I’ve wanted to write about this, it’s just taken an age to get it all scribbled down and ready to go. I’ve tried to remember and share all my experiences as I genuinely had a fantastic time, I’d love to go again next year and take more people along with me so if you fancy coming along, please do, the more the merrier!
I’m a huge fan of Drag, the art, the style, the openness, the beauty….it’s all good as far as i’m concerned and when I saw the advert for a convention to celebrate this, I had to be involved.
I’ve been a fan of RuPaul for years but recently (the last 6 years or so) i’ve been an avid fan of Drag Race on TV – basically a mix of Talent show, modelling, make up and dress skills and reality show.
I put it out there, shared the info, invited people who I thought might be interested but got no response really, so decided to just do it. Throw myself in and see where I landed. I’ve tried to be more brave and just do what I want to do without resorting to hiding behind other people, this seemed like an excellent example of that……I was sort of confident about it but also a bit scared, i’ve never even been to big festivals so maybe the people would be too much, or maybe I wouldn’t feel welcome to be there….oh well, i’d worry about that when I got there.
Luckily a friend of mine is also a fan of the drag world and when I was talking to her about it, she showed an interest and then about 20 minutes later I got a message to say she’d bought a ticket and wanted to come along (not gonna lie, this was brilliant for me, as despite the fact I had wanted to be strong by myself, it’s always lovely to have someone else along and creating shenanigans with you!) so I amended the hotel booking and we started planning 🙂
The two or so weeks before the convention, excitement was building, I had purchased some random bits for Claire and I (a Drag Bag – filled with things I thought would be funny/suitable for such an occasion – another example of me just liking to buy things without there being a specific reason behind it), I’d arranged to meet up with an old school friend who I hadn’t seen in far too many years and couldn’t wait and I had also entered a competition to win (as I had thought) a queen’s autograph which I thought would be amazing – i’d managed to book a Meet and Greet but the more popular queens had sold out so long ago, this competition seemed the best way to get something a bit special.
The night before we went, I was sat at home with Mr A and got some weird messages from both of my friends saying “well done on winning the tattoo”…………….yep, I hadn’t read the info correctly on the facebook competition and it wasn’t an autograph, it was an autograph which would then be permanently attached to my skin – ARRRRRRGGGGG. I’m really not a tattoo kind of person but luckily both Claire and Lacei have epic tattoos already so I was happy for either of them to take it for me.
Claire was due to meet me at mine on the Saturday morning, our coach was about half 6 so we met, had a coffee and went upon our merry way.
I don’t normally travel with people so it was actually lovely to have someone to talk with, laugh with and (probably) distract everyone else on the coach but it was a really easy quick journey and soon enough we arrived in London.
We needed to get to the site, which was Olympia and for this we needed the District line, we wondered and eventually after about 10 mins found the relevant platform. When the train arrived, I think we were both a bit unsure as to if we were doing the right thing so to sit down and see people wearing glitter, drag merch, huge wigs (and shoes) and other such glamour was a relief, we were on our way to the right place!
We arrived and the queue was getting started, we decided to regroup by getting breakfast from a local little cafe which served really yummy wraps, we wandered down a road to find somewhere to perch to eat said wrap and we happened upon Samuel Taylor Coolidge’s house – little bit of unexpected culture!
So we snacked and woke up a bit, then decided to walk and start our day, see what sights and experiences awaited us.
The queue was actually moving really quickly so as soon as we walked to the entrance, we could go straight in and get our glitter on!!
It was a bit like the Ideal Home Exhibition when we walked in, a few little stalls selling things which probably would really appeal to the crowd – nail art, wigs, clothing, make up and other such loveliness. We wandered a bit and whilst Claire was having a sales pitch given to her (i’d already purchased some nail art things – which I still haven’t mastered, but one of these days!) we saw a fab lady in a wheelchair which had been packaged to look like Priscilla’s bus, she was asking people to sign and draw all over it, I had to take some pics just to memorialize such a fab idea.
We spent a fair amount of time walking around, looking at stalls and the Merch which was available but the best thing I found was that everyone, no matter how they looked or were dressed, was respectful of each other, lots of people stopping random strangers to give them compliments, or to ask about how they’d made a costume, or their artwork. I spent a long time just taking pics of pretty things, male and female.
After a couple of hours we decided to have a seat at the Runway, have a snack (a watermelon ice, which was superb, very refreshing) and see some acts. I’m not at all up on the new kings and queens on the scene or indeed the Drag world in the UK so it was wonderful to see some acts that were local (ish) and very talented. Nice to know that there are places around the UK I can celebrate this art and also that there are some things I had no idea about which I have now experienced.
Ru has often preached that everyone needs to find their tribe. I may not be a whole part of it, but i’ve never felt as comfortable as I was there.
We decided to nip out, get some air, some lunch and chill out for a while, we wandered around the area and found a great little deli type place which had lots of baklava and fresh wraps and salads to buy, we both had another wrap and walked back discussing the day so far, thoughts for the rest of the weekend and anything specific we wanted to organise.
