The ten-day marathon of tolerance, the 7th annual Queer Festival of Russia, ended this weekend with the performance by the popular Swedish performer Motoboy, member of The Cardigans.
Compared to last year’s, this festival went almost with no interruptions. The venue where the opening took place broke contract with festival organizers, but the plan “B” venue held its ground.
QueerFest 2015 gathered over 2500 spectators, who visited the events or watched the festival online.
Every year, despite the external pressures, the festival tries to raise the bar in the quality of its program. This year, the program expanded on the topic of identity, central to the struggle for individual rights and freedoms in Russia. Mattias Kristoffersson, board member at Stockholm Pride and Ulf Petersson with the “Unstraight Museum”, shared their different experience of promoting LGBT rights in society. Boris Dittrich, the LGBT advocacy program director at the Human Rights Watch, talked about his path to activism. Mads Nissen, the winner of the World Press Photo 2015 contest with his photograph of a gay couple from St. Petersburg, Sarah Deragon with her groundbreaking Identity Project, and Jasper Groen with the tale of a trans* man’s journey “Eric”, won the audiences’ hearts and minds. The festival also provided a platform for self-organized spaces on topics of elderly LGBT, feminism, bisexual rights, and trans* people’s experience as a source of creativity.
Mattias Kristoffersson, Stockholm Pride: “I was particularly impressed by the trans* discussion on Friday evening, which I have to say was the best discussion on trans* issues that I have ever been a part of. The whole discussion was so inclusive, so sincere, and so honest and respectful of everyone's own experiences - trans* or cis. It was truly inspiring how [QueerFest] managed to create this safe space for everyone.”
Stephen Fry, the famous British actor, has supported human rights festival in his video message:
"I am very proud to be supporting QueerFest. One of my great heroes in life was a man called Oscar Wilde, Irish poet, playwright, philosopher. And he once said:" Be yourself, everyone else is taken. It’s simple, but extraordinarily true. And you know, when we try and fight homophobia, and for our rights to be who we are, it is really very simple. We are not trying to change the world and our image. We are not trying to recruit children, we are not trying to do any of the things that homophobes accuse us of doing. We’re just claiming the right to be ourselves. Honestly, openly, freely, and happily. It’s a very simple thing. And, you know, I believe we will win. We’ll win in Russia just as we won in other countries. It’s just a slow fight, it’s never quite as quick as we like it to be. But in the end we do get there. And I wish you every success with this QueerFest, and the next. Each year, it’ll get easier. Each year, it’ll get better. All my love!”
Anna Anisimova, QueerFest’s organizer: "Thanks to the appeal of the artists and their creative work on the theme of identity, the otherwise challenging conversation became positive and public. The support of Mads Nissen, Wolfgang Tillmans, Stephen Fry, Boris Dittrich, Motoboy and many others made QueerFest a real treat. This year we realized everything we’ve imagined!”
Photos from the festival here.
QueerFest is a unique event in human rights. It was invented in order to once a year create in St. Petersburg a platform for dialogue between the various parts of society to promote tolerance to the invisible and stigmatized groups. In the fight against homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and xenophobia in general, the festival chooses a language understood by everyone – that of culture, art, and beauty.
September 17-26 will see the return of the Queer Festival of Russia; one of the largest Russian pride events will be held for the seventh time in the last 7 years.
Last year’ QueerFest experienced an all-out attack, with fake bomb threats, police pressures, attacks by thugs led by Milonov, disrupting the events and endangering the participants. The space for self-expression in Russia is becoming unsafe and scarce, with values of individual rights increasingly replaced by the mythical "traditional values". But we believe a happy, healthy, free society cannot exist without each and every member of society being free to form and express their own identity.
That is why the central topic of this year’s festival is Identity. For 10 days, St. Petersburg will host projects by artists and activists from the Netherlands, USA, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and of course Russia. Boris Dittrich (Advocacy Director of the LGBT Rights Program at the Human Rights Watch), Mads Nissen (winner of the World Press Photo 2015 Contest for his photograph of a gay couple in St. Petersburg), Wolfgang Tillmans (recipient of the Turner Prize, the Hasselblad Award and a member of the Royal Academy of Arts), Sarah Deragon with the Identity Project, Moto Boy (the Cardigans), and many others will help us create a new universe - an interactive, experimental, frank, queer, and open to all.
"Our greatest weapon is that we don’t give up. We come back year after year, with our positive message of solidarity, freedom, and diversity. We believe that we are on the right side of history, and that will make us stronger than our opponents who are driven by ignorance and hatred", - says Polina Andrianova, activists of "Coming Out" LGBT group, the festival’s organizer.
Stay tuned, follow us online, and help spread the word about the festival through your channels!
The Festival's program can be found here, follow festival's events online, on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
Thank you for your continued support.
The QueerFest 2015 Team