The House of Deviant started in 2020 as a small scale pilot project forming part of professional drag performer Ernie Sparkles' (Gareth Pahl) Masters degree in Drama.
We were interested in how inclusive arts practice (and in particular drag performance) can be used as a tool for adults with learning disabilities and/or autism to use for self discovery and improve the way we see ourselves.
The project ran online with 6 participants for a month with a 2 hour weekly workshop focussing on different aspects of drag performance. Participants were also encouraged to complete weekly challenges.
We discovered that after the 4 weeks the participants reported that they felt more confident and could notice changes in themselves. We found out that drag performance helped them to:
- see themselves differently and more positively
- get their voices heard and be more assertive
- find answers to real life situations
An easy read version of the project writeup can be found here - Easy Read Project Summary
After the project ended participants made it clear that they wanted to continue with the project. After lockdown restrictions were eased we began meeting at Chapter Arts Centre to explore what the project could become. Despite it coming out of Gareth's Masters it was always important that the participants had control over how the project should work moving forward. We moved to a coproduction model and started working towards live performance work.
As of July 2022 we have grown from strength to strength and have a number of successful performances under our belt! We have performed at:
- Riverfront Theatre (with regular dates until the end of 2023)
- Chapter Arts Centre
- Wales Millennium Centre (Hijinx Unity Festival 2022 with inclusive drag royalty - Drag Syndrome)
- Pride Cymru parade
Co-production is a strengths based approach that puts professionals and project users on an equal footing, sharing power, decision making and responsibility.
It’s about doing things together. Not doing things FOR, but WITH. We share spaces. We grow together. It may sound simple, obvious even, but when people do things for people, it stops them developing the skills to do it themselves. True inclusion is about making sure people are given opportunities to be included, to grow and learn and develop. We are not just a drag troupe, we are a place where we grow together, we learn, we develop, we reach our potentials and we shout about it.
Our queens are equipped with the resources and skills to access the world of drag performance. They do their own makeup, tell their own jokes, design their own routines, create their own performances. Together we build these skills and provide the spaces to practice them.
The result - fierce, funny, independent queens with more sass than any episode of RPDR!
In terms of project management, every decision is made as a group together, and every voice and opinion is listened to and respected. This leads to some pretty unique and wonderful discussions!
For more information on coproduction look at Coproduction Network for Wales.
Fundamentally our work is about transforming lives. Our aim is to give voice, autonomy, control and opportunity to people with a learning disability and/or autism. Historically people with a learning disability and/or autism have had very little control over the decisions made about their lives, fewer opportunities and consequently have low confidence and self esteem. We seek to change this. Drag performance is most often a high status role, and so provides good practice in power and control.
Flossie Sunshine says she feels that drag helps her to explore different personas:
“being in the House of deviant is an amazing achievement because I feel like I’m a different person, I become a sassy person”.
Miss Shade Bitch said that performing in drag has given her more confidence and opportunities to socialise.
“It helps me to socialise and gives me confidence. It makes me fabulous to learn to do make up and dance routines and change my voice”.
Our shows and performances show to the world exactly how we can do anything given the right support and opportunity. We prove that people with learning disabilities and/or autism are a force to be reckoned with.
Lots of people think people with learning disabilities and/or autism can’t do a lot of things, and the House of Deviant is smashing what people think they can do and proving that a diagnosis doesn’t need to be a barrier.
"Absolutely brilliant. I saw a performance at WMC as part of Unity Festival and the gals were super hilarious. Drag-ma held together the wonders and inventiveness of the whole gang so brilliantly. Amazing to see such a celebration of everything it is-and might be-to be a human person. Empowering to watch and empowering to be in, it looked like!"
We are currently a self funded project, meaning our only source of income is through the money we generate ourselves through performances and shows. This naturally limits our reach and how many people we can work with. At the moment there is a waiting list of people who want to come and be part of the project. Whilst funding streams are an option they take time and resources to apply, and are not guaranteed. On top of this, drag is not the cheapest of art forms!
There are many ways you can support us, not just financially. For more information click here: