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The Parliament, Belfast, Northern Ireland (with Marcus Hunter-Neill / Lady Portia)

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It all started when she, with two friends, formed their first drag troupe and convinced the owners of The Parliament to let them take over the venue on a Sunday night. 

We caught up to discuss first times in drag, plucking up the courage to enter a gay bar, and tips for I get some tips about the best pick up lines! 

Lady Portia  00:00

So then we started snuggling up against the wall. And he had a bottle of beer in his hand, and he let go of the bottle of beer and it smashed behind me so that he could have both arms to embrace me. And I remember at the time thinking, lovely, he just dropped his drink just so that we can smell better.

K Anderson  00:21

I am K Anderson, and you are listening to lost spaces, a podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode, I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories are created there. And the people that they used to know. Marcus hunter Neal, also known as Lady Portia, is Northern Ireland, first lady of drag, and has been charming audiences for the last two decades. And it all started when she with two friends formed their first drag troop, and convinced the owners of the Parliament in Belfast to let them take over the venue on a Sunday.

Lady Portia  01:26

What you have to what sometimes I find, and I Well, I don’t identify as any religion really. But I was raised as a Protestant. And in Northern Ireland, there’s a real arrogance around the Protestant faith. So if you’re white, middle class and Protestant, then you are the ship in Northern Ireland. But I had a tamped against me because I was gay. So I may as well have been a lever on the street. And that’s, that’s how that one chink in your armour can because in the Catholic Church, they really started to embrace it. And they were like, Look, look at the size of Ireland, they were the first place to have a referendum, and 73% or something like that all came out to say, yes, let this happen. Even little rural places that you would never have thought all voted yes. So the Protestants had this real thing of we have to keep everything so, so pure. And and whenever whenever you have that little sort of chink, then you’re you’re not, you’re not deemed as good enough. But when you strip it back, the Protestant religion was only invented. So Henry the it could divorce the wife. So it’s not even steeped in history. It was invented through a man a king set up his own religion. So one of the oldest recorded religions that is around is Hinduism. So the arrogance that when you get these politicians here, here, here Protestant, they’re holier than thou and weird this way, and gay shouldn’t do this, and abortion, this and abortion that you’re going, right? Well, you’re basing this on the newest religion around, and you don’t even acknowledge one that was around 3000 years before yours even came came came to fruition. So what are you really talking about? And what’s your basis? But again, it’s that thing of if you say that, like we had a health minister, who went on record to say that dinosaurs were put on the earth, just so non Christians, and that the evolution didn’t exist. Right. And that was our health minister at the time. That was a lot It was a few years ago. So it’s not the current health minister. But that’s, that’s what I’m, that’s kind of what you’re what you’re

K Anderson  03:33

so just getting my head around this. So they’re like, the fossils and the bones of dinosaurs were put there. to test your faith. Is that what

Lady Portia  03:43

Yes. Okay. Yeah. Wow, he’s not alone. In that opinion. There are so many diehard Christians do when you challenge them around evolution. And then you and then they go, Oh, well, let me know. If we’re evolved from monkeys. wire, this wire monkey still not having humans. And you’re like, so you don’t quite get what evolution means. And then, and then you go about you talk about dinosaurs, and they go, yeah, they were planted by Satan. Because he lives in hell in the centre of the Earth. And you’re like, like luck. And then you just can’t do it already. There’s just you just at some point have to go. Yeah. Can’t even argue with it. Because

K Anderson  04:25

that’s really hard. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Okay, well, that’s not

Lady Portia  04:29

even a good one. Whenever they come out, and they go, Well, it was Adam and Eve. But actually, it wasn’t. It was Adam and Lilith. Yeah. And then she had her own voice. And then they they got rid of her very quickly and took he from Adam’s Rib to she would be an exact match to him and bow down to him. So it wasn’t Adam and Eve to begin with. And if we’re all descendent from Adam and Eve, who have two boys. Then where did the grandchildren come from, except for the fact that one of the boys killed the other one. have sex with as a mother to produce more children. So if you go by that we’re all inbred. If you want to trace it right back to the RDL image, then rolling. So there’s there. What was left

K Anderson  05:12

doing at this point, by the way? Oh, I

Lady Portia  05:14

think she had gone down to hell because it was a bit more fun. Okay, okay. It was like he’s airborne. I’ve got like an opinion. I’m going back to Satan. Yeah,

K Anderson  05:23

I’m gonna I’m gonna make some fake bones to plant in the earth. Yeah,

Lady Portia  05:27

yeah, I’m gonna go and have a disco with the gays and inhale. They haven’t been invented yet. But I’m going to create them.

K Anderson  05:37

Oh, Bible is so trippy.

Lady Portia  05:39

Yeah. But the thing is, if you so I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t follow any one set religion. But my my ethos in life is that if you tick if you strip back every single religion on Earth, right? Basically, the long and short of it is, Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you look after your fellow man do good in this life, because it’ll pay dividends in the next life. And and basically, don’t be a dick, right? So I do that anyway, I have no fear of death, because the way I look at it is if I die tomorrow, and all the religions can’t be wrong. So because if you’re saying that one one is right, and one on one is wrong, then they’ll they’re saying the same about you. So they can’t all be wrong. So if I die tomorrow, and there is nothing, I will not know any difference, and I’ll be dead. If I die tomorrow. And I go to the other side. I have no fear. My life is pure. And I’ve done nothing but help others and let it lead a good life. And he would like to cast the first stone I judge nobody because I’ve been there done that and got several t shirts.

