A new exhibition at Central Library celebrates the history of drag in Manchester, from the infamous Hulme Drag Ball of 1880 to Foo Foo Lammar to The Family Gorgeous.

The exhibition, which opens on Friday 26 August and is curated by artist Jez Dolan, includes personal stories, interviews, archive materials and artwork specially created for the project.

A range of fabulous costumes donated by stars of the scene will be displayed in the library’s Reading Room – alongside screen-prints based on selfies taken by current drag queens.

Jez said: “There’s a thriving drag scene in Manchester today and it’s been amazing to chart the changes in how drag queens have looked and performed through the ages.

“Today’s drag queens are more likely to come from a performance background and to explore a fluid ‘Gender Queer’ identity, rather than the stereotypical image of female impersonation.”

As part of the project, volunteer researchers trained by Manchester Metropolitan University have conducted interviews with drag queens past and present, which are being catalogued and stored at the Archives+ Centre. Snippets of the interviews can be heard through the Archives+ Centre’s interactive digital features, as part of the exhibition.
Volunteers have also unearthed many relevant archive documents and materials, using Central Library resources such as the Theatre Collection and the Queer Up North archive.

As part of the exhibition, Jez has created a series of Andy Warhol-inspired screen prints, based on selfies sent to him by current drag queens.

Jez said: “If Warhol was alive today, he would be the ‘selfie queen’ on Instagram. Some of Manchester’s drag queens are really well known, with thousands of social media followers.”

Jez is keen for people to contact him if they want to contribute their story, or have any memorabilia related to the history of drag in Manchester that they would be prepared to donate or loan for the exhibition.

Executive Member for Culture and Leisure, Councillor Luthfur Rahman, said: “Central Library is the perfect location for this exhibition, which uses traditional and digital resources to showcase a fascinating strand of the city’s social history. Manchester’s rich archives, including theatre and LGBT collections spanning back through many decades, have provided great depth, context and colour to complement Jez’s artwork.”

To find out more about the exhibition, go to www.lifesadragmcr.co.uk. Guided tours will be available on certain dates.

The Life’s a Drag project has been made possible by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Life’s A Drag
26 Aug — 26 Oct 2016 (Free)
Wolfson Reryading Room and Archives+ Centre
Manchester Central Library