Cork drag school hopes to ‘empower people’

A new course in Cork will teach people the art of performing drag. Roisin Burke hears that interest in the art form meant the course places were filled in a matter of days
Cork drag school hopes to ‘empower people’

Drag artist Mia Gold at St. John's College, Cork who is the programme facilitator for the upcoming evening Drag School which starts on May the 5th for 1o weeks. Picture Dan Linehan

A NEW college course teaching the art of becoming a drag queen is getting a lot of attention, selling out in three days, with a waiting list already half full.

The newly created ‘Drag School’ has been put together by The Gay Project and is being run between The Gay Project premises and St John’s College on Sawmill Street.

Speaking to The Echo, The Gay Project’s project coordinator Ailsa Spindler explained how the idea came about.

“We were looking for things to do after lockdown, we have been running a lot of things online and we wanted to get back to face to face.”

Gay Project Community Development Worker Konrad Im suggested engaging with Cork’s drag queen community and giving The Gay Project service users a chance to learn new skills.

It is hoped the course will empower people and improve life opportunities for participants, through employment or for fun.

Ailsa said the course is very structured and will allow participants to build their own drag performance and drag identity.

“For some, it will be a hobby and for some, they might want to go professional.”

The course was arranged within a matter of weeks.

Ailsa said they were surprised by the popularity of the course.

“21 people signed up in three days and there are six more on the waiting list and we are hoping to run another course in the Autumn. There has been a huge amount of interest, from the media and the public in the course.”

The Gay Project, Project Coordinator cited Ru Paul as an example of the growing interest in drag on a global scale.

“People signing up from all kinds of backgrounds, men and women, selected people with a genuine interest. Some have done drag in the past, some completely new to it.” Ailsa said there are skills that participants will learn on the course that will benefit them going forward.

“People will gain an understanding of drag as an art form, how to develop a drag persona, how to give a performance, and how to create your own drag look including costume and makeup advice.

“It will build self-confidence and question preconceptions and attitudes around gender.

“Some people think drag is anti-women but it is actually a celebration of femineity by taking it to the extremes.”

The course is funded by the ETB and facilitated by drag queen Mia Gold, Bruno Oliviera.

 Drag artist Mia Gold at St. John's College, Cork who is the programme facilitator for the upcoming evening Drag School which starts on May the 5th for 1o weeks. Picture Dan Linehan
Drag artist Mia Gold at St. John's College, Cork who is the programme facilitator for the upcoming evening Drag School which starts on May the 5th for 1o weeks. Picture Dan Linehan

Mia, who first dressed up in drag at a carnival in Portugal, where he is from, said he found the phenomenon liberating and exciting.

Mia then moved to Kerry where he worked as a chef until he came to Cork on a shopping trip and fell in love with the Rebel County.

“At the time there was not a big LGBTQ community in Kerry, I started networking in Chambers, made friends, and ended up being asked to perform in Chambers.

From there, Mia went on to perform in Dublin Pride, Galway Pride and Cork Pride, as well as winning a drag queen competition in Limerick, called ‘Drag-Hens Den’ in 2018.

'PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE'

Mia said he learned everything about drag from the internet and from practice.

“I learned to do wigs by following YouTube tutorials, I bought the tools online and for costumes, I bought a sewing machine.”

The drag queen said the makeup was trial and error.

“The makeup was practice, practice, practice. The trends are always changing and you need to adapt.”

Mia said he works most weekends and it takes two hours to get ready for a performance.

“I perform two or three nights and if there are events during the week I will perform for them as well.”

Offering some insight into what makes good performance magic in relation to drag, Mia said: “Don’t replicate, authenticate.

“It’s all about personality and character, there are so many queens, you need to find your own way.”

Explaining what it is about drag that he likes, Mia said it gives him the freedom to be himself and also to be someone else.

“I like doing drag, it allows me to change character. It’s a fun thing to do, so many different costumes. It’s a mental exercise, you are different every time. I like the transformation.”

Mia said while Bruno is quiet, Mia is a firecracker.

“Some people don’t feel comfortable in their own skin and this lets you see how you can change as a person. It is a freedom to be yourself and someone else.”

 Drag artist Mia Gold at St. John's College, Cork who is the programme facilitator for the upcoming evening Drag School which starts on May the 5th for 1o weeks. Picture Dan Linehan
Drag artist Mia Gold at St. John's College, Cork who is the programme facilitator for the upcoming evening Drag School which starts on May the 5th for 1o weeks. Picture Dan Linehan

Chatting about the new course Mia said he was looking forward to getting started on May 5.

“I’m looking forward to mentoring people on drag as an art form. I’m excited to see the excitement and share the skills and help people discover themselves as well as grow the drag community in Cork”.

Mia thanked a number of organisations for supporting the new course.

“We got great help from Cork ETB, Cork LGBT Pride Festival, The Gay Project and St John’s College.”

The course is 10 weeks long, finishing on July 7 with a ‘Draguation’.

Ailsa said it was important to finish with a bang.

“It is something exciting to look forward to and to focus on as a goal and it gives everyone a chance to perform.

“It’s all about the performance. Loads of people cross-dress in secret, but that’s not drag!”

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