The ‘oldest drag queen on Canal Street’ Madame Aries, has died
Tributes have been paid to a drag queen affectionately known as the ‘oldest drag queen on Canal Street’, who has died.
Colin Timmins, also known as Madame Aries, started off his career as a miner, but became one of the best known faces on Manchester’s Canal Street, having a drag career that spanned decades.
Madame Phylisann Von Hollywood Aries took to the stage in recent weeks, despite declining health, and brought the house down not long before the announcement of her death.
Affectionately known by those who knew her as Nana, Aries was a resident at Bar Pop in Manchester, but worked at almost all of the bars on Canal Street over the years.
Born in Chesterfield in 1957, Timmins was a coal miner for his first job, but eventually became an au pair in London.
Later living in Amsterdam, he met and married his husband.
But tragedy struck when his husband, a police officer in Amsterdam’s vice squad, was shot and killed in the line of duty.
Timmins moved back to London and worked as bar manager at the iconic Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT).
He took his first steps into the world of drag when he was challenged by Paul O’Grady, as Lily Savage, to do better than the queens on an amateur night, after he heckled them that he could.
It was then that Madame Aries was born, and Timmins eventually moved to Manchester.
The owner of Bar Pop, John Hamilton, told the Manchester Evening News: “Manchester at that time was a hub of student and political activity.
“It was a great time for people to move to Manchester even with the political things, Thatcherism, James Anderton. The city stood up, because of it being a cosmopolitan and quite a student place, we were quite lucky in that.
“Colin knowing that Canal Street had a collection of bars, came to make his roots here and set up home.”
She performed alongside some of the UK’s legendary queens and became one of them herself, touring the country.
And eventually became known as the ‘oldest drag queen in the village’, despite not actually being the oldest, and played up to that fact, taking out her teeth on stage and handing them to people.
Aries eventually performed with Bianca Del Rio at the Palace, and fulfilled her long-held ambition to perform on a large stage.
The queen also appeared on Coronation Street, showing her skills when Rita went to a drag bar.
Also an activist, Timmins campaigned for HIV and AIDS awareness, and as a vocal campaigner spoke openly about being HIV-positive himself.
He eventually became an ambassador for the George House Trust.
But Timmins, and Aries’ mothering side was legendary and the star was known for helping out newcomers and nervous performers if he was in earshot.
“Whenever there was someone in trouble, she was one of those people that said, come to me, I’ll look after you. She was always taking people into the house if they were homeless. She was that type of person. She never boasted about what she was doing, it was just her life,” says John Hamilton.
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Timmins’ health had been deteriorating and he eventually decided to remove the equipment keeping him alive as he was diagnosed with pneumonia.
He passed away peacefully and was surrounded by family and friends.
A celebration of the life of Timmins and of course of Madame Aries, will take place at Sackville Gardens on 8 April, organised by the bars of Canal Street.
His funeral will be held at his hometown on 16 March at Chesterfield Crematorium, Brimington.
Attendees will wear black and orange, as a nod to his links to Amsterdam, and anyone who knew the star is welcome to attend.