jonny woo explores how east london became a centre of nightlife, fashion and all things cool
As his East London Lecture transfers to Shoreditch Town Hall, London’s leading drag queen reveals a new look styled by Fee Doran, one of the characters he channels and celebrates in the show.
"In 1995, in a pub called the Bricklayers Arms, in Shoreditch, the world began…" Arriving in London after a sojourn in New York City, Jonny Woo found East London on the cusp of an exciting and burgeoning scene. The landscape of London Town was shifting, the dynamic he found was ripe for him to emerge from the petri dish of experimental performance and straight into the frying pan of London drag heritage. Woo along with friends found a safe haven in the wild wild east. Shoreditch, Hoxton and Hackney became a destination point for those disenchanted with the bright lights of the west end and the allure towards the rough and ready vista emerging downtown where anything went.
East London was already being snapped up from the late 80s by the Young British Artists and fashion designers of the time, creatives who were willing to make use of inhospitable warehouse spaces which became the model for creativity to splurge forth into our consciousness, squatting was still de rigour, cheap rents the norm. And let us not forget the gay scene of the area had an underground legacy stretching back decades before.
Gravitating towards and changing the local scene with reinvention and imagination Woo quickly became part of the colour of the area. We first heard of Jonny Woo and The House of Egypt dancing on tables and had to hotfoot it downtown to witness the mayhem for ourselves. The tale Woo intends to tell is that of his own experience and those who inspired him. His notes cross reference the characters who set the cornerstones for his generation and those to come in the forthcoming era ahead, the 00s and up to the present day. Engaging the listener with vivid repartee, Woo is the conduit of all things inventive and flamboyant, he is an artist of disguise and an inspired gender flux performance dresser tackling elements of depth and surprise with considered and measured matter of factness, constantly reassembling his profound vision of what queer performance can be.
The line of enquiry Jonny takes is a journey that has led him to continually question, entertain and educate. Produced by The Mill Co Project, the East London Lecture very much follows Woo's on-going investigative process. Soul searching his own revelations, his honest accounts incorporate community mindfulness with a major fun injection. You see that's the thing... you're allowed to have fun and still get your message across.
Jonny Woo's East London Lecture runs from 20th to 30th at Shoreditch Town Hall.
Text Princess Julia
Photography Peter Fingleton
Styling Mrs Jones AKA Fee Doran