INTERVIEW: XMAS DIVE QUEER PARTY
REEK spoke to those Damn Rebel Bitches, Dive Queer Party’s’s creators Miss Annabel Sings (MAS) and Agent Cooper (AC). Credited for ‘redefining the Scottish queer club scene’ (The Skinny) and being Scotland’s best-loved and most notorious queer cabaret party mongers, they return to the Traverse Theatre with their outrageously queer Camp as Xmas Cabaret. The event will raise funds for Waverley Care, Scotland’s HIV and Hepatitis C charity, in recognition of World AIDS Day.
What makes you a feminist?
MAS: Feminism means equality and freedom to us, which form the bedrock of what Dive is all about. We live by our mantra – you can be whoever you want to be, however you want be, wherever you want to be – and promote the power of positive expression.
What equality campaign is most important to you? Why is dissent important?
The never ending campaign for LGBT equality. Dive recognises and cherishes the privilege of being born and based in Scotland, the country voted the best place in the world to live for trans* people and where at one point this year three out of four political party leaders openly identifying as gay. But these are all rights and privileges that were hard fought and could so easily be taken away. Only a short time ago it was a criminal offence to be gay in the UK and the stigma and brutality doled out by the powerful during the AIDS epidemic in he 80s was just yesterday, really. Our Xmas show will raise funds for Waverley Care, Scotland’s HIV and Hepatitis C charity, in recognition of World AIDS Day. World events are spurring both massive leaps forward and tragic steps back for LGBTIQ rights around the world, so we want to spread a message of expressive freedom and acceptance and rallies those on stage and in the audience to stand up and come together in celebration of difference, promoting a world where you can “be whoever you want to be, however you want be, wherever you want to be”.
What inspired you to create DIVE? Tell us about drag and how things are changing?
MAS: Our four eyes met across a sticky carpet during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011 when I was touring with notorious live art collective Eat Your Heart Out. I asked AC on a date but despite having lots in common we never made it to first base (thank goodness). We got scheming instead, joining forces to talk about our shared vision for a queer space to share, explore and show off their collective creativity, joy and madness in a safe, fun and inclusive environment. We take having fun very seriously and spend lots of time together being silly and making each other laugh.
AC: That space would eventually become Dive Queer Party, which started off as an eclectic, anything-goes queer party in the murky depths of a subterranean dive bar in Edinburgh in July 2013. This is where the foundations of the company and collective were rooted and from this early stage we were promoting a world where – through the power of positive expression – you can be whoever you want to be, however you want be, wherever you want to be. (By the way I still deny she ever asked me out on a date – there is no evidence and frankly, you would, wouldn’t you?!). I’m excited about the blossoming drag king scene in Scotland and the UK, which must be inspired by the profile of feminist campaigns and women’s rights and issues. Nights like The King’s Court (at The Rabbit Hole at CC Blooms) here in Edinburgh and places like Bar Wotever, Kingdom and The Glory down south are leading the way. We were so lucky to have the amazing internationally renowned artist and drag king Diane Torr based in Glasgow until she died thisyear. Her stage appearances and Man For A Day workshops are legendary and Dive was lucky enough to work with her many times in the short time we knew each other.
What people do you most identify with from history?
MAS: Leigh Bowery, for being so out there and showing us anything is possible. My whole view of performance changed when I encountered his world. This was the inspiration for our ongoing show ‘Homage’ – a celebration of queer heroes from the past, present and future, resurrected or given life through the medium of performance and showcased in the unique, rainbow- adorned, glitter-streaked world that is Dive.
AC: The aforementioned gender activist, dancer and drag king Diane Torr. We became friends with Diane only 3 years ago but she made a massive impact on me before she sadly died earlier this year. For over thirty years she explored the theoretical, artistic, and practical aspects of gender identity and was so generous in sharing her knowledge and experience at the same time as being ruthlessly experimental and open to trying new things. I think she’d be excited and proud to see the blossoming drag king scene in Scotland and the UK.
Is smell important to you? Which smells and why?
MAS: Ooh, the whiff of a Dive Queer Party and the other queer spaces in the city like The Rabbit Hole, Pollyanna, Grrl Crush and Hot Mess, to name a few. Nothing quite like it.
AC: Smell is v important. I like hanging out in urinals, gym changing rooms, lorry sleeper compartments anywhere with the heady scent of a real man really.
What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch? Tell us what kind of bitch you are?
We are DAMN QUEER REBEL BITCHES!
Gender and sexuality is so threaded into the fabric of our society and how power is exerted over us. Being queer, being your true self (whoever you want to be…”) makes us hellu Damn Rebel Bitches by default. We feel we have a responsibility to be visible, loud and proud here in Scotland, where LGBT rights have been hard fought and we hope help make change possible in therest of the world.
We had a review recently which sort of sums that up:”In a lot of ways, Dive’s Homage might be one of the best shows to really capture what Fringe is about. The radical, the alternative, the ‘fuck you’ of convention, the freedom of expression. We’re all different and we all fucking love each other is the message of a night with Dive.”
What treats are in store for audiences at The Miss Annabel Sings Show Camp as Xmas Cabaret?
MAS: Oooh well, it’ll be a proper festive feast of anarchic queer cabaret featuring some of the best bits of Dive’s triumphant year, with performances from the fairest drag kings and queens of the realm, as well as saucy sing-song-a-longs, riotous audience games, delicious festive cocktails and a very special (bio)Queen’s speech.
AC: We’re delighted to be raising funds for Waverley Care, Scotland’s HIV and Hepatitis C charity, in recognition of World AIDS Day. And there’s a special guest performance from transgurl cabaret singer SADIE GODIVA, one of the stars of Dive’s over 50’s cabaret project which was launched for LGBT History Month in February in partnership with Luminate – Scotland’s creative ageing organisation, and LGBT Health & Wellbeing.
MAS: The event kicks off with an atypical office xmas disco from 4-6pm with Dive’s resident DJ, DAVE FROM ACCOUNTS. The Miss Annabel Sings Shows opens straight after at 6pm, stuffed full of the best bits of 2017 and guest performances from drag queens FEDORA VERONICA HOMBURG,
DUCLEA REIGNS, GEORGIA TASDA and THE DUCHESS, and Drag Kings KING BIFF -,SIMON PATERSON of very own AGENT COOPER. Also starring LUKE PELL as the Angel Gay-briel and an alternative carol concert from the hilarious PORN CHOIR (they do exactly what it says on the tin).
Waverley Care is Scotland’s HIV and Hepatitis C charity. The organisation’s work is focused on prevention, education, testing and support throughout Scotland, reducing new HIV and Hepatitis C infections, getting people diagnosed and supporting those affected in whatever ways they need. Waverley Care challenge HIV and Hepatitis C related stigma, tackling health inequalities and promoting good sexual health. In all that Waverley Care do, they never give up on people and are always there to walk alongside anyone affected by HIV or Hepatitis C.