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Drag history panel announced for Cheltenham Literature Festival

The world-renowned festival will see a special event on drag history hosted by Gay's the Word bookshop manager Uli Lenart.

By Will Stroude

If prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, perhaps drag is our most enduring form of entertainment. From Euripides to Bianca Del Rio, drag has been a part of the cultural landscape since, well, forever.

Drag is everywhere right now. From the Met Gala to the Emmys, it has never been so huge. The queens from Drag Race are household names and drag kings are being featured up-front and centre in mainstream advertising campaigns, too. Contemporary drag is a reinvigorated cultural phenomenon that’s actively and increasingly influencing music, fashion, comedy and politics. 

But could this mainstreaming of drag culture somehow undermine its allure? What are the implications for drag now that this marginalised subculture has gone prime time? 

Ask ten different people what drag is and you’ll likely get ten different answers. Some historical sources attribute the term to 19th century theatre slang, when the long skirts of stage costumes would trail — or drag — on the floor; others suggest it stands for “dressed as a girl”.

But who gets to define what drag is, anyway? Which versions of drag are being promoted and which are being ignored? Due reverence given, surely there is more to drag culture than sequins, sass and death drops?

New generation performers are expanding the boundaries of drag like never before, hosting their own drag nights and creating their own zines. Where is their voice? What about the overlap between drag and gender identity? What about non-binary drag? What about drag as more than just gender satire, but gender interrogation? 

We have questions. Lots of questions.

If only there was a really amazing drag event coming up where we could explore all this in greater detail…

Oh — there is! On Saturday 12 October, Attitude’s book reviewer and Gay’s The Word bookshop manager Uli Lenart will be chairing a special event on drag history and culture at the world-renowned Cheltenham Literary Festival in Gloucestershire.

Uli will be talking with the amazing non-binary drag queen Crystal Rasmussen (author of Diary of a Drag Queen) and queerlesque performer, producer and co-company director of Pecs Drag Kings, Daisy Hale, about how drag subculture has influenced society and how the art of pushing gender boundaries has taken hold of pop culture.

They would love to see you there — tickets are available here.