QueerFest 2016, the 8th international LGBTI pride festival of Russia, has concluded on a high note. Songwriter and performer Sian Evans (of KOSHEEN) sang all-favorites, wished audiences to be themselves, to love and to stay strong at the closing concert that gathered hundreds of spectators at a central venue “Biblioteka”, located in the heart of St. Petersburg on Nevsky prospect.
This year’s festival was especially heartwarming, enjoying high attendance and level of interest from the visitors. The night before the closing, the play by TEATR.DOC from Moscow attracted over 200 people, who squeezed themselves into a 100-person space to watch the premier of a powerful play “Coming Out of the Closet.”
Over 1500 people visited the festival this year, but more importantly than targeting wider audiences, Queerfest 2016’s goal was to be more inclusive. We aimed to give voice to the groups whose problems are often silenced – LGBTI living with HIV and LGBTI with disabilities, transgender* and people with non-binary identities; we discussed intersex activism in Russia, feminism within the LGBTI movement, and the special challenges Rainbow families face raising kids in Russia.
For reasons that can only be hypothesized, the festival enjoyed complete freedom from attacks and harassments. There were no bomb threats, no venue closures, and no attacks by thugs. Visitors did not have to worry about running into aggressive young men, being harassed or checked out by the police. And the program flourished.
“The stress-free atmosphere could be literally felt, visitors and participants were relaxed, spirits were high. As a result, every day the venue was full, we saw many new faces,” says Ana Anisimova, festival’s coordinator, “With no attacks we were finally able to concentrate on the content, the quality, and the people. This is how a festival should go, and for the first time in 8 years, we are there!”
Photos from QueerFest 2016: http://queerfest.ru/en/mass-media/photo.html
The 8th annual pride festival QueerFest opened today at a spacious art space in the center of St. Petersburg, in a warm and festive atmosphere. Over 220 visitors (up to the maximum limit of the venue) enjoyed the photo exhibition «The Kids» by Gabriella Herman from the US, who addressed guests in a recorded video. Other speakers were representatives of diplomatic missions of the kingdom of Netherlands and Sweden, representative of ILGA-Europe, Swedish human rights organization Civil Defenders, artists and activists whose art is presented in the program, and of course the festival’s organizers.
«The space for civil freedoms is diminishing in our country, it’s true. But it doesn’t mean the space for our human rights work has to diminish. The happy truth is that the more the space for civil freedom contracts externally, the more this space is expanded internally – inside the communities, inside ourselves. We become stronger, more diversified, more aware. We might not have the power to change the repressive laws, but we have the power to invest in people: to establish dialogue with the society around us, to find new allies, and to continue empowering the LGBT people of Russia. What can be more important?» said in her words of greeting Polina Andrianova, head of «Coming Out,» the group that organizes the festival.
The event took place without interruption and not a single counter-protester showed up.
«This is the first time in 8 years that we experience no attacks or pressures on the festival opening reception,» says Ana Anisimova, festival’s coordinator. «This is a great relief, but it’s only the first day of the festival, and we need to keep «on our toes.» No matter what lies ahead, the festival’s program will be realized in full, as is every year.»
There are 9 more days of the festival ahead, featuring workshops and discussions on the topics ranging from «Moving Beyond the Binary Sex and Gender», to «Intersex: Invisible Reality», to the final concert on September 25th by the lead vocalist of Kosheen, the UK «platinum» group.
«Seeing the invisible» is the slogan of QueerFest 2016, and is the theme of the collection of personal statements that invite reflection on issues of gender and sexuality, nationalism and sexism, social pressures and hierarchies.
Stories in the publication are tied together by the theme of borders and their crossing. The boundaries between large and small cities, as described in the essay by Nastya Sulima, or the border crossing point between Tajikistan and Russia in the text of Komila. Masha, from Austria writes about the boundary between the «Soviet» and «Western» man. (Queer)resettlement, (queer)migrateto, (queer)refugee status has always been part of human history, and this collection reflects that theme clearly and powerfully.
