INTERVIEW: Drag Castle | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Drag Castle’s troupe of drag artists and queer performers have brought their unique warmth and chaos to audiences across the North East since 2020.

Based in Newcastle, and the brainchild of drag artist Frida Sapphic, the troupe was set up during lockdown as a direct response to the boredom and a commitment to building something for the future.

My girlfriend and I wrote on a Post-it note that we wanted to start a drag production company once lockdown had finished and stuck it on the fridge. After that it was mountains of emails to venues asking to put a show on once restrictions lifted. We put on some really creative shows online, including a pantomime and a murder mystery. We had so many no’s until eventually one venue let us wreak havoc on their stage for a night, and the rest is history.”

Passionate about creating a joyful and colourful environment, Drag Castle shows are true to all the riotous exuberance you’d want from a drag show, but with a uniquely personal touch. “I grew up in South Shields performing at the Customs House,” says Frida. “Their motto was always ‘the little panto with the big heart’. I carried that into everything I did. No matter how big or small our show is, everything should be done with a big heart.”

Keen to open up queer art to new audiences, Drag Castle hope to create shows that are accessible and inclusive for everyone, particularly families with young children. “Children deserve to know from a young age that who they are and how they feel is not something to be ashamed of. I grew up with a lot of politicians, people in the media and even teachers at school telling the world that people who are like me are weird and abnormal. The earlier you address that, the easier it is for them to accept themselves and pass on that love to everyone else.”

Queer art is full of education, unapologetic liberation and endless love

Despite preconceptions about the target demographic for a drag show, Frida says that children have a natural curiosity and openness that make families more receptive and willing to listen than your average audience.

Queer art is full of education, unapologetic liberation and endless love. Without queer art, the world wouldn’t be as colourful as it is now. It’s interwoven into everything everywhere, and some people don’t realise it.”

It’s a responsibility that Frida says drives her to keep creating and encouraging open conversations. “Today’s current trends are all because queer people decided to jump out of hiding and create something entertaining. Activism and fearless people inspire me. People like Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Gloria Steinem, Emma Thompson… they were advocating for equality when it was dangerous to do so.

I love people that use their art to advocate for justice and do it in a way that isn’t so laboured. Where people can enjoy it with or without learning something. I never want to come across as complicit in today’s issues because quiet people never changed the world.”

Drag Castle perform at Newcastle University on Saturday 8th June and the Discover Festival at The Cluny, Newcastle on Saturday 29th June.

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