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David Hoyle in Conversation

David Hoyle image by Lee Baxter

A pillar of the UK’s queer scene, David Hoyle is infamous for his politically searing, brutally funny brand of ‘anti-drag’. On 12 April he takes on a new role – as gameshow host and compère of The Gender Agenda, the latest LS commission from RPS-award-winning composer Philip Venables, exploring contemporary gender issues.

We caught up with David to find out his ‘gender agenda’…

We can’t wait for The Gender Agenda – are you excited to be hosting? 

It’s very exciting – I’m really looking forward to it! It’s new and it’s original, although it draws on the familiar gameshow format…

Are you a fan of gameshows generally? 

I did love The Generation Game – Larry Grayson, Bruce Forsyth and Bob Monkhouse were the masters of the art. And Bob Monkhouse was actually an inspiration for me – a lot of what I do is improvised and Bob was one of the great on-stage extemporisers. He would often ask the audience for words and then he’d make a story out of them. I do this in my act too, but I make up a song instead.

You’ve worked with Philip Venables before for Illusions. How did that come about?

Philip had a commission from the London Sinfonietta, and he approached me and asked me to be involved, which was wonderful. We filmed it in my friend Lee’s flat in Manchester which had the shiny curtains to give it that glam effect. Being a part of the performance up in Hull with the London Sinfonietta, and hearing Illusions played on BBC Radio 3 was one of the high points of my life. 

Hearing Illusions played on BBC Radio 3 was one of the high points of my life


What draws you to Philip Venables’ work?

Oh well I love his intellect and his focus. It’s very dynamic and has a very high visual impact. He’s embraced the avant-garde and you can really see that in his work. It’s hard for most of us to have one foot in the military industrial complex and one foot in the avant-garde – at some point we have to choose one otherwise we’d all end up doing the splits! And I’m not flexible enough for that.

Indeed – sounds painful!

What guise are we going to see you in as our host for The Gender Agenda?

Well I haven’t decided what to wear yet – it could either be something I cobble together, or I may wear one of Rick Owens’ wonderful costumes for a bit of glitz and glamour.

What tips can you give to the gameshow contestants?

Be open, be trusting and be aware that by taking part you’ll have your place in history. Because what we are doing is to do with change – we’re trying to improve society. So just to be mindful of that, really.


What we're doing is to do with change – we're trying to improve society...


What do you think needs to change about the way our society approaches gender – your ‘Gender Agenda’ if you will? 

Expectations that we might place on ourselves and others about how to behave. To stop judging people by the antiquated binary system which is at best unintelligent and at worst cruel and murderous. It needs to be eradicated. It’s ridiculous that human beings force other human beings to be as boring, banal, and brutal as they are. As poet Travis Alabanza says; “there are as many genders on this planet as there are people.”

And are you hopeful about the future in terms of how we see gender? 

Oh, definitely! When we’re facing nuclear annihilation, no one’s that bothered about a bit of make-up! Boys are picking up pink dresses and putting them on and it’s not causing their parents to have a mental breakdown, whereas it would have when I was a child. I look to the trans community for inspiration. Travis Alabanza, Lysander Dove and Benjamin Butch are all doing amazing things. 

David Hoyle hosts the world premiere of The Gender Agenda on Thursday 12 April at Queen Elizabeth Hall. 

Image by Lee Baxter 

Published: 4 Apr 2018