From hairdressing on the Strand Road to wigs from Las Vegas Barry Falconer talks to Ellen Barr about family, business and being one of Derry’s famous Foyle Follies...
Barry Falconer is the face of his Strand Road hairdressing business, Suede. He’s a third of the famous Foyle Follies and - if he had any spare time - he’d spend it shopping and listening to music.
Free time hasn’t been something readily available to Barry this week. Tonight, he’ll take to the stage in the Millennium Forum as Candy Love, a sassy 30 year old with fabulous blonde hair and a figure to die for.
He’ll perform in front of a captivated audience which will include fans, family and friends.
There aren’t many thirty year old men from Derry who’d have the guts to get up in drag and perform in front of a local audience. But the Gleneagles man doesn’t see it as a big deal, he doesn’t see it as a triumph. He sees himself as being lucky to be able to do something he loves.
Our conversation could easily turn into one about the struggle of ‘coming out’ or the challenges of being gay - but it doesn’t.
That in itself is a testimony to how far things have come but moreso an indication of the kind of family background where Barry grew up.
“I was brought up in a really affectionate home where there were lots of hugs and kisses,” says the former St Columb’s College Pupil.
“We just had a really loving family and even as a child I was always running up and just hugging people randomly,” he laughs.
When Barry came out to his parents his mother spoke publicly about the issues around finding out as a parent that your child is gay. Her book ‘Good as You’ has been a reference point for numerous families dealing with the same issues since it was published.
Barry has nothing but praise for his mother and father in how they have supported all his ventures over the years.
“When I think about about my role as Candy Love and look back to when I was growing up, I always liked dressing up and performing, I used to do it all the time as a boy, I’d always be singing and dancing, I was never ever discouraged. You hear horror stories about young people not being able to be themselves around their families but I’m very lucky I just didn’t find that at all.”
As he takes to the stage in the Forum tonight, it’s all about the buzz of being on stage for Barry’s character Candy.
“To be honest it’s more about the performance for me than anything else. I just always wanted to be on stage and if I could sing there would be no wig required!”
Despite cutting a confident figure as Candy and being more than capable in his role at Suede, there’s very little ego about Barry.
“I find the bigger performances terrifying!,” he says.
“I still get completely nervous. We have performed in the Millennium Forum before but it is daunting doing the bigger shows, It’s such a big production. There hasn’t been a minute at all recently with work and the shows. There just isn’t any spare time.”
Last year Barry took over the ownership of Suede on Derry’s Strand Road.
While the venture had been a joint one with himself and two other partners the trio decided to go their separate ways in 2011 and Barry decided to stay on at the high end Strand Road salon and take over the reins himself.
Now an established name in hairdressing in the city, Barry was just 21 when he bought into the Suede brand in 2003.
He had begun his career in hairdressing thanks to training at the Derry Youth and Community workshop and when the opportunity came along to own his own business, instead of being daunted at the prospect, he jumped in both feet first.
“I really enjoyed hairdressing from the start. There are great rewards in making people feel great when they have their hair done and I really enjoyed the social element of it all, talking to people all day. It is hard work though being on your feet constantly, but it’s worth it.
“I knew I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to own somewhere of my own so when I got the chance to buy into Suede I took it. We were lucky at the time that we had a clientele who would follow us and parents who would back us up.”
The rest is a history spanning ten years and since taking over himself last year Barry has no regrets.
“I had itchy feet at the time and I was half thinking about going travelling and just getting out of Derry, but when the opportunity came up to put my own stamp on the salon I went for it, and it’s brilliant.
“We’ve had a major revamp and I’m incredibly lucky because I work with such a great team.
“We’re very busy and although it’s not an ideal time to be in business we’re just continuing to work hard and look forward,”
Today however, the only thing Barry is looking forward to is donning a custom made wig all the way from Las Vegas and taking to the stage in homage to Madonna and a host of other divas.
“Once again we’re asking people who want to have a great night and be thorougly entertained to come along to the Millennium Forum. It’s a one night only show not to be missed!”
Curtains are up for the Foyle Follies show at 8pm, tickets are priced at £15 and are available at the Millennium Forum box office or by booking online.