As part of the Pride in London celebrations, Wardour Street in Soho will play host to this year’s cabaret stage, featuring a whole host of talented and bedazzling cabaret artists from across the LGBT community. One of the main hosts on the day is drag/performance artist Michael Twaits, who was also at the helm of this year’s very showbiz Pride’s Got Talent competition. Jason Reid had a pre-Pride chinwag with Michael this week…
I like to call what I do pure cabaret; there’s no script, no plan, just me and the audience in the moment sharing the space and introducing a huge range of acts. I’m sure it will be a riot! I have a CD of tracks to bash out a few songs when the mood takes, but I like the ‘seat of your’ pants approach!
You’ve been quite heavily involved with Pride this year in various roles.
Yes! I got involved a bit last year with a trial version of Pride’s Got Talent and then this year, Ian (event producer) and I wanted to make it bigger and better! So through my involvement in PGT, I’ve performed to most of the board, producers and events managers for Pride and a result have been asked to help out all over the place which is lovely. It’s great to be apart of it all!
It’s nice to see many of those Pride’s Got Talent acts will perform on the cabaret stage too, alongside more seasoned performers. So after making the competition bigger and better, how did it go this year? I must say, I really enjoyed judging the final…
The competition has been brilliant! We had such an array of talent, styles and people. It was just so much fun and gained a lot of momentum as the rounds went on. I’ve already agreed to be on board for next year and making it bigger and better. So watch out for that.
From what I saw, it was jam-packed full of variety…
We really did have it all! The winners and runners-up represent the competition well; Charlie Levy is a gorgeous singer/songwriter, Charlie Monroe is a world-class vocalist, Roxx is a new drag act doing brilliant things on the scene already, and then the hot, young boy-band Tailormade.
Tailormade are SO hot. Anyway, moving on swiftly, how did you go about determining the programme for the stage and what criteria was used this year?
For the section I worked on, our manifesto was about real artists representing the full spectrum of those celebrating Pride. Pride is often criticised for focusing on gay men – we’ve really pushed for diversity, and have all areas of music, stand-up, poetry, theatre, drag, lip-synch and even Margaret Thatcher. Not to mention people who identify under every strand of the LGBT. We had no stipulations from Pride, they trust us completely!
“We’ve really pushed for diversity, and have all areas of music, stand-up, poetry, theatre, drag, lip-synch and even Margaret Thatcher.”
There were a few initial criticisms from fellow performers, who voiced concerns regarding a lack of ethnic diversity in the line-up. How would you respond to that?
Sadly, you will always offend someone. We ended up with ten acts for our section, and it’s a real shame about the low percentage of black and ethnic performers as it doesn’t represent the full spectrum for Pride. Three acts we wanted to programme, who’d have provided more diversity, actually got taken off our list and programmed on the main stage, which is brilliant for them. I think there would have been more of a hoo-ha if we’d have programmed people purely on their skin colour and to meet a certain quota. Also, Pride as a whole has a higher representation of black and ethnic performers across the stages this year than ever before.
How about what Pride means in 2015? Do you think it’s still as important today as it was when LGBT people had little or no civil liberties?
Absolutely! There’s a lot of apathy at the younger end of the community. And a lot of segregation between the community. I think people are less worried about equality now as we have so much – and therefore people take it for granted. Pride helps solidify the community and raise awareness of what still needs to be done.
Finally, the theme of this years parade is Pride Heroes, who would be your Pride Cabaret Heroes?
For me it’s the performers and activists who’ve been putting work out into the mainstream and fucking the system for years: Bette Bourne, Lavinia Coop, Kate Bornstein. And more recently acts like Justin Bond, Our Lady J. People who are so comfortable in who they are and are visible just the way they want to be.
• Rose Garden & Ross Williams
• Chamonix Aspen (PGT)
• Bambi Boo (PGT)
• Sadie Sinner
• Diane Horan-Hill (PGT) and and Phil Lee-Thomas
• Ollie James-Parr (PGT)
• Marnie Scarlett
• Miss Connie Lingus
• Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho
• Pi the Mime
• Ren Stedman
• Virgin Xtravaganzah (above)
• Ruby Wednesday
• Crystal Lubrikint
• Adam All & Apple
• Topsie Redfern
• Heels of Glory – A Drag Action Musical
• Tim McArthur, Myra DuBois and Bunny
• Laura Nadia Hunt (PGT)
• Dr Woof & Roxx (PGT)
• Charley Leavy (PGT)
• Murat Sefi
• Vanity Von Glow
• Donna Marie / Lady Gaga