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9 May 2024

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18 May 2024

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11 May 2024

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20 April - 24 November 2024

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10 April - 18 May 2024

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23 March - 28 September 2024

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1 March - 30 June 2024

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26 March 2024

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10 April 2024

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4 March - 28 February 2025

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Home: Ukrainian Photography, UK Words @ New Adelphi

4 March - 8 March 2024

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CREATIVE SOCIAL: IN THE ABSENCE OF FORMAL GROUND

2 March 2024

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8 February - 31 March 2024

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Contrail Cirrus: the impact of aviation on climate change

7 March 2024

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Tree Story @ Liverpool ONE

16 February - 1 May 2024

Open Source #27: Saffron Lily – In The Absence of Formal Ground @ Digital Window Gallery

6 February - 31 March 2024

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Contemporary Photography from Ukraine: Symposium @University of Salford

4 March - 5 March 2024

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Is Anybody Listening? Symposium: Commissioning and Collecting Socially Engaged Photography

29 February 2024

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Different approaches: Artists working with scientists

15 February 2024

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18 January 2024

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18 January - 31 March 2024

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Tree Walks Of Sefton Park with Andrea Ku

21 January 2024

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31 January 2024

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Shift Liverpool Open Meeting

6 February 2024

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We Feed The UK Launch and LOOK Climate Lab 2024 Celebration

8 February 2024

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17 February 2024

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End of Empire: artist talk and discussion

22 February 2024

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24 February 2024

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Local ecology in the post-industrial era: open discussion

14 March 2024

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Waterlands: creative writing workshop

23 March 2024

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16 March 2024

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9 March 2024

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Waterlands: an evening of poetry and photographs

23 March 2024

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Force For Nature Exhibition

27 March - 28 March 2024

Voices of Nature: Interactive Performances

28 March 2024

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Sum of All Parts: Symposium

27 February 2024

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LOOK Climate Lab 2024

18 January - 31 March 2024

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1 February 2023

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13 December 2023

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23 November 2023

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6 November - 5 February 2024

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30 November 2023

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17 November - 17 December 2023

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18 November 2023

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14 October 2023

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26 October - 11 April 2024

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Drag Kings of Manchester by Christine Beckett: review

Drag Kings of Manchester’ does what it says on the tin. The book, made available in late 2023, comes from the archives of Christine Beckett, who has been photographing local and queer subcultures for decades. Between 2015 and 2018, Christine worked with a small Drag King troupe called The Boi Zone, during which this project was born. Her images take a classic black-and-white documentarian style but her approach is warm; looking through the book is to view Christine’s growing relationship with the troupe, while also providing a broad insight into the Manchester Drag King scene through performance, protest, community, friendship, and fashion. 

Christine Beckett is a photographer originally from Brixton, London, but currently based in St. Helens, Merseyside. She started making images in 1974 when she bought her first camera and has been photographing her surroundings ever since. In 2015, she was asked to photograph a Drag King event in Manchester for PR by her friend, Lydia Bernsmeier-Rullow, whose stage name was Dick Slick. At the time, Christine had no idea that this photoshoot would lead to a long-term project. However, shooting at these events became a regular gig for her, and it soon led to being invited to photograph the performers backstage and out in public around the city. 

Opening with a short written introduction, Christine explains her increasing photographic involvement with the Boi Zone. This is matched with a few quotes from Lydia, who also explains her role in the reignition of the Manchester scene. 

Whilst the book features a variety of work, it feels centered around the images from the Drag King nights in Manchester. Lit with a harsh flash, these pictures provide an overview of activity throughout the evening. The dated appearance of these locations pair well with the Kings’ striped suit jackets, button-down white shirts, and bowties, giving the impression that the photographs were taken many years ago in a dimly-lit gentlemen’s club. Her photographs capture fun, candid performance moments, allowing us to feel like we are watching from the crowd. Alongside this, Christine takes us backstage, giving insight into the pre-show preparation and moments of anticipation before the night begins. 

“The scenes that presented themselves to me, both on-stage and back-stage, were, it seemed, as much part of the art as the Kings’ make-up, outfits, and performances. My art consisted of spotting an unfolding scene and pressing the shutter button at the right moment.” 

Supporting these images are photographs taken in public spaces around Manchester, which take influence from gritty sixties fashion and social documentary imagery. These pictures vary in mood, with some retaining a similar humorous energy as the Canal Street venue photographs, like the image of the two Drag Kings laughing and posing with a book titled “Beards”. On the other hand, some feel more stylistically driven, such as the photograph on the following page in which two Kings stare out to something beyond the left side of the frame. Also included are images taken at outdoor events, such as Sparkle and Manchester Pride.

A strength of Christine’s project lies in the confidence the Kings’ display in front of the camera, which can be attributed to her 28-month-long engagement with The Boi Zone. Whilst photography played an important part in her initial relationship with the group, Christine soon began meeting up with people on weekends – creating relationships without the camera acting as an intermediary. It is clear that this benefited the project, as the connection between photographer and subject does not feel forced or exploitative. 

‘Drag Kings of Manchester’ is a lovely book, and project, which shines a light on moments of a community that rarely receives mainstream attention. Whilst the Boi Zone has since disbanded, the photographs now act as a historical artistic record of Manchester’s rich LGBTQ+ history. 

‘Drag Kings of Manchester’ by Christine Beckett is available for purchase in the Open Eye Gallery independent bookshop for £12. 

See more of Christine’s work: @strawberry_girl_photography

Words and images by @amysanders0nphotography

 

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