YORK drag diva deluxe Velma Celli is to host the Beer Necessities marquee entertainment at Yorktoberfest, York’s newly expanded beer festival on Knavesmire.
The fabulous cabaret creation of West End musical star Ian Stroughair will be on song on October 21 and October 28 to 31, with two sittings on the Saturday (30/10/2021), but is unavailable for the sessions on October 22 and 23.
Yorktoberfest will follow in the traditions of the first Oktoberfest staged in Munich in 1810, bringing beer, bratwurst and oompah to a giant Bavarian-styled beer tent in the Clocktower Enclosure at York Racecourse, complemented by a vintage funfair.
October 29 and 30 festival sessions have sold out already but tickets are available for other sessions at the new event run by North Yorkshire co-producers Johnny Cooper, chief executive officer of Coopers Marquees, and James Cundall, CEO of Jamboree Entertainment.
Billed as “the UK’s queen of vocal drag”, with diva devotees at New York and Australian clubs, the London Hippodrome and Edinburgh Fringe, Velma Celli will be joined in Yorktoberfest’s entertainment line-up by the New York Brass Band, from…York.
They will be stepping into the de rigueur Lederhosen and Dirndls to take on a new persona as the New York Oompah Brass Band. Expect thigh-slapping, foot-stomping Oktoberfest tunes to be added to their repertoire of feel-good disco classics.
Dancing will be encouraged, as it has been for more than 200 years of Oktoberfests, aswill be the wearing of Lederhosen, Dirndls or any other fancy dress, with nightly competitions and prizes for the best dressed.
The Bavarian Bar will serve authentic German beer, wines, prosecco and spirits or soft drinks for those who prefer not to “hop”. German-inspired food stalls will serve sausages, schnitzels and pretzels, plus vegan and vegetarian options.
Funfairs are an integral part of German Oktoberfests. Consequently, Yorktoberfest will have its own traditional funfair with thrills on the Dodgems, Twister, Speedway and Chair-o-Plane.
Tickets for Yorktoberfest are on sale through ticketsource.co.uk/yorktoberfest, priced at £15 per person for unreserved seating, a reserved table of six for £90 and a VIP table of six for £135, situated closest to the stage with table service. Please note, a booking fee applies; tickets also will be sold at the entrance, subject to availability.
Co-producer Johnny Cooper says: “We’re looking forward to seeing one of our biggest marquees at 160 metres long, installed on Knavesmire and themed with all things Bavarian, including a stage, bespoke thatched wooden barns, flags galore and generally everything needed for a great night out.”
Co-producer James Cundall adds: “We’re determined to bring events to York that people can enjoy after the long months of Covid restrictions, and with sessions selling out already, it seems there is demand for an autumn cheer-up event.
“Yorktoberfest promises to be an evening of hearty fun, with beer, bands and bratwurst, not to mention a drag queen. Dust off the fancy-dress outfits and come along!”
Meanwhile, now roosting back in York since the first lockdown, rather than in his adopted home of London, Velma Celli/Ian Stroughair has a diary filling up with engagements, ranging from the Pelton Arms in London (the pub used for exterior shots in Only Fools And Horses) to the Ian Stroughair Jazz Band’s jazz and blues gigs at Nola, the new York jazz restaurant at the former Rustique in Lendal; next up on October 5.
After a summer and September on call to fill in for star turn Betty Legs Diamond at Funny Girls shows in Blackpool – where Ian/Velma trained, “watching Betty for 20 years” – Velma will be hosting her regular Impossible Drag Brunch slots at the Impossible York Wonderbar, in St Helen’s Square, on October 2, November 6 and December 4 at 12 noon and 2.30pm each Saturday afternoon, with a Christmas theme to the December shows.
In further Impossible York outings, look out for full-scale solo performances of The Velma Celli Show on October 15, November 19 and with a Christmas flavour on December 17, all at 7.30pm.
The October gig will be a “Halloweenish” version of Velma’s Equinox show, the one with “witches, creeps and freaks”. “I’ll be doing Hocus Pocus, I Put A Spell On You, Radiohead’s Creep, A Thousand Years from Twilight, and plenty more Halloween gore,” says Velma.
Coming up for Ian will be Velma Celli shows on Atlanta Cruises’ ships to Florida and Miami and, hopefully, but yet to be confirmed, a York performance of Ian/Velma’s new tribute show to David Bowie, Irreplaceable, with a three-piece band.
“I’ve only done it in Southampton so far, but I’m looking to do a small-scale performance in York,” says Ian. “I’m meeting York Stage director Nik Briggs – I played Fleshcreep in his York Stage panto, Jack And The Beanstalk, last winter – about the possibility of presenting the show here.”
Tickets for Velma Celli’s Impossible York shows are on sale via impossibleyork.com/wonderbar