Netflix has released a brand new documentary, Be Here, Be Queer, which follows a group of drag queens as they tour across the UK as part of Netflix's I Like to Watch UK roadshow, which took place in a variety of LGBTQ venues in the summer of 2021.
Stopping in towns such as Margate, Nottingham, Swansea, the live, in-person version of Netflix’s hit YouTube series was a smash hit with audiences with RuPaul's Drag Race UK's icons including The Vivienne, Tayce, and Cheryl Hole making appearances.
The film, which follows the tour around the country, takes a close look at the reality of being a drag artist and how LGBTQ venues across the country have fared during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Without those spaces, the show doesn't exist"
To this, Drag Race UK series 2 queen Tia Kofi says people can take LGBTQ spaces for granted "when the reality of the situation is, think about how many queer venues even before the lockdown were closing and shutting down and just couldn't fund themselves.
"Without those spaces, the show doesn't exist, that platform doesn't exist, you don't have the entertainment, and you don't have the safe spaces that we all need."
Duncan Bayles, who runs the Sundowners bar in Margate, the seaside town's only LGBTQ space, reveals that the lockdown was tough and there were times when he wasn't sure to carry on with the bar, not knowing how long things would go on for.
"We're not London, we haven't got a big scene with money and that, you know. If you were in London, some of the big bars there have got Arts Council funding that as a small provincial bar we didn't get."
He adds it was emotional when the bar reopened in July (2021) and that it was "quite amazing" to see people dancing together again.
Be Here, Be Queer also explores the importance that smaller LGBTQ venues like Sundowners and the New Foresters in Nottingham have for their local communities. Drag artist Cheddar Gorgeous, who accompanied Attitude as we tagged along to some of the tour dates, says many queens "come into being" in these spaces.
"It's the place where you first discover aspects about yourself," she goes on to say. "It's where you find your freedom. They really are the places where you can start to explore and play with identity but also start to explore and play with creativity".
The manager of Nottingham's the New Foresters, Debbie Law, shares a touching story about a young man coming out because he was in a safe space, which she says made her feel proud. "That's the whole reason, isn't it, of us being here?" she continues.
The topic of beauty and looks (or lewks) in drag is brought up as well. Tia Kofi, who revisits her alma mater, the University of Nottingham during her visit to the city, wishes that if one thing about British drag were to change in 2021 is that it'd be funnier and not so focused on fashion.
"Death drops aren't hilarious. Do you know what is? A 55-year-old with s*** blue makeup telling jokes on stage. Great, love that."
Drag Race UK Series 1 winner, The Vivienne also addresses how drag in the UK has changed, partly as a result of the show.
"One of the double edges of the Drag Race sword is that people expect drag queens to look like supermodels now and that is very far from the truth. Some of the best queens in the country, Miss Jason, she won't mind me saying, she looks like your nan, but we will have the best night ever watching Miss Jason in a bar in Brighton than you maybe would somebody who's painted immaculately who's never been on stage in their life."
Be Here, Be Queer also takes time to look at the future of drag and the drive to make it a more inclusive art form with drag kings and AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) performers.
Drag artist Sigi Moonlight tells Netflix: "I think the idea of drag being this stale kind of dressed as a girl only drag queens kind of idea is something that maybe existed in the past but as we go forward I think we're going to start seeing way more playing around with not just feminity but masculinity, gender blurring, genderqueer, gender-fluid identities.
"So many performers are non-binary and that's a really integral part of who they are and how they express themselves. And so, I think it's just going to go in all directions."
Watch Be Here, Be Queer below: