Pictured: Kitty Scott Claus
We had the original ‘Drag Queen Storytime’ troupe to Greenbelt back in 2019. Both they and our audience really loved the experience. So, given the mounting pressure drag acts are facing as part of an increasingly hostile and polarised culture – not just in the States, but around the world – we felt it would be an act of love and solidarity to provide a platform for drag artists to join us at Greenbelt again this year. Except this time, we’re raising the bar.
As well as the School of Drag from Bristol, bringing their age-appropriate fun and encounter as part of our children’s and family programme (and building on the visit of DQST a few years ago), we’re also staging our first ever Drag Show ‘proper’ in our Playhouse Theatre venue.
Whereas the daytime School of Drag will present something entirely appropriate for an all all-age audience, the evening drag show will showcase a much more adult, provocative and playful expression of drag in full cabaret style. The Drag Show will feature the much-loved drag icon Kitty Scott Claus, as well as Carmen Dioxide and Barbara.
In particular, we’re delighted to have worked with drag artist Barbara – a member of St James’ church Piccadilly and the prime mover behind the ‘Preach!’ drag evenings there – on our drag programming this year.
Barbara (as Elijah) has been to Greenbelt before and knows and loves the space we create. As part of our opening night socialising and gathering on Thursday, Barbara will be hosting a Drag Games night in the Hope & Anchor – our alcohol-free bar run by a team from our friends at the Methodist Church.
And then, on the Saturday evening, before taking to the decks as a guest DJ at the Glitter Ball – our after-hours disco hosted and DJ-ed by LGBTQ+ volunteers (OUT@Greenbelt) and special guests – Barbara will also be hosting a talk on the ‘History of Drag’, exploring the etymology and cultural significance of transvestism, from the origins of drag through to the pop culture sensation of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and giving Greenbelters a chance to ask any and all their questions about this little understood and much-maligned cultural expression.
Our hope is that, taken together, this drag programming demonstrates a committed, thoughtful and intentional approach – set against a backdrop of suspicion and hostility.
We hear the arguments around the potential weakening of the power of a form of expression that is essentially subversive and transgressive by ‘normalising’ it. But Greenbelt is only an annual event and, as well as celebrating these great artists, we are seeking to build understanding, compassion and allyship.
We also recognise that some have concerns because of what they perceive only as a very sexualised cultural form being presented to children. The culture wars that rage on the internet and social media have stoked these concerns, reducing drag to just one thing, one mode of expression, when it is such a multi-faceted form. (As we said above, what we present as part of our children’s and family daytime programming with the School of Drag will be very different to what adults can experience later in the evening in The Playhouse, as part of our drag show.)
We also know there is a feminist school of thought that argues that drag, in its mainstream and popular form today, is yet another example of men colonising women’s spaces and identities; and, not only that, but, in so doing, presenting parodied forms of what ‘real’ women are like. We hear and acknowledge this. But again, this feels like a reductive take on what drag can be.
As we seek to foster dialogue, engagement, understanding and inclusivity at Greenbelt, here’s an opportunity for any and all festival-goers to immerse themselves in a cultural form that is probably way more fun, liberative and subversive than perhaps ever they thought. And, just as importantly, to be able to ask their questions without feeling silly or reactionary, too.
DRAG PERFORMERS AT GREENBELT 2023
DRAG EVENTS AT GREENBELT 2023
Hope & Anchor – Thursday 20:30
Drag Games Night
Do you love games? Do you love Drag Queens? Then this strange venn-diagram is for you! come along to a fabulous evening full of different games all hosted by the Fabulous Barbara. known for their quick wit and hosting abilities this is a night you won’t want to miss. With Bingo, Quizzes, Sing Songs, The Price is Right, and more, there is something for everyone!
Playhouse – Friday 20:45
Drag me to Heaven
With Kitty Scott-Claus, Carmen Dioxide and Barbara. Curated and hosted by Barbara (a London-based drag performer known for her hosting and roasting comedy style), Greenbelt’s first ever Drag Cabaret show features three of the best Queens in the UK today: Drag Race UK finalist and loveable life-of-the-party Kitty Scott-Claus and Carmen Dioxide, who will leave you breathless with her penchant for lipsyncing to Kylie. Expect glamour, glitz and a whole lot of outrageous fun.
Ta Dah! – Saturday 16:15
School of Drag
Get out your notebooks and sharpen your pencils because the School of Drag is now in session! Through quick drag catwalks, arts and crafts, and Drag Story Time, the School of Drag is the perfect introduction to queer art for youngsters, giving them a chance to enjoy LGBTQ+ stories, meet Drag artists and express themselves creatively in a safe space.
Treehouse – Saturday 20:00
The History of Drag
The History of Drag is an explorative talk around the etymology, and cultural significance of transvestism. From the origins of drag through to the pop culture sensation of Rupaul’s Drag Race, this immersive conversation tries to open a dialogue and understanding into a previously unknown sub-culture of the LGBTQIA+ community. Hosted and curated by Drag Queen, Barbara, this talk is not something to be missed with Visuals and a Q&A session for you participate in. Barbara is a London based performer having worked for the past 13 years as a professional Drag Queen.
Hot House – Saturday 22:30
The Glitter Ball
After the joy of last year’s inaugural Glitter Ball, we had to give the dancefloor over again to the Out @ Greenbelt DJs and special guest DJ Barbara. Expect exuberant inclusion, hands-in-the-air floorfillers and more dancing queens than you could shake a glow-stick at. Dressing up is to be encouraged. So grab your lights, glitter yourself up, dig out your most fabulous dancing shoes and join us at The Glitter Ball. Everyone’s invited.