6 mins


A face-painted battler unbeaten. A stark, masked figure in an apocalyptic industrial setting. An explosion of colour in an oilstained garage. Veda is all of these things at once in a brave and startling series of images captured by the unstoppable, visionary, Babs Daly. The icon of the Irish drag world chats to Peter Dunne about collaborations, HIV activism and finding freedom in the middle of a pandemic.

At the tail end of 2019, Veda, the drag alter ego of Enda McGrattan, released a video for the song ‘I Came Out One Night’, a musical collaboration with Lady K. The video begins with the description, “To everyone coming out of the closet, especially HIV Positive people like Veda.” It was a powerful and brave way for Veda to share their status, to lift off the rock that had been weighing them down, and to give two fingers to the stigma that People Living With HIV face on the daily.

Mere months after their ‘coming out’, however, as they prepared to turn that truth-sharing into activism, lockdown hit, society closed down and the world shut its doors. It was a topsy-turvy emotional period that saw internal optimism not reflected back.

“Really, I felt mentally good, incredibly good considering I was unemployed for the first time in a decade,” Veda shares, “and I knew it was because I came out as HIV Positive before lockdown, and I wanted to help other people.”

So what to do for a performer who blossoms under a spotlight when opportunities to gather together vanish? Creativity finds a way, and a years-long friendship with another artist was about to become a project that would speak to both lockdown and a journey of self.

For anyone on the queer scene in Dublin, photographer Babs Daly is well known (and loved). A chronicler of LGBTQ+ life as well as a true artist – further evidenced by the charming Child of Drag photo series you’ll see later on in our pages. Babs had built up a relationship with Veda over the years that had begun with capturing drag queens at work. Handily enough, for what was about to commence, they also both live a stones throw from each other, and photography is an art that allows a two metre distance – ever heard of a zoom lens?

“We have this natural chemistry, it’s practically sexual,” Veda only half-jokes. “Babs treats me like a lady, and I just take direction well!”

Discussions of teaming up for photoshoots as a creative outlet were given an extra fire underneath when chats with Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride resulted in the offer of an exhibition during Pride celebrations. It was time to focus. And the results are startling.

Feature Mother & Baby Homes– Silence– Secrecy

For those who are yet to see the photos, you’re in for a treat. Veda is imagined as a post-Armageddon warrior, a boxer, a rainbow alien in a dark garage. “We wanted to get into super masculine spaces and be super queer. We wanted to play around with gender and be gender non-binary.” Veda credits the project as a boon for mental health and an emotional release, “Hugely, this collaboration has been one of the most important elements of lockdown for me, because there’s been a companionship, and a friendship, and no matter how severe restrictions got – we could work around them.”

The photo series reflects the journey of lockdown, but intriguingly, they also reflect Veda’s experience of sharing their HIV status. In one shoot, Veda sports a white cross on their forehead to represent the “plus sign” of being Positive, the images from the boxing ring you’ll see in this story were created to represent the fight against stigma. The facepaint Veda wears also references and honours the Dice Man without being a carbon copy.

Speaking of which - Veda plays the Dice Man in an upcoming film version of Shaun Dunne’s play, RAPIDS, which looks at the affects of the crisis, but more on that later.

When it came to a title for the exhibition, Babs and Veda’s result is an attention-grabber. “We decided to call the exhibition HIVIP, and the reason isn’t because I think of myself as a VIP, it’s because it’s the name of the first episode of the PozVibe podcast, but also it’s because it represents things that are opposing: one is that HIV is so stigmatising socially for anyone who receives that diagnosis -which is so wrong -and then VIP represents everything that we celebrate in people that maybe we shouldn’t, like their social status, their fame, their number of followers -the opposite of stigma. So we put those two things together and it gave the project a kind of baller energy, it felt a bit rock and roll.”

The series runs the gamut of emotion, there’s power, sadness, anger, but also, a huge sense of humour, and playfulness. For a performer who many would feel familiar with through years of live performance, or think they could put in a box, these photos show there’s levels and layers more, so open that box back up.

As previously mentioned by Veda, the PozVibe podcast is yet another fine collaboration with a beloved community member – activist Robbie Lawlor. “It’s so incredible to work with Robbie, because he know everything. Everything,” Veda praises. Describing itself as “a podcast for HIV Positive people, our friends, families and allies,” PozVibe has become a thing of comfort, of connection, and of good old fashioned entertainment.