K Anderson  06:50

Shall we talk about the T shirt getting the parliament? Let’s cast our minds back 2020 odd years. When was When was the first time you went to the parliament?

Lady Portia  07:03

So I was trying to work this I didn’t 38 nine. And so I was at seven. So I think around 2000 and or sorry 1996 seven ish I nearly stepped into the bar and walked right and walked out. I think 97 I did a bit of a I was a bit bit longer in and had a walk around and because obviously I’m still at school you know? And and that sort of sneaked out and just walked right over in this environment where there were all these games and it was amazing. And you know what I was like, This is gonna be my life very soon. And I’m I just can’t wait cuz I had a terrible time at school. I was bullied really badly at school. So it was great to go somewhere rose like, in like a few years time. I can come here on like these, like and then know these gay people. So I was also

K Anderson  07:52

you went the first time you went you so you were you went in. But you Wait, how could you get in?

Lady Portia  08:03

I just kind of snuck in and walked around, and then walk back out again because I was so scared.

K Anderson  08:09

Oh, like just kind of like, okay, that’s the that’s the tool. Yeah,

Lady Portia  08:15

I saw the rainbow flag. And I don’t know if you ever watched a programme called? Oh, it was it was a French programme. Oh, my goodness, what does it used to be called? And it was it was a programme with two French presenters at Eurotrash and then they and it was on Channel Four, and on a Friday night and then I’d watch it and then that was that was my early introduction to like gays and gay life and all that type of thing, because then I’d be watching that. And then I realised I put together the because you have to remember there was no internet. And it’s not like a gay pump that drops through your door. So you’re kind of having to piece together anything. So then I figured out like gay flags, like the rainbow flag meant so that was outside a bar that that was a gay bar. And as in the family car, we drove past this bar and I saw the rainbow flag and I was like, but obviously inwardly because I wasn’t I wasn’t vocalising that. So I clocked it as a kind of where it was. And then I remember going up and trying to find it. I didn’t know at the time. So I got really lost. I didn’t I didn’t know where it was, and I had to go home. And then another time I came across it and that’s when they went in and I was like you know, but also the same time it was quite dangerous, and at that particular time, and it wasn’t because I walked I walked in and I walked drawings, and then a few nights later on the news, a guy had a policeman had been shot dead and not because we were still in that we were still in the troubles. So the gay police man was there and he and he was and he was out well out of the people in there. But obviously then there had been informants or something like that there. So they knew that he was going to be in this bar. So the IRA walked in and and i’m shot the policeman dead in the middle of the bar, and then walked back out again. Oh, wow. Yeah. And I like it was it was a serious like it was a serious time. And but the thing was, although that happened, the gays did very much slipped onto the radar of the paramilitaries because a lot of the time they didn’t care whether you were Catholic, or you were Protestant, and or they didn’t care whether you were gay, they just cared whether you were Catholic or Protestant, but because this guy was a policeman, then the paramilitaries that, like, they didn’t care, they just shot him dead because he was a policeman, you know. And it was a very dangerous time, because there was either an interview with the first policeman who was ever added in the rec, which was the Royal Ulster Constabulary. And and he was added, but he couldn’t. And he had this awful time being white and gay, because he was kind of set up by other police and things like that there. And they were the ones that tried to Odom. But because the power millet because of the the troubles and all of the paramilitary and things that were going on, he was safer in the police, because of the left the protection of the police, even though he was getting such a hard time and it was a really terrible time for him. If he left the police, he wouldn’t he wouldn’t be able to get a job anywhere else because he was an ex policeman. So he would be a target to other jobs, other businesses and would want him involved. Because he would he would, he could bring a paramilitary person to come in and shoot up the office. So it was one of those things where if you were it was very brave thing to be out. And there’s there’s there’s very few policemen were right. But that same police man was the first 125 years later to lead the police march in pride about five or six years ago. So he stayed and he only retired because it got easier than it changed from the Rec. And the Ulster was taken out. And and it was called the PSM, the police force of Northern Ireland. So then that the whole that became a whole new wave of Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland policing, and minds and people’s minds. So our police and our schools, and our fire brigades and everything like that, that all changed. Our politics didn’t change, because they they didn’t want to change, but our police forces and everything else did.

K Anderson  12:44

Okay, so So, I mean, this is somewhat traumatic. So you had your first experience going into the bar digital, yeah, then left. And then a few days later, some was later shot there.

Lady Portia  12:57

Yes. What was on the news. So what happened was, I was at home, and and we were having tea in front of the television and watching the news. And like I’m eating typical Northern Irish foods, potatoes and meat, right. And there was the parliament, and there was a somebody had been had been shot dead. And then I got really frightened because I was thinking, oh my god, imagine if I hadn’t been there. Not even if I hadn’t been shocked that I got this real ice cold thinking, if I was there, I would have given the statement and then my mom and dad, because I’m under age, and then they would have been involved and then they would have known that I was there and oh my god. And so I just had this real, this real icy, icy kind of like coldness running through a fear of thinking if that hadn’t been. And then secondary was the fact that somebody was dead. I just had this pure Primal Fear of like, had I been there at that time. And then obviously, you process that and you go, Oh, my God, somebody was shot dead, you know.

K Anderson  13:57

But but so how did that impact on you going back?

