It’s Pride Month,
and as a proud LGBTQ+ led organisation, PAPER Arts is very excited to be able to bring you a month of curated queer content, profiling some amazing work coming out of Bristol, by queer artists and members of the community.We spoke to Clare, the founder of queer drag events company Wig In A box about how finding their niche helped them build a community and develop safe spaces that are open to all.
We started out by getting to know a bit more about Clare
“I’m a non binary events organizer in Bristol. But I would annoyingly call myself a creative because I have lots of different parts of my freelancing now. And I would say that all of my ventures basically revolve around creating community and encouraging good mental health practices”
How did Wig In A Box get started?
Clare started their career as a marketing manager at a group of Bristol venues, as part of that work they started to run events, we wanted to know a bit more about that time, and how Wig In A Box came about “ the company I worked for opened a new venue, which they weren’t having too much success with, the weekends weren’t getting much business, I suggested that it was such a large venue that they should be doing events”
Creating Queer Culture
Clare realised that for queer people, there weren’t many spaces in Bristol for events which didnt revolve around clubbing, they saw a niche, and decided to create an event to fill it.
“I created a drag night with a queen in Bristol called Alyssa Van Delle, it was called Category Is”
After a while, Clare decided they wanted to go it alone “I kind of started my own thing called Wig In A Box. It wasn’t attached to that company or that venue” They explained that“It soon became a thing that was more about creating a community, the same people were coming to all my nights. It was a certain demographic of queer people, rather than the kind of gay community that I found normally came to drag shows”
Who are Clare’s Events For?
Clare described how Wig In A Box events are made for the LGBTQ plus community and friends. “I am all about allyship, but I think you need to respect the space as a queer space, you are being welcomed into it. Our events are very trans inclusionary and non binary inclusionary, because I still believe that there’s many spaces that aren’t, especially in Bristol.”
Queer Culture Is Fractured
Clare told us that they dont think people realise quite how fractured it can be in the gay community. “Historically, Bristol’s gay bars have tended to be spaces for men, women don’t tend to want to be in those spaces, and if they are, they tend to be straight women. So it was trying to create that space for those who are in the community that don’t tend to feel safe in the places that are designated for us.”
How To Set Up Your First Event
We wanted to know how Clare went about setting up their first events, we asked them how they found their first performers “In Bristol, we were lucky enough to have things like Thorny at the time, who were a fantastic collective that were a group of trans, non binary people and allies that were making these great club nights, we also had don’t tell your mother. So we had a few people that I knew from the scene already, so they kind of came to me once they found out what I was doing.” “ It was just a case of if you meet one person, they introduce you to five more, it’s that classic kind of thing that happens. It’s quite natural.”
Networking for creatives
Clare describes themselves as shy, “I’m quite socially awkward and anxious” they told us, to make networking work for them, they have built a queer family “there’s a lot of us and we’ve got each other’s backs, so it doesn’t feel like networking, its just chatting with your mate.”
Clare explained that they “ never want people to feel with like there is a power dynamic, because promoters, especially within the gay community can have quite a bad reputation of taking advantage of people, in many different ways.” “ I try to create a really nice inclusive atmosphere backstage as well as for the audience”
Nurturing New Talent
It was great to hear about how Clare has created a community of collaborators for Wig In A Box, but we knew that they also champion new talent coming through too, so we asked them how they maintain that balance.
Clare told us that for each event, they try to “have a solid, larger performer and maybe two people who are going to bring a crowd or are going to just impress on the stage. That’s kind of my rule of thumb. And then I tend to open it up to two new performers, or people who haven’t done very much.”
They explained that they are always using social media to discover new talent “ I use facebook groups a lot plus Instagram, lots of DMs!”
Watching Performers Grow
It’s really lovely, because I’ve seen some of those performers go from their nervous first performance to being insane performers, really confident, like within a year, that’s why I’m really passionate about getting new performers on stage. “
They told us that is why they like to make a safe environment on stage where those people feel confident enough to get up.
Finding Your Niche
It seems to us that Clare has really found where they fit in. They told us they feel like they have learned that their niche is where they thrive and where they get the most joy.
“Just before lockdown happened. I did a Cure night. The Cure are one of my favorite bands, and in the autumn I’m planning a David Lynch drag night. So I’ve got a whole concept for that. My nights are pretty niche. I want to do a Missy Elliott one. And I want to do a Tom Waits one too, This is why I do what I do” to bring joy to people and create celebrations of queer culture.
Creating Spaces You Want To See
For Clare putting on events is all about being able to create spaces that weren’t there when they were growing up. “ to see everyone coming together in a positive way, to see younger people and older people. A lot of the time with LGBT stuff. We get together for protests, which is a positive thing, but it’s not. Those spaces have to exist because we still need to fight for our rights, but I like being able to create spaces that are a positive experience, a celebration of what we are is amazing,because I didn’t have that as a teenager.”
Clare’s Proudest Achievement
We love to see how the LGBTQ+ community is working to make things better (and more fun) for those coming up after them. Clare’s work is so exciting to learn more about.
We rounded off our conversation by discussing Clare’s proudest achievement.
“Aside from the work I’ve done on myself through therapy in the last few years, I think my proudest achievement is being able to create spaces where I see people being able to be themselves and enjoy themselves. I hope that people feel like they’re part of a family when they come to a Wig In A Box event, and I’ve had that feedback, and that means everything to me.”
Check out more of our Pride Month coverage on the blog.