Date of release: 1 December 2020
A drag duo are to perform a variety act online, hoping to raising £300 for The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and increase awareness of HIV and AIDS to mark World AIDS Day.
Paul Ryder, 35, and his partner Marcus Cotterill, 49, from Eastfields, Wolverhampton, will perform a 30-minute set online as Tiffany and Bianca – drag characters they have created.
Marcus Cotterill (left), as Bianca, and Paul Ryder (right) as Tiffany
It will be available on YouTube on Wednesday, December 2nd, the day after World AIDS Day, due to unforeseen circumstances.
The couple will perform popular songs in the set – which is aimed at over-18s in case of the odd expletive as it’s un-rehearsed – and people are invited to sing along and donate money to Embrace, the Trust’s sexual health service.
Embrace has replaced the Terence Higgins Trust as the city’s point of contact for those with HIV and AIDS-related concerns.
“We’ve got loads of songs for everyone to enjoy,” said Paul. “There will even be one or two Christmas favourites.
“My partner Marcus started dressing up as Bianca about two years ago, which inspired me to create Tiffany.
“It’s quite enjoyable to do. I don’t know where the name (Tiffany) came from – I just love sparkly stuff and it came to me ‘Tiffany and sparkle’ and I just like the name.”
Paul expressed an interest in fundraising for the Trust and wanted to increase awareness of the LGBTQ+ community, so Leanne Bood, the Trust’s Charity Fundraising Co-ordinator, contacted Eleanor Morris, Deputy Head of Patient Experience, who invited him to apply to join the Council of Members, the organisation’s patients and public members group, which is a collective voice for patients.
Since forming LGBT + Sparkle last December, the Facebook group has since attracted around 180 followers from as far afield as Manchester, Newcastle, Burnley, Wales and even Florida.
The group meets every Thursday from 2pm-3.30pm via Zoom and they host monthly quizzes and discuss a whole range of issues affecting the community.
Paul and Marcus are keen to help all areas of the community and have previously performed a virtual pride event which raised £210 for children with autism.
“Everyone is welcome,” added Paul. “We are a completely inclusive group. We are also looking for a treasurer so we can look at securing pots of money to fund things in the community.”
The group has hosted speakers from West Midlands Police and Wolverhampton Voluntary Community Service, and had positive feedback from the other community services, such as members of the West Midlands Fire Service.
As well as raising money for Embrace, the couple are hoping to increase awareness of HIV, AIDS as well as look at issues minority groups in the community, such as trans and black, Asian and ethnic minorities (BAME) might encounter.
Paul and Marcus are also involved in the Equality and Diversity forum organised by Wolverhampton City Council and are campaigning for more support for the trans community, such as improved NHS waiting times for transition surgery and mental health support during that process, and more inclusive services and accessibility for the LGBT+ community.
The performances of Paul and Marcus have also gained international recognition after receiving a plug for their work from Stephanie Stephens, a drag artist from Toronto, Canada, on a video she presented.