pie) also grace the stage throughout the night.

Opulence Presents: Mother’s Meeting at The Nightingale Club on Friday 20th July – featuring Virgin Xtravaganzah, Mickey Taylor, and Twiggy. For direct information, including links to online ticket sales, click here.

For more on Virgin Xtravaganzah, visit

For more on Mickey Taylor, visit 

For more on Twiggy, visit

For more on Opulence, visit

For more from The Nightingale Club, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit


NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.

BREVIEW: Sasha Velour @ The Nightingale Club 02.02.18

BREVIEW: Sasha Velour @ The Nightingale Club 02.02.18

Words & illustrations by Emily Doyle

In what feels like a first for Birmingham’s oldest gay club, it’s not even 11pm and the Nightingale is full of eager punters. Everyone is here to see Sasha Velour, international drag queen, designer, illustrator, and winner of Season 9 of cult hit RuPaul’s Drag Race.

On entry guests are greeted by stilt walkers. They dance in spiked latex cat suits that would make James St. James jealous. My accomplice, Sinead, remarks, “I love latex. But on my budget, I’m definitely more of a cling film girl.” We turn to the bar, where we see a woman ordering a drink wearing a hand painted denim jacket featuring a portrait of Sasha Velour. Set against a rainbow the painting depicts Velour in the black gown and opera gloves she wore in her very first appearance on Drag Race, complete with tinted glasses and signature crown. It bears the legend “LET’S CHANGE SHIT UP”.

Sasha Velour / Illustration by Emily DoyleLocal club kid, Elliot Barnicle, provides the music for the evening, tucked into an impossibly snug silver lamé bodysuit. Waiting for the acts to begin an impromptu dance off over a bottle of champagne sees partygoers show off their moves on stage, ranging from the dubious to the impressive. The winner high-kicks her way to victory while RuPaul’s 2014 single ‘Sissy That Walk’ plays, to the delight of the crowd.

Sasha Velour makes her first appearance on stage before the clock has struck midnight. With little warning, she walks on with a measured, stately air. She removes her sunglasses to a scream from the crowd. Then, as soon as she appeared, she’s gone again.

The evening proceeds with appearances from Velour’s co-hosts sandwiching her performances. Barnicle dominates the stage in his own gold crown. His name is in lights behind him, accompanied by a portrait by the scene’s resident illustrator, Jay Bailey. Then Sasha Velour returns, this time dressed as her idol (and recent Google Doodle muse) Marlene Dietrich.

“What makes queerness so amazing is that we stand on a platform of love and acceptance.”

Boo Sutcliffe / Illustration by Emily DoyleVelour performs an impeccable lip sync to Dietrich’s ‘Illusions’, which morphs into a full dance routine to Le Tigre’s dance-punk hit ‘Deceptacon’. Velour slipping off her top hat and tails to show a leopard print basque and Yolandi Visser-eque wig must surely be the reveal of the night.

Sets followed from the rhinestone-encrusted Tanja MacKenzie, who performed a flawless lip sync of Ella’s ‘Mamma Boy’ (for the unacquainted that was Norway’s official Eurovision selection for 2017, and a perfect slice of electro-pop at that). Birmingham’s self-styled ‘Queer Bratz doll from hell’ Boo Sutcliffe is up next, flouncing across the stage in her enormous backcombed yellow wig with every ounce of attitude that we’ve come to expect from her.

The hotly anticipated Hungry was next to take the spotlight. Bringing distorted drag all the way from Berlin, Hungry recently collaborated with Björk on the artwork for her 2017 release Utopia and it’s easy to see what drew them together. Combining otherworldly makeup, motoric vogueing, and a frighteningly cinched waist, her routine to a remix of Röyksopp’s ‘Monument’ is at the cutting edge of performance art. She takes a bow, standing surrounded by elements of her pink satin costume, clad in stiletto boots and peephole panties. If there’s anyone who can follow this, it’s Sasha Velour.

Hungry / Illustration by Emily DoyleThe strains of Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ fill The Nightingale. Velour is back on stage for her final performance of the night, this time in a classic red shirt-dress and fiery bob. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a bit obvious, until she disappears behind a red umbrella and re-emerges as a bedazzled incarnation of Tolkien’s character Gollum. Flinging herself against the barriers, her pointed ears and single, heart shaped nipple pasty glint in the stage lights.

After the show I catch up with Elliot Barnicle and Boo Sutcliffe to get their take on how the night felt from the other side of the crowd barrier.

“I really didn’t expect anything less from an audience that was drawn in for Sasha Velour,” says Sutcliffe. “The energy in the room was electric. It was full of so much love and acceptance.”

Barnicle agrees. “The night was incredible, it’s inspiring to see such a talented performer on stage, pushing the boundaries of drag and to be received by such a wide audience. Sasha is such a kind queen and was really interested in seeing us other performers on stage!”

“I think Sasha’s comments on the never-ending changes and movements of what drag is and can be is what makes her such a queer icon and the deserving reigning queen,” continues Barnicle. “Everything she stands for and says goes towards a more loving and accepting future for drag queens and queer people everywhere. The general vibe I got from everything Sasha said is to never back down from what you believe in and to not let our voices be silenced. We are valid as queer people and we are valid as a community.”

For more on Sasha Velour, visit

For more on Hungry, visit 

For more on Boo Sutcliffe, visit 

For more on Tanja Mckenzie, visit 

For more on Elliot Barnicle, visit

For more on Klub Kids, visit 

For more from The Nightingale Club, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit