Bi-ing Birmingham: the first Brum BiFest

Issue 99

Originally appeared in issue 99

At 11am on a cold and wet Saturday morning in late November 2009 a queue of bisexual people and allies had already begun to queue up outside ABplus in Central Birmingham for the start of the West Midlands’ first BiFest to celebrate and explore bisexuality.  As part of the Birmingham SHOUT LGBT Cultural Festival BiFest was well publicised in the SHOUT magazine, the SHOUT Website and through flyers that we designed and distributed through the national and local bi communities and beyond. As part of SHOUT our venue was arranged for free and we were provided with a generous grant of £250.

Approximately 50 people attended for at least some part of the day and as the finance table shows, we have £164.24 left over which will go towards Brum Bi Group resources and next year’s Brum BiFest.

I’d like to thank the many people who helped throughout Brum BiFest with things like putting up and taking down posters, collecting dirty mugs, washing up, laying out clean mugs, wiping tables, putting empty food containers in the bin, preparing and setting up the food, running the registration desk, moving furniture around and many many other things. Without those people, the event would not have run so smoothly as the organisers could not have done all that alone.

Attenders arrived at our reception area where they paid their entry fees and received an info pack.  I apologise in hindsight for info overload and hope that the contents were useful when attenders had got home.  Welcomers showed people through to the main area where all the activities were taking place and ensured they knew where the kitchenette was and what they could join in with.

Jen kicked off with the first session Bi 101 at 11:30 which covered the UK Bi Community and “what’s on” / “what’s available” and there was plenty of laughter throughout.  Ele ran her renowned sessions “Living as Bi in a Gay and Straight World” during which participants considered and discussed the world around us as bi people and feelings of being stuck in the middle, invisibility and coping strategies and ways which we can effect change for the better.

The amazingly successful Brum BiFest picnic was then laid out in vegan, possibly vegan, vegetarian and meat subgroups which people liked.  It looks like I managed to get the right quantity of picnic style make your own meal with sliced bread, hummous, salad, cheese, sliced meat, crisps and soft drinks.  The only food which I think didn’t work was the revolting vegan bean salad – it was so vile not even the vegans would eat it!  I think I succeeded in making the food accessible and enjoyable ensuring everyone could eat in, bring food in, or eat nearby finding places on the maps provided.

The afternoon sessions restarted with a discussion session on bi invisibilities.  This unintentionally ended up being much like the previous session but still generated useful opportunities for attenders who had arrived later to join in and share stories of coming out, or being invisibilised as a bisexual person.  Another break of 15 minutes which was plenty of time for a drink, smoke, toilet and socialising opportunity without stretching into difficult unfocussed time.

The last and most practical session of the day was the Safer Sex Supplies – Have a Fondle where Bethan kept everyone entertained with demonstrations of the strength of condoms, what happens with oil based lubricants and how much variety in physical properties different lubricants display amongst other things.  The feedback about this workshop was overwhelmingly positive and there were many requests for its repeat. Readers you’ll be delighted to hear that I have managed to persuade Bethan to run a very similar session at BiCon 2010 so come along and check it out for yourself there!

We had a literature table for the morning, which had leaflets from many places as well as some bisexuality FAQ content etc.  The walls weren’t easily accessible so the info-on-walls idea didn’t work so well, but will be better thought out next time.  Several bi themed books were laid out which a few people flicked through but again it was one of the areas which suffered from lack of overall space due to unexpected high attendance.  Next time I hope to have a quiet space big enough to have books in, and an area we could put readables on the walls!

The craft table was at the largest table and was soon filled with people decorating their admittance name badges, and making very craft “draw your own bisexuals” and chatting to one another.  I don’t think I saw this table empty for the entire day – thanks are very much due to Ludy who sourced most of the materials and worked her magic with attenders. Many new people found the craft table a low stress way of joining in and meeting new people and         produced some fantastic artwork some of which can be seen alongside this article.

I am delighted with how Brum BiFest turned out and would encourage anyone keen on bi events to consider running one in their city.  I will be finishing my full report and uploading it to the BiFest website alongside my planning documents so people can use ideas and make them their own.  It’s not hard and there are helpful people who will come and volunteer.

We are already being offered support and possible funding for Brum BiFest 2010 and we’re hoping to sort out a venue and get it booked ASAP so watch this space!

Natalya