Manchester isn’t short of incredible cultural talent that deserves your attention. In fact, there’s so much happening in the city it’s often hard to keep tabs on things. Even if the artists themselves are producing work and sharing ideas so bold, vibrant and original it should be hard to miss them.
With that in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to shine a spotlight on seven Queer artists of colour based in and around Manchester who are worth keeping an eye out for. Paying some respect to a demographic that has historically been marginalised within an already-marginalised community.
So, we’ve got small screen stars destined for huge things after shooting to fame through Netflix shows diving into the trans teen experience. There are in-demand go-go dancers bringing the discipline bang up to date. Clothing designers-cum-DJs, vogue houses, performance and burlesque artists… What follows is an incomplete list of rising and risen stars calling our city home, all of who fly the flag in favour of greater visibility. You can thank us later.
It might be their spot on the second annual 20 Under 20 list by American media monitor GLAAD, that role in the acclaimed TV series ‘Heartstopper’ — offering a deeply personal portrayal of a transgender high school pupil — or the fact she’s just been confirmed as a cast member for the forthcoming season of ‘Doctor Who’. Whichever resume bullet point you prefer to focus on (and there are many), Manchester-born Finney is an on screen tour de force currently pushing boundaries in all the right directions.
Founder of the excellently-titled queer inclusive party, Your Dad Sells Avon, which heads to Star & Garter in September, despite regularly performing at Manchester venues like Albert Schloss and Cruz 101, Stopit only began focusing on creative outlets during the lockdowns of 2020. Moving from drag to go-go, and amassing a veritable troupe of equally adept dancers in the process, every aspect — routines, outfits and more — is self-designed, and the focus very much on having fun while getting serious about identity, body positivity, and helping others claim their place in the spotlight.
“I create vibes, art, fashion, opportunities,” Gold tells Finest when we ask for the lowdown on what she’s up to. “Whatever I do, I do it my way, I only have my own story to tell and share. I fuel everything I do with joy and positivity, which I hope is felt by the people who relate to my work,” she continues, explaining aims for the next 12 months include building greater connections — on a local level, with the city, its people and artists. Whether creating t-shirts and socks to sell at MG Market, spinning tunes at spaces such as recently opened (and well-worth checking) Adelphi Lad’s Club, you only need a minute to get why Gold is here.
In 2008 Pritchard established House of Ghetto, responding to a financial crash that disproportionately impacted young Black females, dedicating the platform to them. Then there’s the wider Black Gold Arts project, bringing emerging dance, performance, and film artists of colour to the fore for years. That’s before we mention his Ghetto Fabulous events. “The focus of my work is centring the QTIPOC community and performers, mainly from a working class background. When you look at a Ghetto Fabulous show, cabaret, or platform, the optical QTIPOC-ness of it all stands right out.”
“Art and Fashion have always been my passion. I see myself as a performance artist. Dancing is something I admire: it allows me to do whatever I desire, the ability to escape reality and enter my own fantasy world. And to be a person I never imagined. That’s when Than The Freak comes out,” explains Than, who is also a Fashion Editor with plans to publish a magazine. “My works have always been personal. Perhaps, emotional. They’re always circulating around what I’ve been through or have been struggling with during that period of time. Growing up as a brown Southeast Asian person, I was taught to hide my emotions. I never truly understand who I am. Like I’m having an identity crisis. So the only way I could express how I feel is through art work. To celebrate people like me. To show vulnerability. To question the norms.”
Currently holding down three residencies between Manchester, London and Brighton, Ms Coco DeVille has spent the best part of the last two decades touring the world with an inimitable attitude and stylistic diversity. Taking to stages from Stockhom’s iconic Nalen to the sadly-shuttered Bassy in Berlin, burlesque, pin-up and cabaret performances have garnered intimidating levels of adoration from public and press alike, with jaw-dropping costume design, a fiercely on-point soundtrack, and innovative routines par for the course. Then there are the magazine shoots and immersive festival showcases, breaking new ground every time.
“We are a Kiki vogue house from Huddersfield and Manchester, a family of Queer POC entertainers, voguers and models. What makes us different is that we are not only celebrating being Queer but being POC and Queer and taking up space. Our plans for the future are to continue growing and inspiring others to be their true selves,” says Ty Flava, of trans-Pennine collective House of Blaque, which has roots that can be traced to House of Ghetto and House of Flava. Not that attendees at global house and disco institution Glitterbox should need to be told, given this crew are regular fixtures at the Defected-affiliated events.
Meme Gold and This Guy DJ at Your Dad Sells Avon, a Queer rave at Star & Garter on 24th September. ‘Avon Reps’ Harry, Alexa, Gert and Ali Stopit will also be in the building. Head to the official site for tickets and information.