Life has been a whirlwind for Jamie Campbell, seven years on from a TV documentary about wearing a dress to his school prom that inspired a hit show at the Sheffield Crucible which is now a West End hit.
The musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, inspired by Jamie’s story but with the action transferred from Bishop Auckland, Country Durham to Sheffield, became a surprise hit from the moment it premiered on stage at the Crucible in February 2017, starring John McCrea.
The show has gone on to a long run in the West End and is also being made into a movie by Sheffield-based Warp Films.
Jamie, who is speaking in Sheffield at the Off the Shelf book festival next week, now feels right at home in the city.
He said: “Since the musical – that was the first time I came to Sheffield – I have fallen in love with the city. It’s amazing.
“Next month I’m doing a charity event in Sheffield with friends I met doing the show.”
Jamie set the whole rollercoaster going when, aged just 15, he decided he wanted to go to his school prom in a dress. He’d already been bullied at school and thought he’d be safe if he had a camera crew with him.
He said: “I Googled how to get a documentary made and it said to write a one-page pitch and send it to film companies who had made similar stories.
“People were surprised I did it, I was ballsy to do that! It was also about my safety. I thought nobody will want to beat me up if there’s a film crew.
“I was bullied a lot, every day, and a couple of times it was physical but always verbal. I couldn’t go anywhere without it.
“I tried to stay strong. I had my mum saying, ‘you are amazing, don’t listen to them’. When I was a kid, I was flamboyant. It’s literally just who I am.”
Jamie paid tribute to his mum, Margaret, and her unconditional support for him that gave him the courage to be different.
The BBC3 documentary, Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, showed him getting ready to go to the prom and making his debut as a drag act, under his stage name, Fifi la True.
Sheffield-born theatre director Jonathan Butterell approached Jamie about a year later for his permission to create the show that was written by Doctor Who scriptwriter Tom Macrae with music by Dan Gillespie Sells of band The Feeling.
Jamie said of the show’s subsequent success: “I had no idea. To be honest, even after they asked if it would be okay to do a musical, I thought it was going to be in a community centre!”
A whole new world opened up after the show’s success. “I went to London and dropped out of university twice. I worked as a drag queen and did retail-type jobs.
“All of a sudden things changed. It's been so amazing.”
Jamie is currently fielding different TV offers and still has links to the theatre show. He and mum Margaret are also acting as consultants for the film and he is working on an education pack for schools.
He spoke about reaction to the show: “It has been almost universally positive. people are really just taking to it. The best thing about it is the audience and how they just take so much from it. We just wanted to make a good, entertaining show.
“We’ve had people saying it’s literally changed their lives. I thought I was just going to a prom in a dress because it’s what I wanted to do.”
Jamie said that people have been inspired because of the show’s message to be true to yourself, no matter what others think. “Everyone has their own version of a dress. It’s just being brave enough to go out and it. I want to spread that message as far as I can.”
Jamie is appearing in Off the Shelf at the Crucible Theatre on Monday night in the Desert Island Reads series. His book choices include George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, the Harry Potter series, Julian Clary’s Devil in Disguise – and, of course, David Walliams’ The Boy in the Dress. Book at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk.
Check out Off the Shelf, which runs to October 27, on