Lady Portia  14:03

I was I was nervous. But I’ve always been kind of like an old head on your shoulders, I kind of thought well, that’s the only time like of all of every day on the news, somebody was shot dead or somebody was blown up. And that was the only time I ever heard of that being in in a in the in the parliament. So I kind of was able to wake up and go well, you know if that was a what if that’s a one off, I should be safe enough. And then I was always on my guard the first few times and I can remember the first time I went in for longer than just a walk in and walk out again that I always is aware of where exits were in case anything like that happened that I could run out that I wouldn’t have to give a statement. And then I got to the stage where then it just it was totally fine. You know, I didn’t I didn’t worry and I didn’t need to worry. And it was an IT WAS A an incredible time because the I had I was doing I left special needs and I was doing performing arts and I’d moved to Belfast. And I was I’ve always been so theatrical surprisingly. And I literally came out of my mother’s womb looking for a top partner key. And, you know, the maintenance or like, Where’s my, where’s my life stick analyser. And the, they didn’t have any entertainment. They just had one, the meal straight female on a Saturday afternoon in the parliament, who did karaoke from one to five. And she was sick. There was no karaoke. Right? So they didn’t have like gay entertainment. And there was no internet. And there was no guidebook as to like, what gays do your high gays behave. So we had I had gone down to Dublin for a trip with some with some friends. And we had seen this drag queens, and the thing was, back then, people like Lily Bunny and RuPaul were sometimes on things like Ricki Lake, and Amanda poor would be on those types of show me like, well, these dry queens are like, this is amazing. This is amazing. And you would see you’d see them all pop up on on those types of those types of churches. So there was in the back of my head, I was like, this is a thing, but I didn’t really know what it was and how you would do it and never, never contemplated that I would be a drag queen. So we were we were in Dublin, we saw this direction. Like, why don’t we do like why don’t like we need to do this, like we need to dress up or we need to perform. And there was one guy and have done a couple of like going out to the bar a couple of times. And then another Brett when I met my first boyfriend, he introduced me to and his set of friends and it went up was amazing. Because like they asked for I had my first wine and I had like a nice night where people just all thought round and reggae together and shattered because I only ever been with my girlfriends before. And they were straight. And then and that was all fine, too. It was it was a lovely experience. And one of them had done drag. And then a competition. Like, like for Halloween on a talent thing. People didn’t do drag to like entertain. And it was like for an event. So it was like a birthday party, they got dressed up. If it was Halloween, they got dressed up. But it wasn’t in the consciousness of the dress up and entertain. And there was one drag queen, who is still going and she’s doing 50 plus years, even through the height of the troubles. And she would do with fundraisers, and she would get dressed up and dry. Again. She’s raised over 70,000 pines and all of that time for she occasionally DJ, but didn’t didn’t have like a regular thing. They were just occasionally back her and get her to dress up. But it wasn’t there wasn’t like a here’s a drag queen come in a Tuesday. And you’ve got like Porsche doing whatever. So we went to the bar and said, Could we could we do a night? And they were kind of like, hang

K Anderson  17:54

on, hang on. Hang on. So. So how many friends went to Dublin? So there was three, three of us. And all three of you were like, Yeah, let’s do drag. No,

Lady Portia  18:04

they there was there was three years that went to Dublin. One of them was in dance troupe. And then the captain of the dance troupe was a bit older than us. And he’s the one who had done drag a couple of times. So it kind of like the dots lined up like the triangle lined up as in like we’d experienced this. Here was somebody that was just starting to do it. And he had sort of said, Why don’t you guys start to do it. And the guy who was in the dance troupe with him did it a couple of times before I did. And then we keep with the three of us all came together and just created magic. And yeah, and said, so they said to us, they were a bit sceptical, and they were like, man dressed up as women on the bar. I will give you the Sunday night, because they didn’t nothing happened on a Sunday night. So they basically did nine people in the bar the week before we started. And then we started the show. And it was a level two, there’s two floors. And they only opened the nightclub on a Friday and Saturday night. So by week four, it was so busy and so jam packed that they had to move us to the nightclub. And it was there for about a year, a year and a half. I’m there Sundays became as busy as a Saturday night. And some times it would Eclipse because there was entertainment. So then what we started to do was like a pub quiz night and a karaoke night. And when you were doing karaoke, it was all on cassette tape. All my all my shows now on my phone, I can actually rock up and hand the DJ my phone stick on that playlist, I’m ready to rock and roll. Whereas back then it was like cassette tape. So you would play and stop your song and then fast forward to the next one, play and stop so that the DJ had all the different cassettes lined up. And it had they all have to be in order because he couldn’t rewind your polls because you can’t. You couldn’t really play

K Anderson  19:54

did the machine ever chew the tape on you?

