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Exhibition – Twiggy – The Drag Market

Image based on Twiggy poster with picture of Twiggy incorporated into text
Images of Twiggy over the last forty years incorporated into text Twiggy's name | © unknown

In this new exhibition, follow Twiggy’s journey from inspired shop assistant in the early 1980s at the well-loved Birmingham punk shop Kahn and Bell, to the powerhouse of flamboyance they are today, defying boundaries of gender and stereotype.

Over the past two hundred years there has been a diverse mix of communities in Birmingham’s Southside, with tailoring and fashion being a common theme and a big influence for many, including the Back to Backs last business owner, George Saunders, who ran a very successful tailors’ shop in the area. In the 1980s, the punk shop, Kahn and Bell, just a few doors away from the Back to Backs, sat at the centre of Birmingham’s alternative and punk scene. Kahn and Bell was an inspiration to countless people and the start of Twiggy’s fabulous story.

What is the exhbition about?

Twiggy - The Drag Market is an exploration of the creative process behind one of the best-known personas of Birmingham’s Queer scene and features costumes and photography from the past forty years.

A highly skilled costume maker, Twiggy has been creating original and dramatic outfits themselves for over 35 years. These outfits are then brought to life through their love of theatrics and performance, piecing together music tracks, along with witty and acerbic commentary.

Costumes and shoes on display at the new Birmingham Back to Backs Twiggy, The Drag Market exhibition
Costumes and shoes on display at the new Birmingham Back to Backs Twiggy, The Drag Market exhibition | © Tegen Kimbley

Inspiration

Twiggy’s fearless fashion grew from a love of sewing and performance. Many outfits were inspired by 1940s Hollywood, with a particular fondness for stars such as Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Visitors can view a selection of these costumes, worn at various Pride events across the country, on show at the exhibition.

Opening times and location

The exhibition opens Friday 26 January and runs until end of May. It is free to enter and visitors do not need to have been on a tour of the Back to Backs. Viewing times are Tuesday and Wednesday 1pm – 5pm, Thursday to Saturday 10am – 5pm and Sundays 10:30am – 5pm. The entrance to the exhibition space is via the second-hand bookshop, located on Hurst Street.

Birmingham Back to Backs, Twiggy, The Drag Market (2024). Photographer, Tegen Kimbley-103
Image from new Back to Backs Twiggy - The Drag Market exhibition with black and white dove pattern costume | © Tegen Kimbley

As an instantly recognisable figure of Birmingham’s nightlife and Pride celebrations, Twiggy is a legend of Birmingham’s LGBTQ+ community. We hope the exhibition will be nostalgic for many people who have followed Twiggy’s work, and for others, it will provide a wonderful insight into a vibrant chapter in Birmingham’s history.