Local Talent Takes Centre Stage in Limerick’s Growing Drag Scene 

Charnell Clearwater. Photo by Darren Ryan, Pigtown media

As the stage light brightens, so does the future of Limerick drag

By Jack Butler

Drag performance has seen an exponential rise in global popularity in recent years, with Limerick being no exception. 

Once most popular amongst the LGBTQI+ community, it has only grown in popularity in the last decade, with shows such as “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and “Dragula” achieving mainstream success. 

The Irish drag scene, though small when compared to that of the US, has always welcomed new acts into the fray. 

Limerick’s own Charnell Clearwater has been performing for 10 years as a drag queen and finds the local drag scene to be “incomparable.”  

“Limerick itself, it’s very small, there’s not many areas we can perform in, we have the likes of the Kasbah Dolan’s and Pharmacia, with Alter Ego and Mockie Ah! Alter Ego is run by Lisa [Daly, chairperson of Limerick Pride] and Mockie Ah! Is led by Candy Warhol from Cork, she brings a group of the girls up and we take over the upstairs of Pharmacia for a night of just..mentalness,” she said. 

“I’ve performed in Limerick, Galway, Cork, Dublin, Belfast, London, Holland, so I’ve had my fair share of travels, but there’s one thing I’ve noticed and that’s that there’s nowhere like home.” 

“I mean, we have smaller venues, we don’t have such a big scene, but what I’ve discovered from it is that we are the most warm and the friendliest. We’ll accept anyone into our circle, it’s just incomparable to other counties and cities I’ve been in,” she added. 

Charnell’s drag journey began at 16 years old.  

“I suppose I kicked it off on my birthday, and then I reinvestigated a couple of years later after I came out. I just said I’d do it on a whim – it’s Halloween, we’ll dress up, have a bit of fun and see what happens,” she said. 

“I started getting booked in Strokers, which used to be the old gay bar in Limerick, getting booked to do shows every weekend and then it transpired into ‘okay this might actually be a career.’” 

“So from there I kept on doing the gigs, kept saving up so I could get better outfits, hair, makeup, shoes and all that, and I supposes I’ve just kept going.”  

Charnell recently judged at the tenth annual DragHens Dens 2023 competition, having won the title of Miss Social Media at the 2022 event. 

Founder and Co-Creative Director of DHD, Paddy Doyle, said that it’s important that the Irish drag scene is represented locally and nationally. 

“In 2016 we had Blu Hydrangea (winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race: UK v. the World) and then in 2018 we had Mia Gold who’s gorgeous as well, she’s now doing a drag school, we’ve had a few who have stepped away from drag or whatever, they’re all alumni but those two are top of the class at the moment,” he said. 

Co-Director, Mandii, has seen first-hand the growth in the show over the last number of years, a success Paddy attributes to her hard work. 

“I cannot thank her enough, she has taken social media beyond the level I could, I’m not tech-savvy. She has been creative Director with me and has brought this to a wonderful level,” Paddy said. 

Limerick regularly welcomes alumni from “Drag Race” to headline Pride, such as performer Courtney Act who was special guest of the 2022 parade. 

Despite the excitement that comes with international performers, Paddy believes it important to showcase local talent.  

“I’m very proud we’ve got to ten years, and that we can showcase drag in a very different way. On TV, you have your RuPaul, et cetera, but we have this Irish uniqueness, we don’t need to go to RuPaul all the time.” 

“We’ve got a massive culture here, let’s celebrate that, our Irishness, our uniqueness.”  

More stories from our 2023 print edition

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