Lady Portia  19:58

I’m sure it probably did. But that was definitely You know what? And I do remember like this guy, and he was called Paul and he always had his pencil, he ordered pens, he always started doing this here with all of us, because he was winding up the weight of the reels. And then for karaoke, they were on videotape. So it’s funny night because you can almost age somebody by when you say eg coat because I post a karaoke night night. And they they would say, Have you any books, whereas there’s a certain generation that it doesn’t even enter their mind ask for a book, they just know that it will be on the detail habit. But the reason why they had the karaoke book back then was because if he wanted, I will survive, it would be tip seven, you know, like 45 minutes in. So tip, tip seven, number 43. Donna Summer, you had to fast forward to like to do whatever the time was. And if the tips weren’t rewind, then it was a nightmare. Because before you started the show, you might have, you might have 10 videotapes that were sitting there, it was playing, stop playing. So fast forward, rewind. And then those nights, they started to become busy during the week. And people would go to during the week, which they didn’t have, they never had anything happening during the week. So Tuesday nights and Thursday nights and Friday nights, they have people in the bar that that they didn’t before. And that’s when there was this real sense of I had my first sense of real community and belonging, because before that, I had been bullied at school, I had only had girlfriends, and they were great fun. And nobody really else knew that I was gay. And I wasn’t allowed back in to work in the special needs school, because the principal’s pointed that I was gay. And then here I was in the middle of all these people, and we were all having these wonderful experiences together. And you would sometimes see them in the time they wave and smile. And, and I was in I was in performing arts at college, and I was dancing and performing in the bar and doing shows in the bar. And I felt like I belonged for the first time, like I felt like outside of your family, where you just feel like you belong anyway. But I felt like this was my these were my people. And that was the first time that I’ve ever felt like this real sense of like, love and joy and being protected. And also things like there was the female and the like the toughest female football group of the time. And their name was the predators. Because literally, they would go off to do a football pitch, and everybody else would just run, right. So on the pitch, they were the they were as hard as nails, but they would come into the bar, and they were like kittens, and that you would sit in their knee and they were all hugs and kisses and they had the best time ever and, and they I can remember one of them. I was in a rented house. And I can’t remember exactly what it was. But one of them came around and fixed, like something that had broken. And then seeing that I had like a light that wasn’t that wasn’t quite right. And then she fixed. But then I kind of thought Well, isn’t that lovely? That someone that I’ve only met in a bar? And then it was this real sense of anything that you need, that somebody else has we we’re here for you. Because we’re basically all in element together, we are our own family because a lot of people who especially older than me, once they had come out, they didn’t have a family. So this thing this bar was their family. And people look people were aware of this. And they looked out for each other. So even like, even though I when when, when I’m in the bar, that’s what I tried to create. I tried to create this real sense of harmony, and there is nobody, there’s nobody colour, when I’m on than anybody else. I make a point of going to everybody and speaking to everybody and making everybody feel this. And that the nice thing is, that’s what our bar gets the feedback from is is a very, it’s a very sense of like everyone feels safe, because I tried to recreate the vibe of that what I learned that and give that to other people.

K Anderson  24:08

And so let’s circle back to you first time and drag because you’ve kind of like started a drag family quite organically quite quickly. Yeah. Yeah. And this was also at a time when there wasn’t a million YouTube tutorials on how to do make like there was nothing to know. So how did you like all like, what was that first time? Did you all come together in a room and like do each other’s makeup or how did you

Lady Portia  24:34

it was funny because I hate let me go back so Jerry and Gordon were in the dance troupe. So they were already in routines and stuff like that. Then they sort of do like little bits and pieces. I was very ballsy and loved dressing up and Trudy was doing was a fashion student. So she would make these really extravagant things and they would just wear them be like yeah, whatever. Like I’m totally In this life, so that’s how I organically just reimbursable all came together. And two were already in that dance troupe. And then I, I was friendly with Trudy through arts through the college. And then that’s how that’s how, and then we all kind of just clicked and worked. And built, right? Well, there wasn’t Geri Halliwell

K Anderson  25:20

of the group or you weren’t the one that couldn’t dance that everyone was like,

Lady Portia  25:24

Oh, I was totally the Jerry. Hello, another group. Yeah. Yeah. So stressed. I, yeah. Oh, completely, because you have to remember, the two of them were in a weekly 70s. It was called the gravy train. And they had all these really big extravagant routines, and they were all born and they didn’t have any, any experience to even when it came to rehearsal, they will go through it twice. And then let’s go. So I was always I was always kind of excited. I’d like to be behind everybody else, you know. You know, I think back then, people didn’t care as much as they would probably care. And I am and i a lot of my work that I do, I do solo so that I don’t have to learn

K Anderson  26:13

to step up.

Lady Portia  26:15

Because it’s just me. Yeah. I’ve been traumatised. Yes. That’s, that’s how we all we all came about. And then approached the board. We didn’t all sit down and go like, what’s you’re looking to be what you’re looking to be because we were three incredibly different. And we were dry characters organically. So I came out of I was a real housewife before the real housewives river thing. I had my own long blonde hair. So I was an affluent housewife who married my first husband for the title, which is why I’m lady. I am that every other husband after that I’m married for their money. And I had two children in boarding school, who I only see at Christmas, and the nanny looked after them. And I always wore pearls and very chic kind of high street clothes. And I looked like I was very, I was fishy realness before. Again, that was even a term. The the other one he was the art student, or the fashion student was very quirky and very kind of like, avant garde, a and then there was another one who was kind of a very local Belfast kind of like hair all mockers together on the garden down the road, so and then she would wear these really like extravagant, like bowl games and everything and sequins and, you know, so none of us, none of us ever blurred the lines between each other’s characters because we were very, three very individual, whereas noise, I tend to find, when dry Quinn’s are coming along, or baby dragons are coming along. They’re trying to be somebody that they sing. So they’re, I think the lovely thing is, we have the creativity to be 100% our authentic selves and what felt natural deals, because we weren’t influenced by by anything else. So I wasn’t trying to be what I was trying to be the housewives that I knew that I thought they were just so glamorous and so wonderful. That’s the only thing I was trying to emulate, but I wasn’t trying to emulate another dry queen to be a certain a certain way. Or even. And then when it came to makeup like Jesus, nobody had a clue how to do makeup or