Veda actually wells up a little as they describe how affecting the experience has been, “The reaction has been overwhelming. The messages we get. It shows how desperately it’s needed. There’s no services like that for people who are traumatised by a HIV diagnosis. Our mantra is to be a sledgehammer against stigma. And to bring people into our tribe. We feel good, we feel sexy, we feel undetectable, we feel untransmittable. And invincible.”

When asked if preparations for the podcast had been an unnerving time, as this would be the pair’s first time creating a show of this type together, Veda laughs heartily recalling their (very) grand debut. “Both Robbie and I are in Shaun’s film. We were doing scenes together, and then they asked if they could actually film the podcast. All of a sudden we were in this amazing studio they’d rented for us. Everybody who worked in the studio was like ‘what is going on?’ as we turned up with full camera crew to make the first episode. Very glamorous! It felt for me like - the universe just really opened up for you, bitch!”

The podcast celebrates Positive lives and utterly refutes stigma, there is no room for it on the show, or in the world. Veda is co-hosting an event which further addresses shrugging off shame – Mother’s Pride - an afternoon tea in the Mansion House for HIV Positive people and their parents. “Parents are so important in all of this,” Veda explains. “They can be the people we hide it from the most, the people we feel like we bring the most shame to. But our parents need healing too.”

So with HIVIP, PozVibe and Mother’s Pride, Veda is busy, not to mention making plans for a return to live performance and that upcoming film. So how do they feel right now, with all these projects vying for attention, and with the decision to share their truth with the world? “I’m busy,” Veda says, and you can hear the smile in their voice, “and I’m happy. And I’m free. I’m fucking free.”

For more information on the HIVIP exhibition and Mother’s Pride, visit and you can find PozVibe on Apple Podcasts, among other podcast providers.

