St Andrews Drag Walk is back, gracing our screens this year, rather than the 601 stage. The headline event for the Saints LGBT+ week-long culture festival, QueerFest, has become a highlight of the event calendar and is set to continue its great tradition. QueerFest coordinator, Lucy Hellawell, has organised an impressive line-up of virtual experiences, ensuring this year’s festivities will not be overshadowed by restrictions. While we all anxiously await week 7, when the events will go live, we have some inside information on what you can look forward to.
Some of you may have already enjoyed a taste of what’s to come with seminars on LGBTQ+ history brought in collaboration with the History Department at the end of February. Featuring speakers from both St Andrews and Maastricht University, the first seminars were a great start to the much-anticipated week of events. If you missed out, the seminars were recorded so history lovers from any time zone, or disordered sleep schedule, can get their fill.
If a history closer to home is what you’re looking for, seek no further than QueerFest’s Alumni Panel. This roundtable discussion on the 12th of March will delve into the experience of being a queer student at St Andrews and life after the bubble. Guests include Conservative peer Lord Ian Duncan and the fabulous founder of Drag Walk, Rujazzle.
However, before giving a more in-depth discussion at this panel, Rujazzle gave The Saint insight into St Andrews Drag Walk’s roots. “Back in 2014, when I helped establish Drag Walk, the events run by the LGBT+ committee were a bit bland and needed a bit of sparkle and fabulosity!… I’d hoped that Drag Walk would allow students to open their eyes to raw queer expression, let go of their St Andrews inhibitions and allow (them) to take themselves less seriously.”
Perhaps a make-it or break-it for those who have yet to submit their entries, we asked for some pearls of wisdom from this St Andrews alumni, now a professional Glasgow-based drag artist, to inspire you to victory. ‘This is the same advice I always give to all new drag artists: be yourself and trust your instincts. Drag is about showing what you love about yourself on the inside and translating it on the outside. Don’t try and fit within the box; look outside… Hard work, creativity, humour and kindness is always the way forward.’
With what started as a smaller scale show on the upper levels of the union and is now regularly a sell-out 601 event, the space for drag artists in St Andrews has grown exponentially. Speaking to some of 2020’s contestants, the importance and impact of having this space are evident. Xavannah Savant XS began her drag journey in St Andrews and has now moved on to study in Glasgow, but detailed the lasting impact of Drag Walk on this evolution. “At the start, I knew nothing about make-up, I had four brushes and a single palette of glitter eyeshadows- but by the night of the show, I had upgraded to a hot mess… being on that stage made me feel like I was doing what I was meant to do, and it empowered me to follow my passion in life- now I’m studying textiles… In a sense, drag gave me the strength to pursue my actual passion.”
Cameron Willis, AKA Scorpi-ho, also revealed how his Drag Walk experience shaped him, “For me, it was such a safe space for me to start feeling my femme without worrying that my gender would be up for question and gave me the chance to start dancing again and in heels!… I still talk a lot to my fellow cast members from last year, and I look forward so much to when I can see them again. Drag Walk was probably the best thing I’ve ever taken the time to do and has honestly shaped who I am now and given me so much confidence.”
To see more of these competitors, you can follow their drag journey on Instagram at @xavannahgram and @scorpi_ho_. To hear more from them on their experiences, along with their other cast-mates from 2020, look out for their 2020 reunion panel during QueerFest when the queens will reminisce on Drag Walk past.
As submission deadlines draw nearer for this year’s competition, closing on the 5th of March, things are sure to be heating up. This year, coordinators Meg Jones and Kylie Lamb have navigated the tumultuous restrictions by virtualising the competition. Submissions will be photo and video-based and under three competitive categories of Make-up, Clothing Design (made or sketched) and, of course, a Lip Sync Battle. Entries will then be posted on the Saints LGBT+ social media accounts, and voting will be down to viewers for the week of QueerFest. The themes, inspired by the ever-present COVID-19 virus, give a space to creatively express the pains of the pandemic and serve sickening looks with a whole new meaning.
Other events to watch out for include collaborations with the Inklight creative writing society, which will feature pound poems with queer topics in focus. The St Andrews Music Society will also be highlighting classical music from queer composers and Lunchtime concert sessions, allowing more opportunity for other forms of creative expression during this week. Notably, the guestlist for events will be entirely discrete from non-attendees to create a safe space for everyone. Keep an eye on the Saints LGBT+ social media pages for more exciting announcements and voting polls during the week to get involved. In the meantime, good luck to all the Queens or Kings performing this year and in the words of RuPaul, may the best drag queen win!