K Anderson  28:16

courting each other with makeup or was it just like,

Lady Portia  28:20

it was funny, because we used to have with there used to be the guy that came to the to the show, and he loved it. And he was he was a weak closeted straight guy. But he was also a shoplifter. So he’s always shoplifters, three, three of everything. So that we wouldn’t argue and they would come to like the side of the stage and be like, there you are ours, we bag, they have everything pulsating, and bits and pieces of makeup. And then they would just be practised, and then find it right. And like anything, the more you do it, the better you get at it. And I never wanted my I never wanted anybody else do my makeup, because one of the other ones used to get some to do their makeup all the time. But I was like, This is my becoming a regular thing. And they’re not always available. And I can’t do it. So I want to I want to try to build the it myself. So I ended up being looking after my own heart. Yes. I ended up working as the first kneel on the cosmetics cleanser in Belfast, because I was doing a show in Boots like for children and needs for a charity event. And the area manager seeing it as like, Oh my god, I think you’d be great to come and work on the counter. So I got the job and I thought well, I’ll do it for about six months. And and it will and I’ll be able to get free makeup. I don’t know how to put on eyeshadow. And that led into like a real flourishing career. I worked for the company for about six years. And then I did all of their events around the UK and Ireland and all the training and all the all the new product launches and stuff and became really good at it. And then I became a very successful makeup artist for televisions and weddings. And at one point, I like you couldn’t book me during a journey. The wedding season and sometimes I was doing like two weddings back to back. And then I ran the the cosmetics, cancer charity as well through through all of that. So it was a lovely, it was an amazing stepping stone because I’m always a great believer, everything happens for a reason. And I would never have had I would never have thought about working in cosmetics only I was in boots, the shop and which is like a cosmetic stores for anyone that isn’t it’s kind of like a pharmacy store that has a cosmetics hole. So I that’s why that’s why I was in there. And they were fundraising for a charity event. Otherwise, who knows where where I would have been or what my what my other career would have been to the that led into me learning how to do makeup. And then over time we got we got better at doing it ourselves.

K Anderson  30:47

And so this this the three of you. Do you remember your first performance?

Lady Portia  30:54

Yes, so I did. And I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me. Charlene clan. I also because I love it. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. And then I also did we did do two numbers. And then I also did share strong enough.

K Anderson  31:12

Ah, okay.

Lady Portia  31:13

Yeah. And then we had a big group number, which I know I can’t remember what our what our first finale number was. We did, we did a number each played a game. And it was gay your cards right? There was play your cards, right? But we called it get your cards right with the big screen and the big playing cards, and higher lower and all that type of thing. And then and we would do another number each. And then a finale number and that was that was the that was the show.

K Anderson  31:42

And what was the feeling when that show was over.

Lady Portia  31:46

And it was it. Because we’ve been rehearsing for a while. And we’ve been talking about it for a while. And I was going like doing like little bits and pieces here. And I’m walking about and dry. And you know, like half the time, because I have my own long blonde long hair. Everyone thought I was a woman anyway. So if I really want them to live, I have the time in a form of drag a woman during the during the day, you know. And you wouldn’t get away with it. Well, you probably would get away with at night. And but it like people just didn’t think didn’t think to check because they saw you they people back then seeing what they believed. So if they if they seen this woman walked down the street, they would never even have comprehended that that was actually a man walking down the street that was dressed like a woman I remember once my house would be the party host because I was very close to where the bar was. People would come back to my house, and we’d have parties and they would go on all day and all night. And then and people started to sober up. And they lived on a flashpoint area. And that meant that you had Catholics on one side, Protestants on the other and when they bought arrived and then the we were the we were like the Flashpoint no man, no man’s land where they were, they would fight. So I lived in a private square. And there was one way in one way out. So if they were rioting at the at the front of the square, we couldn’t get we couldn’t get out the back because they use the back alley, where they kept all of their kind of like mortars and petrol bombs and all that type of thing. So people were at the house, everyone was starting to sober up, there was no alcohol. It was a Sunday. And I was like, Don’t worry, I’ll go to the shop. So I kind of like juiced up my hair. And I put on like this like we sweetheart neckline. blacktop a wee black jacket, and then like these black flowy trousers, lipstick, walked through the middle of them right as fucking boulders, brass walk the middle of all these big Rough Riders who are killing each other. And they all it was like the part of the Dead Sea because a woman had arrived. And they didn’t think to question at all. But this was a man. So that was like the parting of the Dead Sea. I walked through the middle of all of the rioters walked into the shop where it was like a myth that had an off licence on the food. And the girl behind the counter was a lesbian and she knew me and she literally shut herself and she came over and she was like, Oh my God because then the off licence there was filled with writers because they were all getting their drink to the riot. I’m in there just come home Why and realised she is in the hole at the end. Nice one for this basket. I don’t get beers and I’ll get this. So she came over and she’s like, I don’t want to open your mouth. don’t you speak? I looked at the tail whenever you’re ready. And I said that’s fine. No worries. So I got everything that I had to get and I went over to the tail and she took the money and and I didn’t have to I didn’t have to speak because public speaking would have given it away. And I went back going through the middle of all the riders they all separated. And I this weekend like black Brown. And I kind of thought, you know what they’ve been, they’ve been very gracious. Give them a wee flash. So I literally once I got to my gate, I just turned around and I lifted my top. But again, I just had to be black Brown, we padded bras, they didn’t see that there was nothing there and they were all gone. Yeah. And they were here and then I will end through my back gate. we boarded up the back gate, and with our like, literally arms and drink. And I was like the party continues. All is great.

