Cherry Valentine’s loved ones raise funds for ‘fitting tribute’ to drag star and mental health nurse

Drag Race UK star Cherry Valentine wearing a red dress against a black background in an edited image.

Cherry Valentine’s loved ones have launched a fundraiser for a public vigil to honour the RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star’s legacy.

On Friday (23 September), it was announced that drag performer, whose real name was George Ward, had died on Sunday (18 September).

After the news broke, Adam Edwards, Cherry’s close friend and business partner, launched a fundraiser to pay for a public vigil for the beloved drag icon, to be organised in collaboration with her family and best friend Katie Coleman.

The legacy Cherry Valentine leaves behind, Edwards told PinkNews, spans from her work as a mental health nurse and advocate which “helped a lot of people get through a lot of situations”, to her drag “which has reached every corner of the world”, to the impact she created by speaking out about growing up LGBTQ+ in the Traveller community.

Cherry had worked as an NHS mental health nurse from 2015 until joining Drag Race UK for the competition’s second series in 2020. When filming was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ward returned to nursing and became a frontline worker delivering vaccinations.

In a documentary released earlier this year, Cherry Valentine: Gypsy Queen and Proud, she revisited her upbringing, hoping to reconnect with her roots and learn to feel proud of being both queer and a Traveller at the same time.

Edwards said that plans for a vigil were not yet solid because he’d “only known about the death for a couple of days”, but explained: “Manchester was Cherry’s drag home, so we’re keen to have a vigil in Manchester, and potentially in London as well… We just know we want it to be a fitting tribute to the Cherry.”

The crowdfunded aims to raise £10,000 for the vigil, and at the time of writing, has raised more than half of that amount in just a few hours.

Adam Edwards met CherryValentine  in 2017: “I used to run a venue, an LGBTQ+ venue on Canal Street in Manchester, and Cherry started working for us. It was one of Cherry’s first ever paid gigs, and she had that as a residency for quite some time.

“When that club came to a close, we remained friends, and we set up Throne Events in June last year.”

The idea for Throne Events, a drag queen owned and run events company that committed to being ethical, caring and putting performers before profits, emerged out of a “very drunken night at Cherry’s house a few years ago”.

“We had lots of conversations about Cherry’s experience with events and companies, and how they’d essentially been left to fend on their own… and they’ve not been respected very much, or paid their worth,” Edwards said.

“From that, we had conversations about what we could do better, to more be more ethical and have more morals, and be there for the fans and for the artists, instead of for the profits.”

Seeing the outpouring of love and support from Cherry’s fans and Drag Race co-stars, both on social media and on the condolences page set up by Edwards, has been “really lovely”, he said.

Becoming tearful, he said that it has, at the same time, it has made her death feel “very real”.

“We’ve had hundreds and hundreds of comments, and it’s still building, so it’s really nice that we’ve got that up that permanently to look at, and that the family will have that.

“It’s been lovely. The fans have always been lovely to Cherry.”

Donations can be made to the fundraiser for Cherry Valentine’s vigil here, and the book of condolences can be signed here.