By Mia Poland
One thing that David Attenborough has not reported on this year is that the LGBTQ community has been stripped of its natural habitat. The clubs have been closed due to an invisible enemy leaving the Irish queer community at an awful loss. The performance arts have been heavily impacted by the fluctuating degrees of lockdowns we have been experiencing over the past year and it is important that we acknowledge this. One group that often falls to the wayside when we think of performative arts, is the art of drag and performance arts within queer spaces.
While many LGBTQ performers have tried to replicate drag performances through Zoom (which I am sure we are all sick of at this stage), the key elements of live performances have been lost. The energy felt by both performers and crowds are lost. If you ask a drag queen how long it takes them to prepare for these performances, the answer is usually over the three-hour mark. From wigs to outfits to make-up to choreography – much of which is all done by individual drag queens themselves – their preparation is underappreciated.
A new pet-peeve of mine that I have discovered this year is that I cannot cope with a poor drag queen frozen on screen mid death-drop. Buffering and live online performances simply do not mix. That spark of live performance is just lost. They are giving it their all from their living room and all we get is a disjointed video with poor audio quality. In the beginning, many performers were motivated to make the transition to online, but I think we all soon realised that this would be quite the let-down.
Often these high-energy drag performers feed off the energy of the crowd, creating an atmosphere that is yet unmatched. Robyn Hearts, a local Cork queen, spoke to me about her experience of trying to make this transition to performing online. “I’m not gonna be doing a shablam in my bedroom, I’m not gonna be doing a death-drop in my kitchen, having nobody in the background like ‘Yes honey, work!’, like that’s something that I really miss”.
When we think of Irish culture, the last thing that springs to mind is downing rainbow shots in Chambers on a Thursday night. But, especially now, it is so important that we recognise that this is part of our culture, and only now can we begin to realise how important these LGBTQ spaces are for the Irish LGBTQ community. The venue itself for these performances, as we now know, has a huge impact on performance delivery and is something that cannot be replicated online. This is a cultural loss for our LGBTQ community and has really shed light on the fact that clubbing is an essential part of our culture. It seems that it is often dismissed and not given full credit for the impact it has on our queer communities, and online ‘equivalents’ just aren’t cutting it.
Unfortunately, not much can be done in the meantime regarding getting back into the clubs, we just have to wait it out. But what we can do is recognise the importance of clubbing and recognise that it is part of our culture. To shed some light on this, a new Irish, mini documentary has just been released on YouTube called Clubbing is Culture, with a few familiar Irish faces talking about clubbing as culture in the broad Irish context.
Without an outlet for queer communities to gather and express themselves, lockdown has become increasingly isolating. We must recognise that heading out to Chambers to see our local queens while enjoying the live atmosphere is a key part of Irish LGBTQ culture and that, essentially, we have nothing to replicate this during lockdown. This aspect of our culture is under threat as this loss is predominantly overlooked. We must recognise clubbing for what it is: a part of our culture, and we must do our best to keep it that way.