We've delved into the Robert Workman Archive to relive one of Jean Fredericks' legendary Drag Balls. Workman visited the Ball in 1976 to capture the 'goings-on' for Gay News, and we're thrilled to hold these photos.
Come on in to the Porchester Hall to see where those in the LGBTQ+ community came to meet each other, show off their costumes, and maybe even win one of the prizes up for grabs...
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Attending the Porchester Hall Drag Balls
Though Drag Balls have a longer history, the modern idea of a Drag Ball came to be in the late 1960s, and ran all the way until the mid-90s.
During the height of these Drag Balls, one of the most celebrated ones was held in Porchester Hall in West London. Originally run by drag entertainer and musician Jean Fredericks, the elaborate costumes were arguably the most exciting part of the night. Some attendees would even hire vast ensembles of costumes for the competition-parade, which usually led to the crowning of the Queen of the Ball...
Following Jean's death in the late 70s, others in the drag scene carried on the legacy of the Balls, including Denis Gilling. Yet the night received some bad press in 1986 after Gilling hosted a couple of SM Drag Balls called "Feather, Leather, Flesh and Whiplash". This led the governors to ban the Drag Balls from Porchester Hall.
Having been seen as some of the greatest nights out in London, these Balls offered a night of celebration rather than judgement, and those from the LGBTQ+ community flocked to attend.
Want to discover more about the Robert Workman Archive?
His archive includes over 50,000 images taken for Gay News and Capital Gay and is an invaluable resource for the study of LGBTQ+ Britain in the 1970s and 1980s. We are currently digitising this collection and more material will become available on a weekly basis.