This article appears in 367

Go to Page View
This article appears in...
Go to Page View
From The Team
Stefano, Dave, Katie, Marlon, Peter and Lisa.
The National LGBT Federation (NXF) partnered with Dublin Pride
Coming Out with Pride
With no colourful Pride Parade making its way through the centre of Dublin, members of the LGBTQ+ community who had wanted to use the moment to ‘come out’ or to celebrate recently doing so, sadly didn’t have the chance
100 K IN MAY
Throughout the month of May GCN partnered with Life Style Sports on the #GCN100KinMay campaign. Ian Smith got the lowdown from some of the awesome Life Style Sports staff who took up the challenge.
National Lottery celebrating LGBTQ+ organisations during Pride
Since 1987, National Lottery players have raised over €6 billion euro for worthy causes, helping people and organisations to further help others. The National Lottery Good Causes Awards celebrates all the incredible work done by individuals and groups across Ireland to give back to their communities and to be there for those in need. Katie Donohoe spoke to three LGBTQ+ organisations that made it all the ways to the finals
The Power of Being Yourself in the Workplace
Roberto Sy from Accenture speaks to Ian Smith about his coming out journey, moving to Ireland and being part of a workplace LGBTQ+ network
Living with Pride
A major photographic exhibition featuring the work of Christopher Robson is launched by the National Library of Ireland.
A face-painted battler unbeaten. A stark, masked figure in an apocalyptic industrial setting. An explosion of colour in an oilstained garage. Veda is all of these things at once in a brave and startling series of images captured by the unstoppable, visionary, Babs Daly. The icon of the Irish drag world chats to Peter Dunne about collaborations, HIV activism and finding freedom in the middle of a pandemic
Rebecca Kelly spoke with Ronan Crinion, the founder and managing director of MoveHome about their recent expansion and what COVID-19 means for the property market
We Need To Talk
“Ableism is still rife within the Irish queer community, and it’s about time we talked about it,” says Alannah Murray
You've heard of LGBTQ+ - Well I am the Plus
It’s hard to come out. The institutionalised shame and guilt we feel around our true identities often stops us from showing them to the world. But coming out becomes harder when you don’t have a word for who you are and how you feel. Louise Blake shares her own journey of discovery
Leveling the Playing Field
As the International Gay Rugby organisation celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with a host of new initiatives and events, Alice Linehan hears about the 134 queer clubs existing worldwide and discovers why so many have found a second home within the inclusive community
For Mother Mary and her Petulant, Devilish Daughters
The history of Ireland, both it’s colonial and postcolonial stories of nationhood, revolved around one’s propensity for incarceration, argues Keeva Boyle-Darby, the ability of those in power, be it British colonial rule or more recently the Catholic Church and their governmental ‘cahooters’ to ostracise the ‘other’
A World to Discover
LGBTQ+ history is as diverse as it is rich, and much of it remains uncovered. Pride Month sees some of those stories brought to light, and, as Brian Dillon discovered, few may be as thought-provoking as that of Irish LGBTQ+ diaspora. Photos by Leon Farrell
The Art of Reflection
Throughout the centuries, artists have responded to their culture, their times, capturing feelings, the mood of the nation. The queer community know only too well the power of slogans and images during the years we couldn’t be out, the years when the odds were stacked against us
Child of Drag
Just in time for Pride, enjoy this jawdropping photo spread featuring a lineup of drag children celebrating the queer community
Teanga Dhúchais
As a queer writer trying to find his voice, Ethan Moser became aware of another barrier facing Irish LGBTQ+ creatives who want to communicate in their native tongue -the lack of representation and opportunity for queer lives lived as Gaeilge
Long Live the Queens
What started (and continued) as a fundraiser for the LGBTQ+ community soon rivalled Pride as the biggest Irish queer event of the year. Hannah Tiernan remembers the iconic, euphoric, Alternative Miss Ireland
Outside the Capitals
After finding himself upon moving away from home, Ross Hunter discovered queer spaces he thought were low on the ground upon returning to small(er) town life
For Our Pleasure
While dancing has been relegated to bedrooms, back gardens and balconies for the last 18 months, it hasn’t dulled Jessie Ware’s desire to get the party started. The artist speaks to Conor Behan about music, life and lockdown
Yes, Sexual Racism is a Thing
“They say, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ but having been exposed to the Dublin gay dating scene for over eight years, I could change it to ‘Beauty is in the eye of the people of a majoritarian ethnic group’,”
Health without the care?
With fear of judgement leading to many feeling they can’t be open with healthcare providers, Ian Smith looks at the reality for many older LGBTQ+ people who are accessing services in Ireland today
Sexual (Re)Awakening
During lockdown, there have been massive reckonings, revolutions and reawakenings around sex and sexual health in Ireland. Artists, activists, organisations, students and sex workers speak with Oisin Kenny about adapting to a pandemic and what this means going forward
Full Equality
LGBTQ+ Traveller, author and activist, Oein DeBhairduin, shares with Ed Redmond why Pride needs to remain a protest until all members of the community are valued equally
Sex & Intimacy During Lockdown
Sex is an important, indispensable activity for the realisation and formation of a sexual identity, giving expression to someone’s erotic and emotional feelings and behaviours. David Boyd speaks about how Covid-19 altered many aspects of our lives including our sexual ones
Growing Up Gay in the North
It’s hard to explain what it’s like growing up in Northern Ireland, to someone who never has, describes
A State of Silence
21 years later, Direct Provision remains Ireland’s only process for the accommodation of asylum applicants, most of whom spend several months, if not years in the system. With promised changes on the way, Aoife Burke looks at the system’s inherent failings and holds those promises up to the light
An Irish Solution to an Irish Problem
When the Irish public think about AIDS, much of their understanding of the pandemic comes from British and American media. Angels in America, Dallas Buyers Club and this year’s phenomenal It’s A Sin are all important stories, but they’re not Irish stories. Ezra Moloney looked at the history of AIDS activism, and learned a lot in the process
By Any Other Name
History is more than just a school subject, it’s a remembrance of communities coming together to make their voices heard, and the history of Pride is no different. Catherine E Hug was fortunate to sit down with Kieran Rose, a key political activist for LGBTQ+ rights in Ireland, and hear about his involvement from equality legislation and the establishment of GLEN in the ‘80s, to meeting the President in the ‘90s, to the Marriage Referendum and the celebration of Pride today.
Twin Towns
On the 12th of October 2020, Cork County Council severed the twinning between Fermoy, and the Polish town Nowa Dęba, which had pledged to “defend against aggressive, deceptive and harmful LGBT ideology”. Haritha Olaganathan speaks to activists working to make progressive change on the ground in Poland
Manic Energy
Ella Bowler catches up with alt-pop singer Rebecca Locke and alt-indie band Mothmom to talk about fostering creativity in a city that doesn’t always facilitate the arts
Why Do We Still Need Pride?
Managing Editor Lisa Connell addresses the question that comes up like clockwork every year from those who don’t realise the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is far from over
Looking for back issues?
Browse the Archive >

Previous Article Next Article
Page 28