In conversation with DragSoc’s committee members at The Glitter Ball
I was lucky enough to be given the chance to watch DragSoc’s amazing Glitter Ball and then interview the performers in the packed Activities Office staff room which doubled as their dressing room. We discussed drag from a student perspective and they provided insights on how all students can get involved regardless of sexual identity.
My interview with Twink Floyd/Edward was done online whilst the Prince of Persia/Atusa and Calypso/Josh interviews were done between acts. The Lydia Eastlope/Beattie interview took place in the middle of the fire alarm whilst acoustic singing and guitar playing took place in Library square as the acoustic event had to be evacuated from Falmer House at the same time as DragSoc.
Interview: Twink Floyd
Having been unable to chat during the show, I interviewed Twink Floyd/Edward online asking about both the past and future of DragSoc.
How did you get into drag?
I knew of drag before coming to uni, but it wasn’t until I met a group of friends in my first year that I became a performer. We all met through the LGBTQ+ picnic and realised that we all had an interest in it, and that there wasn’t, at the time, a society directly relating to drag. In short terms, that was how DragSoc was born, just a group of queer people wanting to do something we loved.
As President of DragSoc, what is your message for any new LGBTQ+ students coming to Sussex this month?
Our main message for LGBTQ+ students is that in this uni there are so many queer spaces being created for you, by students who have walked your path. We may not all be the same, but all that counts is that we are treated the same. DragSoc is an inclusive space for anyone, no matter who you are, and anyone can get involved.
DragSoc has already made an impact on campus and nationally. What are your plans so it can continue to grow and make history?
This year our monthly shows are going to be a little different. As well as creating a space to help the queer community feel included and safe, we will strive to give back to the community that has made each and everyone of us feel at home. That’s why all our monthly shows will be fundraisers, for charities and organisations that directly help support our community. We will also be taking in as many student performers as we can, and working with some of the greatest drag related groups there are in Brighton.
Follow Twink Floyd on Instagram @flinktwoyd
Interview: Lydia Eastslope
With the show being delayed by a power outage and various fire alarms, I managed to speak with Lydia Eastslope/Beattie during an impromptu acoustic show in Library Square during one of the many fire alarms of the night.
So, obviously you are quite well known on campus.
Lydia: Oh, that’s very kind of you to say.
But I want to know how you got into drag.
[We pause to cheer the outside band who’ve finished their song. We’re outside due to a fire alarm going off during stage set up for DragSoc’s Glitter Ball event]
L: I was just an attention seeking child. So, I always liked the theatre and in secondary school one of the things our drama group would do was putting on pantomimes; I was always the pantomime dame. So, I’d never done any ‘proper’ drag before coming to uni. But I had that background of dressing up in women’s clothing and being a bit outrageous. And then I just came to the DragSoc shows and thought it was just so incredible. So, I signed up for their Lip Sync For Your Life that they did and then after that for a December show they did and after that I haven’t stopped since then.
What would you say drag means to you?
L: Primarily, its an outlet for self-expression. That can mean really deep things like a lot of our acts touch on gender, what it means to be trans and what it means to be a queer person. But it can also be self-expression of the weird f*cked up aspects of ourselves. In my first show, I spat a load of carrot out into the audience and cut off my hair because that’s what I wanted to do. It was great fun and great night. I really enjoyed it. Self-expression doesn’t always have to mean really political things, it can and it definitely should but it also just means experimenting in a fun safe space.
Do you have a message for any new LGBTQ+ students at Sussex as a Fresher?
L: Oh my god, well don’t sleep with anyone on campus. It’s just going to end badly. Beyond that, I would say don’t get complacent. I wanted to jump into a speech about how great it is here but actually we have to remember that last year at the Freshers’ drag event on the way back lots of the committee members received a lot of quite transphobic abuse on the bus back into town. So, we can’t forget that there is that undercurrent. So, still be alert but more importantly remember that is still an incredible, amazing experience. You’ve come to the university that had the first UK uni Drag Society in the country. We’re making queer history here in a lot of ways. That’s a really exciting thing to be a part of. So, I would just say: embrace and enjoy that.
