On a warm Sunday evening this July, I witnessed a night of poetry, film, drag and of course PRIDE at Nottingham’s glorious Malt Cross.
At 6pm the event kicked off with poetry by Gregory Woods, a former professor for LGBTQ studies at Nottingham University. Eloquently, he performed poems like ‘May I say nothing’ and poems from his book An Ordinary Dog. He also sent us on a journey of giggles and tragedy as he introduced us to a new unfinished poem titled ‘Pulse,’ which paid homage to the victims of the Orlando Shootings. Though unfinished, this poem gave me shivers throughout as it expressed the horrors felt by the victims’ loved ones.
This was then followed by Toby Fell-Holden’s captivating, BIFA-nominated Balcony. This short’s story felt immensely relevant given all the events that have struck England in the past couple of months, and in the wake of all the post-Referendum racism and hate crimes we have seen, its message of not judging people based on a preconception of their race or culture really struck home!
Talking about his short film project, Toby said he wanted to “tell a story that captures the daily injustices, individual and institutional, in an environment like the estate I grew up on, a place that struggled with racial tension” and you definitely can’t help but feel he’s captured a slice of tensions which are probably going on all over the UK right now, so his mission to point a finger at the viewer to say “this is what happens when we avoid reality and allow discrimination to dominate” feels so important.
What’s more, the film proved a real roller coaster of emotions for the audience, and it had impeccable production values considering it was from a director at such an early stage in his career. The film centred on an uneasy story of lesbian intrigue between a troubled British girl and a character we’re told is originally from Afghanistan, and this cross-cultural frisson made it quite unlike the kinds of LGBT films we’re normally used to seeing in this country.
Balcony was also wonderfully written and beautifully filmed, meaning it really sticks in your memory long after you’ve seen it. The attention to detail on the short’s intricately layered soundtrack was unbelievably atmospheric and the performances by Charlotte Beaumont and Genevieve Dunne in their complex roles were so compelling.
After a short break, the night of movie magic then continued with Alex Berry’s feature documentary Drag Becomes Him. This film follows Ru Paul’s Drag Race legend Jinkx Monsoon for several years as she storms to the height of her fame – something I was naturally very excited to see this as a big fan of the series and a supporter of Jinkx herself.
During the documentary, we get up close and personal with everything from Jinkx’s family upbringing to her life in the public eye, and the thing that made this particularly wonderful was the way Jinkx’s story encapsulates perfectly an LGBT take on the American Dream, something I have rarely (if ever) seen. Through a rich assortment of clips we race right across Jinkx’s rags-to-riches career, and various moments often brought hearty laughs and giggles from those in the room.
This wide mix of footage was also expertly stitched together, meaning spellbinding footage of the drag artist transforming herself sat faultlessly side by side with intimate, revealing confessions about what drives Jinkx. Effortlessly gliding across years’ worth of Monsoon moments and a plethora of family perspectives, Drag Become Him definitely demonstrated Berry’s prodigious skill for getting to the heart of a person’s story and making it a film that people from all kinds cultures and sexual orientations can celebrate.
This made Drag Becomes Him an ideal film to show as part of a Pride fundraiser, and the cheering and grinning clearly showed the audience’s enjoyment of the story behind one of the most talented performers of our times.
Following a humid seventy minutes of filmic fun downstairs, festivities continued upstairs, where the gallery’s walls had been transformed with beautiful art by local Nottingham artists, almost all of which was on sale to raise extra money for Pride. In the performance space between the two floors, drag queen Riley Vyrus then took centre stage.
Performing hilarious lip syncs and live songs, Riley paid a heart-felt tribute to Jinkx with songs such as ‘Everybody’s Girl’ and ‘Creep’ by Radiohead. Other wonderful performances were delivered by fellow fabulous queens Dusty Crevis and Scarlet Fever. The latter performed Eartha Kitt’s ‘Champagne Testing,’ and the dramatic embellishments she acted out left the stage covered in beer and the crowd in hysterics…
The night was one to remember and it left me with a smile on my face and hope in my heart! Following the tragic events in Orlando that left the LGBTQ community and the world in fear and mourning, events like this – which put Pride, family and friends at their heart – feel more important than ever.
This event even sold out, creating a great atmosphere, so do keep an eye out for their next Scalarama screening of British indie Notes on Blindness and come down to show your support!
Grainne Peason Cockrill
Event images by Dani Bacon