Beside the Seaside

BiFests, for new readers of BCN, are day-long bisexual community events run around the country. There’s a basic model which they all more or less follow, of a daytime of workshops and discussions followed by an evening of socialising and music / performance. February 2007 kicked off with the seventh such event to date, and the second to be held in Brighton.

The biggest problem with last year’s Brighton event had been venue size. They weren’t going to make the same mistake twice: this time it was the entire basement of a large hotel with oodles of room for workshop streams, video booth, community market, craft corner, welcome desk and sitting about chatting with people you met there on the day.

The big innovation – and one several BiFest teams have alighted on in parallel, but Brighton has run with first – was to open the day up beyond the bi and bi-friendly community sector, to draw in outside organisations who work with bisexuals but are perhaps not doing all they could to be inclusive and address our needs.

The local police force, city council, and health service had all sent representatives for a panel discussion which differed from most such things in that the panellists seemed to be the people who learnt most from the event. After brief presentations the floor was opened to questions a great many of which were met with “I don’t know, I’ll look into it and get back to you.” BCN will publish the questions and answers which this leads to – if and when the panellists do come up with their replies!

Another success of this BiFest over others was the scale of the “community fair” exhibition area. Partly through timing – once there is a BiCon organised and taking advance or supporting registrations then with BCN and the local group there are a handful of bi stalls – but also through having several organisations locally involved through the “Have Your Say” session, which brought a variety of groups like the police in to the market area who might not otherwise have attended.

Creative regulars knitting, badge-making and (seasonally) Valentines card making were going on in a corner of the community fair room, and there was even a bi video booth where people were being interviewed about their experience of bi and non-bi spaces, to try to get to the bottom of the question: what do bisexuals look like?

A welcome feature of the evening session was the choice on offer: as well as the disco room, and somewhat noisy bar room, there was a quiet space and a games room (the popularity of twister with grown bisexuals will have been surprising to no-one).