Oxford-based drag darling, compére extraordinaire, and mother of the Oxford drag scene, Ginger is a dynamic force to be reckoned with.
This must-see performer has been tearing up the cabaret scene for nearly 4 years, from her silly and surreal acts to her queer and boundary-breaking events. Her semi-regular show OxPHWOARd is legendary in the area for showcasing the camp, queer and eclectic and has been selling out venues for over a year. Described as “one of the best night outs in Oxford”, “the world could be a better place if we all embraced the OxPHWOARd all-are-welcome viewpoint” (Russell Bailey, Daily Info). Ginger also founded the Oxfordshire Drag Collective, acting as mentor and supervisor of their regular sell-out show S.P.U.D.S. (Strange People Undertake a Drag Show).Pronoun: She/her (both in and out of drag)
1. What do you look for in an act?
Something different. Someone who gives great face. Something subversive. I want you to smash stereotypes and have a wild time doing it. For me, concept is 50% of it, face and musicality is 40% of it, and the other 10% is your aesthetic.
2. What was the best booking you ever made?
My last Pride show. I was in a bigger venue so could up the budget a bit but ended up going way overboard booking my dream cast. We had Rubyyy Jones, Chiyo, Pi the Mime, Benjamin Butch, Lilly Snatchdragon aka Lilly S Johnson, FKA, Symoné and Lily Belle. It was an incredibly powerful show; we laughed, we cried, and we truly celebrated diversity! It felt so good to showcase these world class performers together and really say something. I have no idea how I’m going to top it this year, but I’m going to try!
3. Do you think promoting has become easier or harder?
For me, I’ve managed to carve out a really good spot in my local scene. It’s not like anything else going on and it’s been a quality show from the very start. It took me a while to build up my audience but now I’ve been selling out every show for well over a year! It’s a slog every time though- it takes the same amount of effort and tickets in Oxford always sell out very late in the game (it’s the same for any event in the area). You can’t ever get lazy or complacent!
4. What are your top tips for performers applying for one of your shows.
READ THE CASTING! I can’t tell you how many times people send me a facebook message when I’ve requested email, or haven’t included their fees, or haven’t read the casting properly. Casting is often the first test of if I want to work with you and if you can’t send a simple email it doesn’t bode well for the future.
5. What was your first show like?
Any hiccups?It was a disaster! It was my second ever gig. I was living in Cornwall at the time and there were basically zero opportunities apart from a very sporadic cabaret night. I wanted more stage time so put together a show. The cast was pretty much just my friends, most of whom had no experience, plus a couple of small names. I hosted for the first time as part of a double act, did two new acts and everything was an underprepared embarrassing mess! I then spent the next year or so looking at how other people ran shows, what I liked, what I didn’t like, and the next show I produced was a million times better because I actually took the time to see how the industry worked! The heavy research meant that my next attempt ensured my show was professionally, ethically run in a way that would actually support the industry and make it stronger.
6. Plans for the future?
All of my shows and gigs are 18+ apart from when I perform at Pride events. There’s a huge demand for this kind of thing in teens, particularly for drag. I want to run a drag uni with workshops and a big showcase at the end which all of their friends come to! A lot of my show is about celebrating what makes you different and that can be pretty powerful, so of course it’s something that I think teens need (with a bit less nudity and swearing!).Also all my show themes this year link to charitable causes. I don’t want to ask my performers to perform for free or a reduced fee because for a lot of them it’s their livelihood, but I will be taking collections from the audience. For my show Feast we’ll be collecting for a local food bank, for Pride we’ll be collecting for Oxford Pride, and for my Sex Education show we’re looking for a local sexual health charity. It’s new for us but the show has such a community feel so this feels like a logical next step.7. What makes you unique as a producer?
I am really committed to producing diverse, interesting, and inclusive shows. No cookie cutter acts, just wild, creative, diverse line-ups. An OxPHWOARd show is an experience like no other and I always make sure it’s something you could never forget!
8. And what’s the best thing for you about being a show producer?
The audience. I host my show as well and it feels absolutely magic when I get to bring everything together in front of them. We have this amazing warm relationship and people just feel so safe and comfortable there, including a lot of trans and disabled people. It’s also been an amazing way to introduce queer culture to a lot of people who wouldn’t normally experience it, and the gender fluidity of a lot of my performers has really got people thinking! They’re open to anything and not afraid to be challenged.
9. Advice for new producers or anyone considering going into it.
Plan your budget wisely. I see a lot of people just allocating £10 for marketing or getting the cheapest performers. For a show that seats 102 people I spend around £130 on marketing (that’s with me doing my own graphic design for nothing with an established mailing list and brand) and a lot more on cast. Marketing means people know about and come to your shows, and good quality casts keep them coming back! I’ve also seen people blindly throw money at marketing and wonder why it doesn’t work. You need a proper strategy and you need to know what you’re doing. A lot of people claim Facebook ads never work but I know through tracking they’re responsible for around 60% of my income. It took me a long time to get it right and I wouldn’t be as successful without it.Also, if you want your show to feel inclusive, you have to do more than just say it’s inclusive. You need to have a clear no-tolerance policy and accessibility info on your facebook event and ticket site. You need a diverse cast including people of colour, trans people and people with disabilities. You need gender neutral bathrooms. You need people’s pronouns on all the running orders. You need a host with strong awareness of how to navigate these issues and who clearly states the policy at the show. There are lots of actions you can take to actually solidify yourself as an inclusive event. Also, keep listening to feedback and growing- nobody gets it right 100% of the time- it’s how you take and use feedback that really defines you!
10. Do promoters/ producers have little sisters and brothers who they help/allow to shadow/ mentor with the ways of putting on a show effectively?
I have a co-producer who I’ve since helped produce his own show!Xander Sykes AKA Frisky WhispersWhispers was a newcomer boylesquer in Oxford who saw what I was and decided that he had to become my best friend so he could use my connections to become the next great boylesquer! I think it started out with him kittening but I got him to help more and more with stuff before the show and now he’s officially my co-producer (and does more work than me sometimes!). I’ve helped him launch Oxfordshire Drag Collective’s cabaret S.P.U.D.S. (Strange People Undertake a Drag Show) using a lot of similar ideas and marketing techniques that I developed for OxPHWOARd and it sold out first time and every time since! I think a lot of producers feel overworked and would appreciate some help and it’s a great way to pick up some experience and learn how successful shows work!
11. How can we as in industry reach out to new audience members?
Have a brand and a niche. The more I encorporated drag, the more popular my show became. It was always about subverting things and being body positive but a lot of people have misconceptions about burlesque. A lot of people initially come to my show for the drag and find they enjoy the burlesque just as much because they’re so similar! I attract the kind of people I want to attract- people who have a great sense of humour, who sometimes feel like misfits, whether it’s their size, colour, gender identity or disability. I do that through all my marketing, hosting and who I put on stage. It’s created this amazing sense of community that people want to be involved in.
12. Any other comments?
Be true to your own style and don’t be afraid to take risks! You’d think the type of show Oxford would want would be very elegant and classic, but that just wasn’t me. Turns out they were dying to see the weird and wonderful! Trust your instinct, and put on something that you’re proud of and believe in!