K Anderson  35:29

Okay, so quick follow up question. Yes, you would you do that today?

Lady Portia  35:35

No. Because I know in advance to stop my high school and drink.

K Anderson  35:45

Oh, good for planning. Yes. But seems like this, this rioting? Is it basically just people getting drunk and like,

Lady Portia  35:58

it’s kind of like, yeah, it’s kind of like, it was starting to filter right? Like Peter I, whenever I was there, I was there for but and not the house for like eight or nine years on probably for the first five or six, it was really bad. But then after that, it kind of annoyed at night. And I thought that but it was kind of like a territory kind of, you know, we’re right, you’re wrong, you’re wrong, we’re right type thing. And, and then they would just fight. And then it’s funny, they never really fought in bad weather, it was always around good weather. And sometimes I just sort of thought, I think they almost were like, Well, we’ve been doing this for years, it might as well keep up the tradition, you know, that type of way. And, and sometimes you wouldn’t even know what the we’re on. Sometimes they were riot, if something had happened to say like one side felt they were wronged. But it could have been in a completely different community than they would have all come out and fought, you know, or vice or vice versa. Or maybe something happened, or maybe the police had said something to the wrong person or you know, and then all of a sudden, they would just they would come out. And it would be two or three days. And also I remember because I was the back of the square. And, and then there was like riots season. So during the 12th of July marching season is known as Riot season because they’d be marching and they marched through certain areas, and there would be riots. And all this, too, because I was along the back of the square. And you couldn’t you couldn’t see from the from the streets of the army tanks would park up there. And what I would do was that they would sometimes be there for three or four days at a time in case a riot broke out that they could that they could jump into action. So I used to put my stereo on the windowsill of my living room. And I would go out at night and do shows for the army. And you know, the way they’ve got the big those big army tanks have the floodlights. So I would dance between the armoured tanks, like along the street, and each one would put the spotlight on and it was kind of like my spotlight. And people in the street would make them lunch and Nick them cups of tea and three or four houses might go well, we’ll take them because maybe in a in a tank and we’re like, we’ll we’ll make tea for this for this time. Can you make tea for that tank? And here’s some some images. Here’s some biscuits here’s, here’s Marcus like to dance up and down the street for you. So as well, no, I didn’t I didn’t bless him, but I did. I did do cartwheels.

K Anderson  38:28

That’s impressive.

Lady Portia  38:29

Yeah. That was funny as well, because because I was so feminine as well, that there was a time that somebody was trying to break into the back of the house. And we had I had friends upstairs and we were mixed twice. So we were at college. And we were there because it was cheap, obviously, because you’re on a flashpoint area. And you know, so it’s the only place that we could afford, and suddenly was trying to get end to break through the host to get away from the police. So everybody started to really panic. And I went to I just, I had this Japanese long dress and going that my brother had got from China time from somewhere on his travels. And I’d like these black trousers and we just a black backdrop. And I very quickly stuck a pillow up my jumper and I took my hair right. And I and then I just pleaded with the guy not to come in. And I said that I was in my very late stages of pregnancy. And it was really bad. I had been really bad pregnancy and that I was very worried. And that he he was frightening me. And if I just kept the lights off, would he be happy just to hide out in the back garden until the police left? And he said yes. And literally and he left a cigarette and rowlocks there and came back three days later knocked the door and was here. I think I left my release out. You’re back.

K Anderson  39:48

Back for them. Wow. Why would you just write it off, right? Oh, yeah, no. So let’s go back to the parliament. Yeah, let’s talk about boys and

Lady Portia  40:02

snugging. And oh my goodness. So it was amazing because I had my first public, like, snug. And there and I remember going out with with my, my barber because he, I was wearing my school uniform and into the barber shop and he was gay. And I was like, wait. He’s got the highlights who’s gonna embarrass topless piercings we really count on. Oh, my God, I just think he’s amazing. So he went to the same school that I did. And he happened to see see my uniform. So then we struck up this little bit of a friendship. And I would always go in there and get my hair cut by him. And he was called Ricardo and he was, he was very, it was just so cool. And then whenever I left school, and was, he said that I want to go up, he was going out one night to the parliament. And my mom and dad were away for the weekend. And because I was a very sensible, like, I was a very sensible child, like, my friends and I were in like drama groups together. So we didn’t go out and stand on street corners and drink cider. We had wine and cheese parties, and got the finest wine, darling. And then we would watch Sunset Beach, which was, which was an American soap opera, when channel five was out. And it was five hours, we’d have Sunset Beach wine parties. So mom and dad knew that it wasn’t really like and obviously, I was quite flamboyantly gay, so it wasn’t really like I was gonna have girls right and get them pregnant. And I didn’t give them any form of concern. So they had gone away. And I think I was sort of like 17 and I was in the house, then on my own. So I had a free night. So Ricardo took me up for a proper night where I was able to stay out. Because before that, I had only gone in and kind of walked around. I’ve never actually got to go as a full night. And I ended up and getting off with this guy, and he was really tall, and it was really masculine, and he looked a bit like Buzz Lightyear. But before Buzz Lightyear was even this big jaw and everything. And then he I remember he was still tall, and I still see of Nye, and I think he’s in his I think he’s in a step these 930 and a still he still has that real handsome look about him. But it was amazing because then we snowed and snowed and snowed and snowed. And then we end up in the toilet cubicle. And nothing dramatic happened. It was just kind of like we both kind of like hunter Willie’s like and stuff like that there. And I was like, great.

