Whole – United Queer Festival is kicking off its second edition this year from August 24-27 at Gremminer See. Comprised of several collectives and events of Berlin’s underground queer scene such as Pornceptual, Buttons, and Cocktail, it’s the perfect getaway for those looking for the freedom such parties provide in an outdoor, festival setting. This year, a special focus has been made on creating a safe, inclusive space for transgender/nonbinary individuals – for artists, organisers, and attendees alike. KALTBLUT chatted with the team involved to learn how this year’s Whole will make it all work.
Berlin may be the closest thing to a queer utopia we have in this world, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its problems. Chief among these is the very notion of what makes something ‘queer;’ many non-binary and transgender identifying individuals who make up the German capital’s clubbing scene are often faced with events or venues that promote a ‘queer’ or safe space, only to find them entirely organised, represented by, and catering to a strictly male, cisgendered crowd. For many, this is not a space that would be considered safe, nor is it very representative of the thriving diversity at the heart of Berlin’s queer scene. Save your tickets here.
Enter Whole Festival, otherwise known as Whole – United Queer Festival, an event aimed at providing the exact atmosphere of inclusiveness that Berlin’s club scene often lacks. Launched just last year, Whole was initially conceived as a means for the city’s various underground queer event-collectives to have ‘their own festival,’ a retreat to the countryside that would offer all of the adventure of one of the continent’s numerous electronic music gatherings without having to sacrifice the free-spirited hedonism that marks the parties on their home turf.
“It is interesting to have a strong representation of the various crews that people follow from one corner of Berlin to the other, but to put it in a slightly different context — outside, surrounded by nature,” says Jacob Meehan, one of the organisers behind the monthly party Buttons, “What other festival offers a similar cross-section?” Echoing these sentiments is Discodromo, one of the principal minds behind the notorious party Cocktail, who summed it up best when he told us “There’s nothing better than dancing and loving in the wilderness. No club can ever give that same experience.”
The inaugural edition of the festival was a raging success, leading to a new, more spacious locale for this summer’s sophomore outing – taking place at the idyllic Gremminer See. But in addition to a change of scenery, the organisers of Whole have made a special, concerted effort to ensure that the festival is absolutely a safe, inclusive space for attendees. Not only that, they have extended this policy to the production side as well, offering a lineup of artists and participating collectives that reflects this focus.
“We decided that, for our festival, we would have a minimum of half of its artists comprised of femme/trans or/and non-binary performers,” says Raquel Fetado, who with collaborator Chris Philips manages the Pornceptual collective and has undertaken the responsibility of safeguarding Whole’s vision, “Even though each collective curates their own dancefloor, we have a strict rule that we won’t accept male-only lineups.” Get into the mood and listen to our exclusive mix from Devan who is part of the MEMBERS collective.
When prompted on how Whole will maintain a safe environment for all involved, Phillips offered a detailed insight into their process: “First, it’s very important to communicate to the crowd the rules about consent. Not only regarding any kind of intimate interaction, but also in terms of sensitive topics: it’s important always to ask someone if they feel comfortable with something. For that, we will also work with an awareness team that will reinforce the rules about safe social spaces around the festival. Second, as the organisation, we try to stay conscious of some forms of privileges to then balance the booking in a way that we can reflect diversity. This also means that we have to stay self-critical about our work and understand that the festival is a learning experience for us as well. We are committed to working as a community.” Get into the mood and listen to our exclusive mix from Mary Yuzovskaya who is part of the UNTER collective.
It’s a tonal shift that has rung with deep resonance for the artists involved who identify as trans/non-binary. “It’s hard to find space for us, especially when it comes to festivals,” says Octo Octa, who plays a headlining set at this year’s festival, “It can feel like home when done right… we all need representation.”
“It means we are not just the hired performers, that we are involved with organizing, promoting and hosting the event. It means that trans bodies are represented in imagery associated with the event-if body imagery is going to be used at all,” remarks artist Eris Drew, before adding that one of her goals at Whole this year is simply to find “a space to make out with my partner in nature.” Get into the mood and listen to our exclusive mix from S Ruston who is part of the LECKEN collective.
Far from an overly-simplified view of what Whole can offer, Drew’s goal is the precise nature of why the festival exists and why it has developed a marked growth this time around. A real need exists in the festival-setting for inclusion, so it’s no wonder that Berlin’s best and brightest have taken it upon themselves to make it happen. With such careful consideration of factors both internal to organisers and external to the artists and attendees involved, it seems safe to say that the most idealistic version of a festival by queers, for queers is being beautifully realized by the team at Whole.
Pictures by Victor Luque.