One of the joys throughout the weekend as a whole was that people were just wandering round, enjoying themselves, having fun and everyone was being positive, even if it was just to pass on a compliment on someone’s shoes, it just seemed a really loving and caring atmosphere. When we were sat watching the acts on the runways we got talking to other people in the crowd, friends and fans of specific acts but also seeing humanity in all it’s varieties – male/female/cos play, butch, open, free but most importantly happy.
We were lucky to see so many beautiful and known queens, throughout the day we kept grabbing each other and going “look it’s……..!!!!” There were panels, the runway and also specific meet and greets but there were also very magic times where we saw them in their booths, where people could stand and wait and meet their favourites. This wasn’t something we were planning on doing but if the opportunity arose, we would of course leap in with both feet.
When we got back inside, I bumped into my first “celeb” of the day, some woman from Gogglebox – sorry, I have no idea who she was but grabbed Claire and we worked out that’s where we knew her from – but she was charging for Photos (which considering even the Queen’s weren’t doing that seemed a bit cheeky) but we went back in and went back to the runway……we managed to get a front seat and sat down to watch some amazing Drag Kings at work, this was a first for me but still eye opening, a lot of talent and again, a lot of love in the crowd for their friends/idols/heroes. That’s where we had my second “celeb” sighting as Claire pointed out a bearded guy walking around with his family and said “isn’t that Nathan Law?” (the chef) I’m not sure she expected me to rush over to him and ask for a selfie but he was very gracious and agreed, he seemed surprised that someone was asking for his photo but am chuffed I got it, it was totally unexpected!!
During these little shows, we bumped into a photographer called Aiden, we spent a lot of time over the weekend bumping into him and he was a really fun person to stand and gossip with, he has since started to show off his Drag act (which I had no idea about before) but hopefully he will be there next year – in either guise – as he was fun to spend time with, he insisted on taking pics of us at various stages of the weekend so I have asked him for some copies of those too to remember our time by.
At about 5pm, we were sat just having a breather and I happened to notice Ginger Minj wandering back to her booth, both of us snapped into action and joined the little group which had formed. Another sign of how “Nice” people were was that there was no pushing and shoving, in fact, most people were insistent on pushing others to the front of the queue – how very British! – and we both had pics and a little chat with her, she calls herself a “Glamour Toad” which is harsh as she genuinely seemed a lovely person and she was very sweet to everyone, despite the long day. The funniest thing was that she showed us her shoes – TRAINERS!!! She had a fair point though, she’d been on her feet for hours and those things aren’t fun, so fabulous and comfortable will most definitely be the way forward! I did try to get a pic of her trainers when Claire was the photo subject but I’m too technologically rubbish to work her camera – sorry!
After that buzz, we decided to head to the hotel, we both needed a sit down and a cuppa. We walked to the left luggage area and on our way there we noticed another VERY short queue for another queen – Alaska.
Now, Alaska for me is probably my favourite queen. She is amazing, I love her style, her voice, her confidence and think she is simply stunning. I had purchased a Funko Pop of her and had it in my bag on the off-chance I can get it signed and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. Claire got in the queue and I nipped to grab her out of my bag. We were queuing and her manager came round the queue telling everyone that unless they purchased something from the stall, no autographs would be coming our way. Both Claire and I hesitated as the cheapest thing was about £30 for a photo, and that, despite my feelings for her, is just too much! So we were both debating slinking away when the family in front of us in the queue exploded. They were from Glasgow and very vocal about the fact that they wouldn’t be bullied into it and if the convention wanted to throw them out, then so be it. A week or so previously I had lost a very good friend of mine and she was from that area and as soon as I heard them arguing, I heard her voice telling me not to be such a ninny and just hold my ground. I honestly do believe without her, I wouldn’t have met her, got a signed doll and also had some photos where I look like i’ve met Santa Claus!!
Obviously buzzing, we decided to head home, we hadn’t organised how we would get to the hotel but I knew it was relatively close by so we set about wandering, through quiet streets and urbanised areas and sure enough, within about 15 mins, we had arrived at Hotel 65. Claire paid the remainder of the balance and the staff informed us about the breakfast hours – to be honest, it was so cheap we didn’t realise that it would even be offered! We climbed the many stairs to our room – third floor – and flopped into our room desperate for a tea.
We’d already decided we’d nip out for dinner, there seemed a fair selection of places to eat and after much deliberating – neither of us are good at decision making, we settled on a hipster bar which served burgers and also root beer, a perfect choice! We wandered back to the hotel, stopping off at a local small park for a fag and a chat, we were sat there for probably half an hour before we saw a lot of police cars zooming past and saw police actually searching for something or other so we decided to head back, chill and call in to the local tescos for dessert – fruit and macarons – which was very nice!
Next morning Claire decided to have a shower in the worlds smallest bathroom – our room was lovely, cheap and this is where the cheapness was obvious. No issues were had but we got ourselves together to nip down and enjoy the breakfast. We were directed to a table and given a selection of breads, cheeses, meats and yogurts. It was very yummy and we even had a second cup whilst we watched the world go by. The restaurant was run by I think, a family, the wife and mother in charge and the husband and children (or staff, I wasn’t sure) ran around like mad things. It was brilliant to watch but when we left (after dwindling) we noticed the massive queue of people waiting for breakfast, oops. We both agreed, if we had of known, we would have eaten and gone, to give others chances but hey, we live and learn eh? 😀
We grabbed our bags again and set off towards Olympia. We arrived before the doors actually opened but the queue again moved really quickly and we knew we had some things we actually had planned to do so decided to go meet the tattooist, get that sorted and then continue the day after that.