K Anderson  42:36

So your first, your first.

Lady Portia  42:40

Oh, no, I had other other little dalliances I had been, I remember being a Bible Come on having getting off of one of the big guys and Bible camp and was like, rubbed up and dying each other. So I had experienced that like, but this is my first time, like, in a bar, where we then it wasn’t really a secret. And it wasn’t really for them. We left the cubicle, we snagged and bumbled for a bit. And then we went back out and danced and snug for the rest of the night. And then I had to go back going to I had to go back home because my parents, obviously were coming back the next day was they were coming back into Sunday.

K Anderson  43:12

And then and then never again.

Lady Portia  43:15

With him, I’m trying to think and I think we maybe had like a couple of weeks snugs every every so often, but nothing, nothing really, that that nature and with him again. But what I will, whenever I went there, I it was nice, because I used to get a snub all the time, you know, whenever you’re you’re sort of like you have your youth. And either you’ll snug anything or you’re more attractive to people. I don’t know. Yeah. So I didn’t really I was not like them. And it was great. Because what I would do, because I and I’m still like this, I’m a great bottom line, you know, don’t I don’t care about the five or you know, tell me the information that you need me to know. And then I will give you an answer. And then that’s it. Right? So I was, but I’ve always been very like that. It’s like, just get straight to the point. So my child upline used to be I would walk up to people, and I would go, are you single? And they’d be like, yeah, like he wants to snug? And then either say yes or no. And if they said, Yes, we would start smoking. So you didn’t have to worry about small talk and have to worry about like, having a drink and that awkward, you know, that awkward sort of like? Yeah, and then the thing is, if you if you know, I, if you snore, can you get that out of the way, automatically, you’re comfortable in each other’s company. So you can go to the bar, and you can get a drink, and you can snore where they’re getting you to your drink, and you can still while you’re drinking it worse, if you don’t do that initial kind of, let’s get the sort of elephant out of the room, then it’s always going to be there. No one quite knows when to do so just bottom line up. And if they if they said no, I’d be like, Oh, well tear it off. And they

K Anderson  44:56

say not something I said. I mean, like, yeah, I’m tired. Lay down for this kind of straight straight up. Like, let’s just Yes, this is doing, but just not something kind of exquisite about that awkwardness.

Lady Portia  45:09

I don’t know, I’m not a fan of awkwardness. So I was just like, right, let’s, let’s get the awkwardness out of the way. And if it works, we’ll have a drink and we’re more relaxed each other’s company.

K Anderson  45:20

Oh, I quite enjoy that line. Cool. Let’s just kind of let them see what happens. And let me just hang out here this discomfort.

Lady Portia  45:30

I think what it is I never really know. Not obviously, I do know how to make them first move, because obviously, that’s my chatter plane. But you know, if it gets past a certain point, then when when do you do it, even though everything is a theme, and then he hasn’t come? He hasn’t made a move? I haven’t made a move. Is he not into me? Does he think I’m not into him? And then you get this kind of like, no one really knows what to do, you know, that type of thing. So I just know, I just let’s get through to the goods. And then we can enjoy the merriment after that. But how

K Anderson  46:05

often did it happen where you had like this really good, snug? And then you were like, Okay, well, let’s go and have a drink. And then let’s talk. And then they talked and you were like, Oh, god, you’re

Lady Portia  46:16

boring, huh? Well, the thing is, yeah, it would like a drink. And then because at that time, you don’t really care. So you like you have a drink with somebody? And you’re like, man, Okay, moving on to somebody else. And then No, I wouldn’t even think of one because of just who I am. And I, I wouldn’t really snug in public. So I would really snug because I work in the media as well. So I don’t really snug openly in bars, and usually the bars I work in the bar, so I hit that hole golf and all that type of thing. So back then, it wouldn’t even if he asked me to snug three or four different guys in the bar in the same night at different ends of the bar. No, I am horrified if I even know one. And that’s that’s why I kind of know I’m drunk. And it’s funny because the bar stuff always No, because I don’t really go out that much. And drink. Because I drive to all of the games. And I would never ever ever drive ever kissed anybody or have sex with anybody in Drive. It’s totally not my my thing at all. So if I never I as a guy, then and that, then it’s I think I get past certain points and you know, you like your, because you drink it and the website and then the bar staff know if I actually smoke anybody. They’ll be like, Oh, for sure blow or she’s drunk, because she’s just knowing somebody in the bar.

K Anderson  47:39

Okay, so the so the burning question I have is what was your strike rate?

Lady Portia  47:42

I think literally, I think, you know, it was maybe like one and five said no. Oh, yeah. That’s because I think also you disarm people. And and then you go, because you say would you like a snog? And I’m like, Oh, yeah. Okay, you know, they didn’t really have time to think, yes, they were different. And if they say no, and it was so funny, because I can remember once saying, This guy, and I said, Look, just because I have a boyfriend, I guess I don’t care. So he was like, okay, so that him and I started smoking. And then his boyfriend came over and joined in this note as well. And I was like, Oh my god, can three people kiss at once this new experience? I didn’t even think this is possible, but I’m not just like

K Anderson  48:32

oh, sir. Okay, so how do you do it? So it is pleasurable for all three people because I always find it super awkward. Oh, I love what I love three way snogging. But I don’t like to. Okay, so there’s not like, you don’t have to have your nose in a certain position?

