WHEN the inaugural Gaytimes festival was held earlier this year, there was backlash from straight people who said it was ridiculous to hold a queer festival and that there would be uproar if there was a ‘straight festival’.
Festival director Anna Whitelaw said what people missed was that Gaytimes isn’t excluding anyone; rather it’s focused on being a place for the LGBTI community.
“For many of us, these spaces are the first places we go to when we’re still closeted or we’re coming out, and on a dance floor might be the first time you find yourself surrounded by other people like you, or find yourself kissing someone in public.
“I think we need all sorts of spaces for LGBTI people and they can’t be all things to all people all the time. Some of my closest friends like going to men’s only bear parties or sex on premises venues that I can’t get into, and there’s a place for that.”
The second annual Gaytimes festival is returning in 2017, an Australian queer camping music festival held over two nights and three days on the mountaintop of Lake Mountain Alpine Resort in Victoria.
The festival will offer an eclectic lineup of acts and DJs over two stages, performers, art installations, light projections, cinema, workshops, speed dating, yoga, and more.
The lineup includes neo-soul star Ngaiire, New York DJ JD Samson, and Sydney musician Brendan Maclean.
Whitelaw said she and her partner-in-crime Mason came up with the idea after a longstanding love affair with music festivals.
“We knew we wanted this to be a bush doof with a touch of class too – where you could go ‘glamping’ as well as camping, have a hot shower and order a proper coffee if you wanted one,” she said.
Even though we’d been running parties for years, it is safe to say that Gaytimes was still a huge learning curve for us but it all came together.
“We were quite overwhelmed by the response from those who came, and we’re confident we can make it even bigger and better this year.
“After listening to feedback, in 2017 we’ve got a bigger lineup with more live acts and we’re making a few tweaks including more camping areas, more activities and gender neutral toilets, and shifting festival dates forward to February.”
While there are a number of incredible venues and spaces for queer people in Melbourne, Whitelaw said at Gaytimes you find yourself up on a mountaintop surrounded by trees and rainbows in the clouds.
“There is something about dancing in the sunshine or under the stars, in a beautiful place and being immersed in music and art with your friends that you just can’t replicate in a nightclub,” she said.
“The music spans almost every genre from soul and hip-hop to house and disco to punk and folk music.
“It’s a lineup you wouldn’t see outside of something like Mardi Gras, and we’ve put a lot of energy into curating a lineup comparable to any music festival in the country of its size.”
On the night before the inaugural festival earlier this year Whitelaw said she was the most stressed and exhausted she’d ever been in her life.
“But I drove up in the dark and saw the rainbow lit up in lights and the stage for the first time and I knew it would be okay,” she said.
“I had a moment on the first day when I walked over to see the sunset and saw all these people sitting with their friends on the mountaintop looking out over the clouds at this golden perfect sunset that looked exactly like our poster.
“At that moment, I actually felt on top of the world, and I thought it couldn’t get more perfect than this.”