ROWDY audiences are all par for the course according to Ross-on-Wye drag queen Charlie Barton who makes the remarkable claim that this profession can help sufferers with social anxiety.

In Charlie’s view, Herefordshire has not yet fully embraced drag, but now that the accomplished 18-year-old has been chosen as local representative in the major Drag UK finals, the performance art could well prove a crowd-puller in this area.

Charlie’s introduction to drag came through a series of inspiring videos, over the past three years developing an entertaining style. Inspiration along the way has come from Gloucestershire’s Queen Misty Monique and the hugely successful Spiky Van Dykey whose drag ‘king’ shows play to audiences all over America.

“I’ve been involved in musical theatre from the age of seven,” says Charlie, who has grown up “all over the place” including Gloucester, Monmouth and Hereford.

In Gloucester, where drag has become an everyday part of the entertainment scene, ‘Miss Charlii’ is a popular performer appearing in nightclubs, cabarets, pubs and rugby clubs, once even appearing by request at a friend’s funeral.

The drag queen’s outfits are “simple” to offset the often spectacular and varied make-up.

Among the performer’s fans are Charlie’s mum, Gayle, and grandmother, Jean.

“My mum taught me how to sew my costumes and Nan bought me my first wig,” says Miss Charlii. “My mum and dad are both supportive.”

A drag artiste has to be prepared for all comers.

“Once in a while you’ll get a rowdy audience,” says Charlie. Surprisingly, the challenge has proved a confidence booster.

“It’s helped me get over my anxiety, I have suffered with severe social anxiety.” Now Charlie wants others to take up the challenge. “It can help with mental health.”

Doing drag should be seen in a serious light, Charlie argues. “Drag is an amazingly positive thing and deserves recognition as an artform. It isn’t just a man in a dress, it’s a lot of hard work.

As part of Drag UK, the Herefordshire drag queen is raising funds for Sands, Stillbirth & Neonatal charity.

In April Charlie is planning a charity event in the county in support of the Ehlers-Danlos Society.

“It’s a rare genetic condition close to my heart.”

The condition has even caused the performer to fall on stage and dislocate a knee. But that doesn’t stop Charlie Barton.

“Do I enjoy drag? I love it!”