Crossing borders between identities or declaring them nonexistent, resistance to the binary gender norms within existing sexual identity frameworks, as described in Sasha’s essay; the challenge of the seemingly «unshakable foundations» of national and cultural identity, and the crossing over across established personality traits, as described by Ayman Eckford – this is the interplay between physical and personal boundaries, which are called into question throughout the stories featured in the publication.
The accompanying work of artist Kondraty Enough, strange and full of hidden meaning, invokes delight, irritation or motivates thinking about one’s own boundaries.
The international human rights festival QueerFest will open in St. Petersburg on September 15th. Over the following ten days, QueerFest will feature 15 different events across our city, ranging from exhibitions, to discussions, workshops, and bus tours.
The theme selected for the festival this year is «Seeing the invisible». Anna Anisimova, the festival’s coordinator, explained:
«We want to give festival guests the opportunity to see the invisible, to know more, for example, about LGBT-people living with HIV, about LGBT-people with disabilities or LGBT-neuronetics, about the problems of lesbophobia and transphobia in the feminist movement and sexism in the LGBT-movement, about LGBT-families, stigmatization of certain groups and hierarchies within the LGBT-community, about transgender and intersex people, including people with non-binary identities, those who goes beyond "normal" society and are considered outcasts, and about the exclusion of these people from the community, and how this can be addressed».
One of the central events of the festival is aphoto exhibition. This year, «QueerFest» will introduce viewers to the project «The Kids», by American photographer Gabriela Herman. For four years, Herman worked with children of LGBT-community members. Using the genres of autobiography and traditional family photo album, «The Kids» is a response against the forces pushing to silence the spread of information about parenting in an LGBT home. Stories shared by Herman in the form of photos, texts and audio recordings are part of a complex conversation about politics, family relationships, and social frameworks of ideas and values that make one group of people invisible to others.
«A little more inclusive» – this can be said about «QueerFest» 2016. The festival will provide spectators with a wide variety of topics and formats of festival events, and additionally, will represent diverse geographies, featuring participants from different cities within Russia (Saint-Petersburg, Moscow, Vladivostok, Novosibirsk), post-Soviet countries (Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine) and guests from further abroad, including the UK, Iceland and USA. The festival will also provide translation support for deaf attendees and will be wheelchair-accessible.
What is “QueerFest”?
The 8th international festival “QueerFest” will take place in St. Petersburg September 15 - 25. This is a human rights event against xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, which is organised in a pride-festival format: ten autumn days will bring a variety of events — different in their format but united by their theme.
What is OpenSpace?
OpenSpace events is a special type of festival life, with “QueerFest” providing space for various initiatives, groups and organisations. Everyone can become a part of OpenSpace, organise a discussion, a masterclass, a workshop or any other activity, that is within the theme of the festival.
The theme of “QueerFest” 2016
“To see the Invisible” is the theme of “QueerFest” in 2016. This time we want to talk about the groups within the society and the identities within LGBT-communities, whose problems are unseen. Silence, depreciation and inattention make these people invisible. We would like to give guests of the festival the opportunity to see the invisible. Guests will learn more about LGBT living with HIV or disabilities and neurologically atypical LGBT, problems of lesbophobia and transphobia in feminists movements across Russia, LGBT people, who face violence on the streets or in their own families (domestic violence), LGBT families, stigmatisation of certain groups, hierarchy or sexism inside the LGBT community, transgender people and people with non-binary identities, and those who go beyond the accepted norms of society and are considered marginal. We will talk about the exclusion of these people from the community and how to overcome it.
How to apply to be a part of OpenSpace?
Do you want to take part in OpenSpace? Simply complete the form via this link. The application process is open from May 13 – June 15, 2016. The main selection criteria is the quality of the application. Authors of the interesting and well-described activities will be invited to participate in the OpenSpace.
Who can apply?
We are inviting LGBT activists from everywhere across the Russian Federation (not only St. Petersburg and Moscow) as well as the activists from post-soviet countries. We will cover transportation and accommodation costs for the participants of this event.
We hope to see you at QueerFest 2016!