There was plenty of fun and laughter last weekend as a troupe of drag artists led by Lisbellaw’s own John Hamilton as Viva La Diva and Garry Lally, aka Gypsy Darling, entertained crowds at the Fermanagh Pride Fundraising Weekend.

Viva La Diva and the Bar Pop Showteam raised the roof of the Westville Hotel on Friday, November 10 at the ‘Big Drag Cabaret Show’.

“The creative juggernauts of John Hamilton and Garry Lally, aka Viva La Diva and Gypsy Darling, and their colleagues who travelled all the way from the famous Poptastic club in Manchester’s Canal Street,” said a Fermanagh Pride committee spokesperson, adding: “Their wealth of experience as entertainers shone through. We had a very mixed audience at the Friday night drag cabaret show.

“John Hamilton invited all of his family from Lisbellaw area, almost two dozen of them, including his adorable 87-year-old grand aunt.”

Saturday night (November 11) was the ‘Big Fermanagh Pride-Ceili Fundraiser’ which brought a magic mix of high culture and immense fun.

The ceili featured a combination of local professional Trad musicians, the Copper Plate Band, recommended by Fermanagh Comhaltas, and keen amateur LGBT+ musicians ‘The Rainbow Reels’ who travelled all the way from Belfast.

The committee spokesperson said: “It was truly a ground-breaking experience as Gypsy Darling, our now locally famous drag artist with the blue hair, called out the dance! Not an easy task with many completely novice dancers.”

Grateful for the “overwhelming” public support for the fundraising weekend, the committee spokesperson said: “Noelle [McAloon] and colleagues in Experience Enniskillen have been an immense support and morale booster. We were overwhelmed by the number of local businesses who contributed prizes for our fundraising raffle. The Westville [Hotel’s] willingness to provide us with a free venue on both nights.

“It’s a small gesture but some of our trans members were so moved by their offer of gender-neutral toilets.”

The committee were also very thankful to Terry McCartney of Belmore Court and Motel for his kind support.

Commenting following the weekend events, John said he and the Bar Pop Showteam were “honoured” to be asked to be at the Fermanagh Pride fundraisers.

“We believe that it’s important that, as a community we come together and we stand together, and fight the bigots of Fermanagh, of Northern Ireland, in fact of the UK,” he said.

Lee Kelly, a Fermanagh Pride committee member commented that he “cannot explain” how much fun he had over the Fermanagh Pride fundraising weekend at the two events.

He added: “[I am] so proud of everyone and my community for coming together for such an important cause. Never let anyone dim your light. You’ve only got [one] chance after all to be you, make it your best.”

Heartened by the amount of funds that have been raised, the committee spokesperson explained that these will be dedicated to the Fermanagh Pride 2024 plans.

“However we know that this weekend has been about far more than money,” they said, adding:

“The big gifts have been the opportunity to grow and consolidate our capacity as a small and sometimes fragile Pride group; to develop links and partnerships with local businesses and other charitable organisations; and simply to provide a positive sunlit future for younger local LGBT+ people and their families and friends.

“One local mother contacted us to say how inspired she felt by our efforts; she said that she had a young trans son who moved away to university as he felt uncomfortable in Enniskillen; she hopes one day that he will return to the heart of our community.”