Ireland’s gay bars could be “in peril” after Covid-19, legendary Irish drag queen Shirley Temple Bar has warned.
s Temple Bar, who has been performing drag in Ireland since 1997, said artists like her depend on crowded bars and pubs to make a living, which could be difficult after lockdown.
In normal times, crowds of people would be flocking to Ireland’s LGBT bars this weekend to enjoy drag shows and celebrate the biggest weekend of Pride.
Well known Irish drag artists like Davina Devine and Victoria Secret have been performing regularly online over the last number of weeks as Covid-19 shut down pubs and clubs.
Ms Temple Bar said that drag basically ended for her as soon as lockdown started.
“Drag stopped for me on the 17th of March, it just stopped,” Ms Temple Bar said.
She added that even as the country opens up, drag performers could be left in a difficult position as bars and venues place restrictions on how many people can attend.
“Most of us who make a living out of drag, our model is based on economies of scale,” she said.
“We need lots of people to come to see our show to make it viable. You need to be pulling the crowd.
“However, you can’t be pulling the crowd now because it’s illegal.
“We’re obviously in a very tough position where for us, and a lot of the cultural sector, we are in a really awful place.
“It’s great news that we can start opening parts of the economy up. For our part of the economy to be worthwhile opening up would need to be way different.”
She added that restrictions on how much pubs and clubs could earn could also have a knock-on effect on the viability of gay bars.
“I’m not just talking about the drag show, I mean the gay bars: the places that have been the centre of the community for many years, they are in peril now. It’s really worrying for everybody – we don’t know what will happen.
“But the good thing is that the gays and the drags are quite creative,” she said.
Declan Buckley started doing drag as Shirley Temple Bar after winning the Alternative Miss Ireland competition in 1997 and securing a regular drag slot in The George pub in Dublin.
In 2001, Ms Temple Bar started presenting ‘Telly Bingo’ on RTÉ.
At the time, Ms Temple Bar said some people in RTÉ would “avoid eye contact” with her because they “weren’t sure what was happening”.
“The world has thankfully opened up since then and we’re a little bit more integrated than we would have been when I started doing drag 23 years ago, when The George would have had blackened windows and you’d look over your shoulder twice before going into every gay bar,” she said.
Drag has become more popular and mainstream, particularly with straight white women since the international success of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ – a reality TV show where US drag queens compete with each other.
Ms Temple Bar said some ‘Drag Race’ fans may want to support TV stars rather than their own local drag queens.
“The other side of the ‘Drag Race’ coin is that it has taken the teeth, the radical side out of drag a little bit,” Ms Temple Bar said.
She said some only view drag as an aesthetic performance, rather than a form of queer expression and identity.
Ms Temple Bar said that this may be because many people view the LGBT movement as having already achieved a “very high level of success” and don’t understand there are still gay rights left to fight for.
“I’m not against knocking out a make-up look [but] that’s way down at the very safe end of drag,” she said.
“It is entertaining and if that’s what you like to do, and what you like to see, I’m not criticising that. I’m just saying it’s a very different energy.”
Source: Irish News