QUEEN FROM NO SCENE: Farmer Drag Queen photo exhibition, Hay-on-Wye
On an Eardisley farm, in conservative, rural Herefordshire, lives Dean Goodwin-Evans aka Boo La Croux: farmer, organiser of Hereford Pride, professional hairdresser, son of an Aston Villa footballer, husband of Paul, lover of horses, and Miss Drag UK 2021.
This man, in all his multi-colour glory, is a photographer's dream. He looks incredible in full drag, and in combination with the animals on his farm, the visuals are spectacular.
I first met Dean at Hay Pride in June 2022. I had never given Drag Queens much thought before. I had not really had any reason to consider why a man would want to dress up as a woman. But as I got to know Dean, he became increasingly fascinating. He is incredibly open about his background and his life, such as a childhood spent with an unconventional father, ejected from Aston Villa for punching a referee, and whose criminal activities led to petrol bombs being thrown through Dean's kitchen window when he was a kid.
He tells me how, when he wasn't dodging petrol bombs, he spent his early years thinking he was a girl, under the repressive shadow of Section 28 - the vile Tory legislation which made it illegal for schools to mention homosexuality. I was at school when Section 28 was brought in, and it just wasn't even a thing for me and my friends. Looking back there must have been others like Dean who were being made pointlessly miserable and ashamed, forced to hide their true identities. Experiencing all the downside of superheroes, but without the world-saving antics to make up for it.
Things changed at the age of 16, when Dean met a man in a gay bar in Leicester - he no longer felt like a girl, but for the first time felt like a gay man. His dad found out, and gave Dean a beating maybe like the one he'd given that football referee years before. Dean climbed out of his bedroom window and lived on the streets for a while, until he found an LGBT centre in Leicester which looked after him and found him somewhere to live. Dean’s dad later became his biggest supporter, before he passed away in 2009.
Watching Dean become Boo is such a privilege. The transformation is incredible, knowing that all his outfits are hand-made by him, his beauty jarring against the agricultural backdrop. His eyes are different colours: green for Dean, blue for Boo. His hair is immaculate in every incarnation, his professional hairdressing skills on clear display.
Boo La Croux started to emerge while Dean was watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Dean spent a year perfecting his look, unknown even to Paul, discovering what worked and what didn't, before he was ready to introduce the world to Boo La Croux. Fairly soon, he was crowned Miss Drag UK.
As Boo La Croux, Dean calls himself the Queen from No Scene. But who knows how many more farmers are experimenting with their identities in potato barns around the county? How many people are hiding their true selves, for whatever political, religious or family reasons? Maybe there really is a scene in Herefordshire, it's just that it's mostly invisible at the moment. I look at Dean, and at the new generation, and it gives me a lot of hope that it will soon become normal for people to express themselves however they like.
In the meantime, in all her glory, here is Boo La Croux.