The London Look: Jacob Mallinson

by Guest of A Guest · June 5, 2024

    Teaching music at both Oxford and Cambridge while living in neither locale would make for a dizzying enough, train-filled schedule - factor in the performance-heavy social calendar of being London's most glamorous drag queen, and you've the impossibly packed, ridiculously interesting everyday bustle of Jacob Mallinson Bird

    Curious where you'll find this Londoner out and about, how he takes his tea or what he's reading at the moment?

    Where are you from originally?
    I was born in Romford, Essex, and then moved to London with my Dad as a teenager. Somehow, I ended up with the plummy accent while my Dad is as East-end geezer as you can get.

    What brought you to London?
    When Dad moved, I went with him, and would come back there at weekends from school. But the moment we arrived in London, I knew I was big city kid at heart.

    How long have you been here?
    On and off, about 16 years now.

    What neighborhood do you call home?
    My family are scattered around Knightsbridge and Crouch End, but I’ve been a South London stalwart for the past 5 years.

    What's your job?
    I’m a Lecturer in Music at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, an academic writer, and an operatic dramaturge; I’m also a drag queen, under the pseudonym Dinah Lux, previously more on the cabaret strip tease side of things, but now (in my 30s…) more geared toward piano cabaret. In an unexpected side hustle, I also have a small wedding planning venture with my friend Donna, called Bird & Duke.

    What do you actually do all day?
    A very good question — typically I’ll head into the library, research for my own book projects or operas I’m working on, or if I’m teaching head up to Oxford and meet with my students, then out for dinner somewhere. It’s a pretty blissful life! 

    Social smoker?
    I used to be a relatively hardened smoker, and managed to quit for a few years but am back half-back-on them now. I’m also a sucker for a vape.

    Go-to pint?
    I am, proudly, an alcoholic so I haven’t touched a drop in a little over 18 months; I did like a pint, but my go-to drink was always a dirty vodka martini. I am reminded that all my favourite people are alcoholics, so I think I’m in a good club.

    Crisp of choice?
    As an ex-invisalign user I hate the feeling of crisps caught in the teeth.

    Preferred pub?
    I have a soft spot for The George Tavern on Commercial Road.

    What's worth the wait?
    I am all for immediate indulgences, and any of my friends will tell you that I am extremely good at being extremely good to myself. But, I am slowly learning that some things are best with some time allotted to them.

    Tube or Boris bike?
    Wish I could say bike but I would never trust myself — Lizzie Line all the way.

    Tesco or Sainsbury's?
    The only grocery shopping I have is OddBox, in a last ditch attempt to get me to cook.

    Weekend getaway trip?
    I’ve always loved Barcelona for a much-needed getaway.

    Favorite restaurant?
    Either Umu or J Sheekey — Umu is the best sushi outside of Japan, in my opinion.

    Marmite or marmalade?

    British stereotype that rings true?
    Grandmother culture, in all of its iconic loving strangeness — grandmothers are the best part of Britain, to be sure.

    How do you take your tea?
    Milk and sugar.

    Most British thing about you?
    I am, for my sins, obsessed with the Royal Family.

    Least British thing about you?
    At this time in my life, I don’t find much in me that has strong allegiances to Britain as a concept, and over the past few years certainly have not found much to be proud of with Britain on a global scale. So in that sense, I am quite anti-British. As I say though, the people of Britain are wonderful, it’s just a shame that the governments seem to destroy what actually matters.

    Remedy for a rainy day?
    Tea, playing piano at home, and listening to great music (preferably the Beethoven late piano sonatas).

    First thing you miss when you leave London?
    My friends. I used to travel a lot for work, and I missed having that instant connection to my friends. I lived with the same core people for 10 years, often with 7 of us living together, so to be without them is always hard.

    Private Members Clubs - yay or nay?
    I hate how hooked I am on Soho House, but I do use it a lot. Annabel’s, 5 Hertford, The Twenty-Two, Maison Estelle etc are all fun and useful in different ways, but without being a drinker I find I never have a reason to go anymore. Soho House is a godsend globally, as much as I hate beelining for them the moment I get off the plane. My favourite member’s club by far in London is the Union Club — a true bastion of old Soho, run by the inimitable Pete. When my flatmate Donna and I planned Lena Dunham’s wedding, we knew there was only one place for it.

    Where in town are you almost always?
    Likely Soho.

    Where in town would you never be caught dead?
    I enjoy all parts.

    Best place for a fun night out?
    I haven’t been out properly in years, but somewhere grimy and fun in East was always my go to.

    Top shopping spots?
    I’m a sucker for WhatsApping Bicester Village lol.

    What's your greatest extravagance?
    Travel and food, for sure. I’m not really one for buying ‘things’ (as much as I love them) but caviar bumps at J Sheekey with the right person, and an impromptu trip away, is always top of my list.

    Cheap thrill?
    Scratch cards! 

    Who's your favorite person in town?
    Lavinia Coop, drag icon extraordinaire, in her 70s and lived through it all and is the most wonderful, heart-achingly beautiful person whom I feel so lucky to know; also, when she is in town, Rose Wood, for all the same reasons. Older queer icons don’t get enough praise, and they deserve it all.

    What's your most overused Briticism?
    ‘What a blow.’

    Reading anything good at the moment?
    I’m flitting between Beckett’s Murphy, Slavoy Zizek’s new book on Christian atheism, and Jean Cocteau’s diaries in rehab, Opium — a heady concoction. I re-read Bataille’s Story of the Eye recently and was reminded how loopily amazing it is.

    What are you most excited for next?
    So much: I have a lot of hope.

    [Photos by Kirk Truman]