Follow Lydia on Instagram @lydia_eastslope
After having spent the evening performing her incredibly emotional numbers, Calypso sat down with me briefly to discuss how Calypso was born and their personal relationship with drag. Unfortunately some of the interview was lost, thanks Apple!
So, to start off slightly simply, how did you get into drag?
Calypso: Through trying out different avenues of art and getting at a dead end. I found that drag can be a jack of all trades kind of art where you involve performance, the visuals, the painting, the outfits, the textiles, all these different forms of arts compiled together. I’d practised and tried my best but could never master any other forms of art.
Chris: Well you’ve mastered this one. I’m a big fan.
Ca: Thank you so much!
What does drag mean personally to you?
Ca: Art. I know for a lot of people it’s about expressing gender or having a focus on gender in their minds and their philosophy. For me, it’s more as a form of communication and metaphor and creating narratives for people. Creating escapism. That’s what I want to do with my art. The way that I perform, I want to fill the room with a different world.
Ch: There’s a lot of emotion when you perform. You’re very good.
Follow Calypso on Instagram @theonlycalypso
Interview: Prince of Persia
During the shows interval, I spoke with Prince of Persia/Atusa about how they went from drag newbie to Vice President of DragSoc in under a year.
I’m going to start of quite simply, how did you get into drag?
Prince of Persia: So, I joined Sussex last year and I used to RuPaul’s Drag Race but I never thought I’d get into it at all. But when I came, I here went to Freshers’ Fair and Ally, who is Grim Kreeper, she was behind the stall and I saw her and said ‘I really want to get involved’. They had a show at East Slope that night which I went to and was just blown away. I knew I wanted to get involved. I didn’t know there was such thing as a drag king. So basically, I contacted Ally and she helped me so much. She invited me to her house, she didn’t know me, and she told me to bring my laptop so she could teach me how to mix a track. And the rest was history. It was literally because of DragSoc. And now I’m best friends with Ally and she’s living above me and it’s pretty amazing.
What does drag mean to you as a person?
P: It’s a different experience for everyone but for me it’s just letting go. I describe drag as f*cking with gender. For me, it’s just an outlet. It’s just having some fun. I make it political sometimes but in a way that I make it emotional. I sometimes think that if you are performing to such a big audience, you might as well send a message across. So, yeah, it’s a nice way to communicate your thoughts to people. It’s a great platform and it’s a safe space.
Chris: I’m mind blown that you only started a year ago. I remember seeing your first one at East Slope and you were so charismatic and I thought you were so good.
If you could give a message to the LGBTQ+ students just joining Sussex this year or just in general, what would you want to say?
P: I’d say, don’t be put off by silly people who are out there that put you down. There are so many amazing, welcoming people and honestly if it wasn’t for them I don’t know where I’d be. I moved here from London from an Islamic family so I’d say just stick through it. You will meet your crowd and you will meet amazing people. Join the LGBTQ+ society, go to events, meet people. Don’t be shy – there are alcohol neutral events. There’s literally something for everyone. And I’ve never felt so at home. Don’t be scared.
So, you’re one of the people in charge of DragSoc…
P: Yeah, I’ve become Vice-President and Welfare rep. I also do gigs in London and in Brighton and you can call me a professional I guess. I do gigs with Zayn Phallic. So, it’s just an amazing opportunity. DragSoc is amazing.
So, in terms of DragSoc, it’s obviously made quite an impact in Brighton and nationally with various awards, what is DragSoc planning in the future to expand if you care to divulge?
P: As the new committee has come into power, we want to reach out to people more now. In the past it’s been us putting on shows and that’s it. That’s amazing in itself but we want to help other people. So, we’re planning on collaborating with professionals, putting on workshops and maybe swapping wigs and stuff. We’re planning on putting on these workshops to get more people involved and train them in a way to give them more experience and advice. That’s the major thing we’re doing right now.
And to conclude, why should everyone embrace drag culture?
P: It will literally change your life whether you are gay, straight, anything in-between, whatever the hell you are. It’s a safe space. It’s fun. You’ll just feel liberated. It’s just liberating.
Follow Prince of Persia on Instagram @princeofp3rsia
Photo Credit: Chris Ahjem