How I started Sunday drag nights at the Northcote

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New owner Tuesday Roberts tells us the story behind popular weekly bash, Drag Out The Weekend

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Northcote E11:
Looking good these days: Northcote E11. Photo: Stephen Emms/LBTM
Buying the Northcote all on my very own has, I think, been my biggest achievement. It was basically a massive change of career.

I worked as a teacher for 14 years: health social care for kids on the child protection and special needs lists, so very rewarding. But it was time for another challenge. And I knew I wanted to return to the traditional East End Sunday cabaret of my youth well before I pitched for this pub back in September.

(In fact, I have great memories of being heckled on Sunday evenings in Bethnal Green boozers, although – I have to say – the queens were much more brutal then.)

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Tuesday Roberts: ‘I was nervous about asking them to gig in our working class boozer.’

So, now I had the pub, how to start a cabaret from scratch? An arty friend of a friend in the biz kindly gave me three useful names: Topsie Redfern, Ginger Johnson and Myra DeBois. As I researched them (thank gosh for social meeeja) I quickly realised they were well out of my league. I mean, they’re amazing and quite frankly play far superior venues to our little pub; but still, I nervously emailed them anyhoo.

Somehow lovely, local gal Topsie agreed to help and suggested we also meet with her colleague, classically-trained Sarah Bodalbhai.

I was nervous about pitching the idea. I mean, I was asking them to come and gig in our working class, predominantly male East End boozer (as it was then), where the first few Sundays were bound to be so quiet you might have to sing to the walls. But don’t worry, I assured them, I promise not to put up with any homophobia.

Topsie Redfern. Portrait by James Millar
Helpful: Topsie Redfern. Portrait by James Millar
The good news? They were so positive from the very start. They promised to try and convince some of their colleagues to join the team to create a bi-monthly rota of five performers. While some did indeed need persuading, we haven’t had a single act who hasn’t wanted to return. The credit here has to go to many of our wonderful regulars who embraced the show in those early days. Topsie had them eating out of the palm of her hands with her cheeky audience interaction from the first show.

We’ve then been able to add more acts to create seasonal variety, all friends of friends. One week you might find yourself with Michael Twaits belting out his huge repertoire of West End classics, on another Cosmic will “roll” out old East End with the most fabulous Italian wigs you’ve ever seen; and then feisty, witty Myra DeBois will have her audience in total, awestruck silence.

Who else? Ginger Johnson, with her saxophone and rather rude poems; and Topsie measuring up the lads for the best bum competition. The comedy teamwork with Sarah is crucial to the performance: her gentle musical guidance and tutoring is one in a million.

Candy Slag in Drag headlines this weekend. Photo: QX
Headlining this weekend: Candy Slag in Drag. Photo: QX
We’ve worked hard to get the word out as it’s a weekly night. Our new patriots are very loyal to the show and promote it wildly on social media, have helped me leaflet and bribe friends to come along. And we’ve had friends of the show surprise us with presents of stage lights, specialist mics, amps and speakers, keyboard, build us a stage.

One ran the sound for the first six weeks, as I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and am pretty useless with anything with a plug. Performers have to put up with my amateurness: a massive investment in music equipment is, I think, needed (to my horror a customer answered his phone at the front table last week). I’m not sure why the performers even put up with me.

But as I write, I’d like to boast that all three original acts I cold-called back in September are now part of our team.

And last Sunday, which featured the lovely Lady Celeste, was our busiest yet but we’ve still a long way to go. Candy Slag in Drag headlines this weekend making her Northcote debut. So here’s to another fabulous side-splitting-laughter-amongst-friends night.

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Drag Out The Weekend takes place every Sunday evening from 7pm at the Northcote, 110 Grove Green Road E11. Follow them on Twitter @northcotee11

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  • Show Comments

  • Mary Fanning McGarry

    Will drop in over the summer – used to live around the corner in Ashville Road, grew up there and moved to Ireland in early 70’s. Looking forward to seeing it again.

  • Phil Hardcastle

    Drag has a surprisingly fertile background in working class east London boozers. My Dad was the regular pianist at the Arabian Arms in Bethnal Green in the late 70s which was a well known Drag venue at the time.

  • DarianE11

    Amazing night run by amazing people and always a massive laugh, the only problem is my hangover on a Monday morning.
    Soon to become East London’s best kept secret!

  • Ceri Wilkinson

    Simona Giunta… Drag night at a pub which is not far from us! Fancy it?

  • Tessa Garland

    Brilliant a drag night in Leytonstone …who would have believed it!

  • Simona Giunta

    Defo!

  • Mary Richards

    Neil Anthony Holbrook date night in Leyton with me sometime? X

  • Neil Anthony Holbrook

    Yes, defo Mary Richards – let me know when you have a babysitter and I’m there with you 🙂

  • Jim Lister

    respect!

  • The Northcote E11

    Thanks to everybody that came & made it a great night. Hope to see you again next soon x

  • Timothy Foster

    Elliott Rooney Gary Booley Richard Gregory Ben Smith Sam Scott think we should

  • Richard Gregory

    Yes heard about this, we should

  • SirDeclan Duggan

    Love this place so lucky to have it so close

  • Tuesday Roberts

    Ahh thanks Decs. We missed you yesterday. Hope you had a nice Christmas at home. See you soon x

  • Jeff Jeffers

    We at BANJAXELD along with Millie Manders played here in November. Pucker little music venue too…

  • Millie Manders

    YES TUESDAY!! U0001f60d

  • Michael Hurley

    I lived in grove green road for 25 years. I never stepped foot in that pub. Just interesting to see the view from inside out.

  • Sam Scott

    Yes been meaning to go! Let’s

  • Stuart Savage

    Amazing Tuesday! Love this x