Bournemouth is finally expanding with all types of drag, home to the traditional drag of the past with the LGBT community ever growing, more events are being held for lovers of drag and performance art. As drag fans we love attending shows, the atmosphere and meeting up with friends from all over the country. But we never stop to think just how much effort goes into making such shows a success, we talk to Sophia and David a wonderful team who have put together Pest Productions, a brand that host local shows with endless amounts of talent including our fave lady Scarlett Fever.
We talk about the work that comes with such shows, the rewards and there wonderful upcoming show in Bournemouth on 9th March.
Dragadventures: How did Pest Productions come to be, what started the idea for the brand? What makes you different from all the other drag promoters out there?
David: Pests started when Sophia and I both realised we were moving back to Bournemouth after studying on the same course at uni. We feel that Bournemouth has a real lack of independent theatre and performance and are determined to fill this gap with events/networking/opportunities. The name Pests came from our playful chats about how artists, which we both see ourselves as from our uni training, are like Pests, they’re confusing, strange and unwanted by society but vital to the functioning of our eco-systems.
I couldn’t tell you what makes us different from other drag promoters, simply because I simply don’t know anything about other drag promoters! It’s certainly not what we see ourselves as. We see ourselves as producers, working together with performance makers, in Dragonfly’s case that’s drag performers, to give them opportunities to perform in Bournemouth where previously there wasn’t and to give audiences a great show, with new performers at accessible prices, which is a key part of our ethos.
Sophia: I mean, David’s put it perfectly about how and why we came about. The main difference between us and many (not all!) drag promoters is that all we do in our shows focuses on our performers. We make sure our performers are always paid, and that they have a place to stay for the night. We believe performance should be accessible to everyone, and want to give as many people as possible the chance to perform. We’re keen on giving new drag acts the chance to perform, as well as more established acts feeling as though they have a space in which they can try out new material in front of an audience
DA: Whats the most challenging aspect of putting together the show, and the most rewarding? Is there an aspect you wish fans would understand better when it comes to organizing shows?
D: Most Challenging: Having £20-£40 to make an event with around both of our jobs. Most Rewarding: Making an event for £20-£40 that people really enjoy and being able to pay the performers at the end of the night. In all of our shows, including the upcoming March show, we’ve always had a person performing in Drag that has never done a live show before so being part of that artists development is also brilliant.
S: Seeing performers get on stage for their first ever gig is amazing; it’s so rewarding to watch someone take to the stage for the very first time doing something they love. The challenge though is definitely our financial limitations; we need a way to make this more financially stable so that it can not just continue, but also grow. Flirt cafe are hoping to help us to make this possible and their refurb can bring a new standard to the shows we’ve not been able to have before in terms of tech,
DA: What does drag mean to you, how did you get involved in the world of drag?
D: Drag is dangerous, dynamic, playful, provocative and pure unbridled joy. It is an all encompassing form of performance welcome to all gender identities and sexualities. It is an amazing form of queer expression and art.
I got involved in the world of drag when Sophia said “I’d love to run a drag night” when we talked about what we wanted to do with Pests, we knew Cilly, Dragonfly’s hostess, from university and wanted to get her involved. I’d watched some RPDR before that but hadn’t been that involved in drag or the drag world. I love learning about it with every show.
S: I’ve always had such a love of drag, it’s been incredibly important to me. When I was young, I was at least a head taller than most boys in my class; I think I’ve been the height I am since I was about 12. I always felt too big. There was nothing delicate about me, and not-so-little me thought that meant I couldn’t be feminine or beautiful; I was very conflicted for a long time about what it meant to be a girl when I felt like I didn’t really tick any of the boxes. Of course, growing older, my understanding of femininity and my identity as a woman has grown and expanded. But, when you’re 10 years old and so insecure about that kind of thing, I can’t tell you what it meant to see a 6’4 man in heels and a wig and thinking she was the most beautiful person in the room.
Drag showed me so many ranges of beauty and styles and how to present yourself to the world and say, this is me, I am beautiful, deal with it. When I later learnt about drag kings and bio queens, I fell even more in love. Watching these women channel this side of themselves as bold bright characters on stage was incredible; I think seeing female performers helped me to feel more at home in the world of drag. I got very heavily involved in the LGBT world from a young age, knowing I wasn’t straight from about the age of 9 – again, something that knocked my confidence about the idea of being ‘feminine’ – and so I would see drag performers at events, follow them online, and I’d often borrow the confidence of those queens to help me through those horribly awkward teenage years. If you met me today, you’d be shocked to ever think I could have confidence issues; I’m usually the loudest bitch in the room. I owe that to drag role models.
D: If time and money were no issue, what show would you love to put on be it from venues to performers?
D: Honestly, I’d change nothing about Dragonfly other than being able to pay our performers more and paying ourselves a little too.
S: I’d definitely love to up the pay for queens and take a cut for ourselves. We also have a great social media intern, Emily Bone. We’d both love to pay her more because she works so incredibly hard for Pests. Cover things like travel costs etc. I’d also love to bring in some bigger Brighton queens; I think it would be great for performers just starting out to meet more established performers. It’s a great learning experience to work with a pro. I think really, I’d just love to bring drag to a load more Dorset venues! Do a drag tour, get involved in areas that don’t necessarily get exposed to drag.
DA: The last two Dragonfly events were a fantastic line up of queens, what made you choose Chichester and Bournemouth as the venue choices?D: Bournemouth is our home town and Chichester is our second home. We want to see more performance of all forms in Bournemouth and we’d also like to establish Dragonfly in Chichester. The University of Chichester seems to be a birthplace for drag talent, with Alfie Ordinary, Cherry Liquor, Cilly Black and now Scarlett Fever, Tink, Crusty, Just Jake and loads more! What better place to help them grow their acts than in the town itself.
S: As David says, they’re both our homes. If you’d told lil teenage me she gets to run Bournemouth drag shows, she’d be over the moon. It’s important to bring art to the places you love; you want to help the community and the local artists. You want to see a growth in the arts sector there. Bournemouth has an incredible LGBT+ community, which is great to work with. Chichester is full of students who don’t get enough variety; it’s a quiet city. Bringing in drag shows adds some fun and something different to the usual line up of events.
DA: Bournemouth is of course renowned for its ever growing LGBT+ community, what makes putting on a show in Bournemouth that extra little bit special with local shows?
D: Celebrating the town, the local talent and creating/shaping the community around you into what you’ve always wanted it to be will always be special to us.
S: I don’t know where we’d be without the Bournemouth LGBT+ community. Flirt cafe deserve a huge shout out for supporting us from day one, it’s a great central hub for the Triangle. It’s also incredible to have people you’ve known for years pop up randomly at shows; if you want honest feedback, good friends don’t hold back!
DA: The next Dragonfly show is 9th March, what can newcomers expect from the show and how do you decide who to include in the line up?
B: Newcomers can expect a night of new, emerging and established fabulousness. The shows are always high-energy, loud and great fun. All for as much as you want to pay for it! Plus the milkshakes at Flirt are incredible.
We don’t have a set way to decide the line up but so far we’ve always included a performer that has never done a live show before (we’d love to keep this as a running thing) and a couple of acts from Chichester, the rest we put to an open call out and we decide based on who has applied.
S: It’s just such a fun night! It’s somehow relaxed and very energetic at the same time. I highly recommend getting an alcoholic milkshake and a front row seat. Our hostess Cilly Black is never shy to involve her audience and we love seeing newbies at the drag nights. There’s such a range of ages watching which is always great to see. Like David says, we usually do a call out and try to involve at least one brand new performer each time.
DA: Is there a chance for aspiring queens to get in touch with you and maybe perform at one of the next Dragonfly events?
D: Yes yes yes. We are always looking for performers to work with! We can’t pay for travel so we’re aware that this pretty much means we can work with people that live in the south west area only but we’ll offer you a split of what the audience put in meaning regardless of your experience, you will get paid and we take the same so don’t think we’re cashing in on your brilliance. Send us an email at Pestsproduction@gmail.com (be careful to get the S in the right place or we won’t receive it!) and let us know who you are and what you do.
S: You can also find us on insta and twitter under @PestsProduction and you can find us on facebook! We usually post call outs on facebook so keep an eye out, but don’t feel you have to wait for our next call out to contact us!