Lady Portia  48:50

No, no, it’s kind of like, if you think of it, it’s like three sides of a triangle. And then kind of like, tongs are going into different spaces and places and, you know, so not there’s not one time that the dominant tongue of like, it’s like, it’s like little moves. And one of those things that you’re like walk more than one like one day in one day.

K Anderson  49:10

Or like Hungry Hungry Hippos.

Lady Portia  49:14

That might that might be a bit dangerous if there’s two different modes chattering

K Anderson  49:19

balls in that game as well, sir. Yeah, okay, I’m taking.

Lady Portia  49:23

But it was so funny because on that particular chat applying, I met my first ever boyfriend. And I was at I was in the bar. And I was sitting at the bar chatting when having great fun. And I was sitting on Well, this is what he tells me that I was sitting under a light and Madonna’s song, beautiful stranger was on. And whatever way I was sitting, I was just perfectly lit and he walked into the bar, and he heard beautiful stranger, and he walked up and down the bar twice to catch my eye. And then on the second or third time that he walked it on, he caught my eye and he ended up kind of like I goes Hi, how are you? Hi. And then, but I was I was chatting to somebody at the bar. And so then A while later on, and he was he came out of the toilets, and I was in this little sort of corner, and they walked past and he caught my eye again, and I caught his eye. But this time, he was actually walking past me. So I just did my face angle. And he’s like, Yeah, actually, I am. And I said, Would you like to snorkelling because I’d love to snug. So then we started snuggling up against the wall. And he had a bottle of beer in his hand, and he let go of the bottle of beer, and it smashed behind me so that he could have both arms to embrace me. And I remember at the time thinking, that lovely he just dropped his drink just so that we can snow better. And we went out for a few years. But it was funny because I lived out of the city. He lived out to the city and I would go when I was trading in special needs my college within the city, so we would meet up in the parliament, because it was a restaurant as well. So we would meet up in the there on a Tuesday because that was my that was my in college training day. So we would have lunch together and be able to hold hands and snug and stuff.

K Anderson  51:11

And like so like in the middle of the day in Yeah. Do you like Belfast? Yeah, massive, isn’t it? Indeed, yeah. So do you remember hearing about the parliament closing?

Lady Portia  51:28

We left the parliament’s before it closed as as the parliament and because they got like anything, people get very greedy. So the owners were seeing as a Qashqai, and they were making a fortune of money. So for example, we had to put put out our own tables and chairs. So it was in the dumps that like the nightclub, and they would make up our own seats and tablecloths and tea lights, and, and then we had to clear away the seats, tables and chairs, could you imagine send the Drag Queens NY? Yeah, we’ve organised the show for you. But you have to create the tables and chairs, like first, they’d be like, 40, away, oh, I’ll go to somewhere else. But we had to do that, then they got this sponsor, and we never saw any money. And they were, we were that we were paid this really pittance wage, which we never got put up. And even though we had moved upstairs, and back then we weren’t really, we didn’t really clear, like, you guys are lifting 1000s of pounds. And you literally give enough 60 quid ahead, you know, and, and that, that, and, you know, you have a sponsor who’s giving you free drinks. And we were meant to have a bottle of alcohol as a giveaway each week, and which, which was given to them for free. They kept that and put that into stock. And, you know, so and it got to the point where we decided just to leave and we were allowed to up our we were like to up our wages because we sold raffle tickets to get into play the game of get your cards right. So it was a pipe we we would come out and do some cabaret and do some stand up on the mics and eigene the unsession then we would take a break and sale, the raffle tickets to see who was going to play your cards right. So it meant we were like to keep that money minus a fiver because that had to go into the jackpot, which was fine. So then we split up whatever was like, like our tips. But it got to the point where we were putting like the fiver in every week, and they weren’t they weren’t biting it. So are they weren’t they weren’t like putting into the pot. And they were just keep doing it. And then it got to the point where it rolled over and rolled over and rolled over. And sometimes it was at 100 points, 150 points, and then they would go right you’re gonna have to start paying the jackpot or you’re out of your room Winans. We’re not paying anymore. And then it was kind of like right, when you’re making a fortune off the back of us. We’re you’re the prize that he or she has to give away. You’re keeping and you’re making us even though we pay for the price, you’re making us pay that all in all in one go. I have our I have our wages, and then we were just like math. Sorry.

K Anderson  54:11

Did you ever go to the parliament will if you did, I would love for you to reach out to me over social media and share any photos or anecdotes or stories that you have. You can find me under the user handle K and in music on most platforms, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, all the usual. And you can also find out more about lady Porsche by following her on Instagram, under the username lady EP and a lot of spaces is not only a podcast, but a concept record as well. I’ve been writing songs about queer venues and the people who used to live their lives there, and we’ll be releasing songs over the next year. You can hear the first song well groomed boys, which is also playing underneath. My talking right now on all streaming platform. If you like this episode I would really appreciate if you subscribe, left a review on Apple podcasts or just told people who you think might be interested to. I am K Anderson and you have been listening to lost spaces.







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