Record Breakers!

Looking back at the memorable day when Allen Hall residents successfully smashed the Guinness World Record for the feat of assembling the ‘longest line of dancing drag queens’! The accolade saw Allen Hall mentioned in the 2008 edition of the famous book ‘Guinness World Records’….

Allen Hall residents partied throughout the evening following their successful world record attempt.

Allen Hall residents partied throughout the evening following their successful world record attempt.

In 2006 some 58 lads from Allen Hall embarked on the short walk to the main hall at Owens Park to attempt a once-in-a-lifetime feat – to make it into the Guinness Book of Records for assembling the longest line of dancing drag queens in world history! As they made their way along Wilmslow Road, the sight of 58 men dressed up in multi-coloured wigs, high heels and figure hugging dresses certainly caught the attention of bemused onlookers.

The record attempt had been inspired by the publicity surrounding a successful 2004 attempt by students at the University of Nottingham to claim a place in the famous Guinness Book of Records by forming the longest line of simultaneously dancing drag queens.

Allen Hall JCR Committee saw a great opportunity to smash Nottingham’s record and claim some glory for Allen Hall, knowing very well that our male residents would be up for a laugh. The decision was made to host the attempt as a charitable fundraiser (the event would go on to raise upwards of £800 for Manchester’s Christie Hospital).

Gatecrashing the record books would be no easy feat. After making initial enquiries with the Guinness World Records team, they responded with an exhaustive list of stringent guidelines we would need to comply with if our record attempt was ever going to be successful.

58 men from Allen Hall danced to the 'Cha Cha Slide' at Owens Park to snatch the Guinness World Record from the University of Nottingham.

58 men from Allen Hall danced to the ‘Cha Cha Slide’ at Owens Park to snatch the Guinness World Record from the University of Nottingham.

The challenge entailed getting a long line of drag queens to dance continuously for five minutes or more to a chosen piece of music. We opted for DJ Casper’s 2004 dancefloor filler “Cha Cha Slide” due to the fact that its requisite dance steps were helpfully contained in the song’s lyrics – hugely beneficial for those of us blessed with two left feet!

When world record attempts are undertaken on television they are almost always carried out under the watchful eye of a Guinness World Records official who is there to ensure that all guidelines are strictly adhered to. However, it transpired that hiring such an official would cost us somewhere in the region of £3,000, plus their overnight hotel expenses – something which Allen Hall JCR could simply not afford.

This created a number of logistical issues – in order to have our attempt verified we were going to have to film the entire routine and send the tape away to Guinness World Records – which would entail an anxious wait of several weeks before we would hear whether our attempt had been officially accepted (and therefore published in an upcoming edition of Guinness World Records). If our submission was flatly rejected it would have meant that many weeks of preparation had been in vain.

The record attempt would have to be witnessed by two independent adjudicators who would be able to confirm in writing that our dance-a-thon had complied with the strict rules laid down by Guinness World Records. A volunteer from Christie Hospital and the Warden of neighbouring Ashburne Hall kindly stepped forward to be independent witnesses.

The female residents of Allen Hall helped out as event staff and fundraisers.

The female residents of Allen Hall helped out as event staff and fundraisers.

In addition, every single participant would have to be photographed on entry to prove that their attire and make up was sufficiently outlandish for them to be recognised as a fully fledged ‘drag queen.’

Allen Hall’s residents and staff were spurred to action – the hall’s female residents raided their wardrobes for spare clothes and shoes to ensure that the lads could be fully kitted out on the day, whilst the kitchen chef kindly volunteered their video camera to film the proceedings. Members of the JCR Committee headed into Manchester city centre on a quest to procure as many ladies’ wigs as humanly possible – and then boarded the bus back to Allen Hall with a huge cardboard box containing an array of multi-coloured hairpieces!

On the morning of the record attempt the girls brought their spare clothing and make-up across to the dining hall and got to work on transforming the lads into a multitude of glamorous, garish and gruesome looking drag queens. They then headed across to Owens Park to make preparations for the record attempt and served as event staff throughout the afternoon, photographing each of the participants on entry and overseeing dance rehearsals.

After three run-throughs of the “Cha Cha Slide” everyone was exhausted and quickly decamped to a nearby bar in Fallowfield for some well-earned liquid refreshment and the festivities continued throughout the evening with a celebratory party in Allen Hall Bar.

Passers by stared open mouthed as 58 drag queens made their way along Wilmslow Road to begin the record attempt.

Passers by stared open mouthed as 58 drag queens made their way along Wilmslow Road to begin the record attempt.

The following weeks were agonising as residents waited nervously to hear whether they would be rewarded for their recent efforts by being elevated into the elite club of Guinness World Record breakers.

One morning a huge envelope addressed to the JCR Committee arrived at Allen Hall. It was the news we had been waiting for – the enclosed letter congratulated the residents of Allen Hall for having achieved the feat of assembling the longest line of dancing drag queens ever – our 58 participants had bettered the record of 49 set two years before by the University of Nottingham. Accompanying the latter was an official certificate emblazoned with the Guinness World Records logo. The certificate and letter have been framed and now sit proudly on the wall of Allen Hall Bar.

In subsequent years our record was broken by a gathering of drag queens in New York. But who knows what the future holds? Maybe the day will come when a new generation of students brings the title back to Allen Hall once more….

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About allenhallalumni

Allen Hall Alumni Association is for alumni and friends of Allen Hall, University of Manchester. The Association aims to promote lifelong friendships and networking between former residents and friends of Allen Hall through events, reunions and regular communications, whilst working to establish contact with as many alumni as possible. The Association was formed in 2012 in the aftermath of a hugely successful reunion weekend held over the weekend of 3-4 September 2011 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Hall. Look out for exciting news and events coming in 2013.
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