- 21 Sep 23
Ahead of Ireland's Culture Night this weekend, Piper Sewell spoke with Cork-based drag queen Candy Warhol, chatting about her upcoming performance at Cork's Marina Market as well as the future of Irish drag.
Cork-based drag icon Candy Warhol is a very busy person (with an excellent name). She’s somewhat of a triple-threat: she’s a seasoned performer, editor of queer magazine Dreaming, and has been the producer-marketer-manager-etc of Ireland’s leading drag haus ‘Mockie Ah!’ for the past six years. ‘Mockie Ah!’ is a fixture in the Irish drag scene, and it hosts regular club nights, cabaret shows and drag brunches across the country.
Clearly, Candy is no stranger to drag– her grand-uncle was the famous Cork-born drag star Danny La Rue, a leading figure in Irish drag culture in the 1950s and beyond. But her upcoming event Candy’s Sweet As Circus Cabaret is the biggest event Candy has ever run– and with that comes both excitement and nerves. “I’ve been running ‘Mockie Ah!’ for six years, and this is our first time being funded by the Arts Council,” she told me. “We’re going all out. There’s going to be loads of queens, loads of circus acts, loads of burlesque performers and live music– yeah, we’re excited.”
The performance is one of the most anticipated events out of this year’s Culture Night, and it takes place this Friday, 22nd of September at Cork’s Marina Market from 10 pm. It’s Ireland’s eighteenth annual Culture Night, in which the Arts Council will be funding over 1,700 free events throughout the country– though undoubtedly none will be as sweet as Candy’s Cabaret.
For the event, Candy and her queens are pushing beyond the limits of what a typical drag show looks like. Culture Night has given them financially more room to flourish, as she explained: “We’ve teamed up with Pitch’D festival, and through that, they’ve been able to get us a producer and more of a team… We’ve had money for the first time, and out of that, I was able to hire a choreographer and a set designer and pay the acts fairly, which was really important.”
Cork is home to one of the biggest drag scenes in all of Ireland, and much of that is due to Candy’s involvement. As the ‘mother’ of Cork City-based queer performance collective ‘Mockie Ah!’, she formed the Haus in response to the lack of queer spaces in Cork. That lack of queer space was not always there– she recalled there being a “lot of drag happening in Cork around the early 2000s,” but after moving away for some time she discovered there was only one space left: the queer venue Chambers.
Unfortunately, this week has also seen some controversy surrounding Chambers after it attempted to rebrand itself as a ‘straight’ bar for Freshers Week. The bar, without any prior warning, had taken down anything to do with the queer community including flags and posters advertising upcoming drag performances. This angered much of Cork’s queer community, who saw it as yet another signal that the management did not respect them. They did not take this rebrand sitting down and have staged multiple demonstrations in front of the bar, drawing widespread attention from across Ireland and beyond.
Though an unsavoury topic, it would have been remiss if I hadn’t asked Candy about it. “I worked [in Chambers] for a year and a half after the lockdown,” she confided. “And when I say it really wasn’t for me, a lot of that was due to the management and how they ran things. You know, they weren’t queer, they weren’t part of the community, and it was just for money. And I think that was quite evident in what happened last week.”
This news is just another example of why Candy feels so passionate about running her own Haus and why her upcoming Culture Night performance is a step in the right direction. “It’s up to us and our community to continue creating our own spaces, like we’ve always been doing. My career has been knocking on doors of venues typically run by straight men who roll their eyes, thinking that we’re a bit of a joke– until they see how much money they can make off of us, and then they take it seriously. But I want to work with venues and performers who understand why it’s important.”
Beyond the Culture Night performance, Candy has big plans for the future. She's just announced a run of shows at a new Irish-run gay bar in Brooklyn, and Mockie Ah! is gearing up for their annual performance of Rocky Horror this Halloween. But what she's most focused on is expansion. "I want to take my show and I want to take it around the country," she said. "We've definitely been doing that over the last few months and into next year."
If Candy has it her way, Ireland is about to get a whole lot sweeter.
- Film And TV
- 27 May 22