Exhibition Review: Make a Scene at HIVEArts

In partnership with Funny Girls and the ‘Be Who You Want to Be‘ initiative, HIVEArts has put together a celebration of drag culture and its contribution to Blackpool. Having seen M&S mannequins arriving for the gowns, David Simper was keen to see how the show would pan out.

I just had time to get home from a rare visit to the office nowadays, change my clothes, pick up the camera and catch the service 61 bus to town and the Church Street gallery space, where large numbers of people were already thronging in to the venue. They entered through a balloon arch with costumes displayed to the left.

This show is designed to celebrate the proud history of drag in Blackpool and it does that with costume, sculpture and artwork. I have to admit that I have rarely engaged with drag, apart from seeing Danny La Rue on The Good OLd Days (dating myself there) and Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everidge, but it was clear that this would be a spectacular show.

A number of drag queens from the excellent Funny Girls graced the event in full costume.

This has to be the best attended event at HIVE I have seen and it was quite difficult to move around, naturally a good problem to have. Attendees included a number of Blackpool councillors, including the Leader, Lynn Williams, now former MP (pending the upcoming election), Chris Webb, and this site’s editor, Antonia Charlesworth.

Basil Newby MBE, pioneered the modern face of drag in Blackpool, establishing the original Funny Girls, Flamingo club and The Flying Handbag in the ’80s, which those of that vintage will remember as a homophobic time where Section 28 was in force and enforced. Basil was introduced as the man who had overcome all obstacles to establish thriving businesses. He gave us a hilarious account of the process and the legacy he encountered in at least one of the premises he acquired, plus memories of former colleagues and affectionate banter with current, including the legendary DJ Zoe, seen in the photograph below to Basil’s right. DJ Zoe had curated the stunning array of costumes on display.

After the opening ceremony, I spoke to Shaun Pickup of Be Who You Want to Be and sought his view of the event and the contribution it would make to moving drag and LGBTQ+ people’s role in and contribution to Blackpool society forward .

“This is our first LGBTQ+ arts and culture event that our initiative has been involved with. We’re overwhelmed with the turnout – I think we have over 150 people. It shows that this type of event is what the town is looking for.”

I ask what is the plan to move forward?

“We’ve been working with a lot of local LGBTQ+ groups, local charities. We find a lot of local organisations already have LGBTQ+ initiatives already set up and so our aim is to start bringing these together with the aim of, over the next few years, putting together an Edinburgh fringe style event based around LGBT arts and culture and this will deliver events in ad hoc places around the resort. This will be a whole town effort and look to bring in many businesses and venues, including existing LGBTQ+ venues. The IMAX cinema have said they’d like to get involved and produce a full programme of events over a two week period.”

There was time to view some more of the artwork and photography on display and of course the costumes.

The party continued to be large and enthusiastic. Our election candidate was in demand from all sides, here engaged by Dawn Mander.

The clock ticked round and it was time to repair to the Corporation Street bus stop to catch the service 61 bus home.

The exhibition can be viewed until the 12th June 2024 at the HIVEArts venue above the HIVE coffee shop on Church Street, Blackpool.

Thanks to the HIVE coffee shop team for keeping us in drinks and nibbles.


Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
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    I have worked in the housing and transport professions for several local authorities, specialising in policy, strategy preparation and bid writing. Having always had an interest in film, the visual arts in general, theatre, music and lterature, I thought it would be good to combine the writing experience with these interests to contribute to altBlackpool. In addition to writing, my hobbies include watercolour and pastel painting, photography, woodwork, cycling and vegetable gardening.

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