… do a course with the WEA!, says Gillian Evans
The WEA allows me to catch up on areas of history and culture that I neglected during my working life. When I saw the course on the History of Drag with Caroline Baylis-Green, I quickly signed up. I’ve always been intrigued by drag. My father was into amateur dramatics and I wanted to know what makes these performers tick.
The Zoom sessions allowed us to interact with some drag artists, which was very exciting. I was nervous about joining. Would I be accepted in the group? What would they think of me wanting to find out more about them? Happily, everybody was extremely welcoming. Drag artists are quite self-opinionated people who care a lot about how they are seen. Besides, Zoom brings a degree of distance and protection – in the same way that a uniform gives you more confidence to ask questions you might not ask as ‘yourself’.
Caroline was excellent. She didn’t push anything very hard at first, but made us think a lot about what we were looking at. I previously thought drag was about men dressing up as women, like they did in Shakespeare’s day. But that was more necessity, as men had to play the female part. Today, drag has evolved into a real art form. It’s highly skilled, and it’s quite an expensive interest too. The makeup is absolutely exquisite. Their clothes and physiques are immaculate. The whole ethos of drag is a wonderful way of expressing how they’re feeling, which comes very much from within. You can’t make yourself do this unless it comes right from inside you.
Queens use drag as a leisure part of their normal lives – they are delightful folk spending a considerable amount of money on their clothes, make up, wigs and general presentation to bring the very best to their audiences.
I’ve always been interested in computers and tried to keep up to date, so the transition to Zoom was straightforward. I was able to continue to volunteer at a local hospice, which got me out the front door and gave me a link to my past career. But as lockdown has continued, so the incarceration has become more of a dirge for me and my friends. The physical interaction of a coffee morning is hard to replace.
The WEA has helped enormously. They really pulled their finger out, right at the start, and put on a mass of courses across the board, which has given us something to hold onto. I’ve appreciated their support immensely.