Drag King’s concerns arts industry 'won’t be the same' for years

The performance arts industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. All theatres, bars and concert halls have had to close their doors, with no sign of when they will be able to reopen. Many in the industry are now claiming Universal Credit in order to pay their rent and bills.

Len Gwyn, from Cardiff, is a drag king living in London. They have been performing as a comedian for 10 years.

Len has had to apply for Universal Credit after their work dried up

“I realised I was bi and then a lesbian and non-binary. Those questions about who I am trying to figure things out has come out through performance.”

Len has performed at venues including the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, the Southbank Centre and the Soho Theatre.

They have also worked at festivals like Glastonbury and the Edinburgh Fringe, in schools and at the Crystal Maze experience. Recently, Len was meant to be performing a solo show at the Wales Millennium Centre. All of this work has now been cancelled because of Covid-19. As a result, Len has applied for Universal Credit.

“I clearly can’t make a living doing live performance and that sinks in at various different stages.”

Now that Len is no longer performing, they have started volunteering two to three days a week - making PPE for care homes at a company called Create 180. The company used to make props, sets and costumes for theatres and events.

Len is volunteering at a warehouse which makes PPE

Since the pandemic, it has transformed its warehouse into a place to make face shields for those on the frontline. Although Len has been enjoying volunteering, they said they are postponing “this inevitable nightmare reality” of completely changing their career.

“In my head I’ve decided that nothing will be anything like back to normal for another three years or so, so competition is going to be really fierce when venues do reopen.”

Following Len’s interview, the Wales Millennium Centre has announced it will be closed until January.

The closure will affect 250 jobs and 85 permanent staff are at risk of redundancy. Several theatre productions have been cancelled or postponed.

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