You’re reading our series Summer’s Not Cancelled, where we celebrate summer in this new normal. From rediscovering nature and cherishing time with friends and family, to virtual festivals and unforgettable staycations – summer’s still here, it’s just different.
“I’ve ransacked the dining room,” says queer pop star L Devine, laughing down the phone to HuffPost UK. “It’s in a conservatory, so the light’s really nice in here. My mum hates me at the minute, the whole dining table has got records on it, a printer, all my music equipment, keyboards, so much junk...”
Welcome to the lockdown version of Pride, as queer artists across the country like L Devine prep their looks, set lists and disco balls ahead of sashaying across laptop screens in a series of digital shows, organised by pubs, cabaret bars and LGBT+ collectives.
Digital Pride shows have taken place throughout the month, but celebrations are culminating this weekend, June 27, with further events the following weekend on July 5.
Key Pride events to mark in your digital diaries are the Attitude Pride At Home party, streaming this Saturday and Sunday, Queer House Party’s Pride club night event tonight (June 26), the Pride Inside series which begins Sunday June 28 running until July 10, and The Big Listen for Pride, also taking place tonight.
“I ordered a bunch of stuff online,” explains L Devine, the singer behind queer anthem Daughter. “I’ve got really shit disco lights, and I’ve got a smoke machine and a projector, so I’ve been having fun with them, making cool projection stuff and doing what I can....”
“It’s not proper high class projection with a mad budget but I guess it’s innovative in a way,” she says of her plans for the Attitude Pride event streaming Saturday at 6.30pm, before pausing and rethinking her statement. “I wouldn’t call it innovative... I’ve got a projector and some disco lights! But it’s fun, it’s a challenge...”
The drag performer Jonny Woo, founder of east London drag pub The Glory is also preparing for the Attitude streamable event, which he’s hosting on Saturday night. “I’m dressing up as Celine Dion and recreating her 1988 Eurovision performance,” he tells HuffPost UK.
“It’s an absolute banger and she wears this terrible outfit,” he continues, “this white kind of office jacket with a knee length white tutu with a low heel and a flesh tight...I had to go and buy the wig and I got my friend to make me the skirt.”
“It’s a considered choice because it’s a classic Eurovision song, and it’s probably the most singular famous person to enter Eurovision,” says Jonny, who’s also hosting a Eurovision quiz.
“And it’s also a bit trainspottery, because while people who don’t know it will recognise it as being Eurovision, people who know Eurovision will know what the song is, who it’s by and what the controversy of it is...
“If you say, ‘twelve points go to France!’ everybody who is a Eurovision superfan will know what that means,” teases Jonny. Haven’t seen the 1988 finale? Tune into the stream to find out what happened next...
“I’ve done a little bit of filming in the pub, and I’ve got a beautiful flat, so you’ll get to see me wandering around with my mid century modern furniture,” he says of the Attitude stream. “Who wants a glitter ball when you’ve got teak?” Jonny is also putting out his own Pride event for Glory TV, streaming from Facebook also on Saturday night.
Anil Sebastian, creator behind The Big Listen for Pride, is involving members of the London Contemporary Voices choir he fronts in the musical line-up for tonight, and their celebrations will feel defiantly political.
“As an LGBTIQ++ Person of Colour this last few weeks has been a horror show,” he says, “and so this event is about celebrating and amplifying a truly diverse range of voices in our community including trans poet and activist Reece Lyons and up-coming steel pan player artist Rahmel Lee who will be suppling carnival vibes.”
Anil adds: “In turbulent times like these, joy itself can be an act of rebellion and protest - so I’ll be eating the chips off my shoulders, getting out the glue gun and getting all up in demi-drag. I’ve had a coffin-sized cardboard box of feather bowers arrive which I’ll be using my dark arts to turn into some kind of messy up-do.
“Kindness is sexy right? We’ll be lifting our voices, singing, dancing (even if it’s cry-dancing) - because it’s these things that activate us, keep us seen - keep us connected and alive - and amid the racism and rolling back of trans rights in the UK, flip knows we need to be.”
Harry Gay, campaigner and DJ behind the Queer House Party movement that has welcomed thousands of queers online for dance parties every Friday since lockdown, is running a special Pride-themed Queer House Party tonight.
“As always we’ll be getting ready as a house,” he says. “We have a tradition of having espresso martinis together to prep us for four hours of dancing! We’ve got to put the shimmer curtains up, unfold Susan and set up our equipment. As for an outfit, a combination of sequins, flesh and mesh!”
Outfits and set lists are primed, but the main obstacle this weekend and next for digital partying may be the intense heat. If it’s draining for audiences watching on laptops statically from home, how must performers feel, some decked out in full faces of drag?
“Get your fans on, open your windows,” advices Jonny Woo. As for performing in the heat himself, he’ll be suffering it like a pro.
“As soon as you put drag make up on you start to get hot before you put your wig on,” he says. “It holds all heat in - drag is not a cool sport temperature wise. It’s like having a hat on your head all day isn’t it. You suffer it!”
“Once it’s done I’ll be pouring myself a beautiful big glass of white wine and enjoying the sunshine,” he says.
And legions of queers will be drinking big glasses of wine while you’re performing too Jonny, we’re sure.