Russia: QueerFest 2016 aims to be more inclusive

QueerFest announced:


Scene from QueerFest's independent music concert, before the bomb threat. (Photo courtesy of QueerFest via Facebook)
Scene from QueerFest’s independent music concert in 2014, before it was disrupted by a bomb threat. (Photo courtesy of QueerFest via Facebook)

The time has come for the 8th annual pride festival “QueerFest”, which will take place September 15-25 in the streets and venues of St. Petersburg, Russia.

The topic of this year’s festival is “Seeing the Invisible”. QueerFest wants to give voice to the groups within both the society and the LGBTQ communities, whose existence is invisible and whose problems are silenced. These are LGBTQ living with HIV and LGBTQ with disabilities, transgender* people and people with non-binary identities, LGBTQ families and LGBTQ survivors of domestic abuse, and many more. Organizers would like to invite guests to learn and share the experiences that are often silenced or left behind.

QueerFest 2016 is aiming to be more inclusive. In addition to the variety of events and topics covered, this year’s festival is providing space for LGBTQ groups and initiatives from regions of Russia (Moscow, Vladivostok, Novosibirsk), and post-soviet countries (Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine) to organize their events as part of its “Open Space” program. QueerFest will also provide sign language translation and the main venue will be equipped with wheelchair ramps.

The program includes artists and activists from Great Britain, Iceland, the US and is built around the main event – photo exhibition – featuring project “The Kids”, authored by American photographer Gabriela Herman. The traditional closing concert September 25 will be headlined by Sian Evans (popular English group Kosheen), whose debut album “Resist” received “platinum” status in the UK.

QueerFest has grown and developed over its long lifespan, professionalizing and diversifying its program, attracting well known-artists and activists, and audiences from around the world. But one thing stayed common to all the years: the extreme pressure from authorities and homophobic activists to disrupt the event, using all methods: from pressuring venues to discontinue the rent hours before the event, to fake bomb threats, to hooligans spraying putrid liquid at the event participants.

This year, the opening of QueerFest is three days before the local and federal elections. This could be a curse, or a blessing, but overall, we don’t foresee our security situation to be any different. We still have plan “B” and plan “C” in place to move the events to different venues at the last minute, to make sure our guests stay safe and our diverse and rich program is realized,” says Ana Anisimova, QueerFest coordinator.

Stay tuned to our news (Facebook or Instagram), join us online, and help spread the word about QueerFest. Thank you for your continued support!

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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