On Friday 19th November 2021, Bishopsgate Institute – home to the UK’s largest queer archive – hosted a sold-out event to highlight and celebrate the contribution of drag kings to LGBTQ+ culture.
Dragging the Archive – run in partnership with Louche Magazine – included panels discussing the history of male impersonation dating back to Mary Frith in the 1580s, make-up tutorials and queer zine and badge making, as well as performances from London-based drag kings CYRO, Hardik Mistry and Orlando, and readings from host and Louche founder Georgeous Michael. The event also provided a safe space for queer people to examine and uplift their history and come together to celebrate butch and trans masc culture in the LGBTQ+ community.
Bishopsgate Institute has identified a lack of donated materials documenting the rich and diverse history of drag kings, which is at real risk of being lost. As part of the event, drag kings were encouraged to bring archive donations to help preserve the current history of the UK drag king scene. Drag king icon Frankie Sinatra donated their first ever hat and Pecs, the drag king troupe, donated collectable items from their shows, including a script, write-ups, flyers and tickets, and a pin badge that was exclusive to their Patreon followers.
Bishopsgate Institute is continuing to encourage and accept donations from drag kings to ensure this unique and valuable history is preserved for future generations. Donations of materials can be accepted at any time. Contact their Library team firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a donation, or book a slot to view their Special Collections and Archives https://www.bishopsgate.org.uk/archives
Stef Dickers, Special Collections & Archives Manager at Bishopsgate Institute, commented:
“Bishopsgate Institute has the most accessible and welcoming special collections and archives documenting LGBTQ+ History in the U.K. We value and celebrate any person or organisation who wishes to share their story with us. Drag King history is underrepresented in LGBTQ+ Archives, and we hope that by partnering with Louche magazine we can encourage more people to donate their memorabilia and personal items so we can record this valuable history for generations to come.”
Georgeous Michael, Founder of Louche Magazine, said: “It felt so powerful taking up space in the Bishopsgate Institute’s historic library and archive, with a vibrant queer event. The evening represented a really special opportunity to bring people together, to foster conversation and connection, and encourage critical thinking around the histories and archiving in relation to drag kings, an often-underrepresented group. I created Louche magazine because I wanted a platform to celebrate, document and archive the vibrancy of the drag scene today, from the grassroots, and this event felt like the perfect way to do this”.
King Frankie Sinatra said of their donation:
“It was an honour to be at the start of an archive that will mean the whole world never being able to forget that drag Kings are here in 2021 just as much as drag Queens.
I personally donated my character King Frankie Sinatra’s first trilby hat. I’m sure it will be of enormous interest in years to come.”
Pecs Drag Kings also commented:
“Drag Kings still have to push for the same level of validation and recognition that some other areas of the LGBTQ+ and drag community receive and archiving our history’s is a key step in that. If we don’t archive ourselves, our rich and important narratives can be lost. Pecs have been around for nearly a decade, we represent part of that history and so it felt important to ensure we donated to the archive. Thank you to the whole team for creating this event.”