Wednesday, 24 February 2016


Our old dog came to see me in a dream this morning. Maybe he knew it was my birthday! He was sitting next to me on the couch, growling and whining because I had gloves and a hat on. He never liked it when you wore them. I took them off and his eyes were sad and stubborn like they used to be and his snout was wet. Oisín woke me up because I was ‘beeping’, the anxious sound that I make when I’m having bad dreams, but actually I was having a bit of a sleep-cry. I got up to fetch some water and in the kitchen I could hear a single bird from outside having a riotous sing. He’s still going now. It’s 5.45 am. He has no idea how old he is, how old the world is, how long birds have been singing, he’s just doing his thing.

I’m 38 today, I can hardly believe it. I still wanna throw my bonnet over the windmill and rush into the sea at midnight (Pat Phoenix). I remember leaving home at 18 with absolutely no idea how to do anything at all but read books. Things have gotten much better. I’ve been in Manchester 20 years now, I’m the IRA bomb generation. I’ll have a big party in September to celebrate my anniversary I think.

I spent time with my Mum last week and found out my biological Dad made a conscious decision not to see me again quite a short time after I was born. It doesn’t make a big difference, and it started before that because he never came to get us from the hospital when I was born or anything. I’m so much older now than he was when he left that it seems churlish to even think about it but it has hurt me a bit. I’m lucky though because I’ve been so loved my whole life by lots of people. Even now, on occasional days when I’m still in my pyjamas and my anxiety is out of hand and I haven’t been able to pay rent, Oisín will tell me not to worry, I’m a unique handsome genius and Manchester would fall apart without me and why don’t I become a famous singer or something? 

I never do a jot of work on my birthday, this is the only thing I’ll write today. Weather permitting, we are getting on our bikes later and cycling out to look at a 1920s street or something, and then having a massive vegetarian feast at Lily’s Indian restaurant, then a pint, and then I’m going to read Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. There’s a cake too, I could smell it baking when I got back from DJing last night. Good morning everyone, happy birthday!


Thursday, 11 February 2016

Queer Contact… the story so far!

It’s been a rollercoaster of variety already: funny, serious, questioning, confrontational… Here’s what I’ve got up to at this year’s Queer Contact so far.

Life’s A Drag is a piece by artist Jez Dolan looking at Manchester’s drag history, and present day, and these live performances represent the first fruits of an ongoing project. Written with playwright Chris Hoyle, Life’s a Drag is a meta-comedy where we see two drag queens preparing backstage for a show. While they bitch, kvetch, laugh and take us on a journey back in time via the make-up box, they teach one another about the relevance of their own particular school of drag and gayness, from Polari to RuPaul. We encounter legends and legendary nights out, from Foo Foo Lamaar to the Hulme drag ball, and it’s all done with such a light touch that it feels like a genuine eavesdrop, even as they kick down the fourth wall with heels. There’s a superbly moving moment with a pair of earrings that crystallises what the piece is about for me, plus an astonishingly good musical medley at the end, sung across the decades, but no spoilers as to the songs…

FAdoubleGOT and The Daily Grind worked well on the same bill. The former is Jamal Gerald’s very personal story, encompassing bullying, education, a second-generation immigrant experience, youth, sexuality and life in a Northern town. Using monologue, symbolism, music and pop culture, it’s performed with a charming combination of earnestness and sass that perhaps even its very young creator isn’t fully aware of. He’s also a terrific poet and his verse threads neatly through the piece as he goes. The Daily Grind is the work of a slightly older, very serious theatre maker, all about life on dating apps. Don’t be surprised if you feel vulnerable and discomfited as much as moved to laughter. The dissonance of the performance comes from its single performer and writer, Laurie Brown, flitting between friendly, camp, menacing and monstrous. For anyone in the know it mirrors convincingly the Jekyll and Hyde nature of online encounters. The last five minutes of the show were a borderline genius move.

A personal highlight so far has been Outspoken, the poetry and spoken word event. A real triumph of curating, the breadth of writing styles and extremely high standard of performance, not to mention the content which ran from surreal to sad to hilarious to too-damn-true, made for a really inspirational evening. Such a treat to see Jackie Kay perform, and a first real life encounter too with my online favourite, poet AJ McKenna. Also introduced me to astonishing work from Paula Varjack and Keith Jarrett too. Seek them out.

Another personal favourite was STUD, a bizarre and hilarious journey through masculinity and the world of horses (yes, horses). Created and performed by a truly confident and accomplished performer, like no other show on the bill the audience were in this performer’s hands from the opening seconds. It’s hard to even describe the show or why it works so well, suffice to say after twenty minutes you stop even noticing the glorious pubic bush that’s constantly on show. It’s a piece that gently terrorises gender, with a handsaw, a raw carrot, whatever comes to hand or hoof. Eilidh McAskill, I salute you.

Still to come for me: Our Lady J, which will be a Valentine musical weekend sensation, and a religious experience in the shape of Jesus Queen of Heaven, on a Sunday of course… Full line up is here, and check out the pics from my own Queer Contact event right here. See you soon…!