York drag diva Velma Celli’s on your telly for online fundraiser for St Leonard’s Hospice

Velma Celli: Adding more than a little sparkle to lockdown

VELMA Celli, York’ very own globe-strutting drag diva, will host a special fundraising concert for St Leonard’s Hospice live from her kitchen on Saturday night to “add a little sparkle to lockdown while helping this great cause”. 

Ian Stroughair, the alter-ego of fabulous cabaret creation Velma, returned to self-isolate in his native York directly from a tour of Australia, since when he has joined a host of fellow West End performers to create a season of online streamed concerts from their own homes. 

In the wake of Velma’s successful Leave A Light On concert, when viewers tuned in from York, London and even as far afield as New York, Ian decided to organise an intimate gig in support of St Leonard’s Hospice, in Tadcaster Road, York.

“Unfortunately, too many of us have seen the amazing work of the team at St Leonard’s Hospice first hand, as loved ones, including my mum, spent time there as cancer was making life increasingly difficult for them,” says Ian, who presents The Velma Celli Show at The Basement, City Screen, York, each month.

“I’ve always wanted to find a way to support the hospice, and this seems like the perfect opportunity. With so many conventional fundraising events postponed due to the lockdown, this is a great way for people to support the hospice while enjoying a fantastic, fun and fruity evening of live music in their own living room.” 

Ian’s glittering cabaret queen has starred in such self-originated shows as A Brief History Of Drag, Equinox – Something Fabulous This Way Comes and Me And My Divas, as well as The Velma Celli Show.

Diva Velma’s repertoire takes inspiration from many of the best female vocalists of the past 75 years, from Judy Garland to Lady Gaga and beyond. “So there’s something for everyone – including hilarious impersonations of the voices and peculiar mannerisms – of some of pop music’s most famous stars,” Ian says.  “Unlike many drag queens, Velma always performs live, adding her own special spin to familiar songs.”

Tickets for Saturday’s event are available from https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/velma-celli-is-live-in-secret-york-venue-tickets/10574895, priced at £7.  “With all proceeds going to St Leonard’s Hospice, we’re hoping that each person watching will buy a ticket, rather than one ticket for the whole room!” requests Ian.

Online audience members will receive a link to watch the performance 30 minutes before the 8pm show, which can be streamed on a PC or internet-enabled smart TV.

Velma Celli: From her kitchen to your living room on Saturday night

Charles Hutchinson asks Ian Stroughair/Velma Celli for quick answers to quick questions in the build-up to Saturday’s gig.

Where are you playing this online show? In York or are you back in London now?

“Darling, I’m in Bishy Bishopthorpe. I came up a week before lockdown.”

Why did you choose a kitchen as the performance space for Saturday’s stream?

“It’s the biggest room and better acoustically.” 

Describe your kitchen. Colour scheme? Favourite kitchen gadget?

“We are white and grey in our kitchen. Gadget? Bottle opener (obvs!).”

What do you most like about kitchens?

“I love kitchens ’cos I’m a mean cook. Not a bitchy one, just very good! I actually wanted to be a chef, that was the plan. I love to bake.”

What’s your favourite dish you make? 

“At the moment, my favourite thing is a custard cake. It’s my great friends Eliza and Suzie’s grandma Dot’s recipe and it’s heavenly.”

Any tips for cooking in lockdown?

“Get creative with what’s in and try not to over-shop.”

How have you been coping with lockdown in York? What are you doing to fill your days?

“I’m coping well. I have my moments because I travel so much with work. I’m cycling a lot and writing.”

Are you good in total isolation? 


What are you missing most in lockdown?

“Being with my friends and family.”

What had you been doing this year before lockdown struck?  

“I toured Australia with my latest show, which was amazing. I also went on the Atlantis Gay cruise around New Zealand and just lots of fabulous gigs in the U.K.”

What was in your 2020 diary that you now can’t do?

So many gigs – and I was supposed to open and star in Funny Girls in Blackpool for a few months.” 

Why are you doing this concert for St Leonard’s Hospice?

“St Leonard’s Hospice cared for my Mum in her last days. It’s a fantastic facility in York that – since Mum’s passing – I try to support as much as I can because they are utterly fabulous.

“The staff are like living angels. I am in awe of them.”

How did the Leave A Light On show go?  When was it broadcast?

“I did it as a solo show on April 2 and it was so much fun. Special shout-out to Eliza and Jamie at Lambert Jackson Productions for their involvement. They’re awesome.”

What songs will you be performing this weekend and why?

“Ooooo, don’t want to spoil the surprise! There’ll be some Queen, Gaga, Judy [Garland] and many more.”

Will there be any special new additions on an isolation theme?

“Yes! A Nirvana classic but re-written lyrically.”

Which one? Maybe that new President Trump Covid-19 favourite Smells Like White Spirit?

“That’s it. Bang on the sentiment.”  

What length will the show be? Any guests?

“One hour. I’ll have the insanely talented Twinnie joining me, though safely apart. She’s up in York at her Mum’s for lockdown. Her album Hollywood Gypsy just came out and it’s amazing!

York country singer Twinnie: Velma Celli’s special guest on Saturday

“She hasn’t decided on what else she’ll performing yet, but most likely we’ll do an album track together too.”

I know just the song! May I suggest her candid yet candied single Better When I’m Drunk?

“Perfect. That’s the one. Whoop!”

Finally, how will you celebrate when you can perform on a stage again, in front of an audience?

“By being ready and raising my game.”

To listen to York country singer Twinnie’s debut album, Hollywood Gypsy, last week’s BBC Radio 2 album of the week, go to: https://twinnie.lnk.to/hollywoodgypsyWE

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