I had seen a stall the day before which gave people glitter faces (the festival look that I see on so many beautiful cool people and therefore I have been too scared to try and pull off) so I got in line and had some prettiness added to my face. It was fine to be wearing it there but later on when we were walking back to Victoria, we got some very funny looks!
I had spent most of the last day going back and forth as to whether or not to actually get the tattoo, I mean, from the positives, I would meet an idol, and have a permanent reminder of this time but from the negatives, i’m a coward and probably scream the place down, plus, I’ve never considered having a tattoo so had no idea where/what size/style etc (To be honest, the only thing I could think of when someone said Tattoo and autograph was the JOHN HANCOCK massiveness from the American Declaration of Independence) I wanted it….and the main reason was my mum would kill me!! I decided I couldn’t do it but thankfully the epic person that is Claire stepped in, she was happy to do it and i’m glad we didn’t miss out.
We went and met the tattooist, explained the situation to him and he was very adamant he couldnt spend time coddling me (understandable) so I think he was glad that it was decided that Claire would take it for the team, Drag World had been great about it though as they’d asked who I would want and the queen that appealed to us both was Katya. She is incredibly popular so it was a long shot but the amazing Molly (A Dragworld employee) went well above and beyond and took us backstage to meet her, get Claire signed and then get the tattoo on and sorted.
We were ridiculously excited for this, I mean, meet and greet but privately, backstage? This was going to be amazing! We got hurried backstage before Katya went to do her meet and greets, I managed to get good shots of her signing Claire, having a quick chat and a hug and then it was my turn. I was so excited that I said the words “Can I have a cuddle please?”………..apparently American’s do not use the word cuddle so she looked confused and asked “A WHAT?” to which I realised my mistake, wanted the floor to open and swallow me and then had to stammer a quiet “hug” instead. She was very lovely and I got a hug. No photos of this sadly but a part of me actually considers that a better thing, for me, this is a memory of mine which I can not share…..if nothing else, I made a prat of myself in front of someone who I have a lot of respect for so that’s something to remember haha!!
We went back to the booth (with me nipping off to find Aiden to take pics) and Claire sat for approx 10 mins whilst the work was done, she didn’t even flinch – but then she is much harder than I am! and afterwards we sort of floated out of there for more exploring.
An old friend of mine was also at the convention on the Sunday so we had arranged to meet and catch up, Claire and I popped by a stall to grab some grown up fizzy pop and I saw her in the queue for a queens meet and greet, it was really great to see her, I got to meet her child too (that should explain how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other, she is now most definitely an adult, whereas I still ebb and flow around adulthood!). I think we only managed to get one photo but was great to see her, catch up a little bit and spend some time just seeing that someone who I remembered as being brilliant, is still the same way.
We wandered again with Aiden, taking photos of beautiful things and we were just having a chat before heading off to our Meet and Greet and we happened to be by the runway when a Ru song started, I couldn’t believe it when Alaska walked onto the runway to start singing the song….and was then joined by Jiggly Caliente. We were all singing along and there was a huge rush of people to the stage. It was so fun and unexpected and we managed to get some (as far as I’m concerned) great shots.
We went off to the queues, I spent about 5 mins faffing with my phone while I tried to find the tickets etc but we eventually got to cross the rope line to meet Miss Darienne Lake…..a personal favourite from Drag Race and from our quick chat with her, a really lovely person. In true classic style (I feel that this is a common theme for me, less so for Claire but still an occurrence) where without meaning to, when she asked us if we were a couple, we both instantly responded really loudly with no, of course not and probably because of the way we said it, made it more awkward as though we were still in the closet or something but she was very gracious and loving to us and we walked away smiling.
****I should say, since then I have had social media contact with her, and she (sadly or amazingly) remembers us as “the Uncomfortable ones”!! – without meaning it we have made a real impression!****
We knew that our coach left before the end of the convention but we decided that we’d start making our way back to Victoria via the Mediterranean shop we’d had lunch from the day before, pick up some Baklava and supplies for the journey home, the heat was mental so I think we were both really happy to just finally get on a coach and chilling on our way home.
I’ve talked about this a lot, my typing fingers are exhausted! I genuinely believe this was a great weekend, full of laughter, love, care and support, to everyone. I look forward to going again next year and this time I’ll be taking the man with me. I kinda want him to see that not everyone is mean and cruel and this hopefully will be a good thing for him.
If anyone else went, or for that matter, wants to come to the 2019 Drag World Uk, please send me a message, it’d be amazing to meet up with and meet new people, all in a fabulously glittery and very gay place.
++++I should say, I have spent so long thinking and writing this up that my recollections may be a mess, I’ve just realised approx 4 mins before this is meant to be published that the Darienne meeting was on the first day, not the second.++++