TAB EXCLUSIVE: Glitterbomb is allegedly mistreating student performers

Cambridge students have experienced notable problems with the employer

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Glitterbomb is a fun LGBT+ club night for students, but behind the scenes there are issues with the way in which they treat drag acts. Three student performers spoke exclusively to The Tab about their alleged maltreatment by the club…

Connor Duffy, third year lawyer at Catz: Drag name Velvet Caveat

In spite of sending repeated reminders to Glitterbomb, Connor claims he was not paid for six months after performing there. During this time Connor was financially struggling as he spent a term abroad in Japan, and really needed the wage that was owed.

Due to this, St. Catharine’s College actually had to step in and email Glitterbomb to stress that Connor urgently needed the money, and it was only after this that the club finally gave the payment.

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Unpaid performer Velvet Caveat

Helena Fox, second year ASNC student: Drag name King Hoberon, formerly Electra Rain

Despite the fact that they often advertise for performers, Glitterbomb were resistant to Helena performing for them. When she applied to perform, they gave her work in the pay booth instead. It was only when she persistently contacted head office that she was finally given a slot.

Helena believes that they were resistant to her because she is a woman doing femme drag, and reports that she felt looked down on by some members of the club.

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Even when she was given time on stage, she has told The Tab that she still suffered the impact of this judgement. For example, she was given a slot on the rota to perform one night, but just before the event found that she had "mysteriously" disappeared from the schedule and could no longer perform.

Further, Helena told The Tab she is yet to be paid for the times she has performed at Glitterbomb – despite the fact she worked for them in June and September 2018 and promptly invoiced them on both occasions. She has sent multiple reminders to the club and has been promised payment, yet six months has gone by and she is still waiting.

Adam, third year mathmo at Queens

Adam feels that the club’s treatment of Queens’ artistry is handled dreadfully. Adam believes only certain types of drag are generally seen as "valid" there meaning only certain performers are made to feel confident and accepted. Adam noted that drag is about expressing yourself without judgement, which would mean discrimination of this kind goes against the very nature of drag itself.

Adam also believes the staff and more senior figures at Glitterbomb create an atmosphere that is cliquey and judgemental, and claims that criticism is never addressed in a professional manner. And, just like Connor and Helena, Adam’s payments from Glitterbomb have never been on time.

However, despite these problems performers have stated that Patrick who runs Cambridge Glitterbomb (Glitterbomb operates on a wider national scale) is fantastic to work with. The issues that students are experiencing are mostly from higher up in the company.

The Tab approached Glitterbomb for comment, and received the following statement: "All our performers are paid when an invoice is received which follows our guidelines to comply with our legal obligations. All our performers are hired and retained based on attitude and ability. Anyone passionate about drag or dance is welcome to apply via our facebook page ‘Glitterbomb Cambridge’ by sending in a message."

It is important to note that payment difficulties are not a problem with Glitterbomb exclusively, but one with the drag industry as a whole. Because drag queens have no trade unions to protect their working rights, it is often the case that they are underpaid, unpaid or messed around by employers.

We even see this happen in the big leagues of drag. For example, Rupaul’s Drag Race star BenDeLaCreme recently cancelled the remainder of her Australian tour ‘Inferno A-Go-Go’, as her promoters had failed to pay her fellow performers for a previous show.

During her visit to Cambridge, fellow Drag Race star Miz Cracker said she too has been messed around with employers and payment. (Check out our interview with Miz Cracker here).

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These instances point to an urgent need to establish trade unions for drag queens. Though they may love what they do and enjoy performing on stage, work is work, a shift is a shift, and you are entitled to be paid the amount you have agreed with an employer.

The alleged treatment seen at Glitterbomb with regards to the mistreatment and mispayment of performers is extremely disheartening, and is reflective of wider issues within the drag community that urgently need to be addressed.

Cover pic